But don't discard me as a spoiled brat just yet. Contrary to what those who first meet me might think, I'm not a trust fund kid, nor do I make six figures. I'm simply a highly skilled bargain shopper. I inherited this gift from my mother, a social worker with four kids, three of them girls, who quickly learned that in order to keep us respectably clothed, she had to shop smart.
Over the years, I've fine-tuned my buying skills. My shopping is now more deliberate, my purchases more intelligent. Gone are the days of buying clothes that might someday be perfect for the beaches of south Thailand. The Labor Day purge celebrates this. I rid myself of impulse purchases of the past, items bought only because I couldn't resist the price tag. What was I thinking buying that long, Stevie Nicks-inspired, black silk number, even if it was half-off? By Monday, I've packed up three garbage bags of clothes, 10 pairs of shoes, some CDs, countless household items, a futon and two lamps. I feel lighter and surprisingly at ease.
On Tuesday, intentionally bringing with me no cash, I drop off my now second-hand goods at Goodwill. But upon walking in, I begin to feel anxious. My feet start moving toward the racks. I'll just browse. With my well-trained eye, I spot a velvet bolero jacket and two pairs of Marc Jacobs-esque shoes. I spend a whopping $10. (Note to self: Goodwill now takes credit cards.) I'm feeling lucky. I should ride this wave.
I head to Kudzu Market on Ponce to see if I can score an antique desk chair. The great thing about antique stores is there's always room to bargain. I usually shy away from those in prime shopping destinations, however. They tend to have higher prices and you tend to have less bargaining power. There is no desk chair, but I do find an $18 vintage purple satin clutch, very hip for fall.
On my way home I make a quick detour, stopping in Candler Park at Full Moon Records. All CDs here cost $7.99. I've even found new releases in the bins, so I always come here first before paying full price at another record shop. I walk away with five CDs, including the new Cat Power and Cody Chesnut.
The next day I'm feeling refreshed and confident. Though I secretly fear a bender, I settle on a winning streak. I head to Discover Mills. It's best to go to the outlets at the end of summer or end of winter, when inventory is at its peak. I love Neiman's Last Call and Saks Off 5th. When you're a label whore on a beer budget, these stores are heaven. Everything is up to 80 percent off. I head back to Atlanta very pleased with my purchases, including Gucci shades, a Marc Jacobs top and Seven jeans.
It would be wise to stop now, but I desperately need new sheets and Marshall's on Piedmont is kind of on my way home. I don't find the best shoes and clothes here, but I do find great purses, toiletries, linens and housewares. I leave with a full set of 300-threadcount sheets for $49.99. I also score H2O shampoo and conditioner, a mere $4.99 each.
I decide not to press my luck further today, but I already have my shopping plans set for the next day. Luxe, a showroom located in King Plow Arts Center, held its first designer sale a few months back. And it's holding another on Thursday. I arrive early and peruse the racks. There are some gorgeous but still pricey high-end pieces. Then I spot it -- the perfect Chloe wool sweater with bead detail down the shoulder. At $89, this will become my fall wardrobe staple. The retail price was $350. I'm ecstatic.
And since the Salvation Army is only two blocks away, on Marietta Street, I decided to pop in. It's two-for-one day on books, and even though I have some of them already, my friends might not, so I pick up The Pilot's Wife, The Beach, Bridget Jones's Diary and A Prayer for Owen Meany. I also find the sweetest little camisole that will go perfectly with my new jeans.
Though I could forge on, I'm exhausted and wouldn't be on top of my game if I did. Lying in bed later that night, I make a mental shopping list for the weekend: Get to the Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn outlets; stop at Loehmann's on Briarcliff to check out the new European designer shipment; pray those Dolce and Gabbana pants I didn't buy at Filene's Basement are still there; hit Frock of Ages and Stefan's for vintage tweed and a fitted black leather jacket.
Thank goodness I got rid of all that crap! Just as I'm dozing off, I remember Blue Genes is having its two-year anniversary sale next week and preferred customers get an extra 20 percent off. It certainly does pay to shop.
-- Clare Gordon