Monday, January 9, 2012

Thrifty and Proud

I recently ran across the phrase "thrift is punished," in regards to our economy and how it is more socially acceptable to keep buying bigger and better things when we can't afford them.

I guess I agree to some extent, that our culture looks down on re-using and buying used instead of new.  But I think a lot of people don't have a choice but to be thrifty right now.  Our family of four currently lives on one salary while our children are young and at home.  We have to weigh our options when it comes to getting something we need or want.  At the same time, we have our standards as far as what we eat, how we dress, and how we keep our house.  I like high-quality, well-designed, beautiful things, and I have found that if I'm willing to go out of my way a little, I can get exactly what I want without paying retail.

Here's a little house tour of some things I have bought in the last few years- all previously owned and a great bargain.

"Rody," the crazy-expensive Italian bouncy pony.  Found on Craigslist for $25.
(his came sans mustache- that's from Boo bouncing too close to a brown wall)

 Awesome Boden jacket that reminded me of Mad Men.  A great find on eBay.

Homemade wall art from fabric scraps and thrift store embroidery hoops.  

 Vintage Fisher-Price cash register.  We had to find plastic doo-dads to replace the missing coins, but otherwise, it works perfectly.  Found at Arc's Value Village.

OK.  This is going to sound really gross, and I don't recommend buying personal items used.  But this is Medela's Pump In Style, found on Craigslist, still completely sealed in all it's packaging.  I can't remember how much I paid, but I think it was probably half what it would have cost new.  Please don't buy a previously used breastpump.  I'm just saying that in the instance that someone got one as a gift and couldn't return it, and listed it on Craigslist, it turned out to be a great bargain for me.  

Frye "Melissa Button" boots.  Another iffy item to buy on Craigslist, because you just never know about footwear.  The woman was a realtor in Minnetonka,  had recently had foot surgery, and couldn't fit into her extremely large, expensive boot collection.  She was professional, classy, and after meeting her, I trusted that the boots were as new as she said they were.  And they were an amazing steal at half what they cost in stores.  

 Used upholstered furniture is another thing I don't always trust.  If the person has pets, or smokes, you might not want to bring it into your house.  This was the sofa and ottoman set we were going to buy from IKEA anyway.  When I found someone selling it on Craigslist for a fraction of the cost, I had to check it out.  The guy's apartment was super clean and minimal, with an enviable amount of Apple gear.  It's leather, so we wiped it down when we got it home and we were good to go.

This is a bowl from a set of three Williams Sonoma mixing bowls.  I had just been admiring them in the catalog when I spied them at Arc's Value Village.  Maybe someone got them as a wedding present and didn't want them?  Crazy.

My vintage game boards.  Mostly from Arc's Value Village, with a few from eBay.  They're not in the greatest shape, but they are a lot of fun to look at and always a conversation piece.  

Boo's Plan City toys.  The train station was at a store going out of business and the airport and parking ramp were at Once Upon A Child. They were all in brand new condition, like they had never been played with.   

The firetruck I found in a dumpster behind the YMCA.  I never, ever thought I'd be one to pull something out of dumpster.  But I knew my kids would love it, and, more importantly, it's plastic so it's very washable!

The ugly plastic climber that has made my kids so very happy.  Another great Craigslist score.  I'm told we are the third family to own it, and I plan to put it right back on Craigslist in a couple years.  Kept in the shade, and stored during winter, it will stay in good shape.   

Rug made of FLOR carpet tiles.  They are cast-off architectural samples, so completely free! 

 I frequently pick up kids' movies at Arc's Value Village.  They are typically $1-2, depending on format.  Sometimes we keep them around.  Sometimes we watch them once and re-donate them.  It's still cheaper than renting, and the money is going to a great organization.  

The Dyson DC-25.  This picture is from the day we got it.  Brand new in a sealed box from a seller on Craigslist.  And when she had trouble meeting up with us, making us drive out even farther into suburbia, she dropped the price even more.  

Doc Martens boots.  I had tried on a pair at Nordstrom that were on sale, then thought maybe I could get a better price on eBay.   They did not look like they had ever been worn.

I get a lot of my books at thrift stores and Half Price Books.  Between that and checking out from the library, I never buy new books anymore.  Most of these were only read once and they were all $2-3.  

When I look around my house at all the nice stuff I've been able to buy used, I'm proud of the money I've saved.  Still, I'm strict about the kinds of things I will bring home.  I don't want my house to be full of junk.  When I'm browsing Craigslist or rummaging at a thrift store, I ask myself:

Do I really need this or do I just want to get it because it seems like a good deal?  I make sure I only buy things I have actually thought about getting BEFORE I saw it for sale somewhere.  I keep a running list of things I'm on the lookout for and then I check Craigslist and eBay every once in a while to see if I can find them.  

Where will it be stored in my house?  I have a small house with very little storage space.  I like to think we have a revolving door policy when it comes to shopping.  If I go out and buy a few new outfits, it's time to clean out my closet and give away some stuff I don't want anymore.  Same goes for toys, books, kitchen gadgets, DVDs, and craft supplies.  One thing I know we always have room for is books because we have a lot of bookcases, but anything else could potentially take up floor space, so I have to be careful.  

What is the worst possible body fluid there could be on this item, and can I wash it off?  I just assume every item with a porous surface has been peed on (or worse!).  And if it can't go into the washer, I leave it alone.  I just can't bear the thought of used furniture, mattresses or rugs.  Also, I make sure books don't smell like mildew, because it's pretty much impossible to get that smell out.  

How am I going to dispose of this when I'm done using it?  In other words, is it nice enough that I can get a few years of use out of it and then pass it on to someone else?  We try to get the kids really sturdy, classic toys for this very reason.  

Is it in perfect condition or do I need to repair it.  And how much time to I really have to put into it?  I have learned that I will never have time to repair anything, so if something needs some kind of work done to it, I had better not bother with it.  

I'd love some feedback here.  I really want to know:  What are your best thrift store/Craigslist/eBay/garage sale scores ever?  And where do you draw the line on what kinds of things you'll buy used?

1 comment:

  1. What a great idea for a post! I hardly ever buy new but my house isn't cool like yours. You have such good taste!