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The Day My Mom Became a Cheap JAP

This past Monday was a day that will go down in Cheap JAP history. As I can’t explain why without a bit of back story, a brief description of mother-daughter shopping excursions of years past is in order.

The act of shopping for material goodies with Mom seems like a grand idea in theory – you bond over your collective love of stuff and she picks up the tab. While shopping is def a means of bonding for me and my own mother, it’s also a source of stress and melodrama. This is because we both suffer from advanced cases of I-Am-Always-Right syndrome – a condition that tends to make itself known the moment we enter a store.

As a result of this mutual affliction, Mom and I have engaged in a considerable amount of dressing room battles over the years. High price points a la Bloomies and Saks only exacerbate our tendency to butt heads over all-things-material. Said head-butting plays out like this:

-Are you really going to wear that?
-Of course I am, I love it.
-Okay, but you have nine hundred other tops – do you REALLY need that one?
-I don’t know, do you really need ANOTHER pair of shoes?
-Don’t you start with me missy, these are a great deal.
-You know you won’t be able to walk in those heels.
-Will too.
-Will not.
-Will too.
-Will NOT.
-Will TOO.
-Will NOT!
-Will TOO!

We can’t help it. It’s the IAAR syndrome.

Mom and I haven’t shopped much together as of late, in part because I can’t stomach the price points of her stores of choice, in part because she can’t stomach the non-boutiquey atmospheres of mine. Or so I thought, until I decided to check out Buffalo Exchange’s Philadelphia branch and invited her along on a whim. When she accepted without hesitation, I was pleasantly surprised…and really effing nervous. Could someone who didn’t have to shop cheap appreciate a brand found secondhand?

I got my answer mere moments after we’d entered the store. In my experience, it usually takes thrifting newbies five minutes or so to adjust to the atmosphere before they’re ready to shop. Not Mom. She jumped right in alongside me, sifting through the dress racks with a zeal characteristic of her at the Barney’s Warehouse Sale. I wasn’t just relieved; I was uber impressed.

Mom: (holding up $15 H&M dress) How do you feel about something like this?
Me: Well, it’s cute, but the price/brand differential isn’t all that stellar. See, H&M is cheaply made to begin with, so if you’re buying it already worn, it won’t have a ton of staying power. Plus, you don’t get the thrill of the score.
Mom: I see.

I then launched into a diatribe on shopping as a game of sorts.

Mom: Sweetie, I got it. I know a thing or two about this, you know.

Of course she did. It was at this point that I realized Mom hadn’t just taught me how to shop. I’d inherited her spirit of adventure and curiosity of the unknown too – the very qualities that first enabled me to take a chance on thrift. In this environment, we weren’t on a typical mother-daughter shopping excursion. We were explorers digging for brand gems, captains navigating a sea of secondhand clothes.

Our giddiness over finding fab stuff for a fraction of its retail cost effectively kept the IAAR syndrome at bay.

Mom: Remember what we used to pay for Theory at Saks?!
Me: I know, right?!
Mom: This is incredible!

Case in point: A Kay Unger tube top, one of Mom’s many scores.
(Kay Unger’s merch retails from $150 to $500, FYI).

Mom and I recommended items to each other along the way, but the stubbornness and criticism of shopping excursions past was noticeably absent. And while we acquired an impressive haul of stuff, we accomplished something greater than the art of the steal that day.

We learned how to have fun shopping together.

Thank you, Mom, for being my shopping buddy (I think I’m getting a little verklempt :)).

I’m already looking forward to our next sartorial adventure.



so happy for (and a little jealous of) you “it’s all those used clothes, dear” bedbug advice, which incidentally, is what my mom says as soon as i tell her something is thrifted.


Congrats to your mom on that top! If i weren’t in a wannabe gothic phase at the moment, I would love it.


It’s so great that shopping with our moms is such a bonding and fun thing to do. Sadly my mom is farther away now so we only get to do this a few times a year now. My mom will go thrifting with me but she is usually looking at books and art while I scavenge through all the many racks. She is a great sport and with out her I would have never learned to be such a great thrifter. I grew up going to the thrifts with my mom and aunts. As they were looking for antiques, I was shopping for clothing, shoes and all things pretty. I love that you are training your mom to be a bargain shopper, she is darling. YEA for bonding with moms.


A. YOU/YOUR MOM= freaking awesome. My mom freaked out at the idea of “used clothing”
B. This has nothing to do with this post but remember how you said the next big thing spearheaded by Chloe Sevigny was socks with sandals? Yeah, totally here now:

SO RIGHT. Albeit with sexy shoes. But I figure it’s only a matter of time.


you were in philly??!?!
not to dis my city, but i’ve never found one good thing at that buffalo exchange to which you refer. perhaps i’ll have to prepare to truly search as thoroughly as you do. oooh how to not be overwhelmed by the racks of crap?

39th & Broadway

Awww, so sweet I love this post. I think every mom has a bit of Cheap Jap in her.

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