Monday, January 15, 2007

Singin' the Post-Holiday Blues (Shopping When Broke)

Post-holiday bank account giving you the blues? Join the club! I'm so broke, I feel guilty about buying excess household items at Target. Normally, I save big bucks by buying in bulk. A 15-roll pack of paper towels is usually priced cheaper than a 6-pack. But lately, I've had to scale down to economize. I have to think as I stand in front of the tissues, do we need a 3-box set now, or can I redivide the current tissue stock to replenish the box that just finished? Will the fabric softener last another 2 weeks until I get paid? I mean, the stupid Downey is ridiculously expensive these days, but I refuse to shop uneconomically and get the smaller bottle which costs more per ounce and won't last as long. Can the cat just eat tuna and will he eat the chili that we just made (probably not), or do I absolutely have to go out and get him a 12-can pack of cat food? You see that absurdity in which I now find myself.

Despite this depressing situation, I can't fathom the thought of not shopping for a whole month (or more!). Some people have a shopping habit. I have a fiendish shopping addiciton. I simply can't not shop. If I don't feed the monster, I might just claw some rude clerk's eyes out or run over someone who insists on crossing the road when my light is a clear shade of green and an armada of cars is speeding ahead. Or hunt down a telemarketer at dinnertime, break into his house, and hang him by his toes. Depriving my shopping habit isn't a good thing, not for me, and not for society. I get restless, I get grumpy, I get desperate, and people suffer. So it's rather untimely that I'm hit with a dangerously low checking balance just when all the winter sales are going on and spring fashions are starting to bloom. But I've twice now paid off all my credit cards, and I vowed never to buy anything on credit that wasn't an emergency again. And no, finding that the diamond-emblazoned watch of my dreams just went on sale for half-price isn't an emergency, as much as I would like it to be. Thus, I spent the first five days of the new year resolute to not shop until I had the money.

Needless to say, I almost went nuts. I tried experimenting with some new baking recipes. But whom are you going to stuff with indulgent food right after the dreadful holiday overeating? Particularly when your significant other insists on returning to phase 1 of the South Beach Diet (no carbs, no sugars, no nothing -- no kidding!). Baking went out the door, as did most of our bread and comfort food. Okay, maybe I should visit my mother. Still lounging on the beach in Florida. My uncle -- still skiing in Utah. My neighbor (the only one I know by name since I bought this house 2 years ago) -- in Mexico. Darn. It seems like everyone escapes during the first week of January. My hubby and I did take advantage of the extended tropical heat wave that appears to have found a new geographic home to take care of some home improvement projects. It rechanneled some of my energy. However, there's only so much home improvement you can do without spending significant money on new parts or supplies. And we've pretty much reached that threshold for the time being. Well, I guess there's always writing. I can always write about, uh, not shopping? In a blog about shopping, that's hardly exciting. How can I brag about scoring fab deals if I don't score anything? And besides, my brooding behavior was starting to concern by better half. So he let me out for a night.

So out I went. I would like to say with a foreboding feeling of doom, but actualy, it was more like unleashing a killer shark into a reef filled with little schools of fish. My, where to start? All the fish look so tasty.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
and sorry I could not travel both
and be one traveller, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent into the undergrowth.

Then took the other as equally fair,
but having perhaps the better claim,
because it was grassy and wanted wear
but as for that the passing there had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay in leaves no steps had trodden black.
Oh, I took the first for another day...

First, I hit the mall, which is packed with terrible temptations. What was I thinking? With all the Lord & Taylor coupons and Macy's sales, I couldn't not go crazy. Understanding the full risk before me, I expertly guided myself out through an auxiliary exit so I wouldn't have to walk through the rows of fashion that beckoned me at the department stores. Next, I hit DSW to try to use the two coupons that were burning a hole through my pocketbook. One never really has too many shoes. There's always a color I need, a style I lack. I'm happy to report that I didn't need to work hard to find deserving shoes to rescue with my coupons. With two worthy specimens, I made is safely home. Happy with my finds, I looked forward to an occasion to showcase my quilted chocolate BCBG ballerina flats ($50 with coupon) and my Nicole cognac bow-trimmed contrast-stiched ballet kitten heels ($40 with coupon). Not bad!

Oh, I took the first for another day,
but knowing how way leads onto way...

Shopping inevitably leads to a desire to do more shopping. Once you see something that you like, you start to get other ideas about what else you might like. Pretty soon, you just have to have it, and you can't imagine how your life will go on until you get it. Making up some poorly-constructed excuse about having to run some errands, I slipped out again, this time headed to the Talbots outlet. I had heard from my mother-in-law (the queen of cheap -- in a good way, of course) that the outlet was good source of cheap finds. After circling around the confusing Springfield Interchange trying to find the entrance to the obscure strip mall, I finally stumbled into the correct parking lot.

Now, Talbots has a paltry selection of clothing to offfer a girl of my tastes (youthful, sophisticated, and well-fitted). I don't know why, but every article of clothing I've bought from Talbots just can't seem to hug my body in the right way -- either the pants are too baggy in the leg and too narrow in the waist and ankles, or the button-down shirts hang too low and drapery-like past my ribcage. The gorgeous silk dresses look like sackcloths on my hourglass figure, choosing to bulge in the midsection and squeeze the upper and lower sections like a bloated watermelon. This includes the petite sizes, which are not cut for any petites I know. Even the t-shirts are shaped like squares rather than curving to conform to certain areas that women prefer to accentuate (i.e. cleavage), instead highlighting the not-so-sexy stomach.

But the accessories -- ah, those are a different story. I ogle the catalogs when each season's shoes come out. Sumptuous suedes in ripe colors, rich leathers in supple yet sharp designs, all the right embellishments without too much silly or grungy stuff. Of course, I wait for the sales. I mean, who wants to buy $98 jeweled croc slingbacks when you can buy them 4-6 weeks later for $60, or 12 weeks later for $39? Well let me tell you, the Talbots outlet is a shoe lover's dream! Shelves and shelves of shoes sorted by size, all out of their boxes and stacked on display. The prices are from heaven. Those $49 croc slingbacks? Take an additional 30% off. Those juicy sherbert colored ballet slippers that finally made it down to $39? Slash an extra 40% off of those. But wait, there's more: a clearance section which holds unwanted and "as-is" shoes for 50-70% off. I totally hit the jackpot! Snatching up 2 pairs in the "as is" section and a pair in the "past season" section (but soon to be back in season?), I took home the coveted jeweled croc slingbacks, baby pink dress skimmers (which I'm sure will be perfect for spring), and suede bow-trimmed ballet flats in a mouthwatering shade of coral. My total for the day's efforts? $29 for the slingbacks, $8 for the pink skimmers, and a whopping $4.75 for the coral ballet flats. Score 3-Penny Princess! And kudos to my mother-in-law for the tip.

As luck would have it, the temperature rose an unexpected 25 degrees, ushering in a widespread hope for an early spring. I had the perfect opportunity to test one of my new prizes during an impromtu social get-together. Maybe I'll take the baby pink skimmers out for a spin. After a few attempts to squeeze into the supple leather flats, I was faced with an unpalatable truth -- the shoes, being AA width, were much too narrow for my chunky toes. I felt like Cinderalla's stepsister trying to squeeze into the delicate glass slipper. Ouch! They were going to need professional stretching if they were ever going to encase my feet. What a pity! I was feeling really pink that day and was hoping to kill two birds with one stone by parading my new pink silk Italian scarf. No such luck.

Instead, I opted for the coral ballet slippers and hastily changed my top to play up the fresh shade. Perfect! Comfortable, stylish, and spring-like, I skipped out to my lunch gathering. The shoes were a hit! They really perked up my outfit, not to mention my mood. A few hours later, however, as the sun started to fall (it was still January, after all), I noticed a small problem. One of the ballet slippers was a slightly different shade than the other. It hadn't been noticeable in the softly dimmed glow of my bedroom, nor the generic flourescent lighting at the outlet store. But now, in the unforgiving final hours of outdoor daylight, it was undeniable. No wonder the shoes cost only $4.75! Darn that flourescent lighting. Oh well, I'm keeping the shoes anyway, at least to run errands in.

But I learned my lesson. If you're going to buy shoes for $8 and $4.75, be ready to do a little surgery on them. The pink dress skimmers may never fit me at an AA narrow width, even with stretching. And I don't know where I can buy coral colored shoe dye to correct the mismatched suede ballet slippers, so they may have to remain house slippers or quick-errand shoes only. Be careful when buying outlet shoes, as some are non-returnable. Thankfully, Talbots has an outstanding return policy -- you can return any item to any store for any length of time. You can even return merchandise purchased at the outlet to a regular retail store. So for now, I'm keeping the pink skimmers. But if they don't stretch with the Chinese torture device I've fitten them into, I'm definitely taking them back!

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