As I mentioned last week, I'm not really into shopping. Shopping for clothes, in particular, doesn't excite me the way it supposedly does many women. I tend to have a really hard time finding anything I like, and even if I do, I have a hard time convincing myself to spend the money. For instance, when L.L. Bean sent me an e-mail last week advertising its Labor Day sale (10 percent off everything, and a $10 gift card if you spend $50 or more), I went to the website and found three items I knew I could use: a new pair of jeans, a pair of corduroys, and a flannel shirt. I even went so far as to add them all to my shopping cart—and then, one by one, I removed them all again. Sure, I could always use a new pair of jeans, but I don't really need them yet if my old pair is less than a year old (and last year's pair, which is wearing out, could always be patched). And I already have four pairs of winter slacks in good condition, so I can certainly manage without another. And while the flannel shirt came in a nice colorful plaid that would go with practically everything in my winter wardrobe, and would enable me to combine those items into at least a dozen new outfits, they only had it in men's sizes; was it really worth spending $40 on something that might not even fit? Yes, it was returnable, but I'd be out 7 bucks for the return shipping. Why risk it?
Even as I did this, a part of me acknowledged that my tightwad instincts were straying perilously close to, if not across, the line between practical and obsessive. After all, it's not as if $40 for a new shirt is exactly going to break our budget. Considering that the average American spends about $120 a month on clothing and footwear, while we spend about $400 a year for both of us, it could hardly be considered an extravagance. And yet, somehow, I just couldn't make myself hit that button marked "pay now." Forty bucks—or even $36 on sale—was just more than I could bring myself to spend on a shirt I couldn't even try on first.
So today, with the sale over, I wasn't sure whether to feel smart or stupid about my shopping decision. And that's when it occurred to me to check Bonanza.
I first discovered this site through an article at the Budget Babe blog. Bonanza wasn't actually one of the five online consignment shops touted in the article itself, but one of the comments mentioned it, and on impulse, I checked it out. My immediate reaction was, "Whoa, this place is like eBay without all the junk!" True, it doesn't have nearly as many categories as eBay; the emphasis seems to be primarily on clothing and home accessories. But within these categories, the selection is much more impressive. On my very first search there, I immediately found a little floral dress in a simple, versatile style I'd been looking everywhere for, from Goodwill to Macy's, without finding anything even close for less than $200. This one was selling for $22 including shipping. After months of futile searching, even I didn't hesitate to pounce on a deal like that. (I did end up paying $20 to get the shoulder straps altered, but still, $42 is a heck of a lot better than $200.)
After that first success, however, I didn't immediately come upon any other unbeatable bargains on this site. I ran a couple of searches for other garments I'd been looking for (including a plaid shirt like the one I nearly bought from Bean), but nothing really jumped out at me. So, without being able to reproduce my results, I had no way to be sure my good luck with the dress wasn't just a fluke. However, after I realized that the plaids I liked at L.L. Bean all came only in men's sizes, I decided to broaden my search on Bonanza. Instead of searching for "flannel shirt" just under women's clothing, I searched under clothing in general and then started combing through the hits I got looking for anything that might fit me. And that's where I found this beauty. A men's small, which should fit me okay; a pattern of deep greens, blues, and reds that should go with most of my winter wardrobe; and a total price of $17 with tax and shipping. (I don't know why the site charged me tax, exactly, since I gave it an address in New Jersey, where clothing isn't supposed to be taxable. But for this price, I'm not going to complain too much.)
So as of today, Bonanza is my official first stop for all clothes shopping. It's a lot less crowded than the mall, it's much easier to park, and it's a lot likelier to have something I actually like at a reasonable price.