How to Find Cheap Alternatives to Designer Bags

Longchamp tote bags
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Question: What's a good, cheap alternative to this designer bag?

I don't have enough money for a designer bag, but I love the look of Longchamp tote bags—a big one will hold lunch and workout clothes and my purse. What are some budget options for something similar?

Love ya,



My dear Ms. Caryn!

You know, this is a budget style secret that will seem counterintuitive at first: sometimes, it's better to spend more on a quality piece than it is to look for something cheaper.

Which is to say that I've researched Longchamp totes, and alternatives to Longchamp totes, and totes that look Longchamp-y but are in no way affiliated with Longchamp totes, and I think you should save up and buy the real deal.

I hear you say. "This is not the advice you were supposed to give me. I didn't ask you to explain to me why I should buy an expensive designer handbag. I asked you to tell me how to avoid this scenario. Were you, perhaps, not listening to me? Are you some kind of a fake, yourself, as a handbag may be fake, causing all of us to shed white hot tears of rip-off-edness?"

None of these things, I can assure you. I am, however, a person who believes in investing in quality. And sometimes, it's cheaper to buy something expensive than it is to buy something cheap.

Now hear me out:

  • The bag of your dreams is not a super-pricey bag. I am totally against the crazypants behavior of handbag consumers circa 2007. If you spend $1200 on a handbag, you deserve to be picketed by the 99 percent. I don't care how rich you are. No one should spend that kind of money on an accessory. You can get one of these totes for under $100, if you look for it. Or, better yet, you can ask me to look for it, and I will do so.
  • Tote bags like these are made of a variety of materials, but if you're talking about storing workout clothes and deliciously smelly lunch items, you're probably looking at a nylon tote. Please believe me when I say that nothing falls apart faster than a cheap nylon tote. They collapse, as Eddie Izzard would say, like a flan in a cupboard. The material is usually flimsy, and the stitching is weak.
  • Perhaps because of this, every time I've ever tried to substitute a cheaper handbag for a quality handbag of superior craftsmanship, I've wound up buying three terrible cheap bags and eventually breaking down and getting what I wanted to start. I'm not a mathematician, but I think we can agree that this works out to be a lot more money.
  • You deserve it.
  • You don't need to be old skool about this and charge it. (See previous re: the horrors of how people bought clothes in 2007.) You can save up funds and be virtuous by cutting out things like extra coffee (or whatever your vice of choice is.) I tend to bring my lunch to work when I need an accessory desperately. It sounds like advice your Grandma would give you, but then, your Grandma probably knew a lot about finding money where none existed. It's the kind of thing that people used to be good at, and we can get good at again. There's also no reason why we can't look fabulous while we do it.

Failing that, I recommend Target. They have all kinds of good cheap bags. Just know that you'll enjoy a less spendy handbag for less time.

Love and riches,