The Thrill of Cheap Shopping

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt*, Location - Sarah G. Schmidt's home


One of my most treasured past times is hunting for a deal. Now I may not be Sia, though I have a girl crush on her, but I do love cheap thrills. That we have in common. We do come at it from different angles though: she likes to party whereas I love to shop.

It all started due to my modest childhood budget. When I was young, I didn’t have access to money. Aside from a few necessities, like undergarments and winter coats, I have the choice of hand-me downs or finding a way to buy my own clothes. What little money I could scrounge together from summer jobs, pumping gas, and the odd babysitter gig would all go towards my imaginative mind racing with possibilities. Seventeen dollars to you may not be a huge shopping budget but I could make that stretch.

Please do not get this wrong. Needing to be frugal has served me well. You can’t learn about the power of money truly until you don’t have it. Learning to make do with what you have is a lesson from the school of hard knocks and tough breaks but the foundation it can afford you is revolutionary. One can appreciate an investment piece now and then more too. I am thankful.

As a young teen I sleuthed out deals at the mall, waited for the seasonal door crashers, repurposed hand me downs with a little fabric paint here, a rip there, and Frankenstein's monster-esq stiches via my mother’s sewing machine. The only limits were my own imagination.

I think I was eleven years old when I first remember going into Sears Bargain Centre in Regina and saw what three dollars could get you. Purses, shirts, backpacks, and shoes to name a few. SHOES. Sure, a lot of it was basic, lower quality stock, but not all of it. There were diamonds hiding in the rough. You’d be surprised what lands in a prairie store and gets discounted upon discounted until it’s almost free. From that point on, I endeavoured to 'win' at the stores. Winning meant being very deliberate about purchases and often times waiting them out.

Fast forward to today and I would proclaim that I am a deal wizard. I can go into nearly any store, head straight to the sale rack, and find a gem. Take me to a consignment store and I’ll find the underpriced garment. Wheel me into a thrift store and marvel at the speed at which I sift through racks upon racks making my careful selections. If I can brag about any one thing, this is it. I am the finder of a deal.

Some wise person said, "tis is better to give than it tis to receive," right? Or was that Cher Horowitz? Anywho, here are a few tips that I can provide from my treasure hunts.

Buy off season – Yup, that means buying swim suits and sandals in the winter and parkas in May. You’ll save a tonne and savour in the anticipation of waiting to wear that garment in a few months. Patience is a virtue that can be very lucrative.

Stalk Major Brands Online – When you find something you love in store, check online to see if they sell it there. There's a good chance that it is online. Yippeeeeeee! Now wait. Yes, wait my love. There’s a good chance that you can find your favourite in a month or so discounted and in your size. Winning.

Head to the Sales Section – Whether it’s a sales promotion, discount department store, or the racks way in the back corner, I love a good sale. Check for discounts on floor models or seasonal stock. But be careful not to buy just for the sake of it. I say go for it when you find what you love and at a price that’s lower than the original ticket. “Percentage off” is as close to verbal foreplay as I’ll ever need.

Hit Up Second Hand – Just like cars, as soon as you take it off the lot the garment's value decreases. Why not give a great piece a second life instead of always buying new? Visit a thrift, secondhand, or consignment store. Your money goes twice, three, or more times as far and you can take that green – both financial and environmental – savings for a ride. Good for you, green queen.

Get It Altered – If you find a deal but it need a little sizing love, buy that steal and invest in alterations. Keep in mind the garment should fit around the largest parts of you. For me that’s the shoulder and my tush. For you it may be bust, inseam, or waist. No matter what, taking the garment to a professional and getting it to skim all of your curves will make a cheap thing look like a million bucks. Tailors are everyday super heroes.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and join in the hunt. Remember that you need to be persistent and patient. If it’s not right- size, style, price – simply take note of the wish list item for later and pass. For now. Good things come to those who wait (for the prices to drop).

* I did not pay full price for anything I am wearing.