Diva on a Dime: The Luxury Brand Diva

by Sakina Spurell for Essence Magazine

Tretta Bush, 29, accountant, Hampton, Virginia

Tretta Bush enjoys the finer things in life. Still, the self-employed number cruncher and single mother to daughter, Nijha, 9, says she can’t afford to pay rack rate for designer goods. Instead she shops for her size-zero designer label wardrobe mostly online, after receiving e-mail notice of a good sale. “I’m a label whore, but I don’t want to pay full price,” says Bush. “I’m not one to keep up with the trends, but I buy quality merchandise. I have clothes from when I was a freshman in college that I still receive compliments on.”

For her other designer luxuries, such as the Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Hermès handbags, she scours estate sales and online mommy sites such as coolmompicks.com. She also checks for celebrity closet deals on eBay, which recently featured the closet of Jennifer Williams of Basketball Wives. For appliances and home furnishings, she shops Black Friday all the way. “Black Friday is almost the best day of my life each year,” she says. “I redecorate my house, and buy anything from kitchenware to comforters.” One of her favorite stores is Walmart. “I try to find the lowest advertised price to keep from jumping around from store to store,” she says. “As long as you have the ad, they will honor the deal. I also take advantage of online purchasing to avoid lines and crazy people. Plus, most stores ship for free now.”

Bush notes that the next best time to shop after Black Friday is tax season. “Tax sales usually start around the last week of January and the first week of February, when the bulk of tax refunds are issued,” explains the small-business accountant. Expect big deals on furniture, electronics and cars, she says.

When it comes to developing wise money habits, Bush admits she made all the classic mistakes during her college years. “I was fly, but I was also in debt,” she recalls. She maxed out her credit cards and her student loans, and was late on her bills. When she got out of school and landed a position at an IT company, she still couldn’t get approved to lease an office space for her accounting business. “My cash flow was high, and so was my debt-to-income ratio,” says Bush to explain why she was declined for the lease. That was the reality check she needed to change her spendthrift ways. For the next three years, she lived way below her means and paid off $18,000 in credit card debt.

The now thrifty accountant despises monthly bills, so last year she purchased a certified preowned 2006 BMW 330 for $19,200 in cash rather than buying new for $35,000 and carrying a car note. “Why pay new pricing for a car that looks and drives the same? Makes no sense!” exclaims Bush. She cautions, however, that when buying preowned vehicles, going higher end is a good idea since these cars often come with service warranties and regular maintenance system checks included in the price.

Nowadays, Bush rents a luxury two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in an all-inclusive rental community replete with a gym, running trails and a clubhouse. “I don’t want to be house-poor,” she says, noting that the cost to buy a similar residence exceeds her budget. “I’m totally all about the luxury.” Another perk of the neighborhood is the newly built public school with a private school curriculum: “I’m saving $600 a month because I don’t have to spend on private school for my daughter.”

Tretta’s Luxury Shopping Tips
Shop Black Friday for the best deals. “I take full advantage of the sales,” says Bush. “Prices don’t get that low again until tax season.”

Whether your favorite clothing store is Bloomie’s, Nordstrom or Ann Taylor, figure out when the prices will be reduced. “The sales at these stores are like clockwork,” says Bush. “Certain weeks are slower than others; thus, the sale.”

Check local classifieds for estate sales of secondhand designer bargains, from bags to shoes to the little black dress. Go to the most affluent neighborhood within 20 miles of your home to snag some treasures. “A Google search and a little research will save you big bucks,” says Bush.

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