Lessons From My Fabulous Frugal Mom, Part 1: Shopping Luxury for Less

This post is the first from my special series: The Best Money Saving Habits I Learned From My Fabulous Frugal Mom. And if there’s one thing she excels at, it’s shopping luxury for less.

Who is frugal mom and why is she fabulous?

When it comes to making the most of your money, my mom is a genius. For her, saving, managing and spending money wisely has become an art form.

But I wasn’t always aware of this. Thanks to my mom’s clever approach to money, we always lived comfortably. We had a house in a good neighborhood, took holidays, got decent haircuts and wore nice clothes. The small luxuries we had were a direct result of my mom’s brilliant ability to make money stretch a long way. By living frugally most of the time, we could afford to splurge where we valued it most.

It wasn’t until I recently discovered the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement and started reading everything I could get my hands on about it, that I discovered that my mom had been living the FIRE lifestyle her entire adult life, years before the movement would, well, catch on fire. Forget our beloved Mr. Money Mustache, my mom is the original financial freedom guru.

Making Frugal Fun

As a savvy single mom, she’s always simply chosen to live this way. Her frugal tendencies tend to come down to her values and to her sense of logic, rather than strict budgeting requirements or rules. In fact, frugal living seems to bring her pleasure. And maybe that’s the key here. Saving money has become an empowering game for my mom. Not only does she sincerely enjoy it, I would go as far as to say that she gets a high from each little money-saving victory. And wouldn’t you? Getting a legit deal feels great!

Having retrained as an accountant during my high school years, my mom now gets this same penny-pinching pleasure from helping her clients “axe the tax”. Nothing makes her happier than trying to save her customers money. Today, we both share this passion for helping others take back control of their finances by teaching clients how to easily manage their unique financial obligations, tax structures and investments situations. Dare I say that managing your money can even be fun?

A fabulous lifestyle on a frugal budget

Contrary to what a lot of financial independence practitioners preach (tiny houses, camping holidays, biking in sub-zero temperatures!), my mom has found a way to live on much less, without sacrificing a lifestyle filled with high-quality experiences and beautiful things. She is always well-dressed, drives a luxury car (more on this in an upcoming post), lives in an expensive home (it’s Vancouver, every house is expensive), eats healthy and travels around the globe. Oh and did I mention that she immigrated to Canada with $200 in her pocket 40 years ago? Just in case you were wondering…

Mom and I in Morocco

Frugal, Family Style

Growing up as an only child, most of the time it was just the two of us. Maybe it was because she had no one else to share her money ideas with, but in our house it was always normal for my mom to openly discuss our family finances. From as early as I can remember, she would tell me about her investment strategies (the dot.com bubble paid for all of my education), explain why she took certain financial decisions and update me on what she was planning to invest in next.

It felt so natural to participate in these conversations, to ask questions and to share my own ideas. I suggested buying Disney stock (obviously!). She didn’t take my advice that time, but actually in hindsight we would have done well. And when I suggested investing money after the tech crash into real estate, she actually bought a rental property and did quite well with it. Over the years, without even realising it, I’ve gradually adopted her frugal fabulous financial philosophy.

So now I want to share my mom’s best money saving tips with you. So that you too can master your money, work less and live a heck of a lot more. You will discover that these easy ways to save money also contribute to an eco-friendly, healthy and happy lifestyle. Who says we can’t have it all?

Money Saving Habit #1: Shop Luxury for Less

Don’t Pay Retail, Shop the Sales

This may seem obvious, but let me break it down for you.

Fabulous frugal mom loves shopping, but she very rarely pays full price. For her, it’s more about the hunt for fabulous treasures at bargain prices. She has a weakness for Anthropologie, and is known for shopping the clearance section on double discount days, which she gets notified about by email. Think of it as 60 percent off, plus another 30. Ditto for Zara – she waits for the sales.

Shop Charity Shops, Second-Hand & Vintage

But buying from fast-fashion brands isn’t her first choice. As someone who loves beautiful clothes, especially high-quality designer labels, my mom’s true pride and joy is buying new-to-you. Think high-end luxury labels for a fraction of their cost. Give us a charity sale on a sleepy Sunday and we’re like two kids in a candy shop.

By charity sales, as opposed to charity shops like the Salvation Army, I am referring to annual one-day sales run by churches, private schools and non-profit organisations, such as the Vancouver Opera Guild or Saint George’s School. To raise money for their respective causes, they resale barely-used luxury items donated by wealthy members of their communities for next to nothing. Over the years mom has come home from these sales with Manolo Blahniks, a Dior suit, an entire Le Creuset cooking set and endless other steals for next to nothing. One year she found me a brand new $400 Vanessa Bruno bag for $2, which I proudly carry around to the ooohs and ahhhs of my girlfriends. If there’s a vintage silk hand-rolled scarf in that bargain bin, you bet your Burberry she will find it.

Of course some days browsing the charity shops and garage sales are better than others, so don’t get discouraged, and definitely don’t settle. It’s all about patience. I often go to special sales and leave without spending a penny. For someone with champagne taste on a lemonade budget, browsing without buying can feel good too. I’m always proud of myself when I come home empty-handed. The thrill is in the hunt for that perfect piece. And you will appreciate it all the more when you finally do find it.

Discover how I decorate a chic and budget-friendly dinner table using gorgeous hand-me downs and affordable flea market finds.

Green & Guilt-Free

Like my mom, I too like getting something “new” from time to time, despite my drive towards sustainable living. New is fun. New is exciting. That’s why I love my mom’s shopping philosophy and find it much easier to stick with when it comes to living on less. Buying second-hand and vintage items are such great ways to get something new at a much lower price, while keeping your consumption of new resources down. And because my mom gets most of her stuff second-hand, she doesn’t have to feel guilty if she wants to get rid of something again a few years later. Since she takes good care of her things, she can just sell or donate them for someone else to enjoy. 10 sustainability points for effort!

Here’s a recap of mom’s favourite places to shop luxury for less:

  • The seasonal sales at regular stores
  • Garage sales (boot sales in the UK and vide-greniers/brocantes in France)
  • School, non-profit and church sales (leave a comment below if you’re interested in our Vancouver list)
  • Charity shops
  • Flea and antique markets (for some extra special finds, try to visit a few local markets when traveling)
  • Estate sales
  • Craigslist, Etsy, Vinted, Depop and other online resellers
  • Hold a clothing swap with a large group of friends *Free*
  • Hand-me down clothes (especially baby clothes!), homegoods and electronics from friends and family *Free*
  • The library (most now even have e-books that you can load onto your tablet for a few weeks at a time, plus loads of movies and magazines) *Free
  • Borrow specific items, such as luggage or tools, that you will only need temporarily, from friends or community groups *Free

Next time you go shopping, there’s no need to feel guilty about the money you’ve spent or about falling off the green wagon. You just need to be smart about it. It’s natural to want to spoil yourself and your loved ones from time to time, or to want to create a beautiful home. You’ve earned it! Just remember to follow frugal fabulous mom’s best shopping habits. Nothing feels as good as Gucci at 90% off.

If you enjoyed learning about shopping luxury on a budget, you will want to check out the next posts in this series: LESSONS FROM MY FABULOUS FRUGAL MOM, PART 2: Eating Healthy on a Budget and LESSONS FROM MY FABULOUS FRUGAL MOM, PART 3: Making Large Purchases


  1. Astrid Huettl

    Love it! I’m looking forward to more blog posts soon!

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