Week 14: Comparison shop

Need to hide a pregnancy from co-workers? Go for the fashionable french pannier. |  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Need to hide a pregnancy from co-workers? Go for the fashionable french pannier. | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Throughout the first few weeks of this calendar, we've been addressing the anxieties and fears that can come with pregnancy. Let's take a quick break from the toe tourniquets and first trimester screens and talk maternity wear. 

One of the many great reasons to become a stronger researcher is to save money, and a maternity wardrobe is a great time to start practicing three research skills. 

1. Collect data

You see a pair of pants on sale at your local maternity wear store for $20. The tag tells you that the pants are discounted from $40, so you're saving 50%! Great deal, right? 

You have no way of knowing if those pants are a great deal, because you really only have one data point: today's price. What was the price yesterday? Last week? What will it be tomorrow? Next week? Was the price ever actually $40? When you're shopping in the store, you don't really know. 

To know if you're getting a good deal on any particular item, you need pricing data...and that's why it pays to shop online.

Amazon carries a few different maternity wear brands, including Ingrid & Isabel, Everly Grey, and its own brand, Abie. If you find something you like, you can use camelcamelcamel to set price alerts. When an item hits your desired price, camelcamelcamel will send you an e-mail notification letting you know it's time to buy. 

This strategy will be especially helpful when shopping on Amazon for baby clothes. My favorite brands (Kate Quinn, L'ovedbaby, Tea Collection, and Coccoli) were well-north of reasonable considering that all you really need is a stack of white onesies. Setting price alerts let me buy a few special pieces at much better prices. [And even though there are no babies in the house now, I still keep those price alerts going to score great deals for baby shower gifts.]

2. Use coupon codes

If you're more of a one-stop shopper, you might prefer making one big purchase, in which case the Gap companies are probably the place for you, because you can shop from Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta in one virtual shopping trip. 

Everything at these stores seems like a good deal all the time, and that's mostly true, but filling a shopping cart and then waiting a few days can let you know if you have a truly good bargain, as the sites' promo codes change often. 

You may also be surprised at how many promo codes you can apply to each order. Websites like Retailmenot list promo codes you may have missed. The browser plug-in Honey will also automatically apply any promo codes it can find to your cart, but it will often apply codes that can only be used in conjunction with the Gap credit card. 

As with our first strategy, learning to make good use of promo codes will come in handy when shopping for kids' clothes, as you can generally score great bargains on infant and toddler clothes at the Gap companies. Bonus tip: Gap factory carries a more limited, but even better priced, selection. Unlike the other Gap companies, Gap factory charges for return shipping, which makes them a less good source for maternity clothes that you want to fit just right but a great source for clothes that your kids can grow into.

3. Use the better credit card

I'm not the right person to advise you on financial planning (a PhD in the humanities is not the wisest financial decision). So I'm not going to recommend a particular credit card or financial planning strategy. Our family loves to travel, so we find that the recommendations from One Mile at a Time and The Points Guy are generally helpful to us. 

Once you have the best cards, you need to know when you use them. Even if you're carefully-selected a few credit cards tailored to your spending habits, there's always a good card to use and a better card to use. Evreward can show you which credit card to use to maximize your reward points.