I'm not a shopper. It never occurs to me to go to the mall for entertainment which is very amusing considering I worked for a large retail clothing chain for the first five years after I graduated from college. I worked in store management for a year and a half and in the buying office the remainder of the time. Going to fashion shows and shopping for a living was enjoyable at the time, and you certainly haven't lived until you trek to Las Vegas with a group of male co-workers who have a variety of sexual preferences- too fun and too many stories to tell.
I believe my retail buyer experiences contributed to my current predilection as a bargain shopper, though. After seeing how much mark-up occurs in clothing and knowing that items are marked up just so they can still be profitably marked down, I just can't justify spending too much money on retail items, especially for children who are still growing.
Lest you think I'm Saint Frugal, I certainly am not. I much prefer to spend money on experiences rather than things. I love going out to eat and feel deprived if I don't go out for dinner at least once a week. I also love to travel and think nothing of plunking down money on a nice hotel or activities such as museum admissions or Broadway show tickets.
For the bargain shoppers among you, some of my favorite money-saving stores and websites:
If you haven't tried Aldi (http://www.aldifoods.com/index_ENU_HTML.htm) yet, you absolutely have to do so. After being introduced to Aldi by a friend last year, I have purchased the majority of my groceries there every week since. This past week, I bought all of our family's groceries, except for about 8 items, for the week for $40.80. That $40 consisted of about 20 items, including 4 pounds of fresh hamburger, 2 boxes of cereal, and 3 gallons of milk. Just a few quirks, aside from the low prices, which differentiate Aldi from your standard grocery store: #1- Most of the items are store brands, but don't worry they taste just as good, if not better, than some name brands. My family especially loves the salsa, whipped yogurt, laundry detergent, and cheeses. My parents adore the $7/ bottle Reisling wine, and some friends have pledged their devotion to the tilapia. #2- You must bring your own bags and bag your own groceries after they have been rung up. Whatever you do, stay out of the cashier's way while he/she is scanning your groceries. At first I was a bit alarmed at the speed at which my fruit and veggies were tossed into the cart alongside the dogfood, so now I place the heavier items on the conveyer belt first and the daintier items on last so they go into the cart in that order. After you pay for your groceries, you take them to the counters along the wall where you bag your groceries yourself. #3- You will need a quarter (not any other combination of coins) to get a cart. Upon arriving at the store, slip your quarter into the slot in the cart. When you return your cart and reconnect it to the cart line, you get your quarter back. If you have kids, they'll love taking care of the quarter for the cart. #4- You can only pay in cash or a debit card. Aldi does not accept credit cards or personal checks.
Teen and Adult Clothes: Plato's Closet
Curly Girl and I visited Plato's Closet today where we purchased four pair of jeans and six tops for $116 which was pretty good considering they were all name-brand items. Plato's Closet (http://www.platoscloset.com/) sells gently-used teen- and non-stodgy-adult-friendly clothing. My mom also picked up a Ralph Lauren cable sweater for $20 and an Old Navy skirt with the tags still on it for $8. The chain is very picky about the items they will sell and will only accept clothing which has been in retail stores within the last year. I also loved that the store was clean, the items were sized and hung by color, too. The store we visited sold goods at second-hand prices, but in a mall-like environment.
Kids' Clothes: Consignment sales
As much as I enjoyed dressing my children in cute outfits when they were younger, I couldn't justify spending $40 outfit which they were going to outgrown in six months. Thank goodness we have some great private and church-sponsored consignment sales in our area where I have purchased almost all of Curly Girl's clothing through elementary school and still buy Car Guy's wardrobe. (For the record, boys' clothes are such a let-down after after all the adorable choices for girls' clothing.)
Books: Edward McKay
Admittedly, I am more likely to purchase a book, instead of clothing, at retail price. If I want to read a particular book, I tend to purchase it with the intent of making it part of our family library which will be read again and again. I do enjoy browsing through Edward McKay Used Book Store (http://www.wefeedyourhead.com/wordpress/), though, especially when I need to purchase books for the reading lists for the school year. I love that Edward McKay's carries a great selection of classics, as opposed to the Harlequin romance fare of many used book stores, and has a free section where I invariably pick up an item or two.
Also, don't forget about Paperbackswap.com that I talked about in Old Friends, New Loves (http://musingsthoughtsandponderings.blogspot.com/2009/08/old-friends-and-new-loves.html).
Homeschool curriculum: Rainbow Resource
While Rainbow Resource doesn't fall into the super-bargain category, it does have the best prices and the best selection that I have found for homeschool curriculum. After trading in used curriculum at a local homeschool store and trolling websites for deals (I purchased a pre-algebra textbook for $0.18 on Amazon this year that would have been $60 at the homeschool book fair), I always place an order at Rainbow Resource (http://www.rainbowresource.com/index.php) for the other items we will need for the upcoming school year. I love that Rainbow Resource does not charge shipping for orders over $150. They also have an absolutely, fabulous three-inch thick catalog of homeschool curriculum complete with reviews and descriptions of the items. In my opinion, the catalog itself is a must-have reference resource for any homeschooler and is also a great way to learn about the immense amounts of curriculum available to homeschoolers.
So there are my ideas for bargain shopping. Feel free to share any great bargain shopping resources that you adore.
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