Jeter dans le sac. Part Un: Coins.

Voules-vous un autre verre de champagne madame

I never understood this question. I’ll rephrase that. I literally understand the question. But figuratively, do I strike people as the type of person who would turn down a glass of champagne?

Oui, un autre verre de champagne s’il vous plait.”  

Purchasing an item you’ve longed for, for any amount of time is such an amazing feeling.  But purchasing a coveted item in Europe while drinking beaucoup verres of champagne is one of the greatest first world feelings.

Shopping for luxury items in Europe has extreme perks. From learning the history of the brand, being granted a tour of the designers original space (I was once granted the opportunity to tour the private studio of CHANEL on a visit to Paris) and tremendous savings. To ensure that you receive the best total cost and experience (I’ll discuss experience in part deux) I’ve provided a few tips. 

Un.  Cost Analysis

European designer goods cost a lot less in Europe but there are additional ways to save more.  Prior to traveling, create a wish list of items you’d like to purchase.  Once you’ve made that list, go to the designer’s website in the country you’re visiting and check the price as compared to the cost in your country. Below I have inserted snippets of the Louis Vuitton site in Espana (first picture) and the US (second picture.)


After comparing the price and availability check the conversion rate to get a more accurate price of the item.  The Bag V Tote MM in Espana is €1940,00 which roughly converts to $2175.00.  If the item was purchased in the US, in addition to the increased cost, you’d also have to pay state taxes.  Lets say your state taxes are 4.5% that’s almost $100, bringing your US total to $2275.00.  Purchasing this same tote in Espana would “save” $332.00.

Deux.  Gimme my coins. Taxes

When traveling in Europe and purchasing luxury goods, be certain to get a VAT form.  As opposed to the US, Europe includes taxes in the total price of non-consumable goods. The price you see listed is the price you pay.  If you are not a citizen of the EU, you can get a portion of the taxes you’ve paid on non-consumable products refunded, via the VAT form when leaving the country.  Each country has a different minimum that you must spend to receive the tax return.  France has one of the most expensive minimums in which you must spend and Espana the lowest. 

Most sales associates will present the VAT form to you upon the completion of sale. If they don’t present the form to you after your purchase, do not be shy. Ask for one.  You MUST have this form to receive your refund at the airport. If you listen closely to the video above, you’ll hear the sales associate informing me of the tax form in my bag.

Note, VAT is the most commonly used term for the refund. This name varies by country: IVA, TVA, moms, MwST. Check the tax refund name upon arrival to your destination.

This tax refund process may sound easy enough, but there are many ways in which this can go wrong. Please follow these steps to ensure that you receive the coins that are due unto you.

Once arriving at the airport, ensure that the VAT form is stamped (by person or machine) PRIOR to being screened by security. After you have passed through security you cannot get this form stamped thus forfeiting your refund.

After you receive your stamp, find the TAX free or Currency Exchange booth in your terminal. There you will present your STAMPED VAT form to the teller. The first option is to receive the refund instantly in the currency of your country of origins. The second option is to receive the refund to your credit card in one to two weeks. While receiving the funds instantly typically has a small fee attached, I recommend doing so.

Once, in a major state of frugality I opted to wait and receive the refund back to my credit card so that I would not have to pay a fee. I never received the refund. I could have called the necessary agencies, obtained certified and notarized written complaints and paid to have these letters sent to Europe. The cost and time of doing so would have surpassed the VAT refund I was owed.

Trois.  Always pack your passport.

When shopping for luxury goods in Europe you must have your passport to receive the VAT tax form.  This is a MUST.  I made the awful mistake of not packing my passport before an evening of shopping at CHANEL in Paris.  I barely made it to the boutique before closing, only to not be able to complete the purchase because I left my passport.  Being le social papillion that I am, I befriended the sales associate and she waited at the boutique until I returned from the hotel with my passport to finialize the purchase.  Do not take that chance! Be prepared.

Quatre.  Method of payment

If possible, pay with a credit card while shopping abroad.  Depending on your bank, the exchange rate will be a lot less than exchanging cash at a kiosk for the local currency.  Paying with a credit card also protects your purchase. Depending on your credit card, if you need to return the item to the country of purchase, they will cover shipping. Also, when given the choice to choose between local currency or your native currency, I’ve found it more cost effective to choose the local currency.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t add this side note regarding credit card usage.  I am a huge advocate of being financially savvy and sound.  Do not go into debt for the sake of fashion or pressure from social media.  I have met very few “influencers” who disclose their income, sponsorships, or overall financial contributions from family. You do not know the financial standing or support that these “influencers” have.

Do not compare yourself to a person you don’t know.

Their spouse or family could be extremely wealthy. Their parents could have gifted them a home or paid for their college education therefore they have zero student loans. They could be in extreme debt. Funnier they could be returning the items after taking the photo. Or they could actually be very great at managing their finances.

Nonetheless there are far too many variables.  Always keep this in mind before making purchases you cannot afford.  When I make any luxury purchase(s) on a credit card, I completely pay the item off the moment I leave the store. Prior to making the purchase I deposit half of the total cost of the item (including taxes) into one of my savings accounts. I pay myself before paying a designer.  There isn’t anything more en vouge than having your finances in order.       

I hope that these few tips help!

Do you have any additional questions about shopping abroad or paying for luxury goods? Please feel free to ask.

Be certain to check the “notify me of comments” box below.

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