Five more things that are probably cheaper in the city than where you are living
1. Clothing: Even apart from thrift stores, discount stores, clothing banks, and so forth, clothes are still much cheaper in the city. As with anything else, it comes down to competition. There aren't a lot of small towns that can support more than one or two quirky boutiques, but a good-sized city can support dozens, if not hundreds. In this environment, clothes prices tend to be lower. Granted, this won't make your life any easier if you have your heart set on a Gucci overcoat or Prada banana hammock, but if you're a little flexible and not a total brand whore, a little time and energy should help you find what you're looking for at far below what Nordstrom's, Hecht's, or Lord and Taylor are laughingly asking.
On a side note, thrift stores in the city tend to have a much better selection than in the country. The best thrift
shopping I've ever seen was in Menlo Park, California, which is part of the suburban sprawl surrounding San Francisco. In addition to the cool midrange shirts I found at amazing prices, I came across a Versace suit in a Salvation Army thrift store and my wife discovered a pair of Manolos in another joint. Unfortunately, the prices were steep, but I found an awesome silk and worsted wool suit that I bought for $20.
2. Coffee: Starbucks is Starbucks, regardless of where you go. However, individual convenience stores and delis often have great prices on coffee. In my neighborhood, the best deal I've found is a corner store that charges 50 cents for a simple cup of café con leche. In the neighborhood where my daughter's day-care is located, there's a joint that charges 80 cents for espresso. Of course, it helps if you can order in Spanish. Repeat after me: "Café con leche, por favor. Dos azucar."
3. Shoes: As with clothes, this may require some flexibility. However, the same principles of supply and demand carry over. For a simple pair of mildly stylish leather shoes, you can probably get away with paying somewhere in the $20 range. If you want something more exciting...well, you can still get out fairly cheaply. I've passed a few stores that have blue-and-white faux alligator saddle shoes with steel-lined soles. The cost: $29. The only problem is finding something that they don't clash with.
4. Booze: Of course, living in Southwest Virginia, my liquor options were limited to the ABC, or alcohol beverage control stores, which were state-owned. Not to insult the fine people at the ABC, but their selection was a little bit lacking, and their prices were not particularly competitive. I recently saw a fifth of Absente liquor in a store for $27. In Virginia, I paid $45. Any questions?
5. Flowers: Obviously, all bets are off during Valentine's Day. However, you will probably find that a dozen roses will generally cost well under $10. If you shop carefully, you can find a gorgeous bouquet of roses in the $5 range.Of course, as your mom always told you, it's not about the cost -- it's the thought that counts. Then again, if you can send three thoughts for the price of one...
Bruce Watson is a former English instructor, sometime writer, and all-around cheapskate. A co-author of Military Lessons of the Gulf War and A Chronology of the Cold War at Sea, his work has appeared in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, The Roanoker, The Brush Mountain Review, The Eccentric Monthly, The Best of Times, and College Daze. He currently blogs on Crankster.