Heading to the States? Pack these tips with your passport

I love cross border shopping! With our money this close to par with the US dollar, it’s the perfect time to combine my love of shopping with saving money. I have a sister – and a sister-in-law – living in the States, so most of our visits there are spent shopping. This past Thanksgiving weekend we made a family visit to Columbus, Ohio, and oh, what fun we had!

When my sister and I go shopping, both of us invariably end up at the back of the store at the bargain bins. That is where you find the real deals. My sister-in-law, however, had to learn a few tricks. She wasn’t used to flicking through the sale racks! But after a few trips through the mall with me, she declared, “forget these 35% racks…you have shown me the 80-90% off racks!”

Keep in mind that by shopping at an outlet mall, you are NOT automatically saving money. This is why my sister and I still head to the back of the stores. Even in outlet malls that is where the deals are. Many of these stores also have racks where they take an extra percentage off the lowest price. Finally a good use for math, or take along a calculator.  I found a great pair of everyday shoes that were listed at $90. With 80% off, they cost me only  $18. (By the way, don’t forget your glasses, it is really embarrassing when you thought the sticker said $30 but it was really $90.)

Of course, off season items are usually a great deal. A lot of these are transition pieces; short-sleeved tops that will be amazing under jackets or sweaters, sleeveless dresses that can be worn with a blouse underneath, or something over top, creating versatile outfits throughout the seasons. My find was a brown sleeveless dress in green and orange for $8.

And don’t forget sheets and towels while you are ‘over there’. Even if you don’t need them, you will once you see the variety, quality and price. Browse the shelves, check out the colours, the thread count, and buy a few new items. I always look for pillow cases, duvet covers, sheets, towels and shower curtains. There is so much variety, and the prices can be so good, it is always worth the time to look, even if your husband is trying to drag you out of the store! He will be happy to have that new plush towel next time he gets out of the shower.

Some brands do manufacture inferior products designed for sale only at their outlets, so be aware of it. You don’t have to stick to the outlets for bargains either, regular department stores also have great deals. I have done well at Kohl’s, Macy’s and Filene’s Basement. Again find the bargain racks. Often at Macy’s, there are ‘price check’ machines so you don’t even need a calculator to check the discounted price! It can be worth it as well to get a Macy’s card because sometimes you an extra 20% off with it. TJ Maxx and Marshall’s are the same as our Winner’s, so you will feel right at home in these stores.

Pack your bags but leave lots of room to bring stuff home. My husband was extra clever this trip, he bought a new bag – on sale, of course! There are limits to what you can bring back depending on the length of your visit. If you are absent from Canada for more than 48 hours, you may claim up to $400 CAD worth of goods duty free. You must have the goods with you when you arrive at the border. For more information about Canada Customs visit  http://www.crossbordershopping.ca/ duty-tax-import-guide. Using my method of shopping, you will load the car for $400.

Have fun!

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