What was I thinking? The plastic bag of Macy’s clothing had been sittig in my trunk for months. An owl on a sweater? “Owls are so 2013,” my Cristina commented. Had I really paid $72 for that? A Free People mustard dress had fooled me, too.

Be gone. Result: $168 back to the card. Thank you.

*Somehow, the clerk returned a third item, too for another $44. No idea how that happened.

Note: If you’re a Free People fan as I am, before you buy at Free People itself, check Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, even Nordstrom’s. They often (not always) carry the same item and with coupons and sale days at the department store, you can get the same thing for a lot less. In the last month, maybe on to the fact that they’re losing in-store business, Free People has started price matching. If you do see something FP somewhere else and bring in the proof (it has to be a sale, not a promotion…ugh, stupid), Free People will honor the cheaper price.

Another thing to note about Free People. If you see something online, ALWAYS click the “Find it in a store” option before you buy. Nine out of ten times, the store will be having a promotion or it’s on sale and the item will be much, much cheaper in the actual store. Recently, I went in for a price adjustment on this tattered maxi plaid skirt that made me feel like Alexander McQueen’s Rape of Scotland runway show – now that was a storytelling artist, R.I.P. McQueen!

The skirt had been $128 online and while in Africa, I held out and waited for it to go on sale, risking that it might sell out. Banking on the fact that most people don’t channel Alexander McQueen regularly. I was right. Two months later, online the skirt still had 500 units in my size nationwide (I always ask how many are left in the inventory before deciding to buy or wait) and it was still the same price. I called a nearby store from the “find in a store” option. Not only was it $108 in the store, 20 bucks cheaper, it was on the clearance rack for $29. Furthermore, they were having a 20% off sale items promotion. If I’m really dragging it out, I’ll have a store hold through the weekend for two reasons 1) Keep it off the floor, away from the grubby hands of deranged weekend shoppers 2) FP, UO and Anthro do furthers and markdowns on Tuesdays, sometimes Mondays. If you buy on a Tuesday and it’s marked down already, you have a good chance, depending on how long it’s been in stock, that it will have a further markdown in 14 days. So, wait `til a see you next Tuesday if you can, even if it means calling the store to extend the hold as long as you can. Then, do a “send sale” – which means free shipping. If the clerk is nice, they’ll do it, but I’ve noticed in the last few weeks, corporate is on to this and is getting stricter to pressure you to actually go into the store to get the free shipping. I always manage to explain that in dealing with me, they’d save themselves money – and boost the pleasurable experience factor – by waiving the shipping. They probably look at my buying history and decide not to bother arguing with me. I get what I want.

NEVER pay shipping. Ever. Sorry, I do love the post office, but when you’re broke and love stuff, you have to cut corners. I could have a whole new top, for the price of a few shipments.

Fully cognizant of the irony in this, I still say: That’s how we stay free, people.

Update: Damn, I felt compelled to check out Free People sweaters at Macy’s. Damn, I like it. In the cart. I can wait.