bargains are my business.

1 07 2010

my mom always liked new stuff.  and not just any new stuff, the best possible new stuff. if we were in pursuit of say… a care bear (grumpy bear to be specific), she would never just grab the first one that she saw. oh no! she would dig through every single bear on the shelf until she found the one that was perfect. no smushed faces or lopsided expressions, no flat spots or loose threads- the most perfect and pristine care bear in the whole store (possibly a second store in case the first store’s product did not meet standards). it is because of my mother that i utterly refuse to bring home any product in a crushed or dented box. even if the contents is assured to be perfectly preserved. even if i’m just going to tear the box apart the moment i get home. it’s completely irrational, but it’s all i know.

thus, when we visited our first marden’s, i distinctly remember that my mom was less than impressed. we’d heard their commercials on the radio a million times- “i should have bought it when i saw it at mardens”, but the water damaged prom dresses and the nightmare bad lighting were too much for her delicate sensibilities. if you’ve never been to a marden’s, you should know that it is the low budgetiest, discountiest, no frillsiest place you’ve ever been. generally housed in the broke down shell of a bankrupted chain store, the ultra closeout goods get tossed haphazardly onto racks and piled up in bins floating in the aisles. let’s just say that the term “visual merchandising” doesn’t exist in their vocabulary.  oh, and don’t you EVER EVER EVER go into the bathroom. please, just don’t.

anyway, flashing back to 1988, our first foray into rock bottom bargainville was not a success. i distinctly remember my mom singing “i should have left it where i saw it at marden’s” (and being 11 at the time, i of course thought this was HILAROUS). it was too much. everything was dented and imperfect, we would never go there again.

as a late in life bargain hunter, marden’s and i would grow to love each other deeply. i would come to learn that the key is tenacity. that, and a willingness to dig, dig, dig (no matter how suspect the product at hand). for every 25 polyester blend clearance rack tragedies, you might actually find something good. remember that time i found a marc jacobs prairie skirt for $6.50? if you can just get over the weird smells, expired foods, and of course the bathroom…. it’s pure magic. so you can imagine my delight when i heard that a big-ass new marden’s was moving into my backyard (if my backyard was the mall).

sadly, the verdict is: MODERATE DISAPPOINTMENT. the new scarborough marden’s is much bigger, much cleaner, and much more organized than its brethren, yet was somehow sorely lacking in the magic department. i’m hoping that a bit of the newness will fade over time. right now i can still smell the walmart in there, and it just seems too put together in a way that robs me of the joy of the dig. i mean seriously, what are all these medium sized garments doing in one place?  its looking too much like a regular store and a lot less like a smoldering pile of junk ripe for exploration.  i miss that, and have hopes that in time the disorder will be restored. that said,  i did manage to get lost in there for the better part of an hour, and did encounter many tremendous things absolutely worth exploring:

1. first off, PLACE IS FUCKING HUGE. yeah, it’s an old walmart. i doubted at first that they would be able to fill it up, but it has a really good mix of clothing, homegoods, crazy off-brand/expired foods, in addition to things like furniture & carpet (that the portland marden’s doesn’t have).

2. there’s a MOTHERFUCKING FABRIC STORE IN THERE. yeah, i sew. yeah, i have a ludicrous and ever growing stash of fabric- but i always want more. even though i barely sew anything ever, i have a demented fabric lust that knows no reason. i don’t know what fabric store went bankrupt or had a small attic fire, but that shit is nice! one would expect from a marden’s fabric stash lots of cheap and highly flammable prom satins or flannels emblazoned with losing sports teams or faded disney stars headed for rehab… but oh no! tons of nice cotton prints, rolls of high-end decorator fabrics, stacks of unusual and vintagey looking trims. heavenly, and all for about $3.99 a yard or less.

3. hey, is that FURNITURE I WOULD ACTUALLY BUY? yeah, there was some weird stuff. and yeah, there’s a lot of overstuffed nogahyde recliner action. BUT, there were also several perfectly normal and attractive couches and chairs that could have easily found their way into my apartment. well,  if there was actually any room for more couches and chairs.

4. even though there’s better stuff than a lot of the other marden’s, there’s still a HEALTHY DOSE OF HILARIOUS OFF BRANDS and merchandise from the land that time forgot. is that an entire wall of slouch socks? or maybe the novelization of the short lived tv show roswell? if you can’t find a punchline at marden’s, then you’re probably a humorless dick.

5. the shoe department for me in any store is critical, and THIS FOOTWEAR DEPARTMENT DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. in the portland store, i’m lucky to find anything this isn’t for grandmas or hookers. not a lot of range there. i don’t know how they did it (did paul lepage have to shank someone?), but there was a boatload of amazing heels from high-endier lines like coach, bcbg, and charles david. they weren’t $3/10 cheap- but the were mostly $50 or under. and they were all stunning. too bad i have no money and a swiftly developing bunion.

i love the fact that discount and thrift stores are joining the mall area, and i don’t care if it’s a sign of the bad economy. now, i haven’t completely warmed up to the new marden’s yet, but i do feel like there is potential chemistry there. let’s just say that at the end of the cocktail party, marden’s scarborough will be getting a rose. and if less scummy and more choices sounds like your idea of a dream date… i recommend heading on over. i’m pretty sure there’s enough to go around.

oh, and if the marden’s in your area has something awesome, please let me know! you know, so i can keep that information to myself and go buy all of it.

p.s. you can check out the rest of the photos of my trip on the broke207 brand flickr account.





the road to hell.

29 06 2010

is paved with crumpled shopping bags. i was doing really well on my $30 a week plan for needless weekend spending… and then this weekend descended in a haze of clearance racks and impulse buying. does anyone else ever feel like they’re possessed by the devil? come july, i’ll be making some drastic reductions in my spending (to disastrous results i’m sure), but in the meantime… let’s revel in this last summer binge with gusto.

1. target, my second home. i once vowed that i would stop sleeping in sweatpants and old t-shirts and start sleeping in sexy lingerie. i’m not doing a very good job, but two new pieces of pretty from the liberty of london collection @ $4.48 each significantly increase the odds. if someone would come over to my house and finally torch my heinous disintegrating sweatpants, then we’d really be in business.

2. we decided to go to windham for a change, and that goodwill never disappoints. found another addition to my three investigators collection (jupiter jones is gonna solve that mystery SO HARD), and some crazy plastic apple container. i don’t know why, but i’m a sucker for shit that’s shaped like fruit.

3. marden’s sweet marden’s. there’s a brand new gigantic fucking mardens that just opened up in the old walmart building in south portland. i’ll be posting a deep and dirty expose about my experience later this week, but until then… BEHOLD! hobo spanx no more (that’s control top panty hose with the legs cut off for those who aren’t yet aware of my secret shame)! $11.49 for a maidenform control shorts. sure, it feels like my organs are being crushed, but i look SO SKINNY.

4. i ditched the boyfriend in the car for a nap while i took off to the marshall’s for a while. he’s such an old man. amazing asymmetrical t-shirt for $8, and the most beautiful summer dress ever for $19.99. i’m too fat for spandex, but there was a boatload of really nice looking marc by marc jacobs swimwear if you’re in the market for that sort of thing.

5. last time i was at the gap, it was all prairie skirts and straw cowboy hats, which is probably somewhere between windpants and juicy sweatsuits on the scale of shit that i shouldn’t be wearing. mysteriously this weekend, everything was awesome and on sale. oh, and everything that was on sale was an additional 40% off. got a cute skirt and 2 pairs of mysteriously great fitting pairs of 1969 (regularly $79 a pair) for $51.

6. shaw’s was the final stop for grocery shopping, and probably the biggest retail coup of the day. WACKY MAC MOTHERFUCKER! there was and endcap fucking full of it randomly over by the raw chicken. i bought just a couple because i could, even though i didn’t have the coupon that made them free.  but the biggest score was easily the fiber one deal. on sale for buy one get one (@ $4.29 each), i had a stash of $.75/1 coupons that would double, making it $1.29 for 2 boxes $.65 a box. i got 8 boxes for $5.16 total. i even had a $5/$50 coupon which would bring the whole goddamn mess down to almost nothing. it would have been exceptionally impressive if the boyfriend could have been an adult about it, instead of just giggling like a maniac, and telling me how much i’m gonna poop.

$102.58– scandalous! anyway, appreciate it now before i cut myself off from the crazy shopping forever (or until august, whichever comes first). but if the demon possession should happen to be too strong for me… tell my family that i love them, and make sure you wrestle my dead ass into those spanx. i don’t want to be a bloated corpse.





bits and pieces.

21 06 2010

i’ve started to get into a pattern where i save up all my buying lust for sundays where i plan one big binge. the boyfriend was away all week camping with with his dad, and he promised me that upon his return, he would take me to not one but 2 targets. we also decided to cram in a couple of flea markets, and i would take a covert jaunt to the old navy while somebody was asleep in the car.

it was certainly not the day that i planned in my head, a day bursting full of target endcap bargains. actually, there were none. the cupboard was pretty much dry on the retail end except for one accidental old spice money maker, but the thrifting was hard core.  i’m still struggling with my deep desires to buy things that i don’t need- even if i have scaled down dramatically on the amount that i spend… but shopping is one of my greatest joys in life and i’m not sure i can live happily ever after without it. in the meantime, i am embracing the summer flea market season and trying to find my joy for under $30 a week:

montsweag flea market: threatening rain made the whole thing kind of lame today. place was pretty much cleaned out, but i did manage to score a big pile of stunning vintage fabrics for $4, and the above pictured parker brothers palm reading game (complete and pristine) for $5. hot hot hot!

after the disappointing and brief turn @ montsweag, we decided to hit the waterfront flea market in brunswick to see if we could make up the difference. better, but still not amazing. i did however grab a very beautiful half finished painting (40s?) for $10. the woman who sold her to me had tears in her eyes, even though i assured her that the painting was going to a loving household. it crushes me a bit to see people sell things that they love, especially for so little.

in an attempt to shake off the bummer from our last stop, the boyfriend deposited me at the topsham target while he went off to scoot around the neighborhood on his new motorcycle (don’t get me started). i knew i had a nearly unlimited amount of time, and combed that shit from top to bottom. NOTHING! moderately depressed, i decided to use some leftover P&G bogo coupons for old spice body wash and get myself a $5 target gift card in return. it was supposed to work like this: 2 old spice bodywash @ $3.54 with bogo coupon, 1 old spice bodywash & 1 old spice deodorant @3.54 with bogo coupon. $5 gift card in return makes the whole mess $2.08. good deal! things started to unravel at the register when my total came out to $4.39, and my giftcard didn’t pop out. i was shuffled over to customer service where they gave me $5 in cash. i still don’t know what happened, but somehow i made $.61. thanks for the donation target! the preble st. resource center will be grateful for the personal care items.

of course the topsham target is goodwill adjacent, so a quick stop in there i grabbed an awesome 80s dress pattern for $.99, and a sweet black knit minidress for $2.49.

at that point we were getting a little wilted, and it was time for the last stop at the south portland target before we headed home for the day. similar to topsham, it was bunksville. does anyone know the discount endcap filling schedule? when is the best time to go? i’m starting to feel like sundays are not optimal for bargain hunting.

disappointed with my target experience, i decided to sneak over to the old navy while the boyfriend was napping in the car. their summer clothes are really awful right now. all frayed hems and boxy peasant blouses. no me gusta! i did however find a 3-pack of my favorite underpants for a mere $7.99. not exactly a giveaway, but they’re usually $12, and it might just be time for me to toss out some of the 2nd string underpants that are either way too small, way too big, way too unflattering, or have lost all concept of elasticity.

total damage:  $28.87.

$30 a week thrifting/bargain hunting is $1560 a year. would that money be better spent on my credit card debt or perhaps my nest egg? maybe, but at what point is it ok for me to have a little fun? where do you draw your frugal line in the sand? please tell me i’m not the only frugal failure out there with a habit that they might not be interested in kicking!





spending too little on too much.

14 06 2010

it was a spendy-ass sunday. took a little jaunt back to my hometown of augusta for brunch at the senator inn (a childhood fav that still holds up!), and a little light antiquing that turned into an entire day of shopping the town inside out. i got some pretty good deals that seemed necessary at the time… but seeing it all lined up at the end of the day (and added up), i start to wonder how much of my bargain shopping is really a bargain. i’m paying less for everything, but i’m buying more than ever.

shaw’s: 4 big G cereals @ $12.86 with $6 off when you buy 4 plus $4.40 worth of coupons ($.55/1 doubled from coupons.com) final cost= $2.46 for 4 boxes.

target: the liberty of london collection is on super sale at the augusta target and i snagged an adorable nightie for $8.98. there’s also a ton of zac posen stuff, but it’s not marked down enough for me to bother. give it another few weeks… i might have to go back to augusta and snag me a cocktail dress. i also found a mysteriously unblemished pair of striped espadrilles for $4.26 marked “AS IS”. their identical counterparts were just feet away in the full retail section for $16.99… maybe they’re going to explode in low speed collisions? i’ll keep you apprised if any defects should arise. lastly, i found a few boxes of puffs tissues with vicks vapo-rub in them (which i love but haven’t been able to find ANYWHERE- discontinued?) for $1.38 a box, and sacrificed 2 of my $.50/1 vocalpoint coupons. target total= an eerie $15.00 even.

big lots: to my credit, i did put back one movie and a $6 box of diet granola bars. but a $3 copy of funny face?! i have a list of movies on my iphone that i’m looking to buy. the problem being, that my price point for DVD buying is $5 of less, usually less. today i encountered 3 of those titles in the $3 bin. is there really anything else at big lots that’s even worth looking at? funny face, art school confidential, & confetti= $9.00.

goodwill: i used to own and love this jacket in another size that i am not officially too fat to wear. lo and behold, here it is at goodwill in brunswick for $4.99! oh wait, is that a yellow barb? make that $2.49!

cvs: i had $14 worth of extrabucks expiring tomorrow, and this evening was my only chance to cash in.  with the gillette proglide razors already sold out, i had to improvise a bit and use a few more extrabucks than i otherwise would have preferred. i ended up with a bunch or random crap (most of which will get donated), but it felt like a good haul considering the circumstances:

2 john frieda root awakening shampoos @$5 each with $3 ECB back when you buy $10 + $5/2 coupon= $2
2 right guard total defense deodorants $4.49/ea. on BOGO + $3/2 coupon from coupons.com= $1.50
1 covergirl wetslicks amaze-mint @ $4.99 with $3 ECB back, and $1/1 coupon= $.99
1 colgate proclinical toothpaste @ $3.99 with $2 back in ECB, and a $1/1 coupon= $.99
2 gillette bodywash @ $8 with $8 back in ECB and a $4/2 coupon= +$4 ECBs (the flier said limit 1, but it turned out to be limit 2!)
total OOP= $17.47 (paid $17 in ECBs + .$.47 in cash plus tax), received $16 ECBs

total spent this weekend (for all above pictured goods, not actually counting meals, groceries for the week, and a ridiculous failed dinner party that will never speak of again)= $29.42 of stuff that i didn’t actually need. on one hand, i could have spent a whole lot more on a multi-store shopping binge, and gotten a whole lot less. on the other hand, is spending $30 on anything that i don’t need really a bargain? it might be time to put the debit card away for a while and think about what i’ve done.





raising the roof.

26 05 2010

i wish i could raise the roof all 1998 style (can a get a woot woot?) about the process of getting a new roof, but it’s been all sorts of suck since day one. we hadn’t even had our condo for a full year when the water damage started. sure, they told us during due diligence that we would need a new roof in the next 2-5 years, but we figured we would have at least one recovery year before the giant assessment of doom descended upon us. but then *BAM*, 1 giant shingle ripping windstorm, and everything falls apart. our beautiful (and stupid expensive) brand new professional paint job reduced to a bubbly saggy mess in 24 short hours.

now not only was my heart broken about the paint job, but with one of the 5 units in our tiny little condo association undergoing foreclosure (meaning that the guy hadn’t paid mortgage or condo fees for 6+ months), i was also wicked pissed. why you ask? well, because when a condo association needs a new roof, and one of the units is in foreclosure… everyone else just has to pick up the slack and pay jerkface’s share of the bill. which isn’t so bad when it’s a $75 heat bill, but when it’s a $15,000 new roof- it becomes significantly more pricey. and thus, i become increasingly more filled with rage.

i suppose we were lucky enough to get that big chunk gifted to us by the boyfriend’s parents (although that too came with it’s own “complications” [ahem, demon dog anyone?]). but that still left us with $1,375 each to come up with by june 1st. the crazy thing is, i actually had it. there was almost $2,300 in my savings account, and for the first time in my life ever (i’d never been able to keep more than about $25 in savings at any given time), my emergency fund was actually ready for the emergency. so why did it feel so bad when i had to write that check? last night as i transferred the cash over to my checking account, and saw my hard earned savings dwindle down to less than $900, i felt a huge sense of hopelessness and loss. i had been doing so well. i had made real progress. i had felt so successful. and here i was again, back down to an almost empty tank.

i automatically have $100 a month put into savings from my paycheck, and then any other outside earnings, single check rebates, or other miscellaneous income have been getting thrown in there to boot. this was a good year, and between tax returns and freelance jobs, i was able to come up with almost another $1000 of miscellany to stuff under my savings mattress. i’m just afraid that this next year won’t be as kind, and that my race to have 2 months worth of living expenses in the stronghold could take another 2 or more years to build. i was so close.

i think i get it now. saving money is like taking prozac. it takes the edge of worry off of working and living in a world where expensive emergencies can streak across the road like a spooked deer at any time. sure, my new roof looks nice, will add resale value to my home, and will most hopefully prevent any future water damage… but it took a little bit of my security with it, and i think i’m going to be in mourning for a little while. *i’ll be in my room*





hot in the city

12 05 2010

when last you saw me, i was fleeing the shopaholics boutique in shame. BIG thank you btw to everyone who called that guy a douchebag and told me that they wouldn’t shop there! your support warms my black little heart. but onward… i still had like 20 minutes to burn before my dinner date, but needed to get my scorned ass out of there immediately. it just so happens that several of my sexiest lady friends were performing some burlesque at the recent sanctuary tattoo 10th anniversary party, and i thought it would be fun to get them saucy little good luck presents of some sort (which actually didn’t end up happening, but i did try!). but where does a girl go for saucy goods in this town that doesn’t also employ jizz moppers (i’m talking to you video expo) or carry bong parts (you too treasure chest)? the answer is nomia.

tucked up on the 2nd floor above a comfortable shoe store, you likely didn’t even know it was there (unless you’re in the habit of taking poorly lit stairways into the unknown).  but you should, because nomia is a super amazing woman-owned shop with a femme-centric approach porno and sex toys.  it’s white-glove clean, flatteringly lit, and laid out like a charming local bookstore- with the exception of the fact that the only genre is erotic. sure there are strap-ons and lube displays aplenty, but it’s very private (thus it’s 2nd floor location with no easily peepable windows), has women-only hours, and just feels comfortable, safe, and like a nice place to browse for all things rubber and vibrating. plus, they know what they’re talking about. there isn’t a question out there that will make them blush, and they’ve got resources and recommendations up yaz (pun intended).

i will spare both my mom and the other people who read my blog and actually have to look me in the eyes on occasion the details of what exactly i did or didn’t buy, but it’s irrelevant anyway. after my unceremonious dismissal from shopaholics boutique, it was so amazing to walk into a store that was warm, inviting, and cared about my needs. where the person behind the counter was more than happy to engage in a conversation with me, answer my questions, and even looked online for something i had asked about but they didn’t carry. and you know, i left that store with $22 worth of stuff i didn’t actually need (although i do firmly believe that good sex is an excellent investment), feeling good about my purchases and good about myself. my previous shame and anger had been equalized by good customer service. who knew? nomia FTW.





the dam breaks.

6 05 2010

you would think that after the ridiculous amount of money that i spent on eating out last month, i would have been able to do some thoughtful self assessment and reigned it in a little. yeah, thoughtful self assessment isn’t exactly my strong suit. although i do spend a lot of time wishing that i was one of those people who got off on self denial. too bad wishing is a statistically poor way to accomplish your goals.

i’ve actually been quite good with the eating out thing lately, but i’ve slid my attentions over to the retail sector. it starts with a perceived need, for example: i’m too fat for all my summer clothes, and it’s starting to get hot out. although regardless of my pants size, i always get hit with the spring shopping fever and buy everything in sight. i think we’ve already established that i’m top notch at making excuses to do things that are self destructive.

ok, so first i get the fever, and then a shopping wormhole opens in the universe, and beckons me to climb in. this weekend, one opened up in the form of the old navy 30% off the entire store sale. hello 30% off INCLUDING CLEARANCE. maybe i would just stop in for a minute. and by a minute, i mean several hours and two different stores.  the spoils:

3 cardigan sweaters
1 pair of skinny jeans
1 mini skirt
1 sundress dress
1 wide belt
1 pair of metallic flats
9 pairs of underwear

total $110- excellent deal for all that stuff (which might i add is SUPER CUTE), but do i have $110 in my budget for clothes right now? um, no.

under any other circumstances, i might have been ok to lay off for a bit after the first binge… but this week has been tough. i’ve been crazy busy. not sleeping, overexerting myself, not eating as well as i should. and then today i had a little bummer life blip that took me down hard. if i wasn’t so overtired and stressed out, it might not have bothered me at all. but instead, i spent cinqo de mayo crying into my tequila. oh, and shopping.

fuck you kohls. you are far enough away that i don’t think of you often. there is nothing else at your strip mall that tempts me to your area. but today somehow an underwear shopping pit-stop before dance class turned into mass consumption fest given 30 minutes and 80% off signs all over the store. fuck you one day sale.

my shame:

1 retro dress
1 sexy secretary skirt
1 pair spectator oxfords
1 pair canvas booties

total: $58- once again, not that bad… but didn’t i just buy 5 PAIRS OF SHOES? in an act of momentary insanity, i unhinged from my sadness and disappointment, and hinged onto the goodness that is buying whatever you want whenever you feel like it regardless of the consequences.

it’s not that i can’t afford $168. especially for some clothes that fit me and help me look less like a hobo at work. but how i buy them (indiscriminately throwing things into my cart… um, 3 cardigans? 3 pairs of shoes?) seems like the issue. sure i’m paying my bills on time… but something just feels amiss. i suppose it’s better than drinking (i cut myself off after 1 cinqo de mayo margarita), or stuffing my fat face with butter, or going out and having dirty sexy times with random strangers…. but seriously, what do healthy people do? either way, i’m coming clean.

**UPDATE** feeling slightly better today. probably because these $18.99 spectators are so f-ing CUTE (and entirely not made of meat).