Shopping on the Cheap: A T.J. Maxx Convert

April 2009
I have an aversion to throwing out my old clothes. My mother is the same way, and when someone would comment on a shirt she was wearing, she'd say something like, "Oh, I've had this since college." I now hear myself saying, "Oh, I wore this in high school." Which, considering I just went to my 10-year reunion, is officially not okay. The clothes under the most scrutiny these days are my workout duds. I'm gearing up for the Colfax half marathon, and it means my running gear is in heavy rotation. Yesterday, when I was hanging clothes on my clothesline (more on clotheslines soon), I actually decided my sports bras were too ratty to hang out in front of the neighbors. Then, when I looked closely at the frayed elastic and holes in the stretched shoulders, I finally acquiesced that it might be time to go shopping. Many of my girl friends have raved about T.J. Maxx, but when I ventured in a few months ago I got confused by the mismatched racks, and my mind quickly dulled under the fluorescent lights. I instead headed to Old Navy and overspent on flimsy fabrics because they were displayed well. But when a yoga-loving friend was wowed by the active-wear section of a Littleton T.J. Maxx (5910 S. University, Littleton), I took a deep breath and drove south to the 'burbs. I was immediately overwhelmed again by the many sections, the clothes falling off their hangers in the "Casual" section and the off-kilter racks under "Off the Runway." But I remembered my friend's words: "Just go the middle of the store." Soon I found myself happily pawing through name-brand sports bras that were less than half-price. After I loaded my arms with those, I discovered racks of moisture-wicking tees (goodbye, college T-shirts) and cute hiking pants. I grabbed Marmot shirts and Nike skorts (hey, they're actually great for running) and Adidas everything. At the dressing room I was stopped by a woman with a heavy Russian accent. "Hang them," she said, and I meekly hung my eight items as she counted them up and handed me a number. As I left, we repeated the process. Despite the sometimes mismarked sizes and the Russian guard, I returned with armloads to the dressing room and spent an entire half hour in the store, a record for me. Not only did I find great new running gear (most pieces were between $8-$10), I felt a new-found confidence that I could negotiate the store and find more screaming deals in the future. The verdict? Go in with some patience, a basic understanding of Russian, and be prepared to get great, quality clothes for less than half the original price. Color me impressed and converted. Bonus: The Littleton store is a "home" store, meaning there are some steals on goodies for your house. I scored adorable kabob baskets for $10, so instead of having to skewer and unskewer my veggie kabobs, I just load the veggies in the long, skinny baskets, which have great hardwood handles for getting them on and off the grill easily.