Tips from a bag lady of a different kind

March 07, 2013|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

Tips from a bag lady of a different kind

I take no offense. While I do have a home and I don't push a grocery cart, I do strap a rather gigantic bag over my shoulder pretty much whenever I am out and about.

You might be picturing an average purse or a pocketbook. No. I carry several of those inside of my gigantic bag and pull out the one I need depending on the errands. Among them is the small one with the long strap I use just to hold keys, lip balm and petty cash; the cosmetic bag full of items I rarely use except in the morning but just don't want to be caught without; and the monster wallet with you-never-know-when-you're-gonna-need-'em kind of cards.

There are other bags in my gigantic bag to contain miscellaneous items — piano lesson books, fuzzy socks, keycards, a couple pieces of fruit and a small paring knife, a stain stick, pens, appointment forms, a thumb drive, a small bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper; cotton balls, vitamin C drops, gum, flossers, vegetable seeds (I'm not sure why), deodorant, hand sanitizer, a small tissue pack and a magazine or two to occupy me so I don't doze off on the stationary bike at the gym.

I'm told if I ever come across Monty Hall and impromptu street revival of "Let's Make a Deal," I'd be a shoe-in given my trade-in options.

When I go to the homes of friends and they offer to set my gigantic bag with my coat, most need to use two hands to hold it and, on occasion, their knees have buckled.

The one thing I don't typically carry is pepper spray. I figure if attacked, one good blow to an aggressor's head with my gigantic bag should drop him and buy me enough time to run.

I've had to devise ways to contain the big bag in my vehicle while driving. If I don't place it just right, it slides under or, despite its weight, launches airborne from the folding storage tray in my minivan. If it should happen to cause an injury, though, I do have Band-Aids and Neosporin in one of the sub-bags.

My most recent gigantic bag is a black, flexible, linen cotton blend with a muted-violet ribbon and decorative chain links connected to the handles. When you carry a gigantic bag like mine, there is none of this "changing my purse to match my outfit" business. The rub is that I tend to find one I like and use it until it falls apart. And this one just began to. The chain anchor tore away from the fabric, and a day later, the snap socket followed suit.

Finding a gigantic bag that is cost-conscious, goes with everything and is able to withstand my demands can be a labor of love. I've providentially found fairly durable big bags on clearance at Target and Old Navy for less than $10.

Shop Smart Magazine and Consumer Reports offer these tips for handbag shopping:

  •  Zappos, eBags, 6PM, Piperlime and Overstock are solid sources for selection, deals, shipping and returns.
  •  Retailers like Macy's, Coach, Banana Republic and Cole Haan occasionally have sales offering significant savings on classic styles. Use a newspaper ad coupon for further discounts.
  • has a variety of discounted high-end bags. Click the sale section for up to 70 percent off names like Marni and Marc Jacobs. Diesel fabric and leather bags are sometimes less than $100.
  • is best for bargains with more than 500 bags priced from $10 to $85. Shipping is free on orders of $50 or more.
  • is a fashion search engine that sweeps the web's biggest retailers and allows shoppers to enter specific price ranges and track sales. One recent find was a $69 Limited shoulder bag marked down to $16.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

The Herald-Mail Articles