Product: Rina Rich Bags (Specifically, the Shoulder Bag)
SRP: $25-$50
Best Price:; also available at Stuf on Haight St. in SF, CA

Let it be known that I am not a handbag kind of femme. Half of the time I forget to carry one, and I frequently forget to bring it back home when I do. This has been the source of no small amount of shame for me, given that a couple of my nearest and dearest girls are all about the clutches, the totes, the hobos, you name the bag, they’ve got four of ‘em. As for me, I get confused if something I’m carrying has more than one zipper, or requires both hands to access the treasures within.

Unfortunately, one of the truths I’d hoped could be avoided has hit me full-force this year – the older you get, the bigger your purse must be. I made it through several successful bar-hopping years in five-pocket jeans, where each pocket carried the same items every night. Then I started small; a little black clutch, purchased because I couldn’t resist the price (go figure!), and oh, how proud I was of myself! I could throw my five pockets’ worth of stuff in this cute little seven dollar bag and not look like I had something growing out of my mid-thigh on each leg! Then, last year, my partner’s mom came on the scene, and she lives within credit card charging distance of a Coach outlet. Handbags, 1, Frugal Femme, 0. But as cute as the swing packs and wristlets were, they couldn’t keep up with this girl’s growing assortment of items that had moved from the “I sure wish I had that with me,” world into the realm of, “Dammit, I need a purse that can hold all of this.” Enter Stuf on Haight Street.

The store is easily missed; the display window isn’t gaudy or crowded, the space itself is narrow and dimly lit, and more than two people can hardly shop comfortably at one time. It is here, though, that I find myself actually drawn to handbags – small ones, HUGE ones, granny-styles ones, flashy ones – and every bag that catches my eye bears the same tag. Rina Rich? Never heard of her. NOT that this should come as a surprise; I couldn’t tell the difference between a Vuitton bag and Le Sportsac if you took off the labels. (OK, maybe that’s a bit drastic, but this is not my area of expertise)

Rina Rich’s bags are elegant, sturdy, and, for the most part, designed to wear well and ride the tides of fashion. The faux leather is supple but not flimsy, the hardware prominent but not overwhelming. Each of the bags I inspected had a minor flaw or two, primarily a spot where the thread had broken or gone slightly off track. It didn’t detract from the overall attractiveness of the piece, though, and I left with a handbag that not only fits my fashion needs, but will hold everything a working girl needs from day to day. And as a comfort, however small it may be, it’s still nowhere near as big as my mother’s purse.

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Service: Tickets to events in many major cities for 50% off the going rate

Gift-giving is hard when your partner is of the “person who has everything” variety. Mine in particular prefers to keep the cool new products in mind and buy them herself when the opportunity arises, making my job of finding surprises for her much more difficult than it might otherwise be. So when her birthday came around, I was in a bit of a panic – I’m new to the city, so my knowledge of local must-sees is a bit lacking, and what with ours being a one-vehicle household, I didn’t have much opportunity to go scouting for presents on my own. After racking my brain and imploring friends to throw some ideas my way, I figured I would take a look around for a “date night” experience so we could get dolled up and go out on the town. I came across Gold Star Events and, as with so many online ticket sites, started wondering, “What’s the catch?” How is it that they can offer such discounted rates for shows and services that most people would pay top dollar for without thinking twice?

Gold Star’s Media Inquiries Page and the linked New York Times article revealed everything I wanted to know, from where they get the tickets (surplus seats to popular shows, and venues looking to attract new business) to how they make their money (reasonable per-ticket service charges) to how they keep it from harming full-priced ticket sales (limited marketing, resorting to word of mouth to bring in new members and venues). I decided to go for it, and purchased tickets to see Kiki & Herb, who brought their Tony-nominated cabaret act to San Francisco this month.

The payment process was quick and simple, with the option of sending the tickets as a gift with accompanying e-card which I could fill out with my own message. I was also given the choice of dates on which the tickets could be sent, so I didn’t need to worry about following up on my partner’s actual birthday. I received notification when my order was processed, and again when the gift email was sent, along with information about the venue, parking, and how to retrieve the tickets when we arrived. We got to the show and flashed ID at the will-call desk, and that was all there was to it. The seats were wonderful, the show hysterical, and the price not to be beat.

Gold Star Events currently lists events in eight metropolitan areas with an option to search by zip code, and they also offer a search by genre. Outdoor events are available as well, including major league baseball games, walking tours, and more. You can sign up to receive emails with your top genres highlighted, or merely bookmark the site to visit when you’re interested in a live show. While the number of cities is still limited, I’d keep an eye on Gold Star even if they’re not yet in your neighborhood; who knows when you’ll be in New York, San Francisco, or Chicago, and want to take in a show without taking out your budget?

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