18 bargain-hunting tips

June 20, 2012

We’re going shopping today! The Diva’s looking for bargains, which means a CLOSE look at everything. And some tried and true tips from a world-class shopper–moi!– along the way.

Bright, vivid colors are everywhere, as they should be in June, the first month of summer.  They’re temptingly beautiful and hard to resist. And all that summer jewelry! I love wearing it.

Anthropologie Santana Row

Examine goods & analyze prices. Yes, I was at Anthropologie again; I just love their aesthetic. A fun assortment of earrings and the most pairs are $32. But look closely: not a good price for these. I’ve bought a few in my time, two pair, actually, but the truth is Anthro probably sources them from third-world workers for pennies on the dollar. A fairer price would be half that. So on closer view, I usually resist.

Anthropologie counts on displays like this to catch girly eyes

Bracelets! I love piling them on and recently bought 10 cool purple ones far cheaper from another vendor. Anthro displayed these skillfully to get buyers’ attention. Are they worth it? You be the judge.

Anthropologie’s fabrics are always unique

Do you love it?  That’s the test. I can’t stop looking at these adorable sun dresses and wishing I were 25 again. If my tiny, pretty Tampa “niece” were here, we’d be shopping for them. I’m particularly taken with the dress on the left. I’d buy it at any price under $200 because I like it that well. But the one on the right? Like it a lot but I wouldn’t pay more than $125 for. I forgot to note the price but my bet is it’s at least $168. If you really, really love something, it’s worth spending a bit more. But be sure you’re crazy about it.

Always an interesting selection of books at Anthropologie

Can you get the same thing cheaper elsewhere? You can get these books cheaper online and I’ve done it. (Shhh! don’t tell anyone!) Note the title and check Amazon. Many of the “used” bookstores have new or like-new condition books like this for less than half price.

Citrus polka dots

Oh Sarah, you would look cute in this! I probably wouldn’t pay more than $100 for this and it’s probably worth much less. Which means I wouldn’t buy it at Anthro. Cute, though.

Anthropologie sale table

Sometimes a sale’s not really a SALE. A sale table’s always worth a look. This look told me: no bargain. As much as I love Anthropologie their goods are generally overpriced by a long shot. And yet, there seems to be no shortage of shoppers.

Are they your style? They’re not my style, either.

Find a go-to brand you love. A much more reasonably priced store and one closer to my aesthetic is Crate and Barrel. Yes, I know, no clothing. But lots of interesting housewares. Their prices are generally reasonable and if you can find it on sale or in the online outlet, you can do even better. For example, this plate’s regular price at C&B is almost the same as Anthro’s on-sale plate above.

 And I like it much better.

And your go-to place should have good sales on quality items. SALES. That’s the thing with C&B. Their sales are pretty good and the quality of their stuff is usually also good. You have to be careful with dinner plates, though. Twenty years ago I bought some cute bistro-ish white dinnerware with a blue stripe made in Italy and they began chipping almost immediately. But not all of their dinnerware is like that. Just most of it. 😉

Here’s something to be careful of: impulse buy bins

The impulse buy bin at Crate & Barrel

Shiny, bright impulse buys may not be so smart. Bright colors and designs beckon, above. None of these is particularly expensive by themselves, so it’s easy to fill your basket with a few. Or more than a few. It all adds up. Be sure to look at the prices. Carefully. You can often do better elsewhere.

Deals can be had, though.  I bought this red planter on sale last week for $7.

And planted happy gerbera daisies in it. See the droplets? It’s just been watered. Love the design.I liked it so well I bought a little larger one in orange, and put more daisies in it.

And then, also for the backyard, I wanted tall, dark planters.

 I liked this set of two, but they were $139 for the pair at C&B. Didn’t sound like the right price.

Then I saw these zinc planters, below, also at C&B. These three together were $75, on sale.  That’s $20 off regular price for three, and still less than the two above. They’re taller and I like them even better. Online customer reviews were stellar. Deal!

I’m going to put a long-stalked plant with a big red flower in them 

Buy on sale but splurge when you travel. I found this table runner at C&B on sale last year. I love it.  I carried the candlesticks home from Amsterdam many years ago. They look like they were made for each other.

The runner is sitting atop a buffet I found on sale at Overstock.com for only $400. That sounds like a lot, until you start looking for buffets. It took my husband eight hours to put it together, but it’s pretty nice for the money. It’s not what I would choose if I were 35. But I’m not.

Choose carefully at places like Overstock. Check customer reviews. I’m not going to say that the buffet is the most durable piece of furniture we own. Don’t laugh, but at this stage of life, durability has different meaning. We’re no longer looking for things that’ll last 40 years.  A “lifetime” looks different from this vantage point. Especially when you have no heirs.

Oh, here’s something you might like:

Choose carefully at Target. I found this table runner at Target about 8 years ago for $15. You can find well-priced attractive stuff at the big red circle if you look carefully. You can also find tons of things made in China, (and you know how I feel about that) so do look at labels and decide if it’s worth it.

You can’t see them that well, but there are beads and sparkly stuff on the runner.

The colors are more vibrant in real life

 It looked so festive I used it for Christmas on the dining room table I had in Tampa. Now it covers a side table in the dining room every day. The colors are starting to fade and one day I’ll replace it. But it’s given me almost 10 years of service for $15.

Sometimes, something you already have just needs a little touch-up. Oh, and I bought the side table above at Pottery Barn about a dozen years ago. The metal started to rust last year, so M. spray painted it. Looks good as new.

Get to know retailers’ online outlets.The frosted glass candleholders on the table above were at the Crate and Barrel online outlet for pennies on the dollar. They stayed in my gift box for years as I was going to give them to someone. Instead, I finally gave them to myself.

 Shapes and color always attract me. I fell in love with this metal sculpture when I saw it leaning against a wall in Pier One.  I knew it was perfect for our dining room and it worked with the wall sculpture. Except that it was a little too small because that is one long wall. But I wasn’t going to find anything like it bigger for $79.

A little imagination allows you to make-do until a better solution appears. Those Overstock.com topiaries are meant to take up the excess white space to fix a proportion problem.  I also added a ficus tree on the left, that you can’t see. I may end up moving the piece to another wall eventually. I have something else I might want to do on that very long wall above. I just wasn’t ready to do it. And I really did like that wall piece.

Don’t be afraid to return goods you don’t like or that arrive damaged.  I bought some Overstock lamps that looked great online but when they arrived, well, they look like they’d be better suited for a bordello. Awful Chinese piece. I sent them back for a refund. Also, the lamp shade on another lamp arrived damaged. So did the replacement. They kept replacing the shade. Finally, they sent me a free lamp. I didn’t need an extra free lamp, but I might one day, or I might donate it. Return what you don’t like or arrives damaged. Just keep receipts.

DIY stores can give you an expensive look at a great price. This is our dining room light fixture. It gets a lot of compliments. I think it cost about $45, because it’s three pendant lights from Home Depot. I picked through the globes carefully to be sure the colors weren’t flawed or the finish chipped.

Finding cost-effective decorating solutions has become a hobby, inspired by my husband’s slogan  any fool can spend money.  It helps even out our spending when we want to take fabulous vacations or invest in a Moroccan garden.

You’ve probably noticed that I love color. This is one side of our living room. It’s colorful, but still peaceful… my favorite place to sit with a book. Isn’t that fireplace magnificent? I wish I could take credit for it, but it came with the house. Oh, and the Matisse over it isn’t real. Just sayin’. Inspired by the real thing at one of the fine arts museums in San Francisco and just had to get a gallery quality version there. It goes well with the room, too. Again, I think the whole thing was $500. (We will not discuss the Peter Max original on the other wall except to say that it passed the “do you love it” test and was worth the $3,000 I paid for it in 2001. Sometimes, you just have to splurge.)

Sometimes, a splurge is worth it. I splurged on the furniture, but not too badly. I bought the purple loveseat you can’t see in 2001and it’s still in good shape. Eventually, I’ll replace it, but no need to do it now. My regular housekeeper already told me she wants it when I sell. When I bought my Tampa house in 2004, I had the chairs made. They weren’t that cheap, but they’re in great shape and I still love them. And the blinds that you can’t see are actually Silhouettes. Yeah, pricey, but they are perfect in that room.

Be alert for unexpected sales. I’ve gotten lucky and walked into a sale I didn’t know about, like when I found a dresser and chest at Macy’s two years ago.  I got the dresser for $599 and saw a very similar one on sale at C&B for $1100. Mine was a deal!  The chest was $399. And that feels GREAT!

Because, as M. says, any fool can spend money.  Got any great deals you want to share?

3 comments on “18 bargain-hunting tips
  1. Anonymous says:

    great post Carol! We have similar taste!! Not a big fan of Anthropologie though. Let’s see the P Maxx !!! Redecorated my rooms in big colors recently too. beth

  2. You like TJ Maxx? we DO have same habits, too!

  3. Fantastic post though! I like the plants collection.And yes the table runner is truly eye catching. I have bought some items like you but not from DIY store that’s why i had paid a heavy amount no problem will try next time.Great work!

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