So let's talk tack whoring. We haven't done that for a while. I considered dressing up in my $3 knee high socks (TJ Max), $20 kerrits breeches (eBay) and my $30 danskos (also eBay), but I'm at the work where stretchy pants are less socially acceptable right now.
I'm by nature a fairly happy and obsessive person. I also like Izzy to look perfect. I also have a budget that flutters around zero. Hence, I am a compulsive bargain hunter. Even if I have the money to buy something I want off the shelf, I rarely do. My only exceptions are hoofpicks and undergarments. You just don't want those used. ;-)
So here are my rules for bargain hunting:
1) Know the market. At home (where I am internetless), I stockpile catalogs. I keep current copies of Dover, Smartpak, Bit of Britain, and Bartville Harness Shop.
2) Know your item. If I'm shopping for my favorite breeches ever, I know they run around $110 new, can usually be had for around $100, go on sale for $70-$80 this time of year, and pop up on eBay occasionally for less. That means that if I go to a store and see them on the shelf, I know -exactly- where they fit into that scale and whether or not it's a good deal. Hint: just because it's 30% off does not make it worth buying.
3) Have good sources. I mentioned the catalogs I keep at home. Here is my analysis of them:
~Dover has the most selection. They're excellent to get an idea for what's out there. Their list prices are ridiculous, but their sales are palatable, especially with the $10 off shipping coupon they sent out. I rarely buy from them, but I reference them frequently.
~Smartpak has free shipping on orders over $75, which I adore. Their selection is less than Dover, but still pretty sweet and their customer service is fantabulous. They have good sales occasionally, but in general are my go-to for non-discounted purchases.
~Bit of Britain is like eventer heaven in store format. They have all the coolest stuff and pretty good sales and discounts. Their shipping is reasonable and they are good to deal with.
~Bartville Harness Shop is a little Amish owned place in Pennsylvania. If you call them and leave a message, they'll send you a catalog. They make many of the leather goods for Bit of Britain, but sell they for quite a bit less money. Like 40-50% less.
Other sources I use a lot:
~eBay is pretty self explanatory. You have to know key words and sort through a lot of junk, but there are some cool deals out there. My favorite sellers are gorge-us.girls for clothes and lancamishgoods for strap good from Bartville that are magically sold online.
~Bits and Barter board is a collection of people selling peer to peer. It's not as reliable as eBay, but you can get some super deals if they have what you want.
4) Do Your Research-I got my dressage saddle off of a website I'd never heard of, but I researched it on the Chronicle Forums and heard good things. Conversely, there are sellers (and brands) that I've done similar research on and decided to have nothing to do with. I like the Chronicle because it's an established community with members you can research further through their posting history. You know, "sure she thinks that saddle is great, but she rides in a wintec according to her prior post, so she's hardly a judge of leather quality". It takes a little time, but it pays off.
5) Network. I have very little luck with craigslist (thank you cow country USA), but I've had considerable luck with fellow bloggers and equine friends. I got a steal of a deal on my much-beloved Ainsley XC saddle from blogger Gingham and the exact XC vest I wanted from blogger friend Rinsie.
Here's last fall's ensemble. The only thing I paid full price for was the custom saddle pad and ear bonnet. Those totaled around $50.
Otherwise, we have this list:
Five Star Tack Magnolia Bridle: $120 (used, tacktrader.com)
Thinline Reins $70 (new, sale at local store)
Korsteel bit $10 (new, local sale)
Black dressage boots $40 (new, from blogger friend)
Passier dressage saddle $800 (used, online)
Thinline pad $130 (new, ebay)
Kerrits breeches $40 (new, Dover)
Ariat half chaps $40 (new, Dover)
And so on. I firmly believe in buying higher quality good that will last longer and need less replacing. I also believe in buying the thing you want, because otherwise you will spend a great deal more buying multiple unsatisfactory replicas of it.