Frugalista. Recessionista. Maxxinista. Whatever you call yourself, saving money isn’t a trend. It’s a necessary lifestyle these days.


Gone are the days when people shopped with whimsy. Now I go armed with a list, and double guess myself on every item I buy. Now instead of ooh that’s really cute I want it, it’s ooh that’s really cute but will I ever wear it? Probably not, get the sensible item instead you know you’ll wear that more than once.

I have a beer budget, but oh those champagne dreams won’t go away. So I’ve had to become an expert in my own right. I’ve had to learn how to get what I want, for cheap. And now I’m gonna pass along some of my best discoveries.

You want — hot Fall fashion.

How to get it — avoid the regular retail stores and bypass those trendy boutiques. As cute as everything is there, you’ll wind up paying more there than you will at an off-price store like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, or my latest haunt, Filene’s Basement. (Sadly, there is no Ross in Illinois. I miss Ross!)

If you’re not used to shopping at stores like these, a brief tutorial. This won’t be an in-and-out shopping trip. Be prepared to spend time sifting through disorganized racks of clothes.

Also, know your stores: TJ Maxx is more about trendy clothes and beauty products, Marshalls is more about shoes, purses, and fly accessories — and the hip teen section in the middle called The Cube. Many of the items available at these off price stores aren’t previous season duds, they’re currently being sold in stores or online… but the vendor may have ordered more than they can sell to department stores. Their miscalculation = your shopportunity, as they say! My recent purchases include a super fly retro-styled denim jacket from TJ Maxx, a cosy and classic V-neck Jones New York sweater from Marshalls, and a stunning crinkled parachute-material skirt from XCVI, that I recall seeing on Zappos for like, $100, I got at Filene’s Basement for $29.95. SO glad I waited and didn’t rush to buy it online. I’d say a good 95% of my shopping is done at off-price stores. These three are my favorites, then there’s Nordstrom Rack which has amazing high end finds…but the prices still aren’t as affordable as the Maxx, Marshalls, or Filene’s. FYI.

You want… furniture for your home.

Where to get it… NOT at a mainstream furniture store, that’s for sure. Have you ever been to a Thomasville store before? The prices are insane! Like, you’re gonna need to have a special credit card just for this purchase, insane. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t afford to pay full price for items like that right now. But I did get a relatively new, great-looking Thomasville dresser about a month ago, from a most unexpected source.

Three words: hotel furniture liquidators.

Do a Google search to see if there are any near where you live. I got lucky — here in Chicago there are THREE hotel furniture liquidation centers. For my Chicago bellas and fellas, I’ll save you some time right now. Cooper Furniture and Carpet is five floors of crazy. Seriously, they could film a horror movie here — the upper floors are just piles and piles of lampshades, old carpet and ugly chairs, and what’s that in the stairwell? Is that a dead pigeon or just a huge pile of feathers? What’s that…smell? Yikes. There are finds for sure, but they’re probably all on the first floor and I wish you all the best in getting someone to help you.

The shopping experience was like night and day, when I went to Fort Pitt Furniture. This place is on a whole ‘nother level. For a super fun shopping experience, you need to go in on Monday or Friday, when Phyllis is working. Who’s Phyllis? She’s a 6-foot-tall sista who will break it down for you, when it comes to finding the best deals in the store. And oh, there are some deals to be had. I got a beautiful, mahogany, marble topped kitchen cabinet/pantry thingy for $120. A Thomasville dresser for $150. And best of all, an enormous wood armoire to hold all my clothes, makeup, and hair products for $99. I said $99! Try finding something like THAT at any other furniture store.

Not the best photo, I took it with my phone. Sorry =(

For other affordable furniture purchases, there’s always IKEA and Craigslist….but Craigslist requires patience and sometimes you just can’t wait forever. For accent pieces and accessories, you need to find out where the nearest Home Goods is. Home Goods is the domestic branch of the TJ Maxx/Marshalls company, and there are fantastic finds there. I bought a gorgeous rug for my bathroom for less than $10, and this was the kind of fluffy rug that would retail at Pier One or Bed Bath and Beyond for over $20.

Another way to find furniture and home decor on the cheap is to look for store closings. Sadly, not every retail chain is sailing through these rough economic seas. But where there’s a store closing, there are items being sold for insanely cheap. This past weekend, I found out that a local Cost Plus World Market was closing. Floor models were moving fast, but the shelves weren’t yet picked clean… and I managed to get the most amazing fluffy white shag rug — originally $300, now $130. SCORE! Even the shelves and fixtures are up for grabs, so if you’re in the Orland Park area — go now!

I’m gonna return to this subject soon — look out for future tips on affordable food shopping, and beauty buys! Where are YOUR affordable shopping secret places? Share with me!


Deanna Jackson says:
October 20, 2009, 8:05 pm
Hi Afrobella, I absolutely love Forever 21 and Target because their prices are very affordable yet very chic!!
Stacye says:
October 20, 2009, 10:22 pm
I have to disagree with the marshall's and tj maxx product descriptions. In the south marshall's has the trendy clothes and great shoes. TJ maxx has the best purses and GREAT accessories. I am sure its different in various regions. I wish we had a home goods in new orleans :(
Cynthia Marie says:
October 20, 2009, 11:05 pm
I have that XCVI skirt and I got it for a steal! Mine is a chocolate brown and it's my fave. I still find great items from consignment stores... gently used clothes with style.
PBG says:
October 21, 2009, 2:22 am
My favorite spots are Target ("Red Dot Boutique") and TJ Maxx. I can always fine some good stuff in those places. And I am definitely a girl who loves to go "thrifting"! I've found more treasures in 2nd hand stores than I can count! :)
Niki says:
October 21, 2009, 9:46 am
HomeGoods is the bomb for home furnishing! I like Gordman's for cute accessories and casual basics (jeans, camis, weekend wear). Target has you covered for trends and unique home goods. I also like Burlington Coat Factory--there are three major ones in my area and two of them are really nice and the other one is kind of junky, but they are all worth taking a look through. I found a lovely charcoal grey wool peacoat for $80 that originally retailed for over $200! I also found some nice 400 TC sheets for $30. And don't sleep on Big Lots for candles, lighting and other tchotckes for your home.
Lovelyn says:
October 21, 2009, 2:41 pm
Great advice. I love TJ Maxx and Marshals. I also do the thrift store thing. I like to buy used clothes and break out the needle and thread to make them more trendy at home.
cool_caramel says:
October 21, 2009, 3:43 pm
I can definitely appreciate a good sale for something needed (even wanted if it's in the budget). Even better is FREE! I"m going to a clothes swap in DC this weekend and I can't wait! I went to one over the summer with a pile of gently used clothes, and came back with 3 pairs of cute pumps (barely worn), a purse, some jewelry, and three outfits. All for zero dollars!!!
The Frugalista Files says:
October 21, 2009, 3:55 pm
Thanks for the link, Bella. Happy saving!
Kwana aka OrangeStar616 says:
October 21, 2009, 3:55 pm
Filenes, Marshalls, and Tj Max shopping requires tons of energy, a lil bit more time and comfy shoes...Loehmans is another.....
Moni says:
October 22, 2009, 12:02 am
Marshalls and TJ Maxx are my favorites. I get the best clothing, shoe and beauty deals there. I loved Loehmans when I was in Atlanta for undergrad, but the one in San Francisco didn't impress me very much.
Lynette says:
October 22, 2009, 9:36 pm
Love all the places that have been mentioned. I also love Tuesday Morning for home stuff and I always manage to find some great cookbooks to add to my collection as well.
Lynette says:
October 22, 2009, 9:39 pm
Oh, and let's not forget, TJ Maxx has a pretty great jewelry counter as well. Although one location in Atlanta has had some pretty high end pieces lately.
TheBrokeSocialite says:
October 23, 2009, 5:05 pm
Shhhhhhh. You're giving away all of my secrets..LOL! These are some of my frequent haunts. A great eye can mix items from these stores with higher end items and look like a million bucks. What's greater than finding a deal? Bragging about it. Shop on!
Joyce says:
October 24, 2009, 1:49 pm
Oh Lady... I just had, Had, HAD to make a comment. EXXCELLENT POST! And so very necessary. Also, I would add ebay...with the caveat, YOU MUST be realistic about your sizes, INSIST on the poster having measurements and know the seller's return policy. I have gotten several keep wardrobe pieces that people don't believe that I found on ebay...
Brandi says:
October 26, 2009, 4:29 pm
You guys mentioned all of my favorites. I'm moving soon and selling all of my furniture. I'm def in need of a change. Any more furniture tips, besides IKEA would be fabu.
Mindy says:
August 3, 2013, 3:53 pm
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your next write ups thanks once again.