How to Find Affordable Alternatives to Designer Bags

You Don't Need to Shell out Big Bucks to Get What You Want

Longchamp tote bags
mayrpamintuan/Flickr/CC By 2.0

Designer handbags are up there on the list of desires for most women. But most women can't afford the hefty price tags, which can run $1,000 and more. But if you love the look of a particular one, chances are you can find something similar that will satisfy you.

The legendary Longchamp tote is a good example of a bag that many want and few can afford. It can hold lunch, another pair of shoes, and a bottle of water in addition to your regular essentials. And it looks chic and always right with any outfit, whether you're wearing jeans on the weekend or appropriate clothes for the workplace.

Go Ahead and Spring for It

First, you can reconsider the idea that you actually want a cheap alternative. This might seem counterintuitive, but depending on how much the particular bag that you want costs, it might actually be a cost-effective option if you buy that one handbag, and only that one handbag, to serve you nearly every day over quite a few years instead of three or four of lesser price over that same time frame. In other words, the quality and style of the designer bag will likely make it last a long time without losing its shine, but to make this work you have to forego multiple other purses to make up for the outlay of more cash. 

Buy a Pre-Owned Bag

If you can't shell out what it would take to buy the handbag of your dreams, you have several other options to achieve this goal.

It's become more and more acceptable and common to buy pre-owned designer handbags. The ones you'll find for sale almost always have been treasured and well taken care of by the well-heeled who can afford to buy them new. There's no shame in taking advantage of this situation.

These used designer bags can be found at resale and vintage shops, but you'll find the most variety and selection by looking online at the multitude of websites that specialize in these sales. Etsy specializes in vintage items, and you'll also find tons of choices of newer bags on websites like Tradesy, Bag Borrow Steal, Fashionphile, Snobswap, Rebag, The RealReal, and Yoogi's Closet.

Get Connected to Flash Sales

A second option is to get connected to flash sales, like those that occur on Haute, Rue La La, and Gilt. If you get connected with these sites, they send you email notifications of sales and you can jump on the bag you want if you stay tuned in. But if you wait too long to act, the bag you pine for could be gone (that's why they call it a flash sale), or the sale could be over. So this can work for you if you're the decisive type. If you have to mull a purchase, this might turn into a disappointment.

You can also check out sites like Bluefly and Yoox, which both discount designer handbags every day.

Cheaper Alternatives

If all these options are still too expensive or you just don't like buying anything used, you have one other choice: You can look for a handbag that is very similar to the designer style you long for but is a much less pricey brand. This bag could be in a bridge line that costs in the low hundreds and is relatively good quality, though not prime like a designer bag, or it could be a really cheap knockoff at Target that looks cute but is made of cheap materials and won't last long.