Thrift Queen

Posted: October 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Bargains, Clothing, Housewife Fashion Tips, Money, Shopping | 20 Comments »

When I was eight I had an interview to get into a private school. It was with the head of the lower school, a woman known as Miss Page.

Miss Page was in her late fifties, and wore thick woolen dresses with flat, sensible shoes. She had stocky calves and styled her hair in a blunt page-boy. She was, I would come to learn, one of those rare, wonderful institutional legends. She worked at the school for decades, taught in the classrooms, cheered alongside playing fields, and in her clipped New England way, greeted students by name as she bustled through the campus.

Because my sisters attended the school a decade before, I sensed–whether it was real or imagined—a genteel familiarity she had with my mother. I got the feeling that our “little talk”–an important step in the admissions process—was something only I could fuck up.

Which, I’m happy to report I didn’t do.

I wish I could be a fly on the wall looking back on that day. I’d love to remember the questions she asked me, and of course, how I answered. I know I had to do some memory exercises and a few puzzles. Probably some math too. The only thing I recall specifically is she asked me what “thrifty” meant.

And I had no idea.

Which, if you knew me today, might shock you. It’s not that I’m a penny pincher. On certain things I’m more than happy to spend spend spend. But I also love a good thrift store. I veer to the side of roads for yard sales. There’s nothing more thrilling or satisfying to me than a good bargain, a good find.

Yet I’ll also spend lavishly on dinners out. I’m an experience junkie and a whore for travel—whatever the cost. I shop infrequently for clothing but when I do I tend buy in bulk and gravitate towards expensive “quality items” that I rationalize are worth it because, well, cashmere never goes out of style.

But lately my psyche has embraced this idea that I can scale back across the board. This, it turns out, is one of the silver linings of unemployment. Along with having less money to spend, I have a lot of time these days to simply re-assess my modus operandi.

Last week I took my mother-in-law (an obliging sidekick shopper) to Nordstrom on a quest for new jeans. I’ve lost some weight recently, and as much as I’m trying not to spend money, all my jeans are now too big. I think I need to repeat that, MY JEANS ARE TOO BIG FOR ME. They’re actually—wait for it—BAGGY IN THE ASS.

Hold on a sec while I go high-five myself in the mirror.

It seemed somewhat Draconian to deny myself the glory of buying a new, smaller size of jeans. Especially since, given my current stay-at-home mom status, I wear those frickin’ jeans EVERY SINGLE DAY.

See? My amortized-over-time rationale is kicking in again.

I have a brand I like, but I was curious about what else was out there. While Peggy waited on a Gothic-looking wood-carved couch, I tried on roughly two zillion pairs of jeans. Even Peggy, a seasoned fitting room advisor with solid Midwestern staying power, had to wander into another department at one point to relieve herself of my relentless asking, “Wait, I think I look slightly thinner in these than I did in the ones three pairs ago. Do you?”

I finally settled on a fabulous dark blue “skinny” pair that cost a whopping $180. Well, that minus the $50 gift card I had.

I told myself this was thrifty.

But at home later, I tucked the pants and receipt carefully into my dresser and questioned whether they were there to stay. Two of my O-town besties had mentioned a mall-store that had good-fitting, cheap jeans. And, although skeptical—could a woman my age really shop in that store?—I was curious.

So two days later I took my dear, patient mother-in-law to some Godforsaken suburban shopping complex a half-hour away to TRY ON MORE JEANS. (If you saw a gray-haired woman pawing at the window of a silver Subaru heading to Pleasanton last week, that was her.)

But guess WHAT? Cheap jeans look cute too! And you can still feel cool about getting them in your new smaller size! In fact, you can get one pair that works with flip flops and another to wear with boots—all for $80!

Woo hoo!

High on my jeans buy I made another, possibly rash cost-cutting call. I decided to cheat on my hairdresser—the extremely talented, extremely gay, extremely expensive guy I ADORE and go to in San Francisco (a not extremely convenient location). I have my first low-to-the-ground local cut and color in less than an hour. And when they don’t hand me a mug of organic mint tea or offer to put money in my meter when it runs low, I’m going to be okay with that.


If I don’t come out looking like pre-makeover Kate Gosselin, that is.

Oh and yesterday? Getting a new prescription for my contacts the doc tells me there’s another brand of daily-disposables that are much cheaper and just as good. It’s like SHE KNEW I’m high on a money-saving binge. I’m all, “Hook a sister UP!”

When you see me next you won’t even notice the lenses I’m wearing are less expensive than my old ones. As long as I’m able to see you back, that is.

There’s really no telling how long I’ll ride this austerity wave. I’m fearful I’m just in the honeymoon phase and I could go back to my old ways faster than you can say “new pair of fall boots.” But in the meantime I’m enjoying my newfound thriftiness.

Miss Page would be so proud.


20 Comments on “Thrift Queen”

  1. 1 Jen Goudey-Forster said at 9:27 am on October 10th, 2012:

    Love it! I’m on a thrifty kick too! There are so many ways to save. We’re even switching medical insurance and going to save $199/month! How many cheap jeans is that…!? And I love your mirror high-five. You go girl.

  2. 2 Mary said at 9:32 am on October 10th, 2012:

    So, so funny. Two Quotes:

    “a seasoned fitting room advisor with solid Midwestern staying power,”


    (If you saw a gray-haired woman pawing at the window of a silver Subaru heading to Pleasanton last week, that was her.)

    Can’t wait to see the jeans! And the haircut!

  3. 3 Tamar said at 9:54 am on October 10th, 2012:

    kudos to you for losing weight AND for always looking great as I stand in my pyjamas with bedhead greeting our entire school community!

  4. 4 Pam said at 10:11 am on October 10th, 2012:

    Dear Mrs. Thrifty Bottoms,

    You never indicate whether you ret’d the $180. pair of jeans. My guess is that you now have three new pairs of nifty thrifty jeans in your drawer. All thanks to Miss Page!

  5. 5 kristen from motherload said at 12:15 pm on October 10th, 2012:

    I love it when you quote me back to me, Mary! :)

    Let’s hope I can maintain the cute look on the new ‘do through until tomorrow night.

    And I can’t wait to see your BANGS.


  6. 6 kristen from motherload said at 2:01 pm on October 10th, 2012:

    Okay okay, Pam. You caught me. I HAVEN’T returned the spendy jeans. Not yet at least!

  7. 7 Leigh Ann said at 2:22 pm on October 10th, 2012:

    My husband was a die hard Express jeans fan for years. But turns out the $25 pair of Levis he got from Target make his butt look the best.

  8. 8 kristen from motherload said at 2:28 pm on October 10th, 2012:

    Express? Random!

    Love that his butt looking good is the measure of success. And $25 is an excellent deal. Love that.

  9. 9 kristen from motherload said at 2:33 pm on October 10th, 2012:

    Oh Tamar, your bedhead lends such a homey air to the school in the morning.

    Actually I had no idea you were rockin’ some bedhead. If you are, it just looks like a cute haircut. I’ll text you a picture of my bedhead some day. When you least expect it. Beware–it’s scary.

  10. 10 Clearly Kristal said at 2:39 pm on October 10th, 2012:

    Great post! I am so all about being thrifty, but like you, there are certain things I’m willing to splurge my cold hard cash on – purses being one. After reading your post, though, I’m wondering – would a less expensive, maybe a knock-off purse be just as good? Hmmm. The other belt tightening item I could cut back on is STARBUCKS. It’s like the smell of that beautiful, sweet coffee overpowers every last shred of willpower. Any suggestions? So glad I found your blog. Love your writing and candid perspectives! (Oh, I also wrote a post about my life at garage sales with my mom that you might enjoy:

  11. 11 kristen from motherload said at 2:41 pm on October 10th, 2012:

    Yay to you, Jen! The next thing I want to tackle is our cell phone bills and cable/phone. I know there must be better and cheaper plans we can be on.

  12. 12 kristen from motherload said at 2:44 pm on October 10th, 2012:

    Kristal–I totally hear you on Starbucks. I am weakened by the siren’s call of a soy-chai-no-water latte. But all those lattes eventually add up to a pair of $180 jeans.

  13. 13 Daryce said at 4:05 pm on October 10th, 2012:

    Thanks for the giggles! I believe I found the pounds you lost on my ass-WHAT are they doing there?!!

  14. 14 kristen from motherload said at 4:36 pm on October 10th, 2012:

    Darcye: Well the good news is I have some old jeans I can give you!

  15. 15 Brooke said at 9:11 pm on October 10th, 2012:

    I loved it! So sassy and funny, thanks I needed it after the tension from the A’s game!

  16. 16 kristen from motherload said at 1:22 pm on October 11th, 2012:

    Me? Sassy?!

    Happy to relieve your tension, but I also suggest alcohol, Brooke. That’ll work well for you on days when I don’t post.

    Goooooo A’s!

  17. 17 Lorette Lavine said at 4:23 am on October 12th, 2012:

    I love your tenacity in looking for reasonably priced jeans…they are hard to come by.
    I have to brag that I found mine on the sale rack at Talbots…$17…reduced 3x. I had no idea they were that price…as the extra markdowns were not all on the tag. All I knew is that they fit and were less than $75.
    I also have yet to return a more expensive pair I purchased at TJ Maxx…

  18. 18 kristen from motherload said at 7:32 am on October 14th, 2012:

    Nice, Lorette! Nothing better than getting to the cash register and finding out you have to pay even less than you thought you had to. Of course, I’d use it as an excuse to then go out and buy a pair of shoes… You know, with all the money I’d just saved.

  19. 19 M said at 6:40 pm on October 21st, 2012:

    What store did you buy the jeans at? I need a new pair and I’m in the east bay. I alway get mine from lucky but since having kids, I’ve worn through the knees of 4 pairs of jeans. My oldest is only 2 and a half! I need to find a cheaper place to buy jeans.

  20. 20 kristen from motherload said at 7:30 pm on October 21st, 2012:

    Drum roll please… American Eagle! I kinda felt like I should be pretending to shop for a teenage daughter, but I managed to get out of there with my dignity intact–and a couple pairs of cheap jeans!

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