Live Well for Less

Want to beat the high cost of living in the Islands? Move to Minneapolis. Barring that, you can read this story, which has ideas on how to stretch your dollar.


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>> Shopping

Love fashion, but not the resulting credit card bills? Here’s how to get the best deals, without sacrificing style. —Kathryn Drury Wagner


Sample Sales

Look for a big fall sample sale on Sept. 29 and 30 at Fashionista’s Market. This quarterly sale has young women—and their moms—lining up to have a go at the racks in a ballroom at the Japanese Cultural Center. The sale is two days, but if you’re a smaller size, go on the first day, as those sizes sell out first.

photo courtesy of Fashionista’s Market

Two regular customers, Kristin and Kalei, scour Fashionista’s Market for deals. 

“We specialize in premium denim,” says Emi Hart, who founded the business two years ago with her equally stylish sister, Alyssa Fung. Jeans are at least half what they’d be in a store, and most prices overall are at about the wholesale level. In addition to the jeans, you’ll find hip, Los Angeles-style dresses, and designers such as Marc Jacobs and Diane Von Furstenberg.

“If you like something, grab it, because it won’t be there when you go back,” says Hart. We took her advice and shimmied away with a velvet Betsey Johnson (original tags said $250) for $79.

Notes: no large bags are allowed inside the sale, and the dressing room is communal. Cash, credit and debit cards, no checks. If you spend $250 at a sale, you get to be on a list that lets you in an hour early (at 9 a.m.) at the next sale. Admission is $3 for members, $7 for nonmembers. To sign up, go to 2454 S. Beretania St.

photo courtesy of The O Lounge

The O Lounge, a nightclub on Kapiolani Boulevard, also hosts sales for women’s and kids’ clothing. Local retailers and designers bring in their wares, offering prices that are up to 90 percent off what they’d be in a store. Owner Elizabeth Hata Watanabe combines the sales with community awareness—she designates a local charity, such as Dress for Success, to benefit from profits from the entrance fee, which is usually $5 to $10. Sometimes, entrance is free if you make a contribution to the charity. During kids’ clothing events, you can score items for children up to age 17; perks include kids’ meals, play areas and no alcohol served on the premises. During the women’s events, though, you can hit the bar, or check out a wine tasting. The next Women’s Closet event is slated for September or early October; e-mail for details at 1349 Kapiolani Blvd., 392-8099.


Get Carded

Sure, they add heft to your wallet, but if it’s a place you go regularly, it’s definitely worth getting the loyalty card. The hard part is remembering to use it when you’re at the cash register. These cards, usually free, are available at large chains (Regal Club at Dole Cannery’s movie theaters, for example, allows you to earn points for free popcorn and movie tickets), as well as smaller, local stores. For example, you can rack up enough stamps at Best Sellers book store, and get a 10-percent discount; once you’ve bought $500 worth of stuff at Crazy/Beautiful at Restaurant Row, you’ll receive 20 percent off; even Macky’s shrimp truck offers a buy-10/get-one-free card.

Don’t forget to check for added benefits, too. For example, buying a CreditBack card at Young Laundry ($15), which gives you 25 percent off on all your dry-cleaning (details at The same card will also get you 10- to 20-percent off regular and/or on-sale merchandise at fun spots like Adasa (2023 Young St.), Global Village (539 Kailua Road, in Kailua) and Off the Mat (1127 12th Ave.). Another of our favorites: The Sephora Beauty Insider card, which is free and allows you to choose an ample-size product sample every time you spend $100. The goodies are perfect for traveling.

Some “cards” come in other forms. For example, Ala Moana Center’s retail services director Kristin Kilburn recommends joining the eVIP Club (sign up at, because you’ll be e-mailed special offers from stores and restaurants. Or, if you see a movie at Ward 16 Centers, save your ticket stub, because for a week afterwards, you can get discounts—like 10 percent off purchases at Executive Chef—at Ward stores. (See for a full list.)


Consignment Stores

Don’t forget about consignment shops, which offer a way to either clean out your closet or stock up on some serious deals. Consignment stores usually run about one-third—or less—of the prices you’ll pay at a retail store. Score!

A few good Honolulu stores to try are Catherine’s Closet, which carries feminine, retro styles (2733 E. M-anoa Road, 386-2746); The Closet Chick, which is geared more to work clothing (2013 S. King St, 942-2442) and The Ultimate You, which specializes in designer brands, such as Chanel, Dior and Prada (449 Kapahulu Ave., 734-7724).

For dealing with consignment stores, here are a few tips:

• Consider signing up for the store’s mailing list, which will alert you to upcoming clearance sales.
• Be sure to try clothing on. A former owner might have had an item of clothing tailored, so you can’t always go by the label.
• Don’t forget to check out the display windows; the items on the mannequins are usually for sale, too, but are often overlooked by other shoppers.
• If you’re selling clothing, you can expect to make 30 to 50 percent of the price the shop puts on it. For example, if a dress goes for $20 in the shop, you might make up to $10.


Shopping Locations:

American Eagle Outfitters, Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., 947-2008.
Bamboo Sky, 401 Kamakee St., Suite 104, 591-8003.
Banana Republic, log onto for locations.
Fossil, Ala Moana Center, 947-4440.
Jimmy Choo, Ala Moana Center, 946-5660.
Juicy Couture, Ala Moana Center, 942-7700.
Longs Drugs, log onto for locations.
Louis Vuitton, log onto for locations.
Neiman Marcus, Ala Moana Center, 951-8887.
Nine West, log onto for locations.
Old Navy, log onto for locations.
Remix, Aloha Tower Marketplace, One Aloha Tower Drive, #179, 524-3119.
Tiffany & Co., log onto for locations.
The Butik, 1067 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite A-3, 593-4484.
Yves Saint Laurent, 2114 Kalakaua Ave., 924-6900.

Price Adjustments

It’s happened to all of us: You buy something, only to be dismayed to see it on the sale rack at 50-percent off a week later. Don’t assume you’re out of luck. Stores often will refund the difference, but many shoppers are too shy to ask. For example, Banana Republic will give you one-time price adjustment, if you bring the item back with a receipt within two weeks of your purchase. Best Buy will refund you the difference if you spot something at a competitor for a lower price, plus an additional 10 percent of the difference, within a month of your purchase. It certainly pays to ask.

QUICK TIP: Best month to shop for clothes in Hawaii? July, when you’ll find deep discounts on warm-weather clothing.

>> Free Fun

Here are 14 highly enjoyable ways to spend a day (or night) without spending a cent.


The Contemporary Museum’s main location offers free admission every third Thursday of the month, 2411 Makiki Heights Drive, 526-1322.

Hawaii State Art Museum is always free to the public. Every second Saturday of the month, the museum offers free tours and activities that allow visitors to create their own artwork with the help of local artists. 250 S. Hotel St., 586-0304,

Admission to the Honolulu Academy of Arts is free every first Wednesday and third Sunday of the month. On “Bank of Hawaii Sunday,” the Academy opens two hours early, at 11 a.m., and offers family-friendly entertainment and activities. 532-8700,

At Iolani Palace, residents can enjoy the galleries and a docent-guided tour for free on Kamaaina Sundays, usually the first Sunday of each month. Corner of King and Richard streets, 522-0822,

Experience plantation life at Hawaii’s Plantation Village. In honor of the Waipahu institution’s 15th anniversary, the organization will waive its admission on Sept. 1, Keiki Day, which will feature entertainment by Frank De Lima and games for children. 94-695 Waipahu St., 677-0110,



Attend a free taping of Hawaii Public Radio’s Aloha Shorts, a program where local authors read their works in front of a studio audience. For dates and times, visit or call 955-8821.

Residents still flock to the city’s monthly Sunset on the Beach events in Waikiki, where they can view family-friendly flicks on a 30-foot screen. Get there early to catch the pre-show live entertainment. For dates and times, call 923-1094 or visit

On the last Saturday of each month, the Waikiki Beach Walk features some of Hawaii’s greatest musicians—Jerry Santos, Hapa and Eddie Kamae—as part of its Na Mele No Na Pua concert series, which takes place at the Embassy Suites’ Grand Lanai. Check out the hotel’s 50-foot timeline of Hawaiian musical milestones, also free to the public.

Follow lunch at Kincaid’s or the Spaghetti Factory by taking in a free Na Mele Nei concert, which takes place every Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Ward Warehouse stage. Sponsored by Na Mea Hawaii, the series has featured such entertainers as Kamau and the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Serenaders. Ward Warehouse, 596-8885,


Owned and operated by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, the 3-acre Halawa Xeriscape Garden features more than 200 varieties of xeric (dry) plants, which use less water than popular plants. You can also pick up free Native Hawaiian plant seeds. Call 527-6113 to schedule a free tour. 99-1268 Iwaena St., Halawa Industrial Park,

There are dozens of spectacular hiking trails on Oahu alone, and nearly all of them are free. For an easy hike, try the Manoa Falls or Makapuu Lighthouse trails. Visit for more information.

At Oahu’s five botanical gardens, you’ll find plants, trees and shrubs of all kinds from all around the world. Wahiaw-a (1396 California Ave., 621-7321), Liliuokalani (North Kuakini Street, 522-7060), Koko Crater (Koko Head Crater, 522-7060) and Hoomaluhia (45-680 Luluku Road, Kaneohe, 233-7323) botanical gardens are free. Foster Botanical Garden (50 N. Vineyard Blvd., 522-7066) charges $3 for kamaaina.

At Ice Palace, the price of admission, including skate rentals, is $8, but if you’re only there to chaperone the kids and don’t plan to hit the ice yourself, there’s no charge at all. 4510 Salt Lake Blvd., 487-9921,

The Children’s Discovery Center in Kakaako (111 Ohe St., 524-5437, isn’t free ($8 for adults, $5 for seniors and $6.75 for children), but for not a penny more, you can make sure the kids are extra tired at the end of the day by bringing some cardboard for sliding down the hills of Kakaako Waterfront Park.

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