Today, a fellow mom in the school yard asked me how to buy jeans.  She wasn’t asking about the latest trends in style or fit, but simply what is an efficient, time-saving way to shop as a time-strapped mom. It’s a challenge, for sure. Here are a few of my "tricks." I’ll call them "nine to save time." I hope you’ll find some ideas here to help you shop on the hop, and please do share any tried and tested shopping tips of your own…

  1. Make a list  – Be aware of what you need.  This might sound simple, but think about it.  Are you always looking for a clean white T, keep washing and wearing a favourite shirt or are you out of fresh undies? (I admit it, I once blew dry a pair with my hair dryer prior to an interview.) Might be time to stock-up on these basics.  Or, with the change in the seasons, last summer’s tops and flip flops might look a bit tired. Write a list of what you need, including the colours you are looking for and take it with you on shopping trip.

    These basics are from Banana Republic and the undies are from Mark’s Work Warehouse.

    Brotfout08015odv01  Underwear_from_marks

  2. Go window shopping from the comfort of home – To save time at the mall, flip through a magazine or two or visit the online sites of your favourite stores to get inspired and narrow your search.

    I found this skirt (above) on The Shoe Company’s online site and what about these gorgeous espadrilles (below) from Mark’s Work Warehouse – who knew?

  3. Shop online – Yes, you can shop online for clothes and accessories. The key is to know your measurements.  Simply order what you like and the items will be delivered right to your door. However, if you are heading out to the mall or main street…
  4. Get a sitter!! – As any mom with little ones over six months knows, shopping for clothes with kids in tow should be classified as a Fear Factor challenge. Ideally, schedule your shopping trip without them.  It’s amazing how much of the mall you can visit and how focused you can be without someone needing the bathroom, a snack, a visit to the Disney store, hiding behind a rack of white suits with sticky hands/face (see snack above) and opening the changing room door the moment you get down to your undies.   Perhaps it’s just my kids, but shopping for clothes with them can be just a waste of time and money.  Hot and bothered, you end up buying nothing at all or something you don’t love and regretting it (and it’s not a fun outing for them either.) If you absolutely have to go with kids, plan your trip with military precision – go in, get what you need and leave.


    Here’s another great look from Banana Republic.

  5. Focus – Even if you are child-free, chances are you only have an hour or two to shop.  Try sticking to your list and the stores you love to avoid getting distracted by all the other goodies out there. Also, while shopping with a friend, mom or sister is fun, sometimes there is not enough time to look at items for more than one person (and anyway, they are probably babysitting for you.) Boring, I know, but gives you a much better chance of getting what you need.

    Shoes from Banana Republic and bags from The Shoe Company.

  6. Deal or No Deal? – We all love a great deal, but just because something is on sale, still consider it the same way as any other article of clothing.  Do you need/want it?  Does it work with other items in your closet? Will you have to purchase shoes, a bag, a jacket to go with it?  If so, it might not be so good a deal.  Save the money and put it towards something you love.


    Adaptable wrap dress from The Shoe Company.

  7. To try on or not to try on?  That is the question. – Personally, I rarely try anything on at the store, preferring to take the item home, try it on in comfort (with other pieces I am considering wearing it with) and making a return if it doesn’t work.  Sometimes I even purchase something in two different sizes or colours and try on both at home to determine the best fit/look. Yes, I know this means another trip back to the mall, but in the long term it saves time and money, because I haven’t had to make a rush decision and have had time to figure out if it’s what I want, the fit is right and it works with other items in my closet. This brings me to my next point…
  8. Many happy returns – Only purchase from  stores with a great returns policy. More and more stores seem to be less flexible about returns – enforcing refund or exchange in 15 days (rather than 30) and only permitting an exchange or store credit. This is one of my pet peeves and one of the reasons I love stores such as RW & Co, Smart Set, The Gap and Banana Republic – all of these have great returns policies and in my experience, helpful, understanding staff who don’t interrogate you as to why you don’t want the item.  Jeans from Banana Republic and Mark’s Work Warehouse.                                     
    Br_jeans Marks_jeans_and_sweater

  9. Time saves money – Back to the mom in the playground. Is there an efficient way to purchase jeans?  Some of the above ideas may help, but items such as jeans, black pants, white shirts, etc – the building blocks of many a closet, need to be right.  Sometimes these simple basics are the most difficult to purchase and might need a little more time to try on at the store. (Same goes for bras and swimwear.) This is a good time to bring a co-shopper with you to run back to the racks to switch sizes, colours etc.  Once you find the style and fit you love, you’ll rely on them day in and day out to look and feel great, and so the little extra investment of time is worth it.  If you can afford it, consider buying two and you’ve saved yourself the need to do it all over again. Banana Republic and Mark’s Work Warehouse denim capris, once again…

Jeans_from_banana_republic Cargo_capros_marks

Happy shopping!!!!

Have style questions or ideas?  We’d love to hear from you!  Share your thoughts below in the comments or email Katie at

  • Kath

    Katie, thanks for the great advice! I was out running errands this morning and managed to pick up some great stuff based on the tips in this column. And I almost bought that skirt from the Shoe Factory, except it wasn’t in my size. So I just got a gorgeous bag, instead 😉

  • Katie

    Great tip, Wendy. It’s annoying when stores are restrictive about the number of pieces you can take into the chnaging room, and good to know there are stores that are flexible about this.

  • Katie

    Great tip, Wendy. It’s annoying when stores are restrictive about the number of pieces you can take into the chnaging room, and good to know there are stores that are flexible about this.

  • Wendy

    I couldn’t agree with you more on your shopping advice. I just have to add one more thing – when trying on clothes, say jeans for example, in a short amount of time, take as many pairs of jeans as you can into the changeroom. Stores like the Bay are great for this. One time I took 10 pairs in with me. I also did that with bathing suits!

  • Katie

    Ali – So glad to hear it’s not just me!!

  • Katie

    Ali – So glad to hear it’s not just me!!

  • Ali

    i’m a huge buyer and returner. i just don’t have the time or the energy to try things on. also…things look different when you try them on in the store…they almost always look way better!

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