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Welcome to Racked’s How Do You Shop? series, in which we ask a variety of people some deeply personal questions about how they earn, save, and especially spend their money. If you know or are someone with an interesting relationship to $$$, email email@example.com.
This week we spoke with Lorraine, 59, who lives in Tallahassee, Florida. She’s retired after working as a public health educator and is a whiz at shopping sales and secondhand stores.
Annual salary: “I get a monthly payment from investments made in lieu of paying into a pension, which was about $2,000 a month. [My other source of income is] my husband’s pension.”
Housing costs: “We finished paying off our home in 2005 after paying $100 extra per month for years and eventually applying what we’d been paying for a car payment — about $260 — to the mortgage, too, once we’d paid off the vehicle. So nothing other than property taxes!”
Biggest monthly expense: “Health insurance, which, for the two of us, is about $1,600 a month.”
Most she’d spend on jeans: $20
On a T-shirt: $10
On a fancy outfit: $50
How much do you put toward your savings each month, if at all?
We’re past that stage in our life. We never followed a rigid budget but have always lived frugally and well within our means, saving money wherever possible. When we found we had a surplus of cash in our checking account, we would periodically apply some (an average amount of $15,000 a year total, sometimes more and occasionally less) toward investments.
How much would you say you spend on clothing per month?
No idea. It varies too much. I doubt I spend more than an average of $10 a month over time, although I actually make my purchases in occasional, erratic bursts when I find great prices. An example is a church yard sale I went to last year where I found tops at three for $2. At that price, I made a gamble. I bought a couple dozen, but since there was no try-on room, I went home to try them on. I kept most, gave some to a work friend, and donated the rest to a thrift store. I still felt like I came out ahead. I like clothing but prefer to spend as little as possible.
Does buying clothing bring you as much joy as spending that same amount of money on a trip, a nice meal, or an experience would?
When I find a terrific deal on something, a brand I like or a special item for myself or a loved one, I feel victorious. In general, I prefer to save everywhere I can so I can spend money where I want to. For example, I’d rather take a trip, especially to see family, which is the most important thing to me. Doing things with them and for them or taking them out to eat are also important to me. I don't mind spending money on that!
How often do you shop?
Kind of all the time. I mostly window-shop or check out the prices and see what is in stock. I actually prefer to shop at thrift stores [and] yard/garage/estate sales because the prices are so much lower. I like what I like regardless of what’s in style at the moment. I generally don’t care about that and focus on getting things I like that I, at least, think look good on me. When I do shop at a regular store, be it a discount store like Walmart, a Marshalls/T.J. Maxx/Ross Dress for Less-type of store, or even a major department store like J.C. Penney, I make a beeline to the clearance racks. I skip right over the new stock and go for the end-of-season or last-of-its-kind fashions. When in a regular store, I make a beeline for the clearance signs and try not to even look at the non-clearance racks!
Are you responsible for buying anyone else’s clothing?
I buy my husband’s clothes — and always have — mainly the same way I do for myself. I also buy clothes for my grandchildren generally at the same places I buy them for myself, but also at a local children’s clothing consignment shop.
Do you tend to spend more or less on your own clothes versus what you buy for other people?
Less, generally speaking, for myself! It’s much more fun to buy things for my two adult children and three grandchildren.
Has shopping ever gotten you into debt?
How does your approach to shopping compare to your parents’ or family’s approach to shopping? Do you think you spend more or less?
I shop very much like how my mother did when I was growing up, although she also sewed her own clothes, which I do not do! The rest of my family shops very similarly, although not entirely. They are better about buying higher-quality items than I am. I don't care that much!
Do you have similar shopping habits as your friends or coworkers?
Most of my friends and former co-workers also enjoy shopping and finding good deals. It's almost like a competition on how little we can pay for something or where we found it! I am not above picking things up I see on the side of the road, which are then free! Though that is usually just furniture.
Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.