bag it up // the benefits of shopping in europe
oh paris, your charm and culture are irresistible...but not quite as irresistible as that 13% v.a.t. (value added tax). for those who may not be familiar, when shopping in europe the tax is included in the price on the tag *cough* america...get on that *cough* and any non-european resident has the opportunity to get that tax back when leaving the country. i know! this makes shopping in europe that much more fun because you seemingly get a 13% discount wherever you go! and when there is a big purchase i want to make and know i'm going to be travelling, i do all the research that i can before leaving for any overseas trip. but let's break this down a little further. of course, prices are going to vary between brands and different countries (with different currencies) that they may be located in so it's always handy to do a little leg work if you are going to be visiting multiple countries. however, more often than not, the home country of the brand is going to be the least expensive (i.e. ted baker is the least expensive in england and tory burch is the least expensive in the u.s.) so i knew my trip to paris would be my opportunity to finally get my hands on the céline clasp bag - to obviously complete my transformation into a 95 year old woman.
finance nerd alert! even when the euro was much stronger than the dollar (when i was studying abroad 1€ was roughly $1.50...a painful conversion to have to do in my head) it was still cheaper to purchase european brand's products even before the v.a.t. was taking into consideration! so you can only imagine how much more of a benefit it is to buy these products now that the conversion is only about 1€ to $1.17! i have used v.a.t. to my benefit countless times and it doesn't always have to be at high end stores as nearly every store has this option! my favorite max mara coat was purchased when i was in italy, this zara vest (or vests*) was purchased when i was in london, and even my very first céline bag was purchased the first week of my semester abroad in paris...yes that bag has been with me for nearly 5 years!
so knowing i was going to be stopping in paris, a trip to the céline store was inevitable. i knew the price of the bag in the u.s. before i left and was shocked to see how much less the price was in paris (even before the v.a.t.). all in all i saved around 40% and quite frankly, that makes me love my bag even more!
// how to best shop in europe utilizing v.a.t. //
have a general knowledge for what prices are in the u.s.
if visiting multiple countries, look to see which country offers it at the lowest price (typically brands will have different websites per country to make it easier to look that up)
be aware of the currency conversion (i.e. 1€ = $1.17)
confirm with the sales person the percentage of the v.a.t. (some countries have different percentages)
always shop with your passport as many places will need that to fill out information for you
there will be a little envelope with papers that they hand you - do not lose this!!
fill out any necessary information on these forms to save time later (address, cc# for the refund, etc)
when you're ready to go back to the u.s. pack your v.a.t. items inside your carry on (many officers ask to see the products to ensure they are on you and not just handed off to a european resident - more so with the more expensive items)
at the airport, head to the tax refund counter to get those forms in the envelope stamped.
depending on the refunt company, you either drop the stamped envelope off at a counter or a mailbox to be sent off!
typically you should see the refund on your card within a month of leaving the country!
so whether you're buying a blazer from zara or a bag from céline that you've wanted forever, the v.a.t. will always be your best friend!! happy european shopping!