Friday when Sweet Pea woke up I told her to hurry and get dressed for School quickly because I had just gotten an email saying that the school district had decided to end Spring Break one day early. Before I could shout “April Fools” she burst into tears.
I am SO good at this mom thing.
Will was just as gullible and even less fun to trick, because he totally didn’t get it He spent the whole morning confused about why Mommy would say there was snow when clearly there wasn’t. Le sigh. There’s always next year.
But April 1st is more than just a day create sadness and mistrust in the children at our house. It also happens to be my Un-Birthday. What’s that you say? Well, an Un-Birthday is an anniversary of your adoption date. And because I am a spoiled rotten princess, my Mommy gives me presents on my Un-Birthday. My children, having arrived into our family in the traditional way, are just a wee bit jealous of my Un-Birthday.
So I guess it is just a day to crush your kids’ spirits.
I think it’s kind of funny that my mom gives me treats on my Un-Birthday. It really should be more of a celebration of her. After all, it’s the day she became a Mommy! I usually get her flowers or something. But this year I was a schlep. Ironically, on a year when she was in top form. Because I got a Benjamin with a note that said it was ALL for ME. Woohoo!! And to the mall I went!
My mom has been pretty instrumental in helping me build back a professional wardrobe since the first of the year. Stay at home Mom-dom didn’t involve a lot of high fashion. Unless yoga pants are high fashion. No? Ok. Well then you can see my predicament.
Here’s what I have learned over the last couple of months as it relates to shopping: It’s not just that I am a total cheapskate. Women’s clothing is absolutely ridiculously priced. But the good news is that if you shop smart you can get cute clothes for roughly the equivalent of all the cash you got for Christmas and your birthday. Or, um…Un-Birthday.
I figure that between Christmas and today, I’ve spent about $600 overhauling my closet. I have really had to start from scratch because of my post pregnancy weight fluctuations. (Yay me! I’m 3 sizes smaller than I was last time I had a job!) Even though I work in a school, it’s a school with a dress code. Business casual can’t be too casual or you’ll be outclassed by 15 year olds. So you can imagine just how much I’ve had to buy with only $600. I think I’ve done really well. Here’s my tally…
3 pairs of shoes
5 pairs of pants
3 pairs of earrings
I’m pretty big on quality too. It has to hang right, be comfortable and not fall apart. That seems like a reasonable set of standards for a wardrobe. But I absolutely refuse to pay crazy retail prices for my clothes. Not happenging. $60 for a t-shirt? No thanks J Crew. $85 for some Capri pants. Forget it Ann Taylor. Anthropologie…I don’t even know where to begin with you. At least GAP and Ann have decent sales. And I do shop the sale racks in those places. Ann Taylor Loft is one of my favorites.
I am a huge fan of outlet stores. (Uh…that’s about 60% of my motivation to go to Vegas. Black White Market Outlet - Winning!!) We live near an outlet mall that has Eddie Bauer, Bass and Van Huesen stores. And there’s a Ross up the street from me. Now, I know that I’m probably never going to be voted a fashion icon or anything. But I think I look good enough to be spared an appearance on What Not to Wear at the very least. My shopping trip on Friday even netted me some cute finds that aren’t straight out of the Preppy Handbook. For example - White capri’s (I.N.C. - $7.99 at Ross) a beautiful purple tank with silver detailing ($6.99 at Ross) and a pretty black wrap sweater ($12.00 at JC Penny). I’ve already got the cute silver kitten heels to finish off the outfit.
The trick to shopping at Ross is time. You really have to be able to go in there and try on about 3 times more than you are going to leave with. Taking my children on a Ross mission is impossible. Ross requires a solo afternoon. And an attitude conducive to treasure hunting. Sometimes I just can’t get into that. C’est la vie.
The outlet stores are slightly less daunting. The trick there is to 1) Understand which outlet stores are really outlets and which ones aren’t actually offering you any kind of sale pricing. (That’s right GAP, I’m looking at you.) 2) Sign up for their rewards programs, and 3)Pay attention to their sale emails. My shopping trip to Bass in December cost me about $250. But my savings from original prices was more than $500. My reward points from that trip earned me a $30 gift card that I used to buy my new silver purse and two pars of earrings – all of which were marked down .
The thing about those stores is that once you’ve been on a shopping spree there, you can probably skip going back until the season changes. They don’t seem to rotate their inventory more often than that. I’ve bought all I’m going to buy of fall/winter clearance. I won’t go back in there until mid summer when their shorts and sandals are on sale.
Given my penny pinching..or is it “smart shopping” ways…I realize that I sort of have some price points in my head that guide me. I can think of a handful of my friends who would die a thousand deaths before subscribing to my thresholds. But that’s fine with me. As long as there are fashoinistas willing to pay for couture, there will be clearance racks, outlet stores, and consignment shops for tightwads like me. That said, here are the prices I’m willing to consider for clothes and accessories that I love. (These are “up to” prices.)
Shoes - $30 - $50 for real leather and quality brands
Athletic shoes are different. I’ll pay $75 - $100 for a good pair of running shoes.
Pants and skirts- $40
Jeans - $70 or basically as cheap as I can get my favorite GAP jeans. When they fit, they fit.
Suits and suit dresses - $80
Jackets - $30
Tops/Sweaters - $25
Anything above that and I usually won’t even try it on. At my favorite haunts I can generally get pants for less than $20, tops for around $12, and shoes for $25 at the most. I don’t think my DNA would allow me to pay more than $20 for a purse or $10 for earrings.
A few more of my favorite places to look for treasures are:
Wal Mart – Danskin athletic clothes and t-shirts, Geranimals for the kids, OP swimwear for the kids, and their store brand kids’ cotton jammies are only $5.00. Bargain!
Shopko – flip flops, purses, Peanut and Ollie brand little boys clothes, kids shoes
Dress Barn Outlet Store – (Really? What were they smoking when they named this store??) I’ve found some nice cotton sweaters here, but you do have to really watch the quality
Maurices – their sale racks often have nice casual separates, but sometimes I think their more professional line is cheaply made.
Crazy 8’s – This is my new absolute favorite kids clothing store. I stick to the sale racks, and make sure to earn their $20 bonus certificates that can be applied to a future purchase of $40 or more. The jeans are every bit as quality as GAP Kids and often go on sale for around $12 a pair.
DSW – if we get a DSW in Boise I will have died and gone to heaven
Marshals – this is a great place to find cocktail dresses and the shoes that go with them
Old Navy – shorts and 100% cotton things
JC Penny - Maternity, girls sundresses, shoes, purses and sunglasses
I am often complimented on my clothes. And I’m even more frequently asked about how I keep my family on a tight budget. Now you know one piece of the puzzle.