So you want to roll like a player — but you don’t have the high-roller wallet to back it up.
Well here’s a news flash: You can afford that lifestyle.
From expensive cars to luxury watches and jet skis — you can have it all. All you have to do is snap out of your herd mentality, shopping at big-box stores and strip malls. And shed the notion that buying something second-hand means you have to look like a homeless artist.
[Not that there’s anything wrong with that.]
And with the recession, and 15 million people still out of work, there are more people selling luxury goods now than ever before.
If you know where to look, it’s all there for the taking. It’s like finding a stock that’s poised to take off: Do your homework, strike when the iron’s hot — and you can get a pretty big bang for your buck.
The first step, most pros say, is to start thinking — and shopping — like the zip code you want to be.
Here are 10 items to upgrade your lifestyle, without breaking the bank.
By Cindy Perman
Posted 27 Sept 2010
How many years would it take you to be able afford that hot ride you’ve been talking about? For most of us, paying full price isn’t an option and the math is painful. So how do you get a luxury car or motorcycle for less?
Answering an ad in the paper or Craigslist is risky — you could get burned. And buying from a dealer means you have to pay the middleman.
The way to do it is to start thinking like a dealer — and go to an auction. You’re basically benefiting from someone else’s misfortune – someone couldn’t pay their bill, got into trouble with the law or had their car stolen. And you’re cutting out the middleman.
“Anytime you’re able to buy a car and not have to pay for that showroom price, you’re going to save a substantial amount of money,” said Deb Weidenhamer, CEO of Phoenix-based Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers,one of the biggest auction houses in the country.
Still, she advises, do your homework — and attend the preview period the day before the auction. No one’s going to hold your hand at auction and you’re running with the big dogs — people who know what they’re doing.
If you think that buying new construction is better than buying an older house that’s already been lived in – because you don’t have all of those old-house issues – think again.
New homes can be the victim of developers cutting corners. In one episode of HGTV’s “Holmes on Homes,” a young couple found themselves shoveling snow out of the atticof their brand new townhouse. Plus, the marketing costs of trying to sell that new property are built into your purchase price, Weidenhamer says.
You have a good chance of getting a great luxury property at auction because “Just like luxury cars, homes are the first things to go when people get into trouble,” Weidenhamer explains.
If you buy at auction, you can expect to save 15 to 20 percent below the neighborhood comps, she said. But let the buyer beware: These homes are sold as-is, and you most likely won’t be able to see the inside ahead of time — so make sure you get a good deal.
If you want to dip your feet in the water, check out a site like ZipRealty.com,where they’ve sorted through the more than 1.1 million MLS-listed homes across 35 major markets and listed the ones that are selling for the biggest discounts.
Here’s where you really have to know your zip codes.
Savvy shoppers know that the best way to get what you want is to head to the zip code you want — and hit the second-hand stores there. Chances are, you’ll find some of last season’s castoffs at great prices as the previous owners cleaned out their closets to make way for this year’s designer harvest.
Christos Garkinos, co-owner of Decades Two,a consignment shop in Hollywood, has access to some of the best closets in the world and sells the designer goods for up to 80 percent off. A pair of Christian Louboutin heels, for example, may go for $290. A Prada dress, $300. A $5,000 Chanel sweater may sell for $1,250.
Some of the stuff has only been worn once (once a celeb is photographed in something once, it’s over, he explains) — or never. Take client #679, a lawyer who collects shoes. She buys two of everything in case one gets worn out. The reality? She doesn’t wear any of them and winds up giving them to Garkinos. His best clients, he explains, are the ones who consign there — and buy there!
You can also buy designer duds online on eBayor sites that specifically cater to high-end fashion like reFINEstyle.com. Plus, here’s a little known secret: They also sell a lot of high-end clothes at auctions with discounts of 50 percent or more, because most people don’t go to auctions for the clothing.
And remember: “A good tailor can be your best friend!” as my stylish friend always says – so don’t rule out something just because it doesn’t fit perfectly.
Sure, you can haggle with a jeweler to get a better price on that diamond ring or Rolex watch but here’s a startling statistic: Retail mark-up on jewelry can be as much as 300 percent.
So how do you feel about that great deal now?
You get much better deals when you go to an auction. A 2-carat diamond ring that sells for $18,000 in stores? You could probably get that for $3,500 at auction, Weidenhamer explains. At a U.S. Marshals auction in New York City last year, some Rolexes were sold for $4,000 to $5,000.
“If you’re on a limited budget and you’re going to spend $50 on your girlfriend, you might be able to get her a discount sweater for $50. But if you go to an auction, maybe you can get her ¼-carat diamond-earring studs!” Weidenhamer said.
Or, if the big, diamond-studded Mercedes-Benz logo isn’t your thing, buy it for the stones and have a jeweler make whatever you want.
To address your concerns about quality, auction houses typically have appraisers come in, so you’ll know the cut, color, clarity — all the important details — ahead of time.
If you’re looking for something specific, auction sites like eBay or Porteromay be the way to go as they’ll have the biggest selection.
But if you like the thrill of the hunt, shopping thrift stores or church sales in upscale neighborhoods can be a great way to get a high-end handbag for the price of that pleather number you bought last season at the department store.
Take Carmen Volcansek, a savvy shopper from Plano, Texas, where permits are required to hold garage sales. Carmen gets the list of the upcoming weekend’s garage sales, then sorts out the ones she wants to go to by zip code. She said you can even call and ask to see the stuff a day before when they’re putting it out to see if there’s anything you want.
“People are really nice — they’ll talk to you!” Volcansek explains.
She’s bought garbage bags full of designer bags — Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Coach — and rarely pays over $50 for them. If she wants them, she keeps them. If not? She sells them on eBay. So, not only does she get designer bags for $50, she essentially gets them for free because she’s sold others at a nice profit.
Auctions also sell a lot of designer handbags — some slightly used, some brand new — for roughly 20 to 25 percent of what they cost new.
Still rockin’ that Gustav Klimt print from college?
If you’re going to kick up your personal style a few notches, your home should also get few upgrades — and adding original artwork is a great way to do that. (Then you can wander around, sucking on a pipe and musing about your “collection.”)
A good way to get original work from artists is to go to auctions — not Christie’s or Sotheby’s but local auctions. The ones for schools or charity — they’re often listed in your local paper.
Leah Ingram, the author of the “Suddenly Frugal” blogand book series of the same name, says she and her husband adopted their frugal ways after getting “drunk on home equity” and being forced to start over.
She says they’ve gotten paintings from local artists for $1,000 at auction — a fraction of the $4,000 or 5,000 they typically sell for.
Just make sure, she says, that you get homeowners’ insurance for what they’re worth — not for what you paid for them. Oh, and educate yourself by subscribing to something like AskArt.com.Make sure you’re reading what the wealthy are reading.
Whether you’re looking for something vintage or just getting a quality piece of furniture, you can get some great pieces second-hand.
Brian Kelsey,a New York City radio personality and home-renovation pro, suggests eBay, flea markets, consignment shops and architectural salvage yards to find great, quality pieces.
He points out that the wood is better quality in older pieces — because “Trees back then grew much slower. The growth rings are much closer together … it’s stronger and more stable.”
If you’re not sure where to start looking for an architectural salvage yard, Kelsey says it’s as easy as Googling “architectural salvage yard + the name of the town. “There’s always a salvage yard within an hour, no matter where you are,” he explains.
And there’s no better time than the present: Kelsey says, for whatever reason, fall is one of the best times to find great used furniture.
And don’t be deterred if a piece has a wobbly leg or something — most things that are loose can be fixed. Sometimes you have to take it to a furniture repair shop or get it reupholstered, but often, you can fix what’s wrong with it yourself or give it a fresh coat of paint or stain.
You may think buying tech gadgets second hand is a no-no but there is a way to do it smartly — and save money.
Buying iPhones, videogame consoles and other gadgets on eBay or Craig’s List can be hit or miss.
But buying these items refurbished through a well-known manufacturer or retailer can save a good 10 to 15 percent or more. Refurbished items may sound dubious to some but in fact, they’re goods that have been returned to the manufacturer, inspected and retooled — so they’re not as risky as you may think. Your best bet is to stick with the small gadgets when it comes to refurbished goods and stick with the ones that come with a warranty.
The challenge is, breaking the habit of needing the latest version of something. Often, you can get great deals on previous-generation items. This Wired articlepoints out that buying refurbished is great for pricey Apple products. Macbooks that are typically $1,000 or more, sell for $850 or $900 refurbished on Apple.com.
“A lot of golf clubs are stolen!” Weidenhamer exclaims. “High-end clubs,” she adds.
Ditto for jet skis, ATVs (four-wheelers) and mountain bikes.
A lot of golf clubs are stolen from the airport and mountain bikes and other gear are often stolen because someone forgets to close their garage at night.
Such products are usually high quality — “someone was willing to go to jail for it,” Weidenhamer explains.
Local law enforcement agencies hang on to these stolen goods for anywhere from six months to a year and a half. But if no one claims them, they go to auction – and sell for ridiculous prices.
Golf clubs, for example, typically go for 50 percent of what they do brand new, Weidenhamer said.
You can also get golf clubs and other gear at garage sales or on eBay.
“I have a whole room full of golf clubs!” exclaims Volcansek, who gets them at garage sales and later sells them on eBay. She says there have been weeks where she’s made $1,500 off of her garage-sale finds.
Ingram also likes Liquidations.com,a site that offer whole palettes of liquidated merchandise for sale. For example, she and her husband bought a whole palette of exercise equipment (an exercise bike, two elliptical machines and some other stuff) for $500. The only catch was, they had to rent a truck to drive to New Jersey to pick it up.
Dreaming of sailing in your own private yacht in St. Tropez with a bevy of beautiful ladies?
Well, we can’t do anything about the ladies but we can help you with the boat. (Which, incidentally, will help with the ladies.)
You can buy a used boat for anywhere from 20 percent to 60 percent of — not off, of — the retail price if you buy it at auction, Weidenhamer said.
But, she cautions, this is one category where you really want to make sure you do your due diligence and check it out during the preview. In fact, she suggests bringing a boat mechanic to the preview with you.
You have a boat mechanic? Oh yeah, you do!
Because that’s just how you roll now.