Tourists come in to window shop at the famed Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and gawk at the high prices, but LA locals know better. It’s unfair that LA is ever associated with mall culture because while we do have some good ones (Westfield’s always does good work and the Grove/ Americana at Brand have really mastered the “experience” factor), there’s tons of unique local shopping that goes beyond the name-brand stores.
1. $1 Jet Rag Sunday Sale
Need a little retail therapy but don’t have the cash to support it? Check out Jet Rag’s weekly $1 sale. Every Sunday, the vintage shop tosses huge bundles of clothes onto tables set up in its parking lot for the masses to pick over. It’s hit or miss, of course, but it’s a fun way to have a shopping frenzy and only spend a couple bucks. Caffeinate beforehand because this is a high-octane shopping event.
2. Burbank’s Vintage Row
If you’ve got a wedding, holiday party, or formal event to attend, make Vintage Row your first stop. You can find tons of high quality classic clothing that’s been gently used and a lot of it doesn’t scream retro (although if a vintage look is your style, you’ll be in heaven). The shops vary in their focus and they’re all located within walking distance on the stretch of Magnolia between Catalina and Burbank Boulevards.
3. Always bring your own bag
In the battle against plastic bags, eco-conscious Los Angelenos have been bringing their own reusable grocery bags for decades, but in the past several years, it’s actually gone into law. Many places can’t legally give you plastic bags and most stores charge extra even for a paper bag. The solution? Stock up on reusable bags in a variety of sizes and just keep them in your car. Consider a couple of the plastic-coated reusable bags from grocery stores (because you can easily disinfect them off between uses), a stylish canvas tote for when you’re walking from store to store, and one of those huge blue IKEA bags should have you covered for whatever comes your way.
4. Ask about floor samples
If you’re shopping for cameras, electronics, appliances, or even some higher end shoes and clothes, it never hurts to ask about the “floor model”. This refers to the actual product that’s being used on display in the showroom. If it’s been a few months since the item was released and its time on the showroom floor is nearing the end of its run, there’s a good chance the store will sell it to you at a discount. This is especially true of electronic equipment when buyers want to be the first to touch their new toy. It might have a few scratches and worn battery life, but it may be negligible for what you’re able to save.
5. The Last Bookstore
If you haven’t already checked out The Last Bookstore on Spring Street in Downtown LA’s Historic Core, you owe it to yourself to lose an afternoon there. Peruse through used (and sometimes rare) books downstairs — there’s an impressive art book, comic book, and record selection — and take in one of their regular concerts, readings and events in the small stage area. Upstairs, go through a gallery of rotating local artists and walk through the world’s largest book labyrinth. If you see something you like, all the books upstairs are just $1.
For the casual bike rider, scoring a used bike from a garage sale or Craigslist can save you a ton of money, but there’s also a high chance your bike’s got some issues. Dead tire tubes, bent wheel frames, and rusted chains are common issues for bikes that spent a little too much time forgotten in a yard or garage before there original owners decided to part with them. Luckily, these are easy fixes. There are plenty of bike places around LA that will just do the repairs for you, but if you really want to save money, check out the Bikerowave bike repair collective. This donation-based, volunteer run Mar Vista spot is dedicated to teaching newbies how to DIY their bike needs in an eco-friendly environment.
7. Lankershim’s Vintage Row
Just north of the Noho Arts District might not be the place to find LA’s classic mid-century architecture examples, but it’s the perfect place to find mid-century modern furniture and home decor. Go north on Lankershim from Burbank Boulevard and you’ll see a cluster of furniture shops peddling vintage home furnishings with an emphasis on mid-century modern.
8. Auto Parts Shops on Alameda
If you’re looking to save on a costly car repair, try your hand at finding the replacement part yourself at an auto parts shop. If you’re really handy, you can try the repair yourself (this is getting easier with the help of Youtube tutorials), or take the part to your local mechanic. There’s a stretch on Alameda Street between 97th and Florence that’s lined with auto parts shops. Stay patient and be ready to haggle and ask questions. If you have a mechanically inclined friend, now would be the time to treat them to dinner in exchange for joining you on this trek.
9. Renting decor and props
If you’re throwing an event or helping to plan a large party, don’t waste money on decor that’s just going to spend the rest of its life taking up space in a supply closet. LA has tons of prop and decor rental houses and thanks to the entertainment industry, they’re pretty much guaranteed to have what you’re looking for. Plants, stemware, even extra couches, poolside cabanas and large decorative pieces are all available for rent. The Almost Christmas Prop Shoppe has served LA for decades just creating Christmas cheer for parties and film/TV sets and the Dapper Cadaver has kept it creepy with dark esoterica and novelty replicas.
10. Shop conscientiously
Donating to charities is awesome, but there are plenty of opportunities to make your dollar count a little extra for the causes you support. The Lucky Pup and Bark N Bitches offer the same stuff as Petco, but the proceeds go to supporting animal rescue and welfare groups. Beit T’shuvah‘s impressively curated vintage store (BTS Thrift) and Creative Matters design agency profits go to providing rehabilitation programs for addiction recovery. Homeboy Industries has an embroidery and silkscreen printing shop that benefits high-risk, previously incarcerated, or former gang-affiliated Californians rebuild their lives. When you patronize these businesses, you’re also giving back to your community in LA.