by Fifi LaMode
Though virtually the entire industrialized world has acknowledged that the U.S. is THE place to shop, we still love Europe and still find bargains there.
- Use your ATM card to get cash. Even with a transaction fee, it's still cheaper than using your credit card. We have found this in every country we visited, without exception.
- Negotiate: If you pay cash, you can often get a discount of around 5 to 10%. Same if you buy in bulk (If you don't ask, you don't get.).
- Go into the neighborhoods, rather than the main shopping streets. Same brands as in downtown department stores, usually cheaper. You will also find more eclectic selections in smaller boutiques. A privately-owned store will have more wiggle-room regarding pricing than a department store.
- Look at the brand names you see on the street. American labels cost a fortune (approx. 30-40% higher than U.S. RETAIL prices!), but if you buy local brands, they will not only be cheaper, you'll get something you won't find back home.
- Buy what's made in a given country that is unique. Cotton Provencal scarves are cheaper in Provence (and you get a more varied selection) than in Connecticut.
- Talk with people in the shops. The salespeople are locals after all and can give you advice on what to buy and where to get the best prices.
- Take advantage of Sunday markets. In small towns these are outside churches, in cities they are in tented venues in parks or squares. Some are flea markets with a mish-mash of goods ranging from cutlery to $5 jeans to socks, computers and fast food. Others are more up-market, selling antique jewelry, oil paintings, and period furniture. Whether you are a serious buyer or just looking, it's a wonderful way to learn a bit about a country's customs and history through its goods.
- Don't forget your VAT forms if you buy over a certain amount (usually a 150-175 Eu minimum). The store has to sign/stamp them, then when you get to the airport they get stamped again and you get 9% to 12% back. It's that easy. The more you spend in one place, the larger the percentage of the refund. If you buy high-ticket items, it's a no-brainer.
—Fifi LaMode, Wishing you Bon Voyage and Happy Shopping!
Find more of Fifi LaMode's expert travel advice here. >>
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