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6 Shopping Strategies of the Affluent Buyer


William Laman Furniture.Garden.Antiques

When it comes to shopping strategies of the affluent buyer, look closely and you’ll discover a few universal habits even the ultra-rich practice. That’s not so surprising when you consider that even shoppers with money to burn need to watch their spending.

“Price tags still matter,” says Amy Salinger, a personal stylist who works with several multi-million-dollar clients. “It’s about spending money correctly.”

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It doesn’t matter how much money you have; poor spending habits can quickly drain even the most well-funded bank account. These millionaires and billionaires all have one thing in common: concern about preserving their wealth. Even those who don’t have a seven-, eight-, or even ten-figure net worth can stay out of the red with these 6 . . .

shopping strategies of the affluent buyer:

1. Don’t Be House Poor

Living in a sprawling Montecito home is fun, until you can’t afford anything outside of the mortgage. So, everyone needs a budget. The general rule of thumb is to keep housing costs below 30% of your monthly net income.

How about decorating your Montecito home-sweet-home? If you live in this charming and much-admired community, you’re in luck. There are many places to shop for everything from everyday items to that rare piece of art. A favorite local shopping destination is Coast Village Road, a.k.a. “the Lower Village.”

A beautiful showroom with chandelier, table, shelf and lots of high end merchandise at Kathryne Designs to illustrate where the wealthy shop

The showroom at Montecito’s Kathryne Designs, Inc.

For home décor, gifts, and art, you might want to head to Kathryne Designs, inc. This Interior Design Showroom, pictured above, is curated by the owner, Kathryne Dahlman, ASID, CID, and features her favorite things. As you can see, these beautiful pieces will quickly become your favorites, too.

Revel in the ever-changing mix of antiques and accessories for the home and garden, that are not only sophisticated but also functional at William Laman Furniture Garden Antiques. Hall of Fame and internationally recognized interior designer, Bruce Gregga and his partner William Laman hand select every piece of merchandise making sure each item reflects their renowned sense of style and exceptional eye for detail.

Heather James Fine Art is another excellent place to shop for your home, especially if you would like to add a little art history present into your décor. You can also find current pieces that will make history here because this one-of-a-kind shop offers important works from a cross-section of periods, movements, and genres — including Impressionist and Modern, Post-War, and Contemporary, American, and Latin American, Old Masters, and antiquities.

There are some great home stores in Summerland, too. My faves include Field + Fort, which offers essentials for elevated living featuring a curated mix of antiques, furniture, home goods, gifts, and artisanal food products. After stopping for a bit to eat there, head to Botanik, a lifestyle boutique with beautiful goods for the home and garden, and Porch, where shelter and nature converge.

2. Don’t Emergency Shop

Whether it’s a suit for an important meeting, or a car to replace a troublesome one that finally broke down, buying items as you need them is never a good idea. Not only is deadline shopping stressful, but it also leaves less time to comparison shop and often leads to unnecessary overspending.

According to the Harvard Business Review, a good 80% of Americans are stressed at work.  Adding layers to that stress can be harmful to your heart by raising your blood pressure. And if you’re not careful, it can spiral out of control. Besides, humans are not good at making decisions under pressure. As soon as something puts us off-kilter, our common sense goes flying out the window, replaced by our hardwired “fight or flight” response. It’s always a good idea to do your due diligence before spending, especially if you’re in the market for a high-end purchase.

READ: The 2021 Santa Barbara Real Estate Market: A Top Realtor’s View

3. Learn How to Splurge Properly

Everyone impulse buys, but when you do, the important thing to remember is to make the purchase work in your favor. If you’re mulling a major buy, make sure the item is of good quality, is useful, and has staying power.

On the other hand, it’s possible to splurge wisely. In fact, most financial experts and social psychologists will tell you that splurges are not only allowed, but they’re also necessary and healthy to achieve financial happiness. Why? Because the pleasure they provide promotes a better relationship with money—and, let’s face it, a good splurge is one of the ways money makes life more enjoyable.

The key to mastering splurges is to understand human nature. As humans, we are subject to a psychological phenomenon experts refer to as the hedonic treadmill or adaptation. That means we get used to what we have. Even if we acquire better circumstances, more money, a bigger house, we quickly return to the level of happiness we had prior to these acquisitions. In time, we require more to get that same surge of satisfaction again. You can curb the hedonic treadmill by splurging frequently while spending less.

4. Compare Cost Vs. Value

When it comes to deciding whether a purchase is worth it, the price tag should be divided by how often it will be used. To do so, determine the cost per use or wear. For instance, a less expensive item that’s rarely used might not be such a good deal, while an expensive one that is going to be used frequently can be a much better value.

Examining the cost of a project and considering its value when it comes to home improvement is an especially important shopping strategy of the affluent. Some projects can add value to your home, especially when it comes time to sell. Look at the key trends in remodeling for 2021 in this 34th annual Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling Magazine.

READ: Home Improvement: Repair, Remodel or Renovate?

5. Take the ‘High-Low’ Approach

When shopping for clothing, mix high-end pieces with less expensive wardrobe staples. Spend more money on wardrobe staples and less on deals for secondary items. It’s important to shop a wide range of places, from department stores like Nordstrom’s, to local favorites, including the boutiques on Coast Village Road.

One of my personal favorites is for both women’s and men’s clothing is Frank, which offers concierge service. There’s also Allora which captivates modern luxury and  COVET, owned by beloved Coast Village Road fashion doyen Kate McMahon. Another boutique I frequent in the Upper Village is Upstairs at Pierre Lafond featuring Angel and Wendy Foster and Whiskey and Leather for the fashion-forward.

You may be surprised to find out that millionaires love Costco, Home Depot and Lowe’s, too. According to two polls about the shopping habits of the affluent conducted by Mintel, a global and award-winning provider of Market Research, even high-income consumers love the private-label goods at Costco. Even more, 38% saying they believe them to be comparable to name-brand items.

The poll also found that the wealthy like to shop in person, with 63% of Americans venturing into a warehouse club in the last 6 months, compared with just 25% shopping online.

“Shoppers in this group may be more likely to shop across a wider variety of retail stores, and therefore more aware of the price differential among retailers,” says Ali Lipson, category manager – retail, apparel, technology and automotive at Mintel. “Additionally, part of the appeal of warehouse club shopping is the ‘treasure hunt’ aspect or discovering unique items throughout the store. Currently, the warehouse clubs’ online model is unable to replicate this experience.”

A second survey, from the investment site Millionaire Corner, reports that among those with a net worth of $5 million or more (not including their primary home) Home Depot is the favorite store. The world’s largest home improvement specialty retailer was regularly visited by 57% of affluent shoppers, followed by Costco (46%), Lowe’s (44%) and Target (41%).

Only 2% of the survey (based on 1,200 investors with net-worth ranging from less than $100,000 to more than $5 million) ever go to Lord & Taylor, for example. And only 8% of the highest-net-worth shoppers go to Neiman Marcus.

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6. Keep Your Entertainment Spending in Check

The wealthy limit their spending on entertainment to 10% or less. That figure covers going out to restaurants, bars, and the movies. The occasional manicure, massage, boutique fitness class or road trip? Those also fall in this category.

These individuals know that following a monthly spending rule saves them thousands of dollars, according to a financial planner who studies affluent people’s habits. Tom Corley, a certified financial planner and author of Rich Habits – The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals says many affluent people don’t even consider themselves to be rich, which helps them keep their spending in check.

“It’s not just about accumulating wealth, the bigger priority for them is accumulating and keeping their money,” he said.

READ: Fiscal Fitness: The Advantages of Investing in Your Health

Investing like the super-wealthy

When it comes to investing like the uber-rich, there’s a lot of misperceptions out there, not the least of which is that high net worth clients invest mostly in private equity and hedge funds. That’s not true.

“The costs associated with those investments are tremendous,” says Scott Keller, a principal at Truepoint Wealth Counsel. “We do not feel those are necessary investments. Traditional asset classes have always rewarded investors over the long term.”

According to financial advisors like Keller, high net worth investors look for portfolios that don’t turn over frequently and are tax-efficient. These savvy investors educate themselves about their risk tolerance before they make any investment. That means they determine how much money they can lose before signing anything.

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They also focus on broad diversification at the lowest possible costs. Plus, they spend less time searching for the next big thing and more time focusing on the whole market. They know that just because a company makes headlines every day it doesn’t mean that company is a good investment. Most importantly, wealthy investors don’t panic. Instead, they take a long-term approach with their portfolios and ignore Wall Street’s daily gyrations that can trigger knee-jerk investment decisions.

At the top of the list among shopping strategies of the affluent buyer is an investment in real estate. Real estate investment is one of the fastest and safest ways to build wealth and grow your net worth in this country.

As Andrew Carnegie once famously said, “Ninety percent of all millionaires become so through owning real estate. More money has been made in real estate than in all industrial investments combined. The wise young man or wage earner of today invests his money in real estate.”

Those are words to build your portfolio with!

Even the wealthy appreciate value, and that’s one reason my clients invest in Montecito and Santa Barbara real estate. If you’re considering buying or selling a home in Santa Barbara, Hope Ranch, Montecito or any of the other surrounding upscale communities, please give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at


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