On My Time Away from the Swap Meet

Not too long ago, nearly all my clothing was bought at the swap meet. $1 a piece - who can beat that?? But I have to confess that I haven't been to my favorite swap meet since the YLF meetup, and my subsequent trips have been largely fruitless. It's kind of a conundrum for the the One Dollar Wonder.

The biggest thing in the way is that I started my new job just after the Shoptoberfest Meetup... that means I haven't had a free weekend, which also means I haven't been able to get to my favorite swap meet at *all.* Then there is the fact that half of my days off are now taken by my Dress for Success volunteer work. When I do get to the local swap, it is not at the best hours, and I don't have as much time to browse.

Aside from the fact that I am not able to shop for a client of mine as well as I used to, the funny thing is that I'm not really missing it. I feel like I have plenty to wear, and the odds and ends I have picked up recently for work weren't really available at the swap meet anyway - comfort-centric boots, gauze scarves, my unique jackets... all in all, I am happier having plunked down the cash for these items than I would have been reeling in bag after bag of $1 items over the past month. In a way, it almost feels like cheating... instead of putting in the time and sweat to sort through everything, I can just pay more and find the exact items I want in much less time.

I still don't think I will ever want to pay more than flea market prices for some of the things I know will always turn up at the swap meet - tee shirts, thermals, tanks, shorts, leather belts, statement rings - but logically I have to admit that buying The Perfect Item is really a better value than buying many superfluous or ill-fitting or repetitive items. A jagged little pill to swallow for me after twining my identity around bargain shopping for so long.

Don't get me wrong; DH and I still live below our means. We are still big on saving, and I cut costs elsewhere... it's just... after standing for 8 or 9 or 10 hours a day all week... I guess I have more of a vested interest in saving my time and physical energy as well as saving money.

I suppose it's always a trade-off in the end, and everyone has to decide which resources are most valuable at any given time. It's taken a bit, but I think I can truly say that I'm okay with that. :)

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • goldenpig replied 6 years ago

    I love your insights, Rae. Time really is money, and it's not a bargain if you have to expend so much time and energy to sort through and resell all those cheaper items that may or may not be right for you. It's hard to let go of the thrill of the swap hunt, but fewer more perfect items sounds like a great goal! You look fab no matter if it's $1 or $100! You must see a lot of great stuff working at the Rack, right?

  • replied 6 years ago

    Wow, I can relate to a lot of your feelings, especially the part about twining your identity around bargain shopping. I think you've come to a really healthy conclusion about what works for you right now. Just think about all you've learned about your style by purchasing items to try because they were cheap. Now that you know exactly what you like and want, it's not as risky to pay retail for something a bit more dear. Don't worry, I don't think you're a traitor! :)

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Such interesting reflections, Rae. And your thoughts really resonate for me. I hadn't tied my identity to shopping, but I'd grown so used to never buying anything that wasn't on sale or consignment that the thought of buying full price was and remains scary. And I think buying vintage, thrifting, and consignment allowed me to experiment, so it is not altogether a bad thing.

    I love your phrase "jagged pill to swallow" (you are a born writer) and I think it expresses your dilemma very well -- this idea that perhaps at this stage or phase of your life it makes more sense to buy fewer items at full price and not at the swap meet. And yet for years you've *been* the swap meet girl.

    But part of why you were that girl was because it gave you a place and a way to learn about styling, including styling for others.

    I suspect that your new job, combined with DFS, is going to be teaching you in new ways. So perhaps that educational function, at least, will be met?

  • Transcona Shannon replied 6 years ago

    Seems there are a few of us coming to this sort of conclusion lately. I agree with Suz's comments that thrifting, flea markets, consignment, etc. have been useful to those of us to do it. We've found ways to experiment with trends with less cash involved, honed in on our style preferences and worked on figuring out fit. It seems once we've learned some of those things we feel more ready to pay for the right item because we're more confident in not making purchasing mistakes.

    I think it's wonderful that you've reached this place with your wardrobe, purchased fab and comfortable footwear, and are making fewer and fewer mistakes. I don't think you're "cheating" at all with not buying at your swap meets.

    I also think that through your work with DFS and now you're new job, you're learning even more and seeing better quality items and that may be influencing you some. Not a bad thing if you ask me.

  • Mo replied 6 years ago

    So is it time to rename the blog?? ;) I am still torn on this, myself. I have a very hard time paying *full* retail price. I just know there is a sale around the corner at some point. And so I wait, and I stalk. But . . . I am at least getting out of the racks of $10 shirts and dresses at the discount stores, for the most part.
    The last frontier for me is eBay deals. Before I stumbled on your post this morning, I had totaled up all purchases purged, or donated with little or no wear that I bought this year. $95. $75 of it was stuff that never fit right and so was never even worn, but had no returns. So I am not saving as much as I think I am.
    I agree there is still a place for bargain hunting like the tees, shorts, belts that you mentioned. But to move most of your shopping time and focus into well fitting, perfect for you pieces is a great step. I think I'm falling in line behind you :)

  • shedev replied 6 years ago

    I wont stop thrifting because I truly enjoy it. I'm a pretty recent convert to Nordies, and shopping there has taught me lessons that I apply to all my shopping. Does it fit my body? does it fit my style? Whether I pay 8 or 80 for a shirt, I use the same standard. I am able to try on everything at the thrift stores I go to. I dont think getting a deal is a bad thing, but I think settling to get the deal is.

  • catgirl replied 6 years ago

    Rae, I've gone through the exact same transition. I'm buying fewer things but they are more expensive. They are also exactly what I wanted. I would still enjoy thrifting if time were not so short, but I tend to walk out with nothing when I do go now. Also, I'm not trying to find the same things or a poor substitute at a cheaper price now either - there's no way I'll find the Equipment snakeskin shirt at our Value Village.

  • ManidipaM replied 6 years ago

    What it sounds like from the outside, Rae, is that swap-meet shopping has been sort of an apprenticeship in style (personal and as a career choice) for you. All to the good! But we don't apprentice forever, no matter how enjoyable or valuable that phase of our lives is; there comes a time when every profession or hobby moves to the next level, and it seems like you were ready for just that --- joining DFS, rethinking your career, having found your style register and confidence.

    It's... sort of like going to a great university, having a fabulous student experience... and then taking that learning into application elsewhere, even if that means returning to teach at the same university. Sure, it sorta hurts and you have to be nostalgic once in a while, but it's also pretty exhilarating and freeing. (Oh yeah, and demanding, timewise and otherwise too!)

  • MsMary replied 6 years ago

    This is so interesting! Time and money are surely on a continuum, no doubt about it!

    Una, you hit on something that I have a long and unfortunate history of doing: settling for a cheaper, inferior substitute for something I really want. When I was new at YLF I actually went through two pair of super-cheap, not-what-I-wanted leopard print shoes before I finally bit the bullet and paid full price (which now seems laughably inexpensive) for the perfect pair.

  • catgirl replied 6 years ago

    MaryK, in our defense I will say that while I was figuring out my style, the thrifted mistakes were a lot cheaper. For instance, I tried the PB blouse trend with a thrifted item - imagine if I'd bought one like yours at retail cost! Even then, I shudder to think of the money wasted to get where I am, and I'm still continuing to learn and change!

  • Transcona Shannon replied 6 years ago

    And thrifting is a less expensive way to try a new trend/style for yourself without having invested alot of money.

    But like Una, I shudder to think of the money I've wasted on thrifted items that I could have applied to "the real thing".

  • catgirl replied 6 years ago

    Yep, it goes both ways, Shannon!

  • rae replied 6 years ago

    Some wonderful comments here!

    Mo, it really may be time to rename the blog... how bittersweet.

    I love the idea of the swap meet being an apprenticeship or a laboratory for experiments - when you find the right formula, you take it out of the lab and into production for public consumption, right? The process gets streamlined and mechanized. The finished product is faster to produce than the original, and it is proven reliable. :)

    And as many have said, I shudder to think how much I'd have spent working out my color/fit/style issues at full retail price. It took a lot of permutations and combinations to identify which elements were wrong for me and why!

    Claire, thank you for not kicking me out of the secret society. ;)

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