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Cheap Is Sexy

Wednesday, 25 Jun 2008 | 4:54 PM ET

It's official. Vogue magazine, the home of $4,475 Louis Vuitton coats, has the following three headlines on its most recent (July) cover:

-The Price Is Right: Strategies for Shopping the Trends on Budget
-Cost-Effective Beauty and Fitness
-Buy Now, Wear Forever: Clean, Lean Clothes that Are Always in Style


Even this month's Ellehas formally dipped in its toes with a "High/Low" style and culture guide that presents the genius of mixing $15 American Apparel T-shirts and Bottega Venetta bags that cost as much as a Toyota Yaris.

Movie stars and models now discuss their love of $15 T-shirts as a matter of pride. For many of us, it's the norm. Pride is getting that $15 shirt for $5.99 at the outlet mall. This cultural trend, a high-end validated shift-to-thrift, is a first as far back as I can remember. Recession after recession, when was it ever cool for upwardly-mobile rich folks to shop "…on a budget"?

What matters most to you about this trend (by the way, welcome to the club, Vogue. We've been here for a while), is the choice and sense now jamming the airwaves of retail. The revival of plain ol' common sense when it comes to shopping for our 'wants' is long coming and much needed. For example, our new mantras of pride are: Never pay retail. Style cannot be bought—true style can be had at any price. And now, where you put your dollars says a lot about who you are and what you think is important (hello, movie star driving a Prius).

Vote with your wallet—plunk your hard-earned money down wisely. Looking good in an outfit put together within your budget and fully paid for says "smart." Looking good but nursing an ulcer as you wonder where you're going to come up with that luxury-car lease payment just smacks of "sucker." The wise choice is the one that'll leave more money in your wallet.

Have a good shopping/saving story? What are your shopping rules? Send me your questions and tips at Carmen@cnbc.com or use the form below!


I am frugal and proud of it !!! It is the best way to live! I have friends who are up to their eyeballs - drowning in debt - and I feel for them - I do - and am so glad that I have the peace and freedom of mind. --Jeanne, IL

Posted on: 28 Jun 2008 6:13 A.M.


Hi Carmen,
I am cheap and proud of it! The best finds here in Ohio are at Gabriel Brothers (if you are willing to check the items over thoroughly for tears). I bought a blazer with the $500 manufacturer tag on it for $50! I can go in with $50 and come out with an outfit and shoes. It's great! --Heidi, OH

Posted on: 26 Jun 2008 4:39 P.M.


Carmen: I really enjoyed reading your article today. You will see that we are all about t-shirt shopping on the cheap. Please take a look at our site.

We have been working hard to add more fashion and environmentally friendly products (organic/recycled cotton) over the last few weeks. This is because we are seeing a new type of buyer. Previously our customers were bulk shopping for an event or people looking for a Walmart alternative for their family shopping. We are working hard to provide new products and site features for our new buyers.

You could say shoppers are getting more thrifty. We think they just aren't willing to over-pay anymore, and are more open to new brands. --Fred, JiffyShirts.com

Posted on: 26 Jun 2008 11:37 A.M.


Carmen,

I love your blog! There is a lot of information that I can use.

I am a young professional in NYC and I don't like to spend a lot of money on clothes. I do splurge sometimes on clothing that is classic and I will get a lot of use out of.

First of all, I do not see shopping as a Saturday afternoon activity, a stress reliever or something to do when I am bored. I try to shop only when I have worn something out and I need a replacement or if I need something for a special occasion. I have found Target, Payless and H&M do wonders for my closet. I don't always find what I need but I normally check these places first. I have had more compliments from some of my shoes from Payless and outfits from Target and H&M than on some of my designer items. I also like nice vintage clothing. I only go to stores that I know have good quality merchandise and charge a fair amount instead of places that overcharge for the novelty of vintage.

Another thing I do is shop around. Sometimes I will look online first and see what is out there and for how much before I go anywhere. But a lot of times I go to stores in person and I take public transportation. If I don't see what I am looking for I will leave instead of lingering to check out the things I don't need. I do not buy things that do not fit in well with the clothes I already have in my wardrobe. There is also a website called ShopItToMe where you can sign up for e-mail notifications on a daily, weekly or monthly basis that will send you e-mails when your favorite brands go on sale. This service saves me a lot time and I only look at the e-mails if I need something. --Heather, NY

Posted on: 26 Jun 2008 11:32 A.M.


Hi Carmen! I enjoyed this post until this line:

"where you put your dollars says a lot about who you are and what you think is important (hello, movie star driving a Prius)."

Please. If it became "in" to use chocolate as a fuel tomorrow, the next day every "movie star" in town would be driving a Hershey bar. --Chris, VA

Posted on: 26 Jun 2008 6:46 A.M.


I buy used whenever possible. I shop thrift stores and used bookstores. (I bought a $30-dollar book on Amazon Marketplace for ten dollars!) --Elizabeth, FL

Posted on: 25 Jun 2008 9:47 P.M.


Hi Carmen,
I thought you might be interested in knowing about FreeShipping.org which helps online shoppers save money by showing them what stores offer free shipping and gives them any necessary coupon codes.

I hope you enjoy the site. --Luke, Founder, FreeShipping

Posted on: 25 Jun 2008 7:14 P.M.