Reported by Maria Lloyd
It is widely known that Black women are some of the most valued consumers in retail. As reported in Nielsen and Essence Magazine’s 2014 African-American consumer report, Black women are 45 percent more likely than the general market to shop at luxury department store Bloomingdale’s. Sadly, Black households stand a significantly higher chance of accruing debt than other ethnic groups, so shopping at department stores that offer high-end brand names is truly a luxury, not a necessity.
Fortunately, there is a viable alternative to staying fly and also saving money. Meet Lynesha McElveen (pictured), The Di$count Diva®. She teaches people how to get the “Best for Less” and “Get Their Gucci Without Getting Gotcha!” She’s also the author of “Discount Diva’s 30 tips to Having the Best for Less,” a complete financial guide that covers everything from how to track your expenses and build an emergency fund, how to reduce debt, how to buy your dream home and/or dream car, or how to take your dream vacation for less while still being able to look fly, retire, put your kids through college, and leave an inheritance for the next generation. McElveen also conducts workshops and seminars on finances. They are titled “Ballin’ on a Budget” to “Smart is the New Rich” and “Get R.E.A.L. with your self: Having Realistic Expectations About Life.”
I had an opportunity to interview McElveen, who has been featured in Black Enterprise Magazine, here’s what she had to say about staying fly on a budget:
ML: What is the inspiration behind The Di$scount Diva® brand?
LM: Showing women that they can “Have it All” for less! I grew up lower-middle class, but I always liked fashion. I always dreamed of having the finer things in life, but I also grew up with a mother who was very frugal and sensible in her spending. That rubbed off on me, and when I got to college and was a broke college student, I tried to figure out how to look good on my limited budget. I also wanted to be able to go out to eat, travel, buy a car, etc. without breaking the bank. The Discount Diva brand just emerged out of what I was naturally doing. I was always the girl whose friends would ask where I got my Charles David or Louis Vuitton, but I would always price drop and they would be amazed how little I paid for my items. When I figured I could turn what I already LOVE to do into a business, The Discount Diva (R) brand was born!
ML: Please explain the process you use to shop fly and fabulous on a budget.
LM: There are a number of things I do: from shopping at thrift, consignment, and vintage stores to identifying what days stores mark down their items and targeting them on those days. You can shop at a discount store or wholesale too, however; even high-end stores have deals, i.e. like Neiman Marcus does semi-annual sales in January and June. Items are up to 75% off. You can be added to the list to receive emails or mailings about discount shopping from stores like Gucci, Jimmy Choo, and Tori Burch. Wherever you like to shop, ask them do they have a list you can be added to in order to receive special discounts and coupons. Don’t frown your nose up at thrift stores either. Don’t knock it ’til you try it! I have gotten brand new Ralph Lauren shirts with $98 tags on them for my husband for $5.95, authentic pearl, gemstone, and 24K gold jewelry for myself, even a pair of Christian Louboutin’s in the box for $89.99, along with a wardrobe to clothe 20 people with pieces as inexpensive as $0.25. It’s absolutely amazing what people get rid of, but for those of you who are still afraid to shop thrift, The Discount Diva Thriftique is for you. I take the searching out of thrifting by identifying great pieces that are clean, priced under $20, and offering them in boutique space!
ML: What advice can you offer Black women who prefer brand name apparel, shoes, and accessories?
LM: Shop consignment or high-end thrift stores like The Discount Diva Thrfitique. These stores will offer high-end designer items but with pricing that is 40-75% less. Also, consider shopping places like high-end outlets. I know here in Georgia, we have the North Georgia Outlets that are all high-end stores. They have some high-end outlets in Destin, Florida too. Also, shop when the seasons are changing, for example now is a great time to get amazing deals on winter clothing. Designers and other stores are doing everything they can to get rid of clothing to make room for the spring lines. Don’t forget to negotiate too! Even high-end stores will vary the prices if asked! I just got $10 off a shoe yesterday at DSW because I asked. The shoe was regularly $69.95 and was only going to be $35, but I got it for $25 because I asked.
ML: How do you overcome the stigma of purchasing second-hand merchandise?
LM: By being a step above my competition and offering a boutique experience. Although my items are “second-hand” I prefer to call them, “New to You.” I offer merchandise that is clean, both classic and trendy pieces, that are quality. My rule of thumb is, if I wouldn’t purchase it new, then I don’t purchase it “new to you.” That’s the key. I buy pieces I would buy if they were at Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, or Gap. If they are not on that level, then I don’t buy them. I also buy merchandise that is high end and people are amazed that I am able to offer Anthropologie or Uggs or French Connection for under $20, and I also offer high-end merchandise like Prada, Stella McCartney, Derek Lam, and Louis Vuitton for significant discounts as well. I have a brand to uphold, and my clients seem to be very pleased with the quality or merchandise I offer.
ML: Please list the three primary benefits of shopping on a discount.
LM: You are able to be fly, fabulous, and frugal by still having money in the bank after the shopping spree. You can get what you want for less, which means you have money left to invest, save, or build wealth in some other way. You have money left over for quality of life, i.e. travel, buying a dream home, dining and entertainment.ML: Can you share a story showing how The Di$count Diva® has made a significant impact on the life of a customer?
LM: I recently partnered with my stylist, Ayo Keisha Smith, from Natural Hair Quest and did makeovers on women Vetarans. A lot of times we forget our Veterans who may be on limited budgets after sustaining both mental and physical injuries from serving our county. They shouldn’t have to get re-acclimated to society alone. It was such a pleasure to work with these THREE women by styling them and sending them home with a fabulous outfit while Ayo Keisha and her styling team did the women’s hair and makeup. When it was all said and done, the look on the faces of those women when they saw the new, improved versions of themselves was priceless. They can’t wait to come back and visit The Discount Diva Thriftique and continue building their wardrobe. The feeling I got from giving back in this way was priceless, so we have decided to make this a quarterly event where we work with Vetarans, single mothers, homeless women, or anyone needing some support to give them a boost on both the outside and inside.
ML: Please list three primary benefits of shopping on a discount.
LM: You are able to be fly, fabulous, and frugal by still having money in the bank after the shopping spree. You can get what you want for less, which means you have money left to invest, save, or build wealth in some other way. You have money left over for quality of life, i.e. travel, buying a dream home, dining and entertainment. For me, discount shopping is not just in fashion, it’s in every area of my life, so this means identifying how I can go to the 5-star restaurant for a 2-star price, or how I can travel to Dubai for the price of travel to California, and how I can drive my BMW 750 for the same price as my former 1999 Mazda Protege’.
ML: Where can people learn more information about The Di$count Diva®?
LM: For more information, visit my website at: http://LyneshaMcElveen.com. I offer a “Discount Diva Money Tips” show, Discount Diva OOTD (Outfit Of The Days), and often share “Discount Diva Deal Alerts” on deals and discounts that I find both online and around the city. You can shop my boutique on Facebook and Instagram at: The Discount Diva Thriftique or visit in-person at: 2633 Jefferson Terrace, East Point, GA. Phone: 678-852-5235. I am also on FB and Instagram @TheDiscountDiva and you can shop @TheDiscountDivaThriftique. Anyone with additional questions, may contact me at: LyneshaTheDiscountDiva@gmail.com.