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Ballin' on a Budget: eBay Is Your Friend

Lesley in her Gap jeans. Photo: Sidney Prawatyotin

While I’m generally a bit skeptical of online shopping (though I’m an avid online window shopper), I've come to love shopping on eBay. They’re not joking when they call it the world’s marketplace. It’s global, it’s infinite and it has everything you’ve ever wanted. Whether that's a hand-painted talavera-style butter dishes from Mexico or “Vintage '70s floral maxi dress 14,” you will find it. (BTW yes, these are normal searches for me.)

Unlike the thrift store, where you have to keep your options open, on eBay you can get as specific as you please because someone, somewhere has that exact thing you’re looking for. And not only do they have it, they're probably charging way less.

Something I have discovered about the magical world of the internet is it's somehow possible to find antiques for dirt cheap, cosmetics at a discount, and brand new clothing for next to nothing.

This discovery happened on a trip to the Gap. I tried on a pair of jeans that would have been PERFECT, if only they’d had one size up.

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So I did what any girl would do when she really wants something. I obsessively and psychotically went to every GAP in Manhattan (and some in Brooklyn) to see if anyone had it.

Now, we all know how hard it is to find a pair of jeans that fits you right. Believe me, it’s even harder when the price and the size need to be in the double digits. I’m not even trying to tout the Gap here, but these were perfect. The wash was right, the fit was right, the crop was right (at just under 5’5” most “cropped” jeans are full length on me) and I was even willing to spend $69.95 on them (ouch).

Suffice it to say, not only was every brick-and-mortar Gap in my area out of stock, so was the website. (Who were all these size 14 girls bogarting my jeans?) So I turned to eBay. I simply typed in “Gap 1969 legging jean cropped” and watched results magically appear.

I ended up finding a pair of NWT (new with tags, in eBay speak) for something like $30. They arrived in a couple of days and were all that I dreamt them to be.

Like any girl who loves a particular pair of jeans, I wore them nonstop until I pretty much killed them. I suffer from what my favorite blogger Gabi (check her out on Gabifresh.com) calls “Chub Rub.” (She changed my life with an anti-chafing gel, but that’s another story.) Chub Rub + Jeans = eventual unsightly, holes on either side of your inner thigh.

I needed to replace them. But by now these jeans were like, 1.5 seasons old, which in fashion years is about 100. Now any store was out of the question. The internet was the only place to go. I hoped my eBay search would be as successful as the last one.

Once again I searched for “Gap 1969 cropped legging jean” and, after a few days of eBay stalking, found another pair, in my size, brand new with tags, that I continue to wear disturbingly often. Where else can you find the exact thing you’re looking for, the second time around, NEW?

I’ve come to realize many people fear buying stuff on eBay. Asking around my office—full of young ladies who are always hardcore shopping—most had many qualms. It's a kind of like the Wild West, yes, but I say it's worth it.

A few tips for making shopping on eBay totally, completely worthwhile:

1. Check their score. eBay is possibly as close to true democracy as it gets. If people are bad sellers, buyers will call them out. Equally as important, they’re happy to give positive feedback. I stay away from anyone with less than a 98 percent positive feedback. (Unless truly desperate, i.e. this is the only seller that has what I want. Then anything goes.)

2. Make sure to read their refund policy. With new clothes, sellers are often open to returns. Used/Vintage/Rare items often won’t allow. Save that for when you’re absolutely sure it’s the thing that you want (or it’s really, really cheap.)

3. Be as specific as possible. This isn’t a boutique. This is, like, everything for sale that was ever in existence all over the world. If you keep the search broad you will be overwhelmed and possibly cry. Name brands, style names, colors and sizes in any combination will always help. When in doubt, use adjectives. “Skinny jeans” will turn up thousands of results but “Cropped skinny light blue jeans 14” will give you something you can work with.

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ballin on a budget