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Charlie Brown says stay warm without spending a lot

December 12, 2009

“Winter is nature’s way of saying, ‘Up yours.'” — Robert Byrne

My Christmas list consists of two essential biggies. I’m moving to New York in January, and the two reactions I’ve been getting repeatedly, before anyone even asks me what I’m even doing up there, is “get a heavy-duty winter coat,” and, from the people who have been up there for a while, “you NEED waterproof boots.” As my move-in date gets closer, I started researching the two items for my Mom to pick out, and found that they’ll both cost a pretty penny if I want good quality. Even though it won’t be on my wallet, I don’t want my parents to drop a ton to keep me warm this winter.

I have to admit that I’m somewhat of a winterwear virgin. Although I grew up in Wisconsin, I was too young to dress myself, and hardly remember my time there except for a ton of snow. Living in Georgia since 1995, I’ve been able to get away with half-assing it. Sure, there’s a day or two where you feel like you can’t feel your limbs and the occasional snowstorm (last March, anyone?) but for the most part, you can survive with a semi-heavy peacoat or North Face and a decent gloves-scarf set. Atlanta is also a commuter city, and the car ride can thankfully keep you warm en route to work or school. No such luck in cities where public transportation dominates.

So here was the first thing I learned when shopping for winter coats. If you want to be warm, you’re not going to look cute. Although there are attempts on details (faux fur, pockets, maybe a leopard print inside lining), the coat needs to do its job without worrying about flattering your figure. The second thing I learned: it’s going to be expensive. Even at Target or Kohl’s, winter coats aren’t something you’re going to find on the clearance rack. It’s an investment; it’s something you’re going to be wearing everyday.

However, there are little things you can do to bring the price down. I finally found “the one,” a Calvin Klein, down-to-my-knees, black, faux-fur hood, down coat at Macy’s. I followed Kristen’s recent Thrifty Threads advice and asked the salesperson if she happened to have any extra coupons behind the counter. Without hesitation, she pulled out a 25 percent off, limited-time friends and family discount. We also got another 20 percent off with my Mom’s Macy’s credit card, and the coat was 20 percent off to begin with from a special storewide sale. That’s 65 percent off a $279 name-brand coat — which brings it down to about $100 with taxes. A hundred bucks for a quality coat I’ll be wearing everyday for a functional purpose is not bad at all!

For the boots, I’m using Zappos, which already has periodic sales and offers free shipping until 12/23. (That’s right. You’re welcome.) I’m thinking about this pair, which are, again, close to $100:

Not the most adorable things in the world, but I’m hoping they do the job.

And of course, gratuitous coat pictures:

Stay warm, my frugal friends!

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