I grew up in Brooklyn way before hipster boutiques and cute home furnishings stores dotted the avenues. Back in the 70’s and 80’s Brooklyn shopping was synonymous with one word – BARGAIN. And finding those deals was a sport for my mom, brought to new highs when my grandmother visited from Michigan and the two of them piled us into the Volvo station wagon and headed into the depths of Brooklyn to the major discount emporiums like Century 21 and Aarons. Stores with salesladies who wore heavy false eyelashes and would eye you up and down in the communal dressing room with a discerning Tim Gunn eye. This was before the widespread prevalence of nationwide discounters like Marshalls and TJ Maxx, back when if you wanted to go to Loehmanns you hauled yourself up to the Bronx, not the nearest mall.
As if all of this bargain hunting wasn’t already in my genes I had an aunt who worked as an advertising and marketing executive at various major department stores (we’re talking Marshall Fields and Bergdorf Goodman). So we enjoyed a family discount that made Neiman Marcus as affordable as Target. Really. As fun as this was it can really warp your perception of what things do – or at least should – cost. After a childhood filled with heavily discounted designer clothing I find myself unwilling to pay retail for most anything – most of all my kids’ clothes.
Luckily the Internet has opened up a whole new world of bargain hunting. It’s almost impossible to pay full price. Sites like retailmenot.com, ebates.com, fatwallet.com, not to mention eBay and a basic google search yield myriads of discount codes. And not just for buying on-line, but tons of deals and coupons for printing out at stores. Of course living here in New York City also brings another big benefit and that is all of the fabulous sample sales where designers get rid of excess merchandise that is in the stores right now. But the Internet has opened that treasure trove as well – sites like Hautelook.com, ideeli.com, and gilt.com can bring the sample sale frenzy right to your home. Honestly, it’s almost too much for one bargain-hunting mom to handle.
The recession has made all of this discount searching cool and hip, but I began passing on my bargain finding skills to my daughters as soon as they could read. They know how to find a Build-A-Bear coupon online or work an eBay auction like pros. They know you don’t hit that submit button until you’ve searched for the promo code or at the very least free shipping. And when it’s their allowance money on the line you better believe that they will use price comparison tools and coupon searching to put Suze Orman to shame. Nature or nurture I’ll never know for sure. But, one thing is certain, my daughters have caught the bargain-hunting bug, and like true New Yorkers they’ll never want to pay retail again.