Why I Rarely Shop Retail

My husband is a self-proclaimed “numbers guy” or, as my Dad likes to mutter under his breath, “a bean counter.” Whatever we call him, the accountant to whom I am betrothed keeps our household budget humming like a well-oiled corporation.

We started collaborating on all things money the day after we got engaged.

With our sights set on a lovely wedding reception for 100 of our closet friends and family, followed by a honeymoon in London, we had a lot of saving to do. After opening a joint account, we agreed on an amount to plop in there each pay period. A year later, I handed over a hefty check to the manager of the hall hosting our reception while my fiancé bought our airline tickets and paid for the condo we were renting in Wimbledon.

With that financial goal achieved, the first thing we did after getting home from our honeymoon (ok, maybe the second thing we did) was to set our sights on paying off my hefty student loans while saving for a house.  Each month, my number-nutty spouse would close out the month on our budget as if we were a little company accountable to a couple of very demanding shareholders. Us.

Four years later, we plunked 20% down on a fixer-upper. By then, we had our first two boys and all of the expenses and college savings accounts that go with raising kids.

That was seventeen years ago. We’ve since added three more boys and my husband still blocks off the last day of the month to reconcile our expenditures and ready the upcoming month. Tedious, I know, but he has kept us on the financial straight and narrow all these years.

The benefits of doing this do not escape me. We are debt-free.

But I wasn’t always on board with this plan. Prior to our engagement, I was fond of shopping and paid little over my minimum balance due each month.

While my personal accountant hasn’t quite converted me into an avid coupon clipper, I do try to be careful with our cash. I’ve even sacrificed my appearance for the sake of fiscal responsibility. In my single days, I’d spend a small fortune on my hair (granted, it was the ’80’s), but now I get it trimmed at Great Clips and my highlights done at a beauty academy.

As for clothes, I’ve never been much of a fashionista. As a kid, my mom made play clothes for my sisters and I. My twelve years in parochial school left me with a disdain for plaid and anything made with itchy wool.  Once in college, my mother draped me in the latest from Liz Clairborne after which my dad decked me out in Ann Taylor for my post-graduation interviews.

Thankfully, my designer duds saw me through until my wedding. Even then, I found a seamstress to refurbish and retrofit my mother’s 1952 Cindrella ball gown of a wedding dress into a modern day vision of Chantilly lace and tulle, poofed up by the hoop skirt I borrowed from my best friend.

A year later, I entered the decade of borrowed jumpers and stretchy pants when I became pregnant with our first child. Ten years and five healthy boys later, I cleared my closet of my maternity tents, uh, frocks and came to the sad conclusion that my padded-shouldered, peplum-waisted designer clothes were woefully passé.

It tried raking through the clearance racks at department stores to restock my wardrobe. I really did.

Not my idea of a good time. The items on those  racks were there for a reason.

Now when my boys were little, a friend tipped me off to a lovely little children’s consignment shop that had gently-used “expensive” stuff (Oshkosh, Little Me, Carters) at a fraction of the retail price. I was hooked. The clothes we got at that shop lasted for the duration, even after becoming hand-me-downs for my younger guys.

I started checking around to see if there were any consignment shops for grown-ups and was happy to find a few. Unlike a department store where you can just waltz in, look for something appealing and try to find it in your size, shopping consignment stores – or even places like Goodwill, takes patience and luck. Lots of luck.

It helps if you like the thrill of the hunt when it comes to shopping. I never did until I found my first great buy – a cute white linen Eddie Bauer blouse with the tag still on it. It retailed for $46 dollars. I paid $2.99.

And there you have it. Sure, I still buy my unmentionables at “regular” stores (on sale, of course), but it’s not nearly as fun.


One thought on “Why I Rarely Shop Retail

  1. Hi Barb,Got an email alert on this post…and I’m so glad I came to read it…thanks for sharing what for many of us was a familiar story. 🙂 Shopping at consignment shops (or tag or garage sales) is so much fun. Yes, there are times when you may need or want to shop at boutiques or regular stores, but the treasure hunt aspect is not there. 🙂 Stores like Marshalls or TJMaxx can also help you score fun finds at discount prices.I was in Chicago 2 weeks ago: http://bit.ly/oKWqx4Had a ball…and lucked into the BEST weather!Thanks for a great post!


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