I found it pretty amusing when Ellen asked me to write about this. First of all, I am not great with a budget. Just ask our father. Second, I definitely don’t shop like your average graduate student. This being said, I do try to avoid outrageously expensive pieces and I always get excited when I find a good deal. So here are some tips and a bag lady story just for you.
Tips for Shopping in a Recession:
- A sale doesn’t always mean it’s a good price. I know this is sad and disappointing, and I have to remind myself of it every time I shop, but it is the truth. A $400 pair of shoes marked down to $250 is still a $250 pair of shoes. Trust me, the credit card company doesn’t care how much of a discount you got. (Though I would be TOTALLY impressed.)
- One high quality piece that is slightly more expensive but will last longer is a WAY better investment than several cheap and crappy pieces. This is something Ellen taught me, and it has served me well.
- Skimp where you can so you can spend on the really important things. Case in point- I hate to look shlumpy at the gym, but I do not shop at Nike for active wear. Old Navy makes excellent workout gear for a fraction of the price. Where can I spend the extra money? On a fabulous handbag that, in my not so humble opinion is WAY more important than what people see me wearing on the elliptical. (Side note: Don’t skimp on running/gym shoes. They really do help your body if they are good.)
- Beware the store credit cards. I’m not exactly a financial guru, but credit cards can really mess up your credit, and a 10% discount isn’t SO fabulous that its worth it. In Chicago, that barely covers tax!
- This is a perfect time to exhibit your creativity. If a piece is gross/old/has holes, get rid of it. But, especially in summer, experimenting and changing your look with pieces you already own can be really fun.
- Some of my friends here are really big on clothes swaps. I haven’t been, and I’m pretty hard to fit, but I hear these are fun- and cheap! It can also work with accessories if you are concerned about a wide size spectrum.
- Ask yourself where you will wear it. If you can’t think of at least two occasions or places (read: if you need an outfit for some super special occasion, this doesn’t apply- obvi), then don’t get it.
- Take a friend who either doesn’t like shopping or is REALLY good at asking you the important questions, such as the one above. Guys work pretty well for this…most of the time.
There once as a girl named, um, Shmandrea. She lived in an awesome city that actually has seasons. We will call it…Shmicago. After a tragic incident involving multigrain Cheerios and her amazing Charles David leather tote, she decided it was time for a new bag. She knew she wanted a tote that wasn’t black, and that was appropriate for both fun and school. She also knew she didn’t have a ton of money to throw at it. So she went on a hunt. She searched high and low, websites, stores, boutiques, sidewalk sales. Week after week she searched, desperate for something other than her backpack to carry around! Canvas totes just wouldn’t do! There were a few that caught her eye, but most were either too expensive or simply not exciting.
One day, after brunch, Shmandrea and her friend walked up a main street in downtown Shmicago toward Macy's. On the way, they stopped by Nordstrom Rack. Always a top favorite of Shmandrea’s, she went in hopeful but cautious. She had found her beloved Charles David here, so perhaps it was fate. Almost instantly she spotted the creamy, soft leather bag. It hung on the rack so innocently, alone and unassuming. Shmandrea picked up the bag, opening it to check out its amazing animal print interior, and it was love. While a tad more expensive than hoped, Shmandrea purchased the bag with glee, and continued to Macy’s. The girl and her friend had a discount card, so they thought perhaps she could find another bag for less money.
They were wrong. After searching through piles and piles of clearance items and many tables of beautiful but full price bags, there wasn’t a single purse that stood up in comparison to Shmandrea’s new love, her B Makowsky….who still needs a name. And she lived happily ever after. The end.
Moral of the story: When you look really hard and finally find something you love, even if it’s a bit more expensive…get it. If you use it every day, its worth every penny. (Don’t tell Dad)