Check Out the Op Shops in the Smart Areas of Town

I'm a real charity shop addict, and love it when I find a really good quality designer label for very little.

But it can take a long time to find really good stuff unless you find the best charity shops.

My parents live in a rather smart area on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. The houses there are expensive and there are a lot of designer boutiques.

The op shops there are to die for. Of course, they charge a lot more than regular charity shops, but you still get incredible bargains.

I always find something really good quality and different when I go there. It's really more like going to 30 designer boutiques in one than a charity store.

So my recommendation is to travel to the smart areas of town for your bargain hunting.

Last time Mum and I went in our favourite St. Vinnies store I bought a gorgeous retro wrap around dress in a mustard paisley pattern for $20.

Standing in the dressing room, I said "Mum, can you see if they've got a size 14 mustard trouser to go with this" - and lo and behold, she came up with a perfect pair for another $20.

So a complete new outfit, great for going to a wedding, out for a meal or a posh day out shopping for $40.

A few days later, I wore the outfit to an upmarket shopping mall with my sister-in-law to check out the designer shops.

I literally had a good laugh at the $1000 plus price tickets for a pair of trousers, or a skirt, knowing that I was far too smart to need to spend that, and feeling chic enough to march into the posh stores without looking out of place.

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Search Yard Sales for Fashion Treasures

by Stephanie
(Atlanta)

Believe it or now, I've found some remarkable fashion finds at yard and moving sales. Whether a family is relocating, there's been a marital separation, or just a family clearing out their closets, clothes are always some of the first things to go - often still with their original store tags.

I once found a pair of $200. shoes that has never been worn for $10! So check the newspapers and corner poste rboard signs for neighborhood sales and find your fashion clothing bonanza.

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Clothing Exchange with Friends Is Fun Way to Save $

by Melanie
(Michigan)

I like free shopping best of all, so I have organized a clothing exchange with my friends a few time.

We all bring clothes from our closets we don't want any more. Then we each lay out each item nicely. Everyone draws a number.

Number 1 gets to go around the room and pick her first item. Then number 2 and so on. We go around and around until people start saying, "I'm done." Then its a free for all for anything left and someone volunteers to take the rest to a resale shop. We love it!

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Factory Outlet and Reject Shop

by S.Yean
(Malaysia)

If you are in Asia, you may want to pop into a Factory Outlet and Reject Shop in some of the shopping malls. One may find good bargains on fashions and clothes.

I realized that there are times these shops are stocked up on branded rejects from the factory. Generally, the rejects are in excellent condition but probably does not meet some quality control during production.

Siew Yean from Kids Activities Learning Games - just paying forward.

Enid writes: We have factory outlet malls in the U.S., too. Some of the products are cheaper versions of the full-price retail versions. Others are rejects or seconds, as these may be called her.

Sometimes, one finds a rejects store in an odd place. There is one tucked away in area of auto repair, rental, and insurance stores in Fort Lauderdale.

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Be A Bargain Hunter

by Lisa
(Roswell, GA)

In my circle of friends, I am known as The Bargain Hunter. I have coupons sent to me by e-mail,snail mail and shop discount stores when they are having a sale.

My favorite is Kohl's. They usually send me $5 to spend on anything I want by US mail, then I look in my e-mail for another sale like 10% off and use my Kohl's charge card to get another $5 off.

I then shop the sale racks and calculate how much I am saving and spending. The trick is to spend between $20-$50 and then get the Kohl's cash and go back for another $5-$10 item. You can get a lot of designer duds for almost free or at least some new accessories.

I think Bekl and other stores also do this. You can find great things at Marshall's and TJ Max as well.

Editor writes: Join the Fashion After 50 Hot Flash newsletter to have Kohl's and other sales and coupons sent to your email.

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Bargain Dress Nearly Disappears
When Laundered

by Dawn
(McHenry, IL)

I had a surgery that resulted in a quick weight loss. I was desperate for dresses, etc., for work, so I went to the Salvation Army store near my home.

I bought a lovely dress, mid calf, looking to have been dry cleaned, at a whopping $4.00 price! I wore it a few times, and it was machine washable, so, I washed it. After that I put it on and it was so sheer I could have given it to a stripper! Thank Heaven I looked in a daylight mirror before I left the house!

Enid's reply:

What a great story! I'm sorry that happened to you.

It's true: We never know how items in a thrift store will hold up. Then again, I've purchased more than one new blouse that turned into a rag at the first washing when the sizing washed out of the fabric.

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Local Charities May Have New Overstock from Area Merchants at Thrift Shops

by Cat
(Tampa, FL, USA)

I volunteer at a local thrift shop that helps the homeless. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that once a week or every other week they get donations from an exclusive ladies national chain store for returns or store samples.

They also get returns and floor samples from home goods national chain that is very exclusive. It's a win/win. I give back & recyle my stuff & get to purchase great items at a huge discount.

Enid's reply: I've noticed new items at thrift stores around here, too. Thanks for explaining how that works, Cat.

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Smart Athena Indulges Her Sassy Hecate with Thrifty Shopping and Altered Courture

by Debbie
(Bowie, MD)

Athena (8) Hecate (7) Sophia (6).

I am 55 years old. I recently lost 55 pounds. My children are now adults and I am feeling empowered. I attend Al-Anon and thru this wonderful program I have found the real me.

While losing my weight, I decided to save money and shop thrift shops so not to spend too much on in-between sizes. I have become hooked! If I am very picky. I can find items that are classic and well made.

I often find otherwise expensive name brand clothes for less than $10 an item. Since my style is classic/Bohemian, shopping this way really fits my style and budget. I get wonderful compliments on my style.

I also shop a very unique shop that has costume jewelry for $1. Once again shopping carefully gives me cute jewelry for cheap and some looks expensive. I also have some expensive jewelry and wear it to "class up" and make outfits more classic.

I use Wal-Mart and BJs for inexpensive basics. I sew so I will take two or more pieces, take them apart and make a new item. For example, I bought a basic beige t-shirt and a $5 summer halter top that I would never wear but it had beautiful lace on the back. I removed the lace and sewed it to the from of the t-shirt. So for less $12 I have a really nice top.

I bought a pair of boots at Off Broadway. I went online while in the store and joined their club and got $5 off. I got the boots off the clearance for 70% off, so I got a pair of leather tall classic style boots for less than $20.

I am proud of my new found style and my inexpensive shopping habits. It's so much fun finding a really great item for a really great price!

Hi Debbie -- Thank you for sharing your tips. I love them. So I hope you won't mind that I am moving this post to the shopping wisely and saving money pages.

I especially like your ideas for upcycling clothing.

This weekend, I bought a faux fur jacket in a thrift for $5. It's much too warm for Florida, so I want to turn it into a vest, perhaps with lace panels at the side to cut down on the bulk and weight. Then I discovered a tag on the back showing it is brand-new!

Now I am a little afraid to cut it. You never know what you can find in a thrift store, and the rewards are sweet indeed to feel both well-dressed and clever.

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Thrift Shop and Clearance Finds

by Anne
(Raleigh NC)

After years of working in scrubs, I now work in an office setting, where I can wear business casual clothing. I am attracted to dramatic clothing on the rack; however, I am most comfortable in simple, practical, elegant clothes that fit comfortably.

I live for my grown kids, grand children and my animals. I love gardening, cooking my own vegetables, used to sew everything, but now just curtains, or quilts.

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Belted Beauties Can Be Found At Yard Sales

by gerdafrancis
(St. Augustine, FL)

I'm enthusiastic about your creative idea about wrapping belts with beads. I keep belts in the back of my closet for years, and when the size comes back in style, I pull them out, cut another notch and I'm right in fashion.

I'm amazed to see people selling their belts in yard sales. Guess they've either outgrown them and have given up the dream of getting back into their old size or they don't realize they'll make another comeback. They take so little space. Keep up the wonderful column.

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