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The Broke-Ass Alternative to Boutique Shopping

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You can only pretend to enjoy boutique shopping on Atlantic Avenue (or Franklin Street or Bedford Avenue or god forbid somewhere that’s actually in Manhattan) for so long.

When you’re with friends who drop $200 on a pair of “vintage” shoes (don’t they know how fast soles – not to mention souls – are destroyed here?) and get excited when a chintzy dress that looks like it belongs in the back of your grandma’s closet is “only $100,” you know you need to make an Irish exit and GTFO to a discount store. But not just any discount store.

You may have heard of some little places called T.J. Maxx and Marshalls (and if you think you’re above them, I don’t care to be your friend). The ones on Sixth Avenue, between Flatiron and Chelsea, are my favorites because they’re stacked on top of one another, ensuring that at least three hours of my life will be robbed from me before I even realize where I am or what day it is.

You may recognize some names

The best thing about the Maxx and the Marshalls here are their abundance of legitimate designer brands with legitimate, still-in-style stock, if you’re into that kind of thing. Being broke, it’s ironic to have a penchant for Michael Kors, but I do – or would like to think I do, even though I only own one watch that was purchased using a fatty Amazon gift card and one obnoxiously teal purse I got from (drum roll, please) T.J. Maxx for $80. But still. A girl can try. And there are always, always Steve Madden shoes here – but, unlike the ones in the actual Steve Madden stores that seem to be located every few blocks along Fifth Avenue, these are all $29.95. And at the rate I go through shoes here, that is the absolute most I care to spend.

Come on Mondays for the least amount of people

If you shop at either of these stores on a Monday evening/night, there are significantly less people. And we all know that in New York City, crowds are the worst part of shopping “in real life,” as opposed to the ‘net. (Side note: isn’t it funny how we chose to move to such a condensed populous, yet get so insanely irritated when there are too many goddamn people around us who are walking too slow and are in our way every time we try to side-step them? Tell me that’s not just me.) But I guess the smaller crowds on Mondays is because people are either shopped out from the weekend or too exhausted and hungover to do anything but collapse on their couches after working a full day post-Sunday-Funday. Hey, I’ve been there, too.

No one wants to buy work clothes

If you’re like me, you work in Midtown Manhattan and can’t wear jeans to the office, even on Fridays. And who wants to spend their paycheck buying more work clothes when there are picklebacks and nachos to be bought and shamelessly devoured? These places always have office attire for less than the price of a night getting sloppy on the town. In fact, the $15 Cynthia Rowley skirt I bought at T.J. Maxx yesterday has already earned two compliments and was mistaken for something from Joe Fresh. Plus, the best black work pants I’ve ever owned were from Marshalls and still look like new, several years and countless careless machine washes later. And if you indulge a bit too much in the aforementioned picklebacks and nachos thanks to all this money you’re saving at these stores, you won’t feel bad about dropping $10 here and there when you have to buy new, slightly larger clothes.

It’s a good, old-fashioned treasure hunt

Call me cheap, call me shameless, but I will root and dig my way through rack upon rack of unorganized clothing and accessories to save “up to 60 percent off department store prices, every day!” (according to T.J. Maxx’s website). Nothing is more rewarding than discovering those ridiculous clubbing heels in your size only, or the random Homer Simpson “D’oh!” pint glass that clearly used to be part of a set but is now alone on a shelf with a bright-red $2 sticker slapped on the bottom. And believe you me, I will haggle with the cashier who already hates her life over a makeup-stained $7 top to try and get it for $4 if I feel so entitled. It’s all part of the Broke-Ass lifestyle.

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Rene Beight - Femme Frugale

Rene Beight - Femme Frugale

Yearbook/newspaper nerd turned marketing professional/freelance writer. Originally from San Diego, Rene now resides in Brooklyn's most hipster neighborhood, where the rent's not cheap, but the whiskey is (coincidence?). On weekends, you can find her wandering the flea (but buying nothing) and squandering away her late-night pizza to the stray cats next door. She's addicted to chocolate almonds, long runs in the City, apocalyptic thrillers, and nachos. Talents include belching at will.