Monday, May 3, 2010

Dirt Cheap

Barbara: I’m not a sucker for sales—it’s not like I can’t pass one by without gorging, BUT…if I need something, say a shirt or a new pair of jeans, there’s something about getting it on sale that turns me into the proverbial rabid dog. 

I feel this inexplicable joy at being able to nab that perfect item—or near-perfect (because, yes, I will throw “perfect” to the wolves if “near-perfect” is good enough and 50% off)—from the sales racks. 

But this is the part that kills me—I can’t leave self-satisfaction alone. If someone notices and/or compliments something I’m wearing, I must share, rejoice, and celebrate my purchase-triumph. Me, breathlessly: “You like it?! Well, this dress was originally $250, but then it was marked down to $120, which was already great, but when I got to the cash, it was only $87!!!!” Even as I hear the exultation pouring from my mouth, I have begun to cringe at the sound of my own joy. It’s so embarrassing. To the poor gal-pal I’ve cornered, I must sound like either a gloating Braggerton or a Cheapie McCheaperton. Why can’t I just say “Thank you” and leave it at that???

Deb: Oh to be you! I would save a fortune! I admire you, I really do. But when I compliment something fabulous on someone and they say they got it on sale, the item is instantly lowered in my estimation. I think, “Clearly something was wrong with it to go so cheaply.” 

When I shop I love to see each piece on its own mannequin––featured and standing proud––saying, “Look at me, I’m brand new and sexy, right off the runway. You need me!”

Sales are so very sad to me. Pieces once so full of promise are now squished and tossed on tables with no regard for seasons or ensemble-looks. “Oh, look a Michael Kors evening jacket!”––yeahbut, COVERED IN DEODORANT STAINS, with FINGERPRINTS and DRESSING ROOM CA-CA on the hem. Poor bastard!

I may have to eat mac and cheese for a solid week, but I’ll stick with my shiny new clothes. They are out there, waiting for me.

Barbara: And I wish I had your commitment! Purely intellectually, I see how it’s good for those creative geniuses who design the clothes and for the tailors and crafts-people who construct them that I save my money in order to spend it wisely in support of the best quality stuff. But my inner-commoner can’t help thinking, “To hell with it, what’s a little dirt and dressing room ca-ca when there’s the gentle-cycle at home and an iron, and it’s ON SALE!!! And anyway, if I don’t buy it, it would only go to that sad, lonely world of Unwanted Clothes where it will die a tragic and unnatural death. I am here to save it from obscurity and ruin!”

I am the Green Peace Warrior of clothing.

… No?

Deb: Yes! 

But I’ve been meaning to tell you that your new half-price linen jacket is missing a button.

Barbara: Shit….


  1. I've been trying to retrain myself not to buy something that's on sale if I don't really, really love it. Because that's what I've been doing: it's only $20 for that? Hell YEAH! When really it's only worth 20 bucks if I like it enough to wear it a lot. I actually like secondhand clothing because it's already faded and shrunk, so what you see is what you get. I'm not good at laundry. So anyway, now I'm telling myself that if I love it, buy it -- whatever the price, even if it's so high it makes me gasp. Because if I love it, it's worth every dime.

  2. Very true words My Kateness,
    If you love it, buy it, no matter what form it comes in.

  3. I don't know how to respond. All this clothes-shopping language, I can't comprehend it. My money is strictly for food and, if I'm lucky, books (both school and recreational). But let me just say, if a clothing item is over $30 dollars, I probably won't even begin to consider buying it. So I guess I'm in agreement with Barbara on the sales front.

  4. Adrienne yes if it's a case of money that's a whole different ballgame. Still, if it was an item destined to be on my back, I might consider lettuce for dinner!

  5. Oh, dear. I don't think I can wrap my mind around Deb's thinking. Sorry, you've sort of sprained my brain.

    For clothing, I, both by necessity and increasingly by preference, must sew for myself, buy used (thrift store or yardsale), accept hand-me-downs (my closest friends and I have a very fluid, mutual mooching relationship with our belongings), or buy on extremely good sale (and, that's usually with a gift card I have received on a gift-giving occasion). I also only buy for my son on extremely good sale (shoes, socks, and underwear), thrift shop, yard sale and hand-me-downs. His Grandmama (my mother) takes him to Target and buys him "new new" things when he visits her house once or twice a year. A few times a year, when the mood strikes him, his dad buys him "new new" things during visitation (joint custody). Circumstances (divorce, unemployment/underemployment, and other ickiness) have forced me to be critically frugal. We mostly get books through the library, and when we do purchase books, they are used. We also only buy used CD's or download individual songs when I have an online coupon for downloads. My son knows if he wants a video game or something of that sort, he has to save up the money himself. Birthdays and Christmas are times of frugal abundance -- a lot of homemade items, frugal items gathered carefully throughout the year, freebies I've sent off for, and like new quality used items.

    However, I've reached a point where even if I had plenty of money, I'd still shop very frugally and conservatively. While it would be heavenly to have plenty of money and not be terrified over paying bills every month, keeping the car running, etc., I'd still follow a more personally and environmentally conscious way of shopping. I've come to realize what a waste full price (and even on sale but still not worth the price) retail is, especially for clothing. I've integrated my Depression Era great-grandmothers' mindset of "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without."

    That's not to say it's not in me to indulge! Absolutely, I have a mental "if I had a million dollars" list! :)

  6. That's great, Rigel. It's amazing how necessity can teach you frugal tricks that stick around even if times get better. Of course, most of us know by now from experience that times can also change on a dime.

    I will say this though -- I'm a sucker for gourmet food. For some reason, a "sale" on food is NOT so exciting to me!


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