Consignment Cinderella

by Shaunna Privratsky

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After five years as a stay-home Mom with my children, Erica and Alex, I was ready to rejoin the workforce. We could use the money and frankly I needed to get out of the house more.

I landed my dream job, working part-time at a nearby interior decorating store. I would finally put my degree in interior design to good use. I looked forward to the challenge. The problem was my wardrobe.

For five years, my outfits consisted of jeans and T-shirts. My only "professional" dress was a sundress I'd worn to my interview. With an empty wallet and the first day of my new job looming, I turned to a local consignment shop.

I explained my need for a few work outfits and my lack of funds to the sympathetic owner. We struck a deal. I'd consign my three boxes of gently-used clothing and she'd let me pick out the clothes I needed now. I would pay off any remaining balance at the end of three months.

I felt like Cinderella as I tried on suits, skirts, pants and blouses. I discovered a black suit jacket and matching pants and skirt and a navy outfit as well. I picked out a few shirts, scarves and even two pairs of shoes to mix and match.

I went to work on Monday feeling like a princess. Instead of glass slippers and a ball gown, I wore my snappy black blazer, black skirt and bright pink shell. A brilliant scarf and black heels completed my transformation from Mom to career woman. At the end of three months, I only had to pay $22, a small price to pay for an "instant wardrobe."

If you are ever strapped for cash and need something right away, don't be afraid to approach the owners of consignment stores or other shops that carry what you need. Work out a deal where they make money as well and you may get a "yes." Ask for what you want and offer something in return.

The barter system is becoming a major form of transaction, where you offer your services to another business for whatever you need. Larger cities even have professional organizations catering to bartering.

Maybe you desperately need your leaking roof repaired and you know a skilled contractor. The shingles and nails are fairly inexpensive, but labor costs are sky high. Your bank statement comes up triple zeros, but you just happen to know that his son goes to the same school as your own children and participates in the same after-school activities.

Approach the contractor with a bartering plan. You buy the materials and he fixes your roof while you offer carpooling for his son. Write everything down and make copies for both parties, just so there are no misunderstandings.

I'll never forget my "fairy godmother" at the consignment store. She extended the wand of goodwill and gave me the basis of my professional wardrobe that I still wear today.

It's great to know that even in today's frantic commercialism, profit margins and bottom lines, the magic of human kindness is alive and thriving.

Shaunna Privratsky became an expert in personal finance out of necessity. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

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