When it comes to shopping, I’m a bottom feeder from way back.

It’s because I grew up poor in a wealthy area. In junior high school, my clothing allowance was $20 a month. In high school, I paid for my own clothes while saving for college, working as a page at the local library and a waitress at the senior center. In college, my dad gave me $150 a month each month I was in school, summers excluded – all he could afford between child support for my younger sisters and spousal support for my mom. I pieced together the rest from scholarships, loans, and jobs and graduated with one pair of Levis and $1,200 in credit card debt.

I earn a good salary now and there are a few things for which I will pay full price – pants that fit, for one. But most of the time, I snarf.

Snarfing, perhaps obviously, is a made-up word. It means trolling – moving continuously and relatively quickly through racks, rows, or shelves of dreck until you see something fabulous and pounce on it – or snarf it. It is somehow (I can’t remember how) derived from shark, which is what my husband says I am like when I shop.

Snarfing is not done at Macys, Nordstrom, or Crate and Barrel. It is done at flea markets, clearance outlets, and discount stores. I honed my skills in college and graduate school at the old football-field sized Macy’s Clearance Outlet in San Leandro, the Capwell’s outlet in downtown Oakland, and the legendary Filene’s in Boston. Largely because of geography, my chosen targets are now Ross, Marshalls, and occasionally T.J. Maxx. My recent finds include two Coleman battery powered lanterns, half price (winter power outages are frequent at the Schoolhouse) and four folding luggage racks for $12.99 apiece when the cheapest price I’d seen them at previously was $39.

Four folding luggage racks
Recent score - thanks, Ross!

Now that was a snarf.


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