TIPS: Being Thrifty While In Transition

By Eileen Silversteinpiggy bank

1. Flea markets. Sell new (unused) and gently used items from your home at local flea markets. Prices for tables vary depending on the site. People try to barter the prices down, so price your items higher than your bottom line price. That way customers think they are truly getting a bargain. It also helps to put prices — either stickers or price tags — on your merchandise to make the prices look legitimate.

2. eBay. Sell clothing, handbags, and shoes on eBay. It is usually free to list the items. Then fees are deducted once the item is sold. Higher-end brands sell more. Be honest in your description and list flaws, if any. When selling used items, try to list their original retail price so the customer realizes the savings potential over original retail.

3. Facebook. Sell household items and clothing on “Buy/ Sell/Trade” pages on Facebook. I purchased a set of insulated Bali blinds in excellent condition for only $25 when our original ones broke; new they would have cost about $250.

4. Consignment stores. Sell clothing, shoes, and accessories to consignment stores. Prices will vary depending on location, so aim for consignment shops in affluent towns. Clothing must be clean and in excellent condition (no holes, fading, stains, or rips).

5. Donations. Donate clothing and household items to local charities or church bazaars. While you do not receive monetary compensation, you can deduct the value (used; not original purchase price) on your tax return. Clothing doesn’t have to be in mint condition (i.e. sweaters can have minor pilling or slight fading); however, do not donate anything that you would not wear in public yourself (no holes or stains). If you smoke or live in a household with a smoker, wash or dry clean all clothing to remove any lingering odor.

Gently used professional clothing can be donated to organizations such as Dress for Success ( or Hire Attire (address is 268 Baldwin Street, New Brunswick; call (732) 745-5300, ext. 4100 for more details). These organizations offer clothing either for free or at a deep discount to women who are trying to re-enter the workforce after welfare or other financial difficulties. Clothing should be cleaned and pressed (in “interview-ready” condition).

6. Discounted clothes. Check out, a great place to buy or sell lightly used clothing. They sell higher-end brands such as Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and J Crew at amazing prices (up to 80% off original retail prices). Clothing must be in excellent condition to sell and must meet the brand requirements as listed on their site. They even offer a 30-day return policy if the clothing does not fit. I purchased a Jones New York sateen skirt for only $12 that originally retailed for close to $100!

7. Footwear on eBay. I have purchased gently used Italian-made boots and shoes for $40-$50 that originally retailed for upwards of $300-$400. Stick to higher end brands such as Donald J. Pliner, Via Spiga, and Cole Haan; people who own these and other similar brands tend to take better care of their shoes than cheaper “throwaway” brands. To avoid dissatisfaction with your purchase, be sure to check the photos for any minor scuffs/damage and communicate with the seller if you have any questions. Pay attention to the seller’s return policy as not everyone accepts returns; sometimes you will be buying “at your own risk”. Brand new shoes, many sold in their original boxes, can also be purchased on eBay at discounts ranging from 10% through more than 60 percent.

8. New lives for old shoes. A skilled cobbler can add life to older shoes, especially if they are of higher quality (i.e. European-made). New full or half leather soles can be replaced. Dye, polish and edge dressing can turn worn-looking shoes to nearly-new condition. Most affluent towns have a good shoe repair shop; check the internet for locations.

9. Bulk purchases. Buy items, especially food, in bulk from Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s. Extra servings can be frozen for later use. Beware of items that cannot be frozen such as milk, eggs, and yogurt; these might not be the best deal if you have a smaller family and cannot consume the food before its expiration date.

10. Superstore Groceries. For substantial savings over traditional supermarket prices, shop at Target, Aldi or Walmart. Aldi has the lowest everyday prices on essentials such as milk, butter, and eggs. You can often save more money at these stores versus traditional supermarkets, even if those supermarkets offer double coupons. Comparison shop to find the lowest prices, even after coupons are used. Target does not double coupons and Aldi does not accept any coupons, so read the weekly circulars and do the math to find your best deals each week.

11. Store brand products. Often, the quality of store brands meets or exceeds that of national brands. Most stores offer money-back guarantees on their own brands.
12. Factory-refurbished or discontinued models. Buy electronics such as iPads/tablets on eBay and other sites that sell either factory-refurbished or discontinued models. Discounts can be as high as 50 percent off the original retail price and many refurbished products come with warranties.

13. Farmers’ Markets. For low prices on produce, try your local farmers’ market. The produce is usually fresher than what is available at most supermarkets. For those who live near Middlesex, try the Rt. 28 Farmer’s Market on Route 28; for example, I’ve bought avocados there for only $1 each versus $1.50 and up at supermarkets or at Target.

14. Thrift and consignment stores. Find suits and other interview clothing at thrift stores.

15. Off-price stores. Buy new business attire at stores like TJMaxx, Marshalls, and Annie Sez. Selection will be more limited than at department stores, but the savings can be up to 50 percent off retail.

16. Retail email notices. Sign up for email notices for favorite stores such as Macy’s and Ann Taylor to get advance notice of sales. You also save on wear and tear on your car. Many stores offer free shipping when orders reach a certain amount. Selection is usually better online than in brick-and-mortar stores, especially if you are a specialty size such as petite or tall.

17. Outlets. To find clothing at deeply discounted prices, go to outlets like Jackson and Jersey Gardens. They carry everything from clothing and shoes to household items such as linens, glasses and silverware. It helps to know a bit about the clothing you are buying: for example, I saw a rack of sweaters for $30 at Jersey Gardens. This seemed like a fair deal for what seemed to be merino wool. When I read the label and saw the sweaters were cashmere, that deal became an amazing bargain.

18. Kids clothing and toy swap. For women with children (especially kids under the age of 10), hold a clothing and toy swap with other mothers and see if you can pick up some items free of charge.

19. Food sealing systems. Vacuum food sealers make it possible to buy food in bulk, seal and freeze it, and avoid food waste through freezer burn. These machines are especially beneficial for saving expensive cuts of meat, poultry, and fish. The lowest priced sealer is the handheld ZipVac for $32, which can be purchased through me ( There are also countertop sealers such as Rival’s Seal A Meal and the Food Saver Professional, which can be vary in price from $85 to $300 and higher for other brands and can be purchased online ( or in stores such as Kohl’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Contact your local cable or other TV/phone/internet provider(s). Some companies will reduce your rates if you mention that you are unemployed.

20. Negotiate credit card rates. Contact your credit card companies. Some will work with you to reduce your interest rate if you can submit proof of unemployment status (i.e. bank statement showing direct deposit of UI funds into your account). Certain credit card companies offer insurance to protect your payments while unemployed and might either eliminate or reduce your interest and/or payments.

21. Cheaper gas. To find gas stations in your area with the lowest prices, go to Sometimes it is better to drive a few miles to get a better deal. Avoid stations that are near a highway entrance/exit ramp as most take advantage of their convenience and charge upwards of 50 cents more per gallon. Also, avoid getting gas in affluent areas as those stations usually overcharge.

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