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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

How to host the Carnivale of Couture

The Bargain Queen recently hosted the Carnivale of Couture, run by the super-fantastic shoe blogger Manolo - and frankly had no idea what she was doing. Today she's sharing what she learnt along the way. So if you're a blogger and have thought about hosting the Carnivale of Couture but don't know what to do, read on!

(Some of this advice is applicable to other blog festivals as well. If you'd like to see which other festivals are out there, check out the Blog Carnival Index.)

Step one: ask the host
If you'd like to host the Carnivale of Couture, the first thing to do is email Manolo and ask if you can host it one week. Don't feel like you have to have a topic already; Manolo recently said:

The Manolo would also wish you to know that step of choosing the topic it is not absolutely necessary.

If you are the next host of the Carnivale and you cannot devise the suitable topic, do not panic. Many other blog carnivals do not have the weekly topic, in the stead they ask each participant to select what they believe to be their best post from the previous week, which then becomes the submission for the carnival.

The important thing is to be included in the upcoming schedule; if you're not on the schedule, you're not going to host it!

Step two: post your topic before 'your week'
When you're added to the schedule, Manolo will tell you which week is 'your week'.

While The Bargain Queen is usually regarded as reasonably intelligent, this got her all confused. In Australia, 'week of June 12th' would usually mean 'week beginning June 12th' so she was all set to post her topic on the Monday of her week... which is when her Carnivale was actually supposed to finish. Oops! Thankfully the fabulous Designer Ella set her straight before her week was all over. Thanks Ella!

So if you'd like to be cleverer than The Bargain Queen, post your topic to your blog a few days before the Monday of your week. Then email Manolo so he knows you're ready to go.

Step three: read STACKS of email
Once Manolo posts on his blog saying that your topic is up, be prepared for an avalanche of email. Manolo is a very popular man and anything he mentions gets a lot of attention - including the Carnivale. The Bargain Queen received about 30 full responses to her topic, plus a whole lot of related comments on her blog; you'll probably experience something similar.

So make sure you've set aside a few hours to read it all!

Step four: post on your blog
When you've read all the responses, it's time to post links to them all on your blog. The Bargain Queen's not about to tell you how to post on your blog; you already know how to do that! Hosting the Carnivale in your own inimitable way keeps it interesting, so don't feel like you have to ape anyone else.

But if you would like to see some examples of what other people have done first, check out:
Or if you're feeling really inspired, you could check out Manolo's Carnivale of Couture archive.

Step five: have fun!
Not so much a step as a general tip: have fun hosting your Carnivale! It doesn't have to be super-serious or hard work; just have a good time with it and enjoy all the extra attention ;)

Happy hosting everyone!

PS: If anything in this post contradicts something you've heard elsewhere, please post a comment and let us know; occasionally The Bargain Queen does get things wrong!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

My best-ever bargain

The Bargain Queen is very, very late to her own party. She hosted last week's Carnivale of Couture, in which she asked:
What is your best-ever bargain? Where did you find it, how much was it and why is it your favourite?
Due to extreme technical difficulties she's taken a little while to post hers. But here they are! And no, she couldn't narrow it down to just one...

Gold heart necklace

heart necklace

The Bargain Queen bought this necklace in an op (thrift) shop for $6. It's 925 silver with gold plating, probably only 14K but it still looks pretty. Of all The Bargain Queen's bargains, this is the most frequently used. When it's warm enough to wear open shirts, this necklace gets worn about 4 times a week.

It looks pretty with everything and finishes off an outfit nicely, plus it just generally makes The Bargain Queen feel happy whenever she wears it. Yay for pretty necklaces!

Kenneth Cole boots

Kenneth Cole boots

The Bargain Queen's other best-ever bargain was a LOT more expensive. These Kenneth Cole boots were US$125 and The Bargain Queen bought five years ago when the exchange rate completely sucked, so they cost over $250 in Australian money. Eep!

So how are they still a bargain? Because they've been worn so many times that on a cost-per-wear basis they're cheaper than any cheap shoes she's ever bought. They're also incredibly comfortable and The Bargain Queen LOVES attractive, comfortable shoes because she walks practically everywhere.

These are brilliant for both work and hiking, which is basically unheard-of in a shoe. Even in their current battered state, they shine up nicely enough to be acceptable under trousers in the office; plus The Bargain Queen can walk miles in them without getting sore feet. That's saved a lot of space in suitcases because she can wear these on the plane, tuck some shoe polish in her toiletries kit and know she'll be acceptably shod for all but the most formal occasions. (Well, unless there's hot weather...)

After five years and hundreds of kilometres/miles, they're just starting to wear out. They don't look as great when they're polished and the sole has worn away on one side, although they're still super-comfy to walk in. Still, one day soon they'll go to shoe heaven and The Bargain Queen dreads that day. They're now saved for travel and long hikes in wet weather to try to preserve them a little longer, and she's starting to look for replacements since Kenneth Cole don't seem to make them any more. If they do ever make these again, The Bargain Queen will buy three pairs on the spot, cost be damned!

And until then, The Bargain Queen's on the lookout for the perfect hiking boot. It must have tough leather on the outside and supple kid leather on the inside... preferably in purple like these. They must have a thinner, more flexible sole than standard hiking boots so you can feel and respond to changes in the ground, but also have fantastic grip... just like these do. And lastly, they mustn't be ugly like 'real' hiking boots invariably are. If you see anything that fits the bill then please, please let The Bargain Queen know!

Filed in:

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Trash: the serious side

Yesterday The Bargain Queen showed off all the things she found amongst the 'trash' people put out for the Council to take. She's absolutely thrilled with all the great things she got and the other scavengers she saw looked pleased with their finds too.

There is a serious side to it though. Every single thing that was put out and wasn't snapped up is now in landfill. That's fine if something's broken beyond repair and has no reusable or recycleable parts, but what about all these things The Bargain Queen saw yesterday? She wonders if all these should be in landfill:
  • Literally hundreds of electrical appliances, many of them newish with no obvious damage, some still in their original packaging
  • Piles of clothes in clean, undamaged and completely wearable condition
  • Solid wooden furniture, re-painted badly then discarded
  • Christmas presents that had been opened at one end and put in the trash with their wrapping paper still on
  • A mountain of kids toys, many in great condition
  • Building materials like 100 year old skirting boards and 60 year old security doors, which need a little cleaning but still work great and would sell easily in salvage shops
  • Lots of half-empty tins of paints, varnishes, strippers etc, some were even unopened
  • Practically every kind of household goods imaginable in clean, working, reusable condition
If you wanted to furnish a whole house for free from these piles of 'rubbish', you could - and probably some of the new migrants in the area do. For all of it to end up in landfill instead makes The Bargain Queen really sad. Every single item was made from natural resources, packaged, shipped, bought, used a little and then thrown out. Some had even been wrapped and given as gifts, then discarded unused. There's somebody who needs or would love every one of those things, but instead they've gone to the tip.

This isn't about to turn into a sermon on keeping things til they break though. The Bargain Queen is a fickle fashion fiend, so she's often guilty of discarding still-useful things because her tastes have changed. For example, she has a whole wardrobe of ultra-sleek, tailored and slightly boyish clothes that she wants to replace merely because she's going through a girlier phase and would rather wear lace and low-cut necklines now.

There is a financially, environmentally and socially responsible way to be a fickle fashion fiend though, and that's to keep the stuff going around. Buying pre-loved items (or finding them on the street) is not only cheaper, it also means more things get used 'til they wear out, so less new stuff needs to be made. If you can find some items for your latest fad in a consignment store, eBay, a thrift store or an outlet where retailers send their detritus, you're likely to get a great deal - and you can give yourself a little pat on the back for environmental friendliness too. But even if you can't bring yourself to wear thrift store clothes or drag furniture in from the kerb, you can dispose of useful things you no longer need in a way that keeps them in circulation.

Here's some ideas of better ways to get rid of useful 'trash':
  • Thrift stores. If you give your things to a charity-run thrift store, they'll either be sold to make money for the charity, or given to someone so needy they can't even afford to buy things in the thrift store. Either way, you get some good karma from the deal.

  • Freecycle. The Bargain Queen waxes lyrical about freecycle on a regular basis. Freecycle runs lots of local mailing lists where you can post a message about things you have to give away. People email you to say they'd like them and you negotiate a time for them to collect things from you. It's a great way to get rid of things you don't need and get things you do.

  • eBay. Your stuff has to be worth a reasonable amount to make it worth the time and effort of listing on eBay, but if it is, it can be a great way to get some extra money for your stuff. The Bargain Queen once made $1,000 selling two old gas heaters her boyfriend's father was throwing out. (They retailed for over $2,500 and were in good condition though. They're by far the best eBay sale The Bargain Queen's ever made!)

  • Community organisations. This take more creativity, but you might be able to match unusual things you want to get rid of with an organisation in your area that needs them. For example, The Bargain Queen has given un-needed craft supplies to a local pre-school, she sent her old computers to a sustainable farm up in the mountains and an old chemistry set went to a high school science teacher she found on freecycle. It's a very direct way to improve your area a little while getting rid of your junk.
Even if the environmental consequences of useful stuff ending up in landfill don't bother you, think of it this way: if you're reading The Bargain Queen's blog, you probably like bargains. When people keep their stuff in circulation, it becomes a potential bargain for someone else (especially in a thrift store, on eBay or in a consignment store). If everyone makes a minimal effort to make their 'junk' available to others, that's a huge pool of potential bargains for you to choose from.

So please, try to keep your stuff out of landfill!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Showing off: a big pile of trash

Moving into a new area means The Bargain Queen's making a whole lot of fantastic new discoveries. In the way of shopping, there's luscious cheap seafood, more dollar stores than you'd believe, fantastic Thai food, lots of Asian grocery stores and a massive home improvement warehouse just up the road. Loving it all! But the absolute best thing so far is... the garbage collection!

In the area we've just moved into, they still do an old-style large waste collection day. This is the one day every six months or so when the Council will pick up all the stuff that doesn't fit in your regular trash - old matresses, broken couches, building materials, etc etc. In the area we used to live, you could call any time and they'd pick this stuff up, so it didn't all happen on one day any more.

The Bargain Queen headed out early yesterday morning to check out all the things that were being thrown away.

Here's what she came home with:

Framed Indian poster

Indian poster

The Bargain Queen LOVES this picture. It only needed a quick wipedown to remove a few years of dust and it'll look fantastic hanging in our bedroom. Score!

Funky striped rug

Striped rug

This is super-bright on one side, muted on the other. It works really well under our dining table and hides some of the so-so carpet we're about to pull up... so it'll soon be hiding yet-to-be-restored floorboards instead. It was freshly cleaned, neatly folded and has only a little damage, so we're thrilled to get it!

Mid-century leather-upholstered chair

Mid-century leather-upholstered chair

This was sitting by the side of the road in two pieces but took only five minutes, a mallet and a screw to repair. Not because The Bargain Queen's so clever, but because it was so well-made to begin with.

So what will we do with a single chair that doesn't match all our others? The Bargain Queen's trying it out as a dining-room-friendly desk chair, since our new place is so tiny that her work space has to be in the living/dining room. If it's comfy, that means no big ugly office chair in our living room, which is a big improvement.

60s placemat set, new in box

This 60s placemat set for two was still in its original packaging. It needs a quick clean to de-moth it but is otherwise perfect, so we'll use it when we're eating at home along together (which is most nights).

placemats in box

This is how they look in use:

placemats in use

Big spice jars

Jars - eight of these!

Spices are much, much cheaper to buy in big quantities and they keep better too. We're a few jars short after the move so it was fantastic finding eight of these in a box by the side of the road. The person who threw them out had even cleaned them and packed them in a box with handles for easy carrying. Thank you stranger, whoever you are.

Blue dress

blue dress

This blue evening dress has a beaded trim and fits The Bargain Queen really well. It was thrown out in immaculate condition and perfectly clean.

(The Bargain Queen hoards evening wear a little, because although she rarely has occasion to wear it, having formal wear on hand saves so much money and stress when it's needed.)

Red dress

red dress front

Another discarded evening dress, this time in sexy red satin. It's not ironed because The Bargain Queen only irons when her life depends on it, which is practically never. It laces up the back like this:

red dress back

The Bargain Queen's especially thrilled because the lining and lacing combined provide enough support that she doesn't have to wear a bra with it - which means it's one of the few backless dresses she can wear!

And last but not least, the strangest find of the day:

Stacks of condoms

The strangest thing The Bargain Queen found amongst all that trash were boxes and boxes of condoms that someone had thrown out. Each one contains 100 condoms, with a sticker for a herpes treatment stuck on each one.

...just like this

The first thing The Bargain Queen thought when she saw them was, what's the logic with that promotional gimic? Are they trying to say 'Don't get herpes, but hey, if you do, use our product!', or was it more like 'Hey happy herpes patients, try not to pass it on!'.

Then she thought, well, a job's a job and some people must hand out condoms with herpes treatment stickers on the back to make a living. If that's your job, what would you do with the leftovers? There's only so many you could use yourself and they'd probably remind you of work, which would likely remove the need for them in the first place. So, into the bin they go.

And in case you're wondering, The Bargain Queen brought them home merely to photograph - she might wear other people's garbage but she's not entrusting her reproductive health to it.

Mr Bargain Queen has been greatly enjoying them though... for making balloon animals!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Catching up with the ones we love

The Bargain Queen's been spending some time catching up on the blogs she loves after being offline for so long! Here's some highlights:
  • Designer Ella on what she hates about fashion... I'm sure we've all felt that way when we need something specific (new work outfit, flattering evening wear, jeans that make your bum look fantastic) and the gods of fashion have decreed that noone wants that this year so not a single store stocks it, no matter how much you have to spend.

  • Street fashion photos on She's A Betty. The Bargain Queen loves great real outfits so much more than high fashion photo shoots, although she's also pretty partial to the latter. But while striking images are great, there's nothing better than seeing how someone ties their scarf or layers their jackets and thinking 'I could do that' - especially when it works when you try it and you've suddenly got a great new look for free!

  • Jory des Jardins talked about her own wedding ambivalence and linked to Make Love, Not Debt. The Bargain Queen wants to personally start an 'end the $30,000+ wedding' campaign. If you love weddings and want to spend a lot that's great, but why should we all feel pressured to do it? Why do the 'simple' weddings in magazines still have 120+ guests, $4,000 wedding gowns and matching bridesmaid ensembles? (The Bargain Queen doesn't hate any of her friends enough to make them wear a bridesmaid dress, let alone pay for it themselves and go to all the fittings.) Why do aunts who never call and haven't invited you to anything in years suddenly hate you if they don't invite them to your wedding?

  • And in blog-world news, Coutorture got a mention in Women's Wear Daily. Congratulations Julie!

Filed in:

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Bargain Queen's ultimate shopping destination - Scottsboro, Alabama?

Have you ever chosen a holiday destination solely for the shopping opportunities there? Or even so you can visit one particular very special shop?

The Bargain Queen wouldn't normally choose a travel destination that way - seeing beautiful places and interesting things, visiting family and friends or practising speaking French (very badly) are normally much stronger motivations. If there's great shopping along the way, all the better, but it just seems so shallow for that to be the main motivation.

There is one exception though, and it's not Muji or Uniqlo or Petit Bateau. It's the Unclaimed Baggage Centre in Scottsboro, Alabama. The Bargain Queen would seriously alter a travel itinerary just to check this place out, even though most of her American friends are from the north and say not-so-nice things about the south.

This store is where unclaimed baggage from all over the world ends up and is sold, and it sounds like a cool place to go for three reasons. Firstly, The Bargain Queen keeps hearing about amazing bargains people have found there. Secondly, there's something fascinating about the strange things people take on airlines and subsequently lose. Thirdly, a big thrift store is always a good place to check out and this one gets pretty good reviews.

There are a few items for sale on their web site: Alexander McQueen pumps for $112.50; Dior driving loafers for $100; a book on the Facial Makeup of the Peking Opera for $15; Bang & Olufsen earphones for $75 and various iPods for $125, $135 and $185 (all prices in US dollars if you're wondering). The big attraction is the 7,000 'new' items on the shelves each day though, and the vast majority of these are not on the site. Sigh.

So next time The Bargain Queen heads States-side, she's off to Alabama for a spot of shopping. What an unlikely place to pick!

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Friday, May 19, 2006

The Bargain Queen is back online!

Regular readers of this blog might've noticed that it hasn't been updated as often as usual for the last few weeks. For this, The Bargain Queen wants to apologise profusely and offer a brief explanation.

Long story short, we moved house last Wednesday but only got the phone connected today (thanks Telstra). We now have dial-up, but no DSL for another fortnight. Which means The Bargain Queen can post here and update her categories again, finally, but is a bit bandwidth-limited for other things like reading blogs.

The Bargain Queen's used her time offline productively though: she's been planning some exciting new things, which you'll get to see in this blog soon.

So y'all come back now! ;)

Lifestyle trade-offs: being frugal while having fun

J.D. from Get Rich Slowly has posted an excellent follow-up to The Bargain Queen's post on FrugalForLife.

It's called Lifestyle trade-offs: being frugal while having fun. If you're interested in the frugality/budget conscious side of bargain hunting, go take a look!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Bargain Queen on FrugalForLife

The Bargain Queen has a guest post on FrugalForLife today. It's called My Frugally Fashionable Life and it's her attempt to show that frugality and fabulousness can mix. If you're interested, go take a look!

Your best-ever bargains, part three!

For this week's Carnivale of Couture, The Bargain Queen asked...
What is your best-ever bargain? Where did you find it, how much was it and why is it your favourite?
...and the response has been phenomenal!

Here's some more amazing bargains the Carnivale's readers have found:

Ms_Moron makes a much smarter observation than her name would imply: she says her best bargain isn't her £5.50 Burberry trenchcoat £25 Marc Jacobs 60's style flats because she rarely wears them. (Good point!) Want to find out what beats these? Follow the link above!

Girl Detective found her wedding dress for $160, and it sounds stunning. Can't wait to see those photos!

Anonymous said…

My first great bargain was a Burberry classic trenchcoat, with wool lining and collar attachments, obtained from a thrift store in Hampton, Virginia, for fifty dollars. It was in mint condition and worth at least $900.00.

My second bargain was a Brooks Brothers green cotton twill -not poplin- three-piece suit which I purchased for about eleven dollars, also at a Hampton thrift store. The suit would have an approximate value of at least $300.00.

And La BellaDonna said…

I have made some funderful scores, but in terms of Biggest Bargain, I would have to say it was a pretty patchwork mink coat, in good condition and my size, which cost me $2.00. Yes, that is two of the American dollars. It is currently barricaded in storage, so I'm not certain if it still fits, of course...

Another great bargain was The Coat From Hell, which I made myself, from chunks of fabulous wool broadcloth laboriously matched at a pound sale, at probably $2-3 per yard, and two chunks of almost matching sunbak satin lining. I probably spent under $50 to make a wonderful coat which has held up for 17 years in craptastic weather.

If you've missed the fun so far, check out part one and part two of the best-ever bargains. There are some amazing finds there!

Filed in:

Your best-ever bargains, part two!

To finish off The Bargain Queen's first-ever Carnivale of Couture, here's some amazing bargains submitted by the carnivale's lovely participants.

Firstly, the fabulous people who posted pictures, because The Bargain Queen gets all excited over pictures:

Ms Shoewawa found bargain Robert Clergerie shoes, reduced from £200 to a mere £29.99. Take a look at the pic, they're fanastic!

Ivy Frozen's best bargains are $10 Charlotte Russe cowboy boots for winter and $5 Mudd leopard print sandals for summer. Both super-cute! Plus she praised The Bargain Queen, which makes her our new favourite person ;)

Geekigirl has pics of two pairs of Diesel shoes ($20 and $50 respectively), plus the most gorgeous chocolate Bossa dress. Love love love that dress!

Kathleen Fasanella, who has a blog called Fashion Incubator that The Bargain Queen can't recommend highly enough, said:

My best bargain was a vintage silk slip made in Hong Kong in the forties. It is all hand sewn, bias seams, french embroidery; it is beyond exquisite. Photos and posting of it are here.

I paid $1 for it, I bought it from a dry cleaner was closing his business and it had been left by a customer several years before.

I have another item, absolutely incredible. A fully sequined floor length gown. Please note, the sequins are not plastic - no, they're mother of pearl!!!!! Maybe I'll post that tomorrow. (Please, please do! - BQ) I also got it from the dry cleaner. I think it was $2.

As for equally fabulous bargains without photos...

Scarpediem got a stack of amazing finds, from Robert Clergerie shoes to great bags and clothes. When The Bargain Queen makes it to Philadelphia, she'll be getting some recommendations on where to shop!

Leek in Chicago said...
I got a pair of apple green Manolo Blahniks on sale at Neiman's and I have worn them so many times, and gotten so many compliments - they were truly worth the price if you calculate price per wearing (while on sale, they still were not
(Ooooh, Manolos... stop drooling Bargain Queen, you're going to wreck the keyboard.)

...and Kristopher Dukes got one of the best bargains The Bargain Queen has ever heard of...

I bought a 1970's emerald chiffon gown with gold lame embroidery - labeled Miss
Dior - for $1. Are you turning green like my lovely gown? Also have bought a
1960's white mink coat for $30, and a vintage white mink Saks cap for $8. I love
buying fur in LA.

Monica said...
I don't think I can top Kristopher Dukes. However, I have bought an Emporio
Armani dress in black wool for $10. And yesterday, I arrived at my favorite
consignment shop as they were clearing out old items, and I got a pair of
Adrienne Vittadini heels in black leather for free.
Style Bard posted about a fantastic suede rock star coat she got on ebay for $50, and also said...

Non-fashion-wise, I got an amazing vintage coffee table that's huge and in good
condition for $1.99 and while I can't imagine what I've spent over the years
hauling it around while I move from place to place, the point is that it was a
major bargain and I love that damn table.

...and last but not least, what's The Bargain Queen's best-ever bargain?

You'll have to wait a couple of days to find out. Being without telephone, internet connection and desk because she moved house has slowed The Bargain Queen down a little. They've said someone will connect the phone on Friday afternoon, fingers crossed they'll show up this time...

So come back soon for The Bargain Queen's best-ever bargain. But in the meantime, the Carnivale is moving on to the fabulous Style Graduate. Can't wait to see her topic!

PS: A big thanks must go to Manolo, for your super-fabulous Carnivale organising. Thank you!

Filed in:

Monday, May 15, 2006

Your best-ever bargains

For this week's Carnivale of Couture, The Bargain Queen asked to hear about your best ever bargains. Here are some of the incredible bargains we've heard about already...

Maria Palma found a fantastic Jones New York black, long-sleeved shirt for $9.99.

SlaveToShopping's favourite Talula pink halter top was a mere $4.95!

Style Graduate loves her $10 Rocket dog sandals and $29.99 sheets from Amazon... but rates her education, boyfriend and friendships as even better bargains. (Hear hear!)

The fashion outlaw Linmayu has a swag of great thrift store finds, including a navy-and-white A-line skirt with a chunky chainlink pattern for $1.20, a really neat blue and white vintage dress for $1 and a black Jansport backpack for 90 cents. Quelle bargains!

Designer Ella spotted her almost-perfect wedding dress for $500, but left it on the rack 'til she finds the man to go with it, which got The Bargain Queen making little sympathetic noises out loud in the internet cafe until someone told her to shut up...

Jewellery designer bartered for her whole glass studio including a kiln, which is seriously impressive. The Bargain Queen's going to have to get some bartering tips from you!

Rebecca's fabulous aubergine winter coat was a tiny $40.

Rondi found top-quality Dale of Norway sweaters for only $50 each, down from $400 at a ski sale.

Katie can't nominate a favourite bargain of all time, but her recent favourites are a $3.75 green cardigan and four long-sleeve cotton tops for $35.

Tammy's husband bought her an 18 inch 18kt gold rope-style necklace which cost $15/gram and weighs 20 grams, which is $300 if The Bargain Queen worked it out right. Not bad considering gold prices today!

Phyllis said:
In the 80's I had a long black Anny Taylor trouser skirt that fit me
perfectly and I wore it for about 5 years until it was in tatters. The skirt was
only $60 at the time, and I must have worn is at least 100 times.

Only recently did I find a replacement, which is pattern from HotPatterns,
so now I can make myself replacemnts as each one wears out!

Bead blogger wrote about stunning pearl beads she found for $8 a strand.

And last but not least, Sarah's got a couple of great bargain jackets.

If you'd like to take part in this week's Carnivale of Couture, you're not too late... yet! Either post on your weblog and leave a comment with a link, or tell us about your bargain in the comment if you don't have a blog.

Bring on more bargains!

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Carnivale of Couture: Your best bargain

The Bargain Queen is hosting next week's Carnivale of Couture for the Super-Fantastic Manolo the Shoe Blogger. Her topic is:
What is your best-ever bargain? Where did you find it, how much was it and why is it your favourite?

If you'd like to participate, post your answer on your blog and leave a comment here. Or if you don't have a blog, you're welcome to put your whole answer here.

Let the showing off begin!

Friday, May 05, 2006

We're moving house...

The Bargain Queen is taking a few days break from blogging while she moves house.

See you in a week!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mother's Day bargain hunting

[To The Bargain Queen's mother-in-law Christine: if you're reading this, please skip this post lest I spoil a great surprise!]

In Australia, the U.S.A. and a few other places, Mother's Day is the second Sunday in May, so all catalogues arrive about now. The Bargain Queen approaches Mother's Day the same way she approaches all holidays: she's going to do something lovely for all three mothers in her life, but she's also going to keep to her budget and skip the purposeless consumer items.

For The Bargain Queen's mother-in-law, one of Mr Bargain Queen's brothers suggested we pool our money and buy her a DVD player and some DVDs. It's a great idea because:
  1. She doesn't have a DVD player
  2. Her tastes are so unusual that mainstream TV doesn't offer her much
  3. We can all use it whenever we visit her, if self interest in any way motivated us which of course it doesn't ;)
The Bargain Queen's done some online research to find the best prices for the DVD player and DVDs. Half an hour of browsing the sale catalogues of all the major retailers online will save us $10 on the DVD player and $15 each on the DVDs, for a total of $40 saving. Not bad pay really!

If you want to do the same, most big retailers have a link somewhere on their web site to their sale catalogue. If you're in Australia, here are the current catalogues from Myer, Target and KMart (all places with good specials on electrical goods, and great return policies if your cheap DVD player dies - a not uncommon occurance). In other countries, Google the names of the shops that might have the things you're after and see if they have their sale catalogues on their web site.

As for the DVDs, The Bargain Queen's two favourite places to find them cheaply in Sydney are JB Hi-Fi and Dirt Cheap CDs, which both have listings of many DVDs on their web sites. Mr Bargain Queen and his brothers have been ordered to pick DVDs their mum will like, because they've known her a total of almost 90 years while The Bargain Queen's only known her mother-in-law a little over a year and has never watched a movie with her. Then The Bargain Queen will make a quick trip to the local shopping centre (mall), buy the presents and Mother's Day is set.

At least, that's the plan. What could possibly go wrong?

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Temporarily not updating categories

Just a short administrative note: The Bargain Queen's 'posts by category' archives at aren't being updated right now as we're staying at a friend's place and using a different computer. So if you want to see all the latest stuff, you'll have to check here for a few days!

Better perfume for less money

Since The Bargain Queen's thinking about perfume, she's going to share her best tip for finding breath-taking fragrances without paying an inflated purchase price which covers not only the fragrance, but also those glossy ads you see in Vogue.

While The Bargain Queen wears a commercial fragrance most days, she also uses top quality French essential oils - the kind that were used in perfumery until chemistry and profit margins took over. These beautiful oils are extracted from the plants and have a complexity and nuance that manufactured chemicals lack. They also cost $5-20 for a small bottle that will last over a year if you wear a couple of drops each day.

The trick to getting these so cheaply is to ignore the over-priced little bottles in the chemist (drug store) and go to a good aromatherapy supplier. The Bargain Queen's favourite is New Directions, which now has branches outside Australia as well.

An aromatherapy supplier will sell the really expensive oils like rose and jasmine as 3% dilutions that are safe to use directly on your skin; others you'll need to dilute yourself in a carrier oil like jojoba oil because full-strength oil is too strong. (The only oil which can be used on the skin undiluted is lavender, which is great for treating insect bites but not The Bargain Queen's favourite perfume.)

So what are The Bargain Queen's favourites? She especially loves Bulgarian rose, neroli, champaka, rose geranium and tuberose. These are all beautiful by themselves, or as an accompaniment to a commercial perfume. They're far better quality than the stuff in department stores, they're cheaper and arguably a lot healthier than dousing yourself in chemicals.

The down side to using them? Apart from being harder to source, using them spoils your nose so you'll probably never like commercial perfumes again. This leads to a potentially sticky situation the next time a loved one generously buys you a bottle of Britney. You'll probably grimace when you first smell it, which makes later declarations of appreciation seem a little, erm, fake...

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