Cheap + Cheap + Cheap + Expensive

Sweater: Purchased on clearance for a few dollars, then modified with a pair of scissors.

So much better without that fake collar thingie.

(That’s a tip from my ebook, by the way. Before you give up on a piece of clothing, see if you can cut off part of it. This works great for faux-layered items like my sweater.)

Black shirt: Purchased at Goodwill for $2.99 with a hole in the seam, then mended.

Stretchy Skinny Jeans: Purchased at Goodwill for $6.

Boots: New from L.L. Bean, $169.00

They didn’t cost me quite $169, though. I’m an Ebates member (I joined back when it first started in 2001), and an email from them alerted me to the fact that L.L. Bean was have a 15% off sale. Plus, Ebates gives a small percentage back, so I got an additional $3.38 cash back simply for signing into Ebates before I ordered my boots.

So, I got $28.73 off. And L.L. Bean offers free shipping every day. So, my boots cost me $140.

I don’t know that I’ve ever spent that much on a pair of shoes before, but I hadn’t spent any of my Christmas money, and I’ve been wanting equestrian style boots for quite some time now (my 10 year old daughter even has a pair, for crying out loud!)

Plus, L.L. Bean’s products are guaranteed to satisfy, and these boots are made of leather, unlike the cheaper boots I’ve seen in the stores.

I have very difficult-to-fit feet, so the odds of me finding second-hand boots that fit me properly were about nil. A new pair of leather boots can stretch to fit my feet just right. Plus, my Goodwill doesn’t have equestrian boots…everyone is donating heeled boots instead (trust me, I’ve been looking!)

I lurve my boots muchly, and thus far, I think they were worth every penny.

Ok. How about some outtakes? Lisey took the photos of me for this post, and Sonia and Zoe were busily trying to sneak into all the shots.

While I think thrift store shopping is a great idea (obviously!), if you need to buy something new online, do remember to check Ebates first. It’s free to open an account there, and if you want, they can send you emails letting you know about sales and extra cashback events (I wouldn’t have known about the 15% off sale without that!).

Plus, if you have an account, you can refer other people and you’ll get $5 in your account when the person you referred makes their first purchase of $25 or more.

(that’s my referral link up there, just so you know. If you’d prefer to sign up without using that link, though, you can always just go to Ebates directly.)

What’s the point of this whole post?

Well, I guess it’s just that thrift store/clearance shopping doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.

Also, if you managed to buy part of your wardrobe at thrifty prices, sometimes you can afford to spend a little (or a lot!) more on a long-lasting staple item.

And lastly, when you do decide to purchase something big like my boots, keep an eye out for sales/discounts/cash-back opportunities.


Today’s 365 post: What? You don’t tie up your blinds with a cell phone charger cord too?

Joshua’s 365 post: A Flame


  1. Melissa says

    Hi Kristin! Love, love, love the boots! And the whole outfit, really. I’m kinda confused about the sweater shirt combo-did you detach the white shirt part of the faux layering and then just have the sweater left? Or am I missing something? lol. I am new to sewing and would love to be able to take clothes from Goodwill and give them updates, if needed, but don’t always understand the mechanics of it. Thanks!

    • Kristen says

      It was a cardigan with a faux collar, but there was nothing faux below the bottom of the sweater. So, it was really short on me, and I had to wear a cami underneath the sweater to keep from baring my midriff. Highly impractical.

      So, I just cut off the white collar part and was left with a practical cardigan.

  2. Linda says

    I agree 100%! Sometimes it’s best to buy brand new. I have a pair of fuzzy, warm, suede boots that I bought brand new (3 yrs ago) for $80. I have worn them practically every day in cold weather for 3 years. They were worth every penny! Alas, they are starting to wear out now so I need to save my money to buy a new pair next winter. Oh, and underwear is another thing we always buy brand new :) just sayin’!! I love goodwill and consignment stores! Helps my limited clothing budget stretch.

  3. says

    Very cute outfit and much better without the fake collar thingy! I would totally love boots like that too, I think you did very well with your Christmas money.

  4. Laura says

    The outfit is so cool,I did the same with my ugg boots,got them for $120.00 and will wear them forever,they were worth it!

  5. Jean says

    Boots are not going to be something that you buy every year. I cannot tell you how long I have had my LL Bean boots and they are still in great condition and my DDs bought my Naturlizer boots about 4 years ago and they are still in great condition. My suggestion is to make sure you buy boots that you “love” because you will continue to like them for a long period of time.

  6. nestra says

    I love thrifting but shoes are one thing I will spend some $$ on. I think that buying a good pair of shoes may be pricey but they will last far longer and be far more comfortable than a cheapy pair.

  7. WilliamB says

    Awesome outtakes.

    I agree about not being all or nothing. Most of my daily wear is a combination of inexpensive (but rarely cheap, cheap doesn’t last and I hate shopping for clothes) and expensive – particularly my shoes. I have pancake flat feet and buying good footgear saved me from surgery.

    • Kristen says

      I have the opposite foot design…I have insanely high arches, which means that my foot is a lot taller than most shoes account for. It’s not such a problem when I buy things like ballet flats, since they have no top, but with boots it definitely becomes an issue.

      Fortunately, high arches usually mean good foot health, so I can’t complain too much.

      And yes, I agree about cheap vs. inexpensive, but inexpensive would have made my title too long. ;)

      • Jen says

        Me, too, on the high arches. Those Dansko clogs that everyone raves about are torture devices for me–the top bones of my foot are mashed up against the top of the shoe.

  8. Sarah says

    AND LL Bean has a great return policy. If those boots fail you, and I doubt they will, you can return them and get a replacement pair. I just got my daughter a new backpack because her old one had a funky zipper that got stuck. The original backpack went through a lot before it finally died and now she has a brand spanking new one!

  9. Jeni says

    I think those are wonderful observations! I have a friend that will only ever buy things that are deeply discounted- she often won’t even look at full priced clothing. I can get full priced clothing on a discount most of the time, and I don’t end up paying much more than she does, but I have a lot more choice! My cousin and I have been talking about this a lot lately, us both being on a budget, that some clothes are just worth it to buy full price if you know you will love them and get use out of them. But thrift stores are also a great way to get cute but inexpensive clothes. I have to say, I absolutely love that your blog is not all or nothing.

  10. says

    Great boots! I often have cheap, cheap, expensive outfits. I love the combination when I’m getting dressed. sweater – $3, scarf – $1, jeans – super expensive (but 2 years old, and worth every penny!) Balance I say, balance.

    Love the out takes! Peeking through the door is hilarious!

  11. Rachel says

    Really like your post. This is where I am at right now. I’m trying to establish a better wardrobe. I hadn’t bought a winter coat….ever. Truly. I still owned the one my parents bought me my freshman year in college. So this year I splurged for a good down winter coat (I live in PA – so it’s a necessity) and a nice wool pea coat (though I DID get them both on clearance). I love them and I know they will last for years.

    • WilliamB says

      Ahem. I do still own the long winter coat I got right after college. Juding by your pix, mine is substantially older than yours was. It was on sale for $100. It’s my mid-winter coat and is supplemented by a peacoat for light-winter use. The linings on both are in tatters but the outsides are in good shape.

      My Insane Winter Weather coat is a Soviet Infantry Major’s coat, courtesy of a friend who traveled to Russia soon after the fall of the Soviet Union. I only need it when the temps drop below 0F but ain’t no way I’m getting rid of it.

      • Elaine in Ark says

        My dad had a great winter storm coat, which he really needed in Wisconsin. He had it for years and years. Two years before he died, I had the 2-way zipper replaced. Dad died on December 5, and it was just a couple of weeks later when I took his coat to the St. Vincent de Paul store. It made me feel good to know that one more person would be warm during that winter. (It didn’t occur to me that I could have kept it, but in those days, I owned several coats.)

  12. Shana says

    Those boots are gorgeous, and exactly like what I would choose. Other readers have mentioned Bean’s fantastic return policy – I was wondering if – years and years down the line – if the soles began to wear out – would you send them back for a replacement, or just get them re-soled? If the boots were still in great condition (which I would expect), I mean.

    • Kristen says

      I think after years and years, it would be hard to return something ethically, you know? I mean, how can you be dissatisfied after years of wear? I know they’d take them back and refund my money, but I’d opt to resole them instead.

  13. priskill says

    Such an adorable outfit and LOVE the boots — so worth it for all the reasons stated. I am a serious cheapskate, but that just means I can splurge for the special or necessarily more expensive items. Just love the classy outfit — and its provenance (spelling?).

  14. says

    Good boots are always a great idea. I have a pair that cost me a fortune-10 years ago. They’ve been re-soled, tweaked…and still look great. So I guess wear for wear they didn’t cost me much. Plus they make me happy and feeling good about yourself (even sometimes if it’s the superficial outside bits) is pretty important too.

    You look adorable. C:

  15. says

    I love this post! What a great outfit!!
    You should show it to Angela for one of her Thrifty Threads feature.
    Most of my purchases being CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP, leaves room in my budget for an occasional expensive purchase.

  16. says

    I am in the process of trying to establish a smaller wardrobe of clothes I love and use, and in so doing, I have been spending more on individual pieces I love than I usually have done. It makes me feel weird and uncomfortable, but I think I am ultimately going to save money. The good pieces last longer and I have more motivation to mend them. (Incidentally, I used your ebook recently because I had a top I loved that got a hole. I was going to cut off the sleeves, but have decided to go with a decorative patch.) I think the occasional good piece means a lot. I know you know the saga of my $120 raincoat. No regrets so far! I shall be wearing it today and I love having a pretty raincoat that really keeps me dry. I think trying to keep one’s wardrobe to liked, worn pieces is really important.

  17. Libby says

    One way to consider an expensive purchase is to think about the cost per wearing. I imagine the boots will last you 10 years easily and you will probably wear them at least twice a week for five months a year. That works out to a cost per wearing of 35 cents. ($140/10 years = $14.00 per year. Five months x 4 weeks x 2 times a week = 40. $14/40 = $0.35) Cheaper boots probably won’t last as long or won’t be worn as often as they won’t be so comfortable.

    When I was a student living in France, I was stunned by the high prices of clothing until someone explained it to me. Most European woman have smaller wardrobes of high quality clothing and they buy one or two new pieces each season. They augment this high-price & high-quality clothing with less expensive “trendy” accessories or tops. Being raised with “more is better”, it was a real eye-opener to think about a wardrobe as an investment with long term implications.

    Love the boots!

  18. says

    I live in rainy Portland, Oregon so I always treat my leather and suede shoes (and certain bags) with weatherproofing spray and that really extends their life. I’ve never had much luck with thrift stores so I keep to a small wardrobe of rather pricey items and try to make them last as long as possible.

  19. says

    Hi Kristen, we use Goodwill and Charity shops for bargains too. Have you thought of looking for an L.L. Bean outlet store? I recently bought a pair of L.L.Bean shoes there that I would never have bought otherwise. They were originally $160! No way, I could afford that, but marked down to $120 I at least could afford to look at them and wish I could afford to buy them. I tried them on, durn it, they fit perfectly AND were comfortable. But I noticed a scratch on them. Well it doesn’t hurt to ask, so I went over and asked if there was any way they could reduce the price even more? After conferring with her supervisor they told me they would let me have them for $80. I bought them. Even $80 is more than I have ever paid for a pair of shoes before – I am 70 years old. But I am glad that I did, they are comfortable, and they look cool – hey even us old’uns still like to look cool!

  20. Jen says

    I have two strategies for saving on clothes other than thrift stores:

    1) One of my close friends is a clothes horse, and in addition, her mom sends her boxes of clothes found thrifting and garage-saling in her nearby wealthy neighborhoods. I made it known that I am always happy to go through her giveaways and take whatever I don’t want to the Sally Ann for her. She is taller and has more up top than I so sometimes alterations are required. Simple ones I can do myself, but we have a retired seamstress in town who does alterations very reasonably and I don’t mind paying $10-15 for her to do over a nice dress or jacket to fit me.
    In return, I offer to watch my friend’s dog and feed her cat when she is out of town, and make sure to give her ARC copies from my store to read that I know she will like.
    2) I make expensive clothing purchases into gift -giving opportunities. For years my husband’s family (most of whom do not live near us) sent us stuff for our house, which was aewsome when we needed it. But our house is now full! So I suggested to my MIL (who is a thrifty Yankee) that large-ticket clothing items would be a nice substitute. This Christmas she gave me $$$ for new winter boots–and we happened to be in the same town at that point so I took her along on my shopping trip and we had a lovely time together as well. Her gift $$$ allowed me to spend more on boots than I would have otherwise and get some I really like and that are very warm. When you live in a climate where it is winter 6 months of the year, good boots are pretty close to a luxury! Last year she sent my husband an LL Bean gift card to use for a new winter coat. This strategy is also popular among our family and friends for big tickets recreational items like new skis or snowshoes, tents, bikes, etc.

  21. says

    Love the boots! Nice shoes are where I splurge as well. Classic styles are the way to go because you can wear them for years. When your clothes are all second-hand like mine (or 20+ years old!) a nice pair of shoes really makes the difference in an outfit that’s just ok and one that’s great – like yours!
    I also do lots of revamping of wardrobe pieces that I’ve bought at “The Bins” (Goodwill outlet – clothing is priced by the pound) and pick-up lots of items for my teens as well. Both of my kids are responsible for buying their own clothing and my daughter was thrilled recently when I came home with 4 shirts that cost her $1.00! Like any teenage girl, she loves to shop but will opt for second-hand first – making this mama proud :)

  22. Lisa says

    I am glad you treated yourself to a nice pair of boots (which look fabulous on you, by the way!)
    I just got two new pairs of running shoes for my birthday from hubs. I really, really debated on whether or not to spend the money (which we have). The store was having a BOGO 50% sale. I got a pair of Saucony and a pair of Ryka. I have been running for a few years now, and I never had shoes like that EVER. Let me tell you….wow. I never knew!! I absolutely love my new shoes.
    Some things are just worth it. And as long as we are responsible with the gifts God has given us, we are doing just fine!
    Yay for new shoes!

    • Shana says

      Ryka are my absolute favorite athletic shoes, EVER. I always have two pairs (one white, one black) that I wear for workouts and two older pair that have been rotated as walking shoes, and then another two even older pair that I use for working outside. I adore them.

      P.S. The white/black thing is because I like the way black aerobic shoes look with black workout pants/capris. Purely aesthetic :)

      • Lisa says

        I am so there with you!! I never knew a pair of shoes that could make me want to run even MORE than I already do!! I have not yet used the Saucony, but will probably rotate them in next run.
        I, too, will use my old running shoes for the gym since I do my running outside. I think they will be okay with that…hee, hee.

  23. Renee CA says

    Totally agree that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I’m really trying to cut way, way back on paper towel usage. I set out a basket of small rags that I made out of old dish towels where the paper towel holder was and put the paper in the pantry. So, paper towels are still available to me, but the basket of rags forces me to think about if I really do need one. I figure I’ve cut back on usage by about two-thirds! Having the goal of just cutting back by percentages is much more comfortable than feeling like you have to make an all or nothing decision.

  24. says

    I own a similar pair of boots and did buy second-hand off eBay (sorry not trying to show off ;-)) – that was 3 years ago and they cost 35 and here’s a picture of them about to be cleaned . Last year I very nearly purchased a new pair for 125 as they had started letting water in. Low and behold a hole in the sole! 12.50 later fixed at a local cobblers – 10% of new price. I’ve just taken them off as I came in the house. However the point of the comment (rather than to show off my eBay skills) is to say I am so on the same page. The whole point of not buying ‘tat’ is so when you do want to buy something with a higher price tag, you can – debt and guilt free. Life’s short, and to go without for the sake of it is pointless (IMO) – but at the same time that doesn’t give you a license to spend (live within your means, buy what you need and occasionally treat yourself to what you desire). Select high quality high price well-thought out purchases should be made appropriately. Hence I too am looking at some winter boots, but because it takes me so long to actually make the purchase we are starting to get a Spring vibe in the UK, so it’ll be flip flops soon (I can dream).
    You look great in them might I add!

  25. says

    I love both Ebates and L.L. Bean! I especially love L.L. Bean because it started near where I grew up, in Maine! L.L. Bean’s stuff lasts FOREVER and even when it doesn’t, it has lifetime replacement and I love that, too!
    I actually just bought my husband’s birthday present from them, through ebates!

  26. says

    You look great! And I LOVE the boots. I’ve been looking for a pair myself (in a rare attempt to be fashionable) but just can’t spend that much right now. Maybe I’ll find something on clearance as we are nearing the end of boot season.

  27. DawnF says

    Love your boots! Check out the cool mama! :)

    I just registered for Ebates through your link ~ it looks like a great opportunity to save and earn!

    Have you ever considered signing up at Upromise? It’s a college savings program. We signed up after my son was born and have earned quite a substantial amount that Upromise directly transfers to his college fund quarterly. It’s completely and totally free. Just thought I’d give you a heads up on it. I have no ties to Upromise (other than having our own account), but it’s something this frugal mom loves and wanted to share.

    LOVE your blog! Thank you for always sharing so many great things with us!

    • Kristen says

      Yup! I signed up with Upromise WAY back in the day too. I haven’t logged in for a while, though…I should check my balance.

  28. says

    You look hot!

    I love how you’ve shown it doesn’t have to be all or nothing – all new or all thrift.

    I have hard to fit feet too and have found that to get good use out of my shoes I have to pay more for great quality (in my unusual size). I pay more but they last longer and I only have a few pairs of shoes.

    Also, just thought about it, shoes are kind of my transportation too. We don’t have a car so I do 5-8 hours of walking in the winter and a lot more in the summer. My shoes need to look good, fit well and get me in to town on foot!

  29. Katie says

    Great boots! I bet you will wear them all the time.

    I also spend barely anything on my clothes, but a lot on my footwear. I’m currently trolling eBay for a replacement for my favorite combat boots, which I got in 1999. I got a LOT of wear out of them, but are now unrepairably broken. The first pair I saw on there in my size was a buy-it-now for $35, in great condition. I thought I shouldn’t buy the first pair that came around (so I could see what they generally go for), but I think that was a mistake! Ah well. I will get the next ones.

  30. sandra wyrick says

    Great pics! Wish i had your “eye” to see how things could look. I am very bad when it comes to dressing myself.

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