What is a Bargain?

by Wendy Lomano

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Despite a lack of magazine subscriptions in my name, I manage to browse through most of the major women's magazines on the market each month. My generous mother-in-law shares her publications with me when she's done with them.

Each month, I find a lot of useful information in these publications. I find suggestions on how to save money (none of which are new to our 7-year-long stay-at-home mom, one-income family venture), book reviews, movie reviews, great recipes, exercise tips, health and diet information, and fashion advice.

Many of the magazines feature "must have for this season" articles and "best buys" articles. These get me all the time. I guess my at-home-mom-on-a-budget brain doesn't see how a pair of beach sandals should cost $50, or how a (great looking) pair of capri pants should be $275. Yeah, they're awesome. Yeah, I like them, but really, they're just fabric and stitching.

The "best buys" sections do a little better on the pricing than the "must have this season" articles, but they still are a bit pricey. They feature purses for $30, shoes for $40 and sleeveless tops for $35. Still not my idea of a bargain.

What, then, is a bargain?

Teen resale shops, consignment shops, and discount department stores are all great places to find bargains. I enjoy anywhere that I can find a pair of white leather Keds-rip-off shoes for $6 (and they last me three years) and a skirt or dress for $5 or less. We have a store near us (a major chain department store) that is definitely not a discount store. They feature full (and painful to my budget) priced items from popular designers. It's an upscale department store at which we buy full-priced items only for birthday or Christmas presents, or when we find their full-priced item (cookware, small appliances, perfume) is less than everywhere else.

But at the end of every season, they have awesome sale prices. So, I can't resist shopping there at least once. Sometimes I just look and sometimes I buy, frugally. I have found fully-sequined blouses for $5 that originally were $80 and dressy dresses that originally were $100 for $7. These are bargain prices. Some items I can't pass up. They may not be everyday items, but I've worn them on several dressy occasions. Others I can pass us. For instance, I passed on the $4 pair of usually expensive, brand-name shorts that actually fit me but looked awful.

And you must know that I hate shopping. I'm not a shopper. I don't shop recreationally and I don't like to shop even when I'm in need of new clothing, which is when my "old" clothes are actually too threadbare to be seen in public. So the fact that I'll go to these sales and certain stores at all says something about their prices (and service).

But, just because something is marked down 90% from its original price still doesn't make it a bargain. A true bargain is when you find something at a really great price, and it's something you really do need.

A true bargain isn't a great price on something you do not need at all. If I have a black dress skirt and see one on sale for $1.99, is that a bargain? No. I already have a black skirt; I do not need another one.

Now, if my existing black skirt had a huge bleach stain on the front and was shrunk in the dryer beyond my size, a black skirt for $1.99 would be a bargain, seeing as my existing black skirt is no longer wearable.

A true bargain is when your refrigerator dies and you find a brand-new, boxed replacement for $600. It is a discontinued model and has been in a store's warehouse for two months too long. It still has its warranty. This refrigerator is still "brand new," but it's less than half the cost of a brand new, more recent model.

A true bargain is a great price on something when you need it, and I stress need, not want, here. Happy bargain hunting!

Wendy Lomano is the editor and web master of The Stay-At-Home Parents Page, an at-home mom and wife, and a freelance editor and web designer.

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