Thursday, February 09, 2017

Looking Like a Million Bucks, Spending a Dime

“Ooooooo, I love your jewelry!” the ladies exclaimed as I approached my assigned table for a networking event. “And, your haircut is cute too.” “Is that Premier Designs?” one asked of my fun necklace made up of big silver circles, and matching earrings. “No,” I answered with a smile, “but, may I go back and come in again. You made me feel like a million bucks!”
Years ago, I thought nothing of spending thousands of dollars a year on high-end fashions. My wardrobe was full of Talbots and Chico’s and upscale boutique brands. I carried Kate Spade, Michael Kor, and Coach handbags. I had a closet full of Calvin Klein, Bandolino and Nine West shoes – in every color imaginable. My jewelry was always and only ever 14 kt. gold; except for a genuine Zoppini Italian Charm Bracelet – it was Stainless Steel. Nothing but the BEST for this princess! 

Sometime in the early 2000’s, around the time my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I realized that life is short, and materialism is meaningless. It’s been said many times, “You never see a hearse pulling a UHaul.” Isn’t that the truth?
Gradually, my spending habits began to change, but not my taste for fine fashion and accessories. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a penchant for fashion. I’ve always had a knack for pulling pieces together to make attractive outfits. Usually, I did all my mixing and matching at the same store with the help of sales associates. I’d walk out of the store with an empty wallet and a bag full of loot, while they had a register full of my cold cash.

Then, I chose to walk away from my lucrative career. Still wanting to look nice, I learned to unleash my creativity. I knew of many women who shopped thrift stores and looked great; but, the idea of wearing someone else’s hand-me-down clothing disgusted me.
Initially, I couldn’t differentiate between consignment and thrift stores. I thought they were the same, until one day I walked into a cute little boutique in a pretty mansion called “Oo-la-la Consignment.” There I found a beautiful house filled with eye-candy – high-end, like-new apparel, handbags, shoes, and jewelry for a fraction of the full retail price. All of my favorite brands were meticulously displayed like an upscale specialty store – for dimes instead of dollars.

I walked out with bags of fabulous styles, feeling like I struck the jackpot … and have rarely walked into a full retail store ever since.
Then, I began volunteering for Dress for Success, and discovered their Inventory Reduction Sales where I could fill a gigantic bag with “used” business apparel for a $20 donation. This was my introduction to thrift stores. I came away with unimaginable treasures – hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars-worth of second hand clothes for pennies. It was not meticulously displayed like the consignment store, nor was it all upscale brands, but I didn’t care. I had so much fun searching for my favorite names, and was amazed at what women buy and NEVER wear!

Eventually, I let go of my fine jewelry and started buying big, bold and fun costume jewelry.
Now, everywhere I go people compliment me on clothes and accessories. “I love your glasses,” exclaimed an HR Professional. “That’s a beautiful jacket,” declared a woman in the public restroom. “You’re wearing pretty nail color,” said the girl at the Chic-Filet drive-up as I handed her cash. “Ooooo … that necklace is so much fun,” proclaimed the distracted rental car agent. “Where’d you get that bag?” gushed an administrator at the US Army Research Lab.

On and on, it goes. Until one day after receiving a passing compliment, my boss, Paul, looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and mockingly said, “Can we just go one place where people don’t gush over your bling?”  I cockily replied, “You know, I could use a bling budget. We can use it for marketing.” Surprisingly, he agreed. Today, I get to spend his money on dime store baubles and trinkets to give to clients and prospects.
Beth’s Bling has become my brand. It opens doors, and sparks conversations. People remember it. They remember me. It’s a ton of fun using my creativity and impacting others by sharing something I love. It’s not about the price, it’s about creating memorable experiences.

Psst! Here’s a secret: the necklace the ladies at the networking event were oogling over was from the clearance rack of Kmart! Shhhh! Don’t tell. They’ll never know!
On the above photo: pink vest I bought through thrift for $5. Silver necklace with matching earrings from Kmart $7. Chico’s black travel jacket I picked up at Goodwill on vacation for $3. Brand new Sporto boots I got at thrift for $5. A collection of name-brand handbags I bought at thrift for less than $5 each. A brand new sparkly velour jacket from thrift for $5. A beautiful brand new Chico’s business jacket and necklace from consignment for under $20.

In case you’re wondering – a consignment store sells secondhand items (typically clothing and accessories) on behalf of the original owner, who receives a percentage of the selling price. My experience is that consignment stores carry high-end, in-style, like-new merchandise. Thrift stores, on the other hand, sales secondhand clothes and other household goods that are donated, typically to raise funds for a charitable institution.
Incidentally, I have bought two like-new leather sofas, and two practically new leather chairs at furniture consignment for a fraction of the price of new merchandise. For me, consignment shopping has become a way of life. The money I save, we use to bless others and do things we love, like travel … and I’ve even figured out how to do that on a dime!

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