Monday, June 7, 2010

(Bargain) Hunter and Gatherer

"What a gorgeous jacket," the woman said to me. "Where did you find it?"
"I can't remember any more. Some little boutique," I lied. Of course I remembered. I remember where all my clothes come from. But this woman was a fan attending a speech I had given at a big event. Fans think that writers make oodles of money and have a personal relationship with Vera Wang. The jacket actually came from one of my favorite stores: My Sister's Closet, in Scottsdale, where I spend my winters.

It is a designer resale store and for me it's like stepping into heaven. Famous labels at a price that doesn't make me blanch. Because by nature I'm a bargain hunter. I love nice clothes but I love them even more when I've secured a bargain. When I'm at Macy's half off of half off and I find the pants I've been looking for, I look upon it as a gift from the gods.

I think it's in the genes. We used to be hunter gatherers, didn't we? We became excited at the sight of a deer in the forest, or a bush full of ripe berries. I don't think we've lost that instinct, at least I haven't. I enter Macy's on sale days with that alert expectation of the hunter-gatherer entering the forest. Will I make a kill today? Will I find that berry bush?

And when I come out with that bag and the receipt saying, "You just saved $140" then I float all the way to the car. It's all part of the fun. I'm not a huge shopper. Quite sensible, actually. But I do need my occasional bargain hunting fix. Even if my next book sold a zillion copies, I can't picture myself going into Bloomingdales and paying $300 for a white T shirt I once saw that looked like every other white T shirt. I can see there's a difference between a five dollar Target shirt and a thirty dollar Ralph Lauren. But three hundred dollars? What did it have, gold woven into the fibers? Proabably the only difference was a tiny logo that let everyone know that it cost more than their T shirt.

So are you a fellow bargain hunter? What is your shopping MO? Do you just bite the bullet and pay the regular price when you need something, or wait for the sales and then pounce? Is shopping a major sport or a boring necessity? Inquiring minds want to know.

HANK: And remember, Rhys, you can use that $140 you saved to save more on something else!

The worst is when I buy something at regular price, yes, sometimes I can't resist. Than, since I'm a saver-for-a-special-occasion, not an instant-wearer, sometimes the item goes on sale before I can wear it. Now *that's* frustration.

Confession: I used to be a big shopper. But when the recession came, two years ago? I screeched to halt. And for awhile, it was just not even tempting. But the other day, I went into Saks, and it was like--the Emerald City. I thought--oh, this smells wonderful! Look at all the pretty stuff! But I was all about sales. And it's gotten a bit easier to say no.

WOnder why that is?

ROBERTA: Well now, the answer depends on whether you ask me or John. I think I'm a fairly thrifty shopper--rarely buy something that isn't on sale. On the other hand, I try to remind myself that sale price isn't everything. I have bought things on sale that are still sitting in my closet because they weren't right for me.

Shopping is funny because it can become such a habit. Easier to resist if you're not on a shopping roll--I notice this especially after Christmas. And we've just finished throwing a big wedding--I'll have to remind myself I'm done for a while

RHYS: Oh, I agree with Roberta--buying things just because they are on sale isn't always smart. I too have given away things I've never worn, that I bought mainly because they were on such a great mark-down. And my daughter has forced me to donate one item to charity every time a new one comes into the closet. I'm quite religious about doing that now.

So any other bargain hunters out there?


  1. I was having trouble with Yahoo, too. Rhys.

    I watched the show Hoarders one night when the Red Sox had the night off and I've been throwing stuff out ever since. I'm also thinking its going to keep me from bringing new stuff in ---- at least for a while.

    I like your daughter's rule, Rhys. Just saw I place where I can donate books, so I'm off to do some bookshelf purging so can buy new ones.

  2. I picked up a twin set with coordinating pants saturday for $9.26. Saving - $91.00. For me, this is heaven.
    I work in a business casual environment so this outfit will get lots of use.

  3. Hey, Lynn,
    I don't think I've ever saved that much. Brilliant!

  4. Two years ago I bought a pair or leather pants, regular $200.00 for, are you ready?--$30.00. Sweartogod. It's become legend now.

  5. whoa, Rebbie. Amazing. But--do you wear them? That's the key.

    Rhys, I do agree with the too tempting to pass up, too weird to wear dilemma. And I am donating things like mad now. It's very very depressing to see things with the tags still on. My "bargains." But it's still such glorious fun to see them all go.

  6. I don't enjoy shopping at all, except browsing my local consignment shop, so I tend to shop online when I can. The only thing I buy at full price are the jeans I found on the Eddie Bauer site that exactly fit me. Not an easy assignment (short legs, not skinny, not young...)! Worth every penny. If they ever take that model out of production, I'm sunk.

  7. Look how many comments a shopping post is getting, even on a site devoted to writing! :-) I used to be a huge clothes shopper--finding bargains was the ultimate high--but I've outgrown it mostly. I'm not sure why--maybe partly because I can sublimate the urge by buying clothes for my tween-age daughters, partly because sitting in front of the computer writing doesn't require much in the way of a wardrobe, partly because (like many of you) I have more clothes than I need and find myself donating things I never wore.

  8. I have so much stuff I can't bear the thought of bringing anything new into my closet. But when i do shop I'm an equal opportunity shopper. It can be any shop from the lower east side to 57th St to Madison Avenue. New favorite place to shop is Daffy's.

    And there's a great vintage store in Ann Arbor - so far I've gotten a purse and an old Mexican felt jacket with all the embroidery. Will have to check out My Sister's Closet the next time I'm in Scottsdale.

  9. What's Daffy's?

    I must say, I agree, Ro. Anywhere is fine.

    Edith! Heading to EB to check ito ut..xoxo

  10. A few months ago I got a winter coat -- and in Montana we take winter coats seriously -- was $109 for $21.99. See how much they mark things up?

  11. Isn't Daffy's the great place next to Macy's in NY?

  12. I'm crazy for embroidered pillowcases, and I hit garage sales and Ebay for those. Pretty, pretty hand-embroidered pieces (I don't do flower baskets or girls in crinoline dresses with flower baskets, but pretty much anything else flies). I once found a stainless, matching pair of linen pillowcases, mint green with white handmade lace and white-on-white embroidery, for $2.99. Starched and pressed. Less than a tall nonfat latte!

    I agree with Jan's comment, though -- Hoarders and Hoarders-lite, Style's Clean House, will pretty much purge one of keeping things just to keep them. Having just moved, I'm thrilled at how merrily I gave things away.

  13. I haven't been to that one but yes. There's a Daffy's on 57th St. near my apt. If you have the time to hunt, it's a great place to shop.