I also love designer bags. Coach and Vera Bradley are my two new favorites. Of course I can't afford either brand new, so I have learned how to carry designer bags on a normal person's budget. If you have some time, you can really get some great deals. Here are some of my tips from most expensive to least:
1. Outlet stores. There are about a half a dozen outlet malls within an hour's drive from me, but the first time I ever went into one was when we were on vacation in the Poconos. I walked into the Coach outlet. Yeah, the regular prices are still WAY high, BUT I happened to be in there on a day when they were having a HUGE sale. 50% off the clearance and on-sale stuff. I got over $1000 of Coach merchandise for just about $400 (don't worry, most of it was Christmas gifts). I bought my first-ever Coach purse--and matching wallet/wristlet:
(not my actual stuff--but this is what they look like)
These were a treat to myself, and will be used with extreme care. They were still not cheap, but affordable. Vera Bradley also has a bunch of outlet stores, but I've not been to one of those. I hear they are awesome, however even better is that VB is sold in local boutiques and even some Hallmark stores near me -- so if I wait until they go on sale there, you can also get amazing deals on new and being retired patterns.
2. Poshmark.com. A resale site for high-end fashion. Like Ebay, but no bidding. I haven't used it myself, but have heard good things. They seem to have excellent deals. You can also make a trade if the seller is amenable and you have something good to trade.
3. Ebay. You can buy ANYTHING on ebay, if you look hard enough. I managed to snag a Vera Bradley mini-zip wallet (which they don't even make anymore) in a retired pattern I was looking for to match a bag I had bought (more on that later) for a very reasonable price. The great thing about VB is that it's made of cotton and you can hand wash it no problem, so even if it's a little dirty, they clean up beautifully. I think Poshmark and Ebay are about the same, price-wise. You can get good deals on both if you dig around.
4. Facebook. Really. If you search, you will find there are resale groups for just about everything on Facebook. they're like Craigslist, kind of, and you usually have to ask to join the group. In my local area there are no less than 4 'yard sale' sites, and I'm also a member of two different VB, Coach, D&B resale sites. The yard sale sites may require you live nearby so you can do an in-person sale, but I bought TWO VB bags from a site where they shipped them to me. These are gold mines! I bought two retired pattern VB bags (one of which prompted me to search for the wallet I mentioned earlier) and paid just $20 each, plus shipping. Both were in excellent condition, and I will use them a lot.
I also traded something I had for a retired Coach twistlock wristlet. It was not in the best shape, but I learned how to clean a Coach fabric bag and now it's gorgeous. And because I didn't pay anything for it, I won't mind if I carry it all the time.
5. Thrift stores. This is hit or miss, but the hunt is half the fun! In my area there is one store that is the best for accessories, and it was here that I found my first VB finds. A small cosmetic bag in a retired pattern for $5, and a small ID swipe wallet in a recently retired pattern-- for ONE DOLLAR. It was the cosmetic bag pattern that led me to search for the matching bag and wallet (I still have to get a wallet to match the other bag...).
There you have it! Now you too can carry a designer bag, and no one will know you didn't pay full retail!