How to shop when your senses are overloaded and your feet hurt.

Shopping any bead show or even a trunk show requires a certain amount of discipline, a plan, and an open mind. Shopping the country’s largest bead show is not much different, except you need comfortable shoes, water, and lip balm.

Set a budget. Sounds like a no brainer, but it is easy to go overboard because you will see SO many things you love, have to have, know you can sell, etc. Know your limit and stick to it.

Make a list. Keep a list going of specific things you need to buy. List the price you want to pay (and if you don’t know this, spend some time at the show paying attention to the going prices), colors and sizes you want, quantity you need. Get as specific as possible and bring samples or colors to match to make sure you’re getting what you really need.

Make time to window shop without buying. Go to venues you don’t possibly need anything from. Soak in the atmosphere. Ask the vendors questions. Along the way, you’ll see something or get a flash of inspiration that would have otherwise gone unrevealed to you if you were focused on “buying”. Take time to look at finished jewelry. Spend some time looking at the rocks that your beads come from – you may learn something that you can use to make your work more interesting to your customers!

Designate a portion of your budget solely for impulse buying. You will see things that you want but can’t really define why. Treat this amount like gambling – if you make a great decision, you’ll win big with something you can make into a terrific piece or something your customers will love. If it ends up being something that doesn’t work out so well, then you’ve lost nothing because you planned to lose it anyway – like at a casino. You enjoyed the fun of shopping and buying.

Make sure to take a lunch break – you need to keep your energy up and your brain cells at their peak. And when you sit down at one of the many picnic tables in the food vendor area, introduce yourself to other folks at your table and get a conversation going. I have met some really fascinating people this way – nearly everyone there is from somewhere else. I always learn something from the people I meet, and I’ve made some great connections this way.

If you know you want it, and the price is what you want to pay, get it and get it now. The Tucson venues are so large, you may never pass that way again, and the best way to shop for prices is to know ahead of time what you want to pay. If you do see a similar item elsewhere later that’s cheaper, you’ll know that the price you paid is OK because you’ve already done your homework and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you got a fair deal, if not the best one. And, you’ll save lots of time later because you won’t have to run around trying to find the vendor where you saw something you wish you had purchased.

Most of these rules will apply even if you’re shopping a trunk show or local bead show. It’s overwhelming to see so much all at once. Taking the time to plan your purchases and your budget, and taking a break to reflect will help you be happy with your purchase decisions, and you’ll leave with wonderful things you will use with confidence and style. And, if you happen to be doing your shopping at the Tucson shows, make sure to wear comfy shoes, drink plenty of water and wear your lip balm.