There’s a running joke in my family about my conscientious consumption.
I’m not a “picky” person – we prefer to use the term “selective”. And I’m not “cheap”, either, just a little… “frugal”.
Alright, maybe I’m both picky and cheap, but it pays off – literally – by helping me stock my overflowing wardrobe.
I’m a thrift shop fanatic and estimate that 75% of my clothes come from thrift stores, garage sales and online consignment.
Even when I’m not buying second-hand clothes, I almost never buy clothes at full price. If it’s not on clearance or there’s no coupon available, I’m not interested.
In the past ten years, the most I’ve ever spent on a single outfit was $42, and after the event I needed it for, I sold the pieces I didn’t want to keep and I got my money back.
Right now, I own 102 pairs of shoes, which line my entryway on two shoe racks.
Even those racks were a bargain: one was on sale when I ordered it online, and I discovered the other identical rack on the street and brought it home.
Meanwhile, my clothes rack (which I bought 45% off) is filled with dresses and pants, my under-bed organizers are overflowing with casual tops and jeans, and my closet is filled to the brim with off-season coats and sweaters.
Because so many of my clothes, shoes and handbags were secondhand, I don’t feel guilty for having so many, especially because I use them until they wear out and sell or give away what I don’t use.
Anything over $20 in my closet was probably a gift or second-hand item.
A big thank you to my fashion-loving mom, who wears the same size as me in clothes and shoes, and whose shopping prowess makes me look like an amateur.
I also buy a lot of clothes from discount stores, like TJ Maxx or Burlington Coat Factory, and clearance outlets that sell Amazon returns and last chance wholesale remnants.
The five outfits featured in this article cost a total of $36.50. I get compliments every time I wear them, and even more praise when I reveal how little I’ve spent.
This long dress is not only one of my favourites. When I wear it, people stop me on the street to tell me how much they love it.
The last time I wore it, a woman even rolled down her window at a red light to tell me how much she liked my grip!
I found the super comfy jersey dress at a store that sells returned, lost, and refused Amazon packages.
Unlike some similar stores, the one I visited had the packages open and the clothes on hangers, which allowed me to determine if the items matched my style and size.
The copper heels were $2 and in mint condition, a great find at a thrift store near my hometown in Missouri. I went there with my mother, who is also a bargain hunter.
Area thrift stores offer special deals on specific label colors, depending on the day of your visit. When we found these copper shoes, they were priced at $4, but their “tag” said an additional 50% off.
Total outfit cost: $3.00
Speaking of lucky finds, the most expensive item in this story is the pair of shoes I’m wearing in the photo above.
I paid $8 for the heeled loafers, which I would normally consider excessive.
They are a designer brand, however. Coach heels are authentic, and based on my research, they originally retailed for just under $200.
Life is about balance, so I paired my real Coach shoes with a very, very fake Chanel bag I found in the trash.
good i found near The bin. The lobby of my apartment has a “free table” where residents put items they don’t need, in case someone wants to bring back unused oven mitts or cat toys before trash day.
The bag was brand new, still covered in plastic and tissue paper, when I spotted it among old sweaters and worn canvas totes.
I used these accessories and a pair of dollar store sunglasses to style a black lace jumpsuit, which cost me $2.
Total outfit cost: $11
Buying off-season items is another way to save big at thrift stores.
While shopping at a thrift store over Christmas, I noticed a lot of flowy, airy skirts on the shelves.
Because my life is one long phase of practical magic, I grabbed a few skirts, including this red floral number. It was $6, a small price to pay to feel like Sandra Bullock in 1998.
At TJ Maxx, I paid $4 for this thin daisy print tank top. Then I waited. Six months later, it was finally warm enough to expose my arms.
I was wearing the white tank top and heeled skirt, another free table find.
Total outfit cost: $10
This outfit is proof that it’s never wrong to ask. While the heels were $4 at Nordstrom Rack thanks to a sneaky double-coupon hack, the dress and handbag came from unconventional ways.
A friend of mine, a former colleague, regularly wore this red gingham dress to the office, and I always thought she was adorable.
I asked her where the dress was from, and when she revealed it was from Zara, I started looking for it on eBay and Poshmark.
But it was listed for $50 or more on resale websites, and I wasn’t willing to part with that amount. I waited, adding some of the dresses to my “to watch” list on eBay and hoping to find it at a bargain price.
Two years after knowing her, I saw my friend’s Instagram post about her upcoming garage sale — and spotted a familiar gingham fabric among her offerings.
I immediately DMed her and learned that she was only asking $5 for the dress, which I gladly sent via Venmo, and picked it up later that week.
My cow print Baggu handbag is also something I have wanted for a long time. Baggu duck bags are my all time favorite tote – I own four of them, in different designs.
But, of course, I never paid full price, winning one at auction and finding another at the Buffalo Exchange.
Despite months of searching, I couldn’t find the cow print bag online for less than the retail price of $34, so I decided to wait.
Then, on my birthday, I was sitting in a bar with my friends when a woman sat down next to me, carrying the cow print bag.
I told her how much I loved her handbag, and to my surprise, she sighed.
“I really like the pattern, but it’s just not practical for me,” she said. “There’s too much room and not enough pockets, so I never find what I’m looking for.”
I held up the handbag I was carrying, a cute vintage handbag with a padlock that I had owned for years. This bag was given to me by a friend who owned a vintage store and often gave me first pick of her scraps and excess stock before they were given away.
“Do you want to trade?” I asked the stranger at the bar. “This bag is in great condition and has plenty of room without being overwhelming.”
The woman enthusiastically agreed and we exchanged our bags on the spot, emptying our purses and transferring them as our friends looked on in confusion. As far as birthday gifts go, I’d say this lucky break was pretty awesome!
Total outfit cost: $9
My final outfit features one of my best thrift store finds.
This floral coat, with its beautiful watercolor pattern and pretty blue buttons, comes from a literal basement.
While vacationing in Washington DC, I couldn’t resist the siren call of a thrift store near my family’s bed and breakfast.
Below the main store, where prices were already reasonable, was a room full of items with additional markdowns.
Prices in the basement have been reduced to last chance status. I saw this coat on the rack, gasped and grabbed it immediately.
When I looked at the price, I couldn’t believe my eyes: it was on sale for only fifty cents. Bright flowers are exactly my style, and I’m always cold. Talk about a practical souvenir!
A problem has arisen. It was mid-July, and my already overstuffed suitcase didn’t have an ounce of space to spare.
If I wanted this coat, I would have to take it on the plane with me, despite the triple-digit temperatures outside.
Luckily, I’m still cold (see above). I diligently carried the coat to the airport with me, clutching it to my chest and trying not to spill sweat on it.
But once I settled into my airplane seat, I pulled my treasure over me like a blanket and fell asleep.
I probably dreamed of pairing the coat with the perfect outfit, like this dress, which was $2 and came from my favorite clearance store.
Peep-toe heels were only $1. I didn’t have proper green shoes for spring, so it was an exciting find, and I even brought them home in May, when they were actually in season!
Total outfit cost: $3.50 and lots of sweat!