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What’s Your Deal? (Thrifty Divas)

A few months ago I watched a show about extreme couponing. I loved it! It appealed to every part of my penny-saving sensibilities and I was not freaked out by the woman dusting her collection of non-perishables at all. What I saw was the hundreds of warm meals that would adorn her table and the absolute lack of worry she would have about keeping her hungry family fed. I was so inspired, that I spent the better half of that following Sunday searching the internet for coupon deals, re-assigning plastic bins from crayons to coupon clippings and hoarding newspapers from local stands.

Thrifty Diva Alisa Benedetti

Thrifty Diva Alisa Benedetti

My enthusiasm for all the money I was about to save was surging through me like a roaring river! Until the third newspaper box in a row proved to be empty of every Sunday paper and the one paper I did find had been stripped of the coveted coupon circulars. I had no idea that this was going to be so cut-throat.

I found myself looking over my shoulder every time I deposited a dollar into the metal box for the dream of saving say…$20, $30, maybe even $50. Ten dollars later, no one pushed me down in the grocery store parking lot to commandeer my paper, I was still without one single savings document and I was going to have to use nickels on the next machine if I continued this endeavor.

In all honesty, I deserved for this endeavor to prove fruitless. I had every intention of paying for one paper but taking three from the box. And that is how karma works. It saw me coming and made sure that an equally dishonest couponer got there first. I could refine my approach and tackle the prospects again the following Sunday, but I really didn’t want it bad enough. I love saving money, but this was not reaping the immediate rewards I desired on my money saving hunt.

For me, the best place to stretch my consumer dollar is at the thrift store. There has never been a trip to the thrift store that did not result in some kind of desired item being stalked, hunted and bagged for home. I have my Jimmy Hendrix t-shirt, my best fitting pair of jeans, and several amazing vintage cocktail dresses that have seen more action then the dress I almost paid $350 for. I say almost, because anyone that knows me, knows I would rather chew my own arm off then pay $350 for a dress I KNOW I can find somewhere for less. I found a similar dress elsewhere for $30. Seriously. I am not joking.

Thrifty Diva Alisa

Thrifty Diva Alisa

If it were not for my friends at the Good Will, ARC and Family Thrift Store, my kids would have been naked through their entire youth. Maybe not naked, but certainly not wearing Tommy Hilfiger or genuine Levis. It would have been Geranimals straight into Old Navy, from birth to graduation. None of them would have ever owned a pair of dress shoes either. Dress shoes are expensive and little boys don’t care to keep them on their feet. And bigger boys don’t care to wear them either. There are always dress shoes for boys at the thrift store for under $5.00. Cha-ching! That’s the sound of a deal.

There is a technique to shopping for second hand clothing, not unlike that of coupon clipping. The first step is to look for fabrics that jump out and say, I am not rayon! I brush my fingertips across the shoulders of shirts seeking the familiar texture that can only be found in silk blends. Like they are reading Braille, my fingers can feel a fabric meant for dry clean only.

I recommend you pull these items out and examine them more closely. Second sweep through the aisles, I gaze downward toward the hemlines and hope not to collide with another shopper. It has happened before and there is a 50/50 chance that the other person will interpret this as a sign of aggression. If all goes well, you will find the long pants and skirts you desire. Again, pull these items out immediately, check for sizes later. If I had not mentioned this earlier, a cart is necessary. You will only take home about 10% of the clothing you find in this store, but you don’t want others to sneak off with it while you are pondering the pros and con’s of having another long sleeve black t-shirt.

Thrifty Divas Diandra & Alisa

Thrifty Divas Diandra & Alisa

At this point in the adventure, I move on to the dresses. If you are in the market for formal wear, you will now be overcome with a feeling of euphoria. The most amazing thing about formal wear is that you really only wear it the once and then it does nothing until it ends up in the bottom of a black trash bag heading for the orange receptacle behind the Walmart. These items are plentiful and in good condition with only the occasional pit stain from an outdoor engagement party. It goes without saying – those are left on the rack.

I employ similar methods to the other departments in a synchronized order from back of the store to the front, strategically ending at the dressing rooms in the men’s department. Thrifting is not for the weak or shy. If your sensibilities insist that you use the women’s changing rooms, then you can add another hour to your shopping trip. Men in thrift stores do not try on clothes. I guarantee this. There are only other smart female shoppers in those men’s changing rooms.

You may be able to grab-and-go with an outfit from a department store. But, that will not work here. A size six is much different after it has lived on someone else’s size 6 body for a few years. Things stretch and accommodate the last known body it clothed. This also means that a size you would not imagine you could pull up over the bum before may fit you like a glove now. Leave the store without trying on the clothes at your own risk. You will only have ten days to bring it back and you will only get store credit.

It is not that uncommon to see a woman forcing her child to change in the aisles to save time. All kids that grow up in this environment know how to back into the racks, using the garments as make-shift walls and the shopping cart, or parent’s backside as a door. Petite women can use this approach too, but anyone over 5’2” is out of luck. Obviously, some people just don’t care and pull pants up under skirts and recalculate the American sizing system for the ¼ inch of extra clothing they are still wearing.

There was an occasion when my hand and that of another less deserving woman pulled a shirt off the rack at the same time. The air was tense between us. We smiled tightly at each other and gave an experimental tug on the shirt, just to test the other person’s conviction. She was shorter than me, a bit stocky, and I am pretty sure she could take me. I’m not all that strong, and short stocky women are a force to be reckoned with.

Thrifty Divas Alisa & Diandra

Thrifty Divas Alisa & Diandra

But, luckily for me, I was trained in the way of the second-hand-store-ninja by the best of the best; my father. I knew exactly how to react to the imminent threat of losing the shirt to someone more formidable. I started to sing. Loud and proud, like the acoustics in an extremely large warehouse were just the thing I had waited my entire life to experience. I sang something very catchy and verbose, like “Ears, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”. I can’t remember exactly, but it was not Lady Gaga. It was not cool. It was so un-cool, that my children scattered into the
bowels of the building and I knew they would find their way back to the car somehow without my guidance. My face-off ended with an awkward half laugh, the loosening of her steel grip and a few cautious steps backing away from the unsuspecting woman. But, she didn’t punch me or knock me out from under my own feet and I left that place with the shirt. I play dirty when it comes to finding a good deal. I’ll admit it.

Thrifty Diva Diandra

Thrifty Diva Diandra

If you are worried about my children being scarred permanently by my display of humiliation and persecution upon them, don’t. I am just passing down the craft to the next generation of hunters and gatherers. {f}

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