Law school is expensive, but living in Charlotte doesn’t necessarily have to be. Here is a list of places that will help keep some money in your pockets as you fill your apartments, wardrobes, refrigerators, bookshelves and iPods with all of life’s necessities and entertainments. And check out Charlotte on the Cheap for more frugal living ideas.
Furniture & Clothing
My favorite place to shop for furniture is the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Inventory comes in so quickly here that prices on existing items are constantly lowered to make room for more stuff. A friend nabbed a beautiful, oil painting, originally priced at $500, for $35. What shopping strategy won her a Monet for the price of a Thomas Kinkade? An unsophisticated one –she merely dropped in every week. Of course, I’ve done the same and watched the awesome, red couch I had had my eye on for weeks be carried out the door. I think my heartbreaking story, versus her fortuitous one, is more common, so check in regularly because your patience and diligence may be rewarded.
(photograph by susi.bsu)
The Salvation Army Thrift Store on Central Avenue offers some great finds in furniture and clothing. I’ve walked out of there with a bundle of new Calvin Klein slacks in my size for a grand total of $15. Clothing is reduced 50% on Wednesdays, so were I smarter, I could’ve spent only $7.50 on those same Calvin Kleins. More-often-than-not, however, hitting the store at just the right time, like after a large estate donation, is determinative of the quality of the clothing.
(photograph by Wachovia_138)
Tuesday Morning sells new home goods and small appliances at a steep discount. The store reminds me of my artsy, kind-of-wacky aunt who sat for an entire Thanksgiving dinner in her raincoat. The place is flighty, eclectic and disorganized, but what a fun way to spend an hour in the afternoon.
Books & Music
Next door to the Habitat for Humanity Restore is Julia’s Café & Books . The wraps and sandwiches are delicious and the coffee is rich and socially conscious. With the money saved at Restore, buy a coffee and pastry and, on the way out, pick up a very good, used copy of that book you’ll never read until you finish law school.
Book Buyers in Midtown doesn’t have coffee like Julia’s Café & Books, but it does boast a more diverse selection of used books. Here, I discovered a signed first edition that I couldn’t find at shops in Los Angeles, New York and Connecticut. Of course, I could have just purchased the book online since it is now the residence of all things produced and manufactured. But, for me, there is no joy of discovery in online shopping, as there is in used book store hunting when your eyes finally fall upon that treasured title after having spent many, fruitless years searching through stacks and stacks of books.
(photograph by Amy R.)
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is the place for free books and music. Pretty much, everything is available because each branch can interlibrary loan from another branch. Why spend even 99¢ for a song in iTunes when the library lends the entire album absolutely free? Even lawyers, stereotyped for being bad at math, can see how using their library saves money.
(photo by jblyberg)
Aldi on Freedom Drive and Old Pineville Road has the best prices on produce: cauliflower for under $2, avocado for 88¢, bananas for 44¢/lb., an entire pineapple for 99¢ and mango for $1. I apologize for swooning – and in the process sounding like a TV pitchman – but these prices truly are amazing. The star attraction here, though, is the $2.69 bottle of Winking Owl red wine. It tastes better and is cheaper than the infamous Two Buck Chuck (actually, $2.99 and soon be Three Buck Chuck) at Trader Joe’s.
(photograph by Portal Abras)
Hillbilly Produce Market boasts a huge selection of locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables at fair prices, as well as free-range chicken and grass-fed beef. There are also locally made chocolates and candy…and don’t forget to ask for the hot, boiled peanuts.
Trader Joe’s on Metropolitan Avenue and Rea Road can be surprisingly affordable for a nationally recognized brand and chain. For instance, its cauliflower and broccoli are competitively priced as to Aldi; Trade Joe’s soy milk, wheat cereals and granola are only a few cents more than the same at Walmart; and the prices on Trade Joe’s organic apples, blueberries and spinach are among the lowest.
(photograph by bradywahl)
Bistro la Bon on Central Avenue stages a large, tasty and affordable brunch on Sundays between 10 a.m-2:30 p.m. For $18, it’s all you can eat for over four hours — this is important to a guy who struggles to find portion sizes large enough to fill his appetite. Bistro serves up the typical brunch fare such as scrambled eggs, French toast, and fruit. But, the standouts are the lox, the chocolate waffles, the Swedish meatballs and the beet salad. Coffee lovers take note, however: I had the two worst cups of coffee in my life here – those who dislike Starbucks coffee because it tastes burnt would most likely find the coffee at Bistro absolutely scorched.
Leave a comment and tell us about other places where the goods are cheap but still fun or tasty and a steal nonetheless.