Love how everyone’s jumping on this bargain shopping bandwagon now that times are tough. I’ve got a confession – I have been a bargain shopper for years. And my family totally knows that every year, their presents have been bought at a discount store.

Now that things are rough all over, Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Ross, are doing bigger business than ever. I whizzed through three of my favorites, so let me tell you where the deals are at!

I’ve become so very particular when I shop.

I ask myself the same question about every item I pick up — do I LIKE it, or do I LOVE it? Do I NEED it, or do I WANT it? And how often will I use it, really?

I realize in the days when I was spending foolishly, I bought a whole lot of crap that I liked and wanted, rather than needed and loved. So I kept that mantra firmly in mind during my last visit to Marshalls. I was invited to check out their store within a store, called The Cube. Not every Marshalls has one. So I used the store locator, found one in my neighborhood and hit it up. And I realized something real quick.

I am getting O-L-D.

The Cube is all about shiny shiny shiny, pink pink pink, glittery prints, pageboy hats, kitschy socks, and Nickleback merging into fastpaced dance music. Oh yes, the section in the middle of Marshalls has its own soundtrack, its own special flooring — it looks like a mini store designed by Hannah Montana has been plunked into the middle of Marshalls. And nothing is plus size. Hello – there are plus size juniors! Where are they supposed to shop?

I decided to give it a go, and The Cube yielded some funky results and sweet accessories once I looked past the big puffy red plastic House of Deadwrong jackets and oversized bandanas. I left The Cube with an item I LOVE – a bold, big Kermit the Frog green Marc Ecko purse. $35.

Marc Ecko, please know that Afrobella loves you.

My pretty new purse cost $35, and it was just as classic and chic and functional as a Coach bag I saw there for $300.

Oh yes, there are Coach bags at Marshalls now. I was shocked.

The brands have become more luxe as fancypants retailers get more and more in the tank. Right now at Marshalls and TJ Maxx, you can find Coach bags and Prada wallets and Michael Kors jackets. It’s astonishing. But if you’re restricted to a $50 or $100 shop-a-thon, you still can’t get what you want, if you desire enviable designer labels. And to this bella on a budget, it was kind of disconcerting to discover a $250 purse nestled among the bargains. I seriously LOLed at myself (this older lady in the purse aisle must have thought I was nutso) when seriously every purse I pulled out was way out of my price league. What can I say? Apparently I have expensive taste.

After experiencing The Cube and the big brands in the shoe and handbag departments, I was underwhelmed by the plus size department at Marshalls. I don’t get how retailers haven’t figured out that the average American woman is a size 14, and fuller figured gals need to look cute too. I scoured the paltry four racks of garments and emerged with a gold Anne Klein sweater for $25. It kind of toed the line between Bea Arthur and Christmas party chic, but I was looking for holidazzle, it looked cute when I tried it on, and I worked it. (hat tip to my old coworker Lyssa the Calendar Girl for that one!)

I wasn’t able to complete my holiday shopping at Marshalls, so I decided to hit up their sister store.

At TJ Maxx the plus size clothing selection wasn’t much better, but I was delighted with the selection of beauty box sets. My aunties never get on the computer, so this won’t be a spoiler, so I’ll tell you. I got a beautiful Tutti Dolce gift set and a lovely Laura Ashley bath product set for quite affordable prices.

Sections of TJ Maxx were truly stellar, and I basically completed most of my holiday shopping there. OMG, handbags and home items, like cookware and holiday decor, they had some amazing stuff. Including the flame top tagine I want so very, very much, which was on sale for a drastically reduced price. But the store I visited needed major work to make it an enjoyable shopping experience. In general, discount stores vary wildly by location. So note to self, the TJ Maxx on 136th isn’t the best I can do.

Between the two stores, I was able to scare up quite a selection of gifts for my family. But TJ Maxx and Marshalls should take note of the competition. Ross has stepped up their clothing game — the one in downtown Miami nearest my office has expanded into an awesome two story megastore, the top floor entirely devoted to women’s clothes and shoes. Their plus size department is off the chain, and I always see lots and lots of shoppers there. Coincidence?

Where have you been doing your holiday shopping, bellas? Are you almost through, or still have much to do?

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Butta says:
December 12, 2008, 8:49 am
Ross has been one of my go-to stores for years. I would literally be there every Friday night at one point buying something for my house or myself. I've found their prices to be the best out the three store named here. Another store that has great bargains on some of everything is Steinmart. My BFF got some great deals there after Thanksgiving. And don't sleep on Macy's. When they send out their early bird coupons and specials get your behind up and to the store. I made their early bird one-day sale last week and got my boyfriend's Xmas gift--a Sean John jacket and t-shirt--for 75% off + my $10 off coupon. I do not play when it comes to finding bargains.
pets says:
December 12, 2008, 8:55 am
I so wish I was abroad - Trinidad will never those items & those low prices......
Get Togetha says:
December 12, 2008, 9:33 am
Holiday shopping is done mostly online for me...right in my captain underpants. The crowds are ridic. But I love the Marshalls and TJ maxes of the world! But I can only go there during the week cause you'll live ya life on lines on the weekends.. Have a great weekend all!
Wes says:
December 12, 2008, 10:10 am
I'm always looking for a bargain, always! I've learned that in my older days though, I really hate shopping. I hate the lines, the crowds, trying on clothes, I just don't like the whole process. Especially when I'm shopping w/ something in mind and I can't find what I'm looking for: MAJOR UGHHHHHHH!!
Born Jamericuban says:
December 12, 2008, 10:14 am
Before I start, I'll just say outright that I work for a division of TJX companies, so I'm a little biased! :) I've only worked for the company for about a year now, but I was always an avid shopper of the stores, including our competitor Ross. Some tips for those who are shopping these stores in these economically crushing times: *T.J. and Marshalls [as well as A.J. Wright!] are owned by TJX companies, so if you see something in one store but it's not your size or color, try and check the other if one is near. They might have it! This actually could go for home and decor items too, as TJX owns Home Goods as well. *Find out when your local store gets their trucks. Most of our stores get two to three trucks a week, depending on their sales volume. We never know what exactly will be coming off of our truck, but that's part of the fun. Company policy is door to floor in 24 hours, so merchandise should be one the floor within 24-48 hours. *If an item is regular priced [not on clearance], and something is wrong with it, ask an associate for a discount. Just don't be rude or difficult about it. Especially during these times, the company is trying to cut back on unneeded markdowns, in order to make things like payroll hours run smoothly. More than likely though, if something is really wrong/noticable, the associate will be able to get a supervisor or member of management to approve at least a 10% markdown. Bella, I do agree with you; the TJX company needs to definitely expand their plus size department! It is severely lacking, especially when held up to our competitors. Also; Butta...Macy's clearance is THE TRUTH. :) That seems to be on the one card I can't let go of because of their coupons and clearance. I'm definitely a Macy's sales addict.
Niki says:
December 12, 2008, 11:08 am
I agree that TJ Maxx and Marshall's need to step up their plus-sized selections. One of my tiny coworkers always goes shopping on her lunch hour and comes back with armfuls of cute, affordable clothes from Marshall's and I can never find anything there. I only go there for housewares and gifts for other people. Macy's & JC Penney have been the truth for me this year--coupons on top of already deep discounts? I'm there!
KindredSmile says:
December 12, 2008, 11:15 am
I've just discovered the wide world of Macy's bargains, but as a Chicagoan, I still feel guilty about shopping there. I'm all about TJX stores though - the prices can't be beat, and the thrill of the hunt is part of the fun!
Bebroma says:
December 12, 2008, 11:20 am
Tuesday Morning. Especially when they have their specials.
dettygirl says:
December 12, 2008, 11:26 am
You just read my mind Bella! They unfortunately built a Marshall's less than a mile from my home... I got an all natural organic jojoba hair conditioner bottle for $2!!! And a xmas gift for my sister for $3! I ALWAYS find something to fit my budget there. I agree w/ Get Togetha about the day of the week. I usually do shopping on tues or wed so I can avoid the throngs of people and traffic on the weekends.
TJ says:
December 12, 2008, 12:31 pm
In every department store, there is always the rack, the place where the stuff that has to go is slashed. I've found really great stuff at Macy's, Nordstrom's, Sak's and JCP. I've found some nice things at Burlington's from time to time too. Maybe TJ Maxx is different on the East Coast. The ones in my neck of the woods are great for home decorating, but clothes? Notsomuch.
Lynette says:
December 12, 2008, 2:00 pm
I love, love, love TJ Maxx, Marshall's and Homegoods. I always look at Ross as the junky step sister to "the big three", but lately I have found a lot of cute jeans to fit my hard-to-fit, "plus size-petite", body. I just spend last weekend trawling through the 90% off rack at Kohl's and came away w/ a handful of cute tops for next summer at less that $20.00. I am a bargain hunting fanatic.
bella says:
December 12, 2008, 4:54 pm
Bebroma, you are the bajillionth person to tell me I need to go to Tuesday Morning. I've never been! And thank you ladies so much for your Macy's advice. I'm gonna have to hit them up in the new year - I think my personal shopping is just about over for 08! =(
Spinster says:
December 13, 2008, 1:13 am
Mostly online - Overstock, JC Penney, etc. Planning to go to Target near my house over the weekend for my young nephews and baby godson.
Erica M says:
December 13, 2008, 11:22 pm
Also check out Loehmann's! It's mid-range designer discount and I think they have locations nationwide. If you sign up for the mailing list they send coupons, sale events, etc. Was there last night and found DKNY shift dress on sale for under $20 (!!) plus it was a sale event so extra 15% off entire purchase. For real, ladies, it can be awesome.
UnalteredBeauty says:
December 14, 2008, 2:13 am
ROSS is the best! I just discovered it this summer and have practically been there every week since! It's how I stay so chic. People always compliment me on my style not knowing that many of my basics come from discount stores like Ross. I'm telling you-- I bought a black GUESS military trench for $85 bucks there. The original price was $285. Crazy, right? GO TEAM ROSS! =) Another good store is Burlington Coat Factory.
ALEEESH! says:
December 15, 2008, 6:14 pm
this is my first time on this site! seen it on and had to check it out and so far LOVE ITT! let me tell you i used to work @ tj maxx and you will be surprised the designer items they bring in there and the prices they charge... i have seen plenty of beautiful coach bags ....they have a lot of ed hardy stuff now i got D&G jeans from there 20 dollars!!! [they were clearanced to death] seven jeans D&G sunglasses i even got my FHI flat iron from there for maybe 60 dollars i am definitely a bargain shopper but i find that even the maxx [as i affectionately call it] is expensive sometimes... its good for brand name at good prices but for regular clothes i stick to forever xxi, h&m, and Joyce Leslie [guilty pleasure] but i do miss layaways at those stores!!
Kathi says:
December 15, 2008, 11:32 pm
I am so glad to hear my complaint about plus size not just for Teens but for mature women who like to look good at a bargain.
JuJuBee says:
December 16, 2008, 12:19 am
Hi, Bellas.. I live by all the TJX stores... In the two joined shopping plazas in my town, there is marshall's, TJ maxx, Home Goods, and Burlington in addition to Wal-mart, Joyce leslie and lots of other!! Over the summer, I was able to score a pair of Kate Spade slingbacks for $36!! I love a bargain! One stop shopping for the whole family....including the big and tall sized husband.
Chelle (the other one) says:
December 16, 2008, 10:34 pm
Bella, you must have read my mind. This is my forte. Bargain shopping is in my blood. One of my earliest memories is looking up at my gran, my mom and one of her friends poring through clearance racks and scoring deals. My grandma is 92 and can always tell you how much she paid for an item. But I digress. I Love the Maxx & Marshall's (miss Loehmann's & Syms they are not here in my part of Florida). Ross is sometimey to me. Again that could be the location I was at. Soo true what the TJX employee said up there. Learn the shipping schedule and which stores will have more of a certain kind of inventory. Example: I love purses. The TJ Maxx near me is in a tourist area. This store had unbelievable purses. Literally, purse heaven. Kinda of a rundown looking store, but on any given day, you would see throngs of tourists arms full of designer purses. Beautiful Italian leather purses. Coach, Prada, Gucci. All there all the time. One time I even snagged a Marc Jacobs purse. Yes, it was real. The price tag was deeply discounted, however still wayyyy out of my price range. Had to settle for walking around the store with it for a minute dreaming that I could buy it, lol. I dubbed it the best TJ Maxx in the world. Then their shipping schedule changed and I really haven't been back. (sigh) No more purse heaven. Today, I did well at Walgreen's. Yes, Walgreen's don't sleep on the discount drug stores. With all my coupons and the deals, I got $51 worth of stuff for less than $25. Last week was even better I got $47 worth of stuff for $10! The key is to get the coupons to match the already marked down item's. I also love the easy saver rebates, I have gotten free makeup and practically free hair products. Great way to try out stuff to see if you will like it. I know others who are playing the discount store coupon game. I'm not there yet, but it's fun walking out with stuff u know u need and paying little for it. (I too learned this one the hard way, Bella. It's not a deal if you don't need/want it) Y'know you got a steal when even the cashier is shocked at your total. I also used to live in Target's clearance racks. Their endcap deals are legendary. I still crack up when I think about how when my sis visited me she got a great pair of dark blue jeans (perfect fit) for $5. I was so jealous, until a couple of weeks later I got my own great fitting pair of $5 jeans. Don't even get me started about shopping in NYC. All I gotta say is two words: Century 21. I love bargain shopping. Is there a way I could do this for a living, I wonder? That is on my goal list for 2009. Find a way to make money saving other people money. Sorry for the long post, guys. But I don't post often so when I do I have to make up for lost time.
nugrape says:
December 26, 2008, 1:48 pm
Ross is Great ! If you're on a budget and decorating..fantastic place to go, and they're not to shabby in the clothing dept. I like to go in the middle of the week, things are fresh on the racks.
mama's got moxie says:
December 28, 2008, 12:20 am
another great post. whenever i'm out shopping i always ask myself if i really love a particular or not because chances are if i only like it, i probably won't use it much.
Yodit says:
December 30, 2008, 5:03 pm
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Bling R says:
December 31, 2008, 3:14 pm
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May 9, 2011, 4:35 am
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