Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: One of the Best Thrifting Days Ever

It had been a few weeks since I last checked out Savers in Bloomington, so I trekked over to the store after dropping Punky at preschool.  It's a bit more outlying than some of my other favorite stores and I usually try to combine the trip with a Trader Joe's run or other errands while I'm in the area.  I had filled up quite a large bag of donations to bring in this time, because I knew I'd get a coupon, so I took care of the drop-off right away when I drove up.

Coupon in pocket, I ran in, not planning on spending a lot of time, but wanting to hit all the bases while I was there.  The number one item on my mental list was, believe it or not, a Home Alone VHS or DVD, and Savers did not disappoint.  (I was disappointed later when I showed it to my kids and realized it was probably a lot more frightening than funny to a four and six year old.  Ugh. Chalk that one up as a another parenting fail.)

Anyway, I ended up being so glad I stopped by Savers on this particular day.  I found two cute scarves, one for warmth and one because I loved the print so much.  

 Then I found a Micheal Kors dress that appealed to me.  But for some unexplained reason, the price was marked at 29.99.  For all I know, the previous owner could have bought it new at TJ Maxx for that price!

So I debated with myself for awhile.  Nothing should cost 29.99 at a thrift store unless someone left a $20 bill in the pocket.  On the other hand, it had everything I love in a dress: muted color, fun print, knee-length, easy to move around in, washable fabric, functional pockets.  It was probably meant to be a casual career woman kind of dress, but I could picture it as a casual stay-at-home-mom kind of dress; just as comfy as wearing yoga pants and a sweatshirt, but way cuter.  I also had that discount coupon, and had just received a little Christmas money, so I decided to splurge.

 The next thing I found jumped out at me from the cardigan racks because of the color and the texture.

I took one look at the label, and BAM! it landed in my cart.

So here's what I think happened in my brain at that moment.  I recently went to this Italian Style exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  Most of the clothes on display were very beautiful couture gowns worn in movies or by famous women, but there were also examples of more modern Italian fashion including one extremely ugly Benetton sweater (uglier than most, even) from the 80s.  And when I saw this one, which is crazy-looking, but not quite as hideous, I just got so excited to have it.  Only time will tell if I actually wear it, but I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

I almost passed up the shoe aisles, and it's a good thing I didn't.  I found a perfectly sensible, comfortable pair of Merrell mary janes.  They looked like they had never been worn outside and they are amazingly comfortable.  I don't really have a lot of black shoes, so I expect these will come in handy.

I've been having a hard time finding some short black boots, so I was pretty excited to find these from Easy Spirit.  I'm not sure they are exactly what I had in mind, but they're close.  They also appear to be in almost-new condition and are so comfy.

I certainly wasn't planning to buy a bag that day, and the bags are usually pretty sad at thrift stores.  There are always a lot of designer knock-offs and cheap-feeling imitation leather, but something told me to take a look since I was there anyway.  My eye scanned the wall of pink, faux-crocodile "Prada" and logo bags with a "C" that I assume were supposed to trick people into thinking stood for "Coach."  And then an understated brown canvas bag with a familiar black label caught my eye.

I had one of those Holy Grail thrift store moments, where I just stood and stared like I couldn't believe it was real.  I mean, you don't find Marimekko at the thrift store!  You just don't.  And yet, here it was, practically glowing under a beam of heavenly fluorescent lighting.

And it's such a nice bag.  It's well-constructed and durable, with heavy, shiny hardwear. The strap converts so it can be used as a traditional shoulder bag or kind of a one-strap backpack.  I looked up the bag on the Marimekko site and found that they call this style Merimies, that being the Finnish word for sailor.  I also saw that it retailed for 1,695 kr, which didn't mean anything to me.  A quick Google conversion told me that was 221.76 in USD.  Not bad!  And it's in perfect condition.  A crumpled Starburst wrapper inside was the only evidence that anyone else has ever owned the bag.

At the end of this shopping excursion, I was feeling like I won the lottery.  I do have days when I find nothing, but as long as I keep looking, good things will turn up.

You'll see below how thrift store pricing is sometimes all over the place.  I'm still shaking my head at the Michael Kors dress, but since I more than made up for it with the other items I bought, I kind of don't care.  I came out way ahead in the end.

(All prices after 40% discount taken.  I believed the discount was because of the coupon I received when I donated, but on the receipt it says "senior discount".)

Home Alone VHS .25
Michael Kors dress 18.00
Benetton cardigan 3.00
Scarf 2.40
Scarf 2.40
Easy Spirit short boots 4.80
Merrell shoes 6.00
Marimekko bag 4.80

Total: $42.02
Time in store: 45 minutes

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: More Christmas Goodies and the Ironing Board of Shame

Boy, oh boy, did I score some cool stuff this week at Arc Value Village.

I first heard of these GoldieBlox sets last year when everyone was posting the commercials all over Facebook.  I like the idea of a STEM-based toy marketed toward girls, but hadn't really considered buying these.  We have a lot of Legos, after all.  Anyway, used and in good shape, they're great to throw under the tree this year. 

My kids love The Polar Express, but we don't have the book.  This hardcover one's in great condition.  I did a quick flip-though to make sure pages weren't ripped or colored on.  Also, I found videos for Olive The Other Reindeer (we have the book but have never seen the movie) and Frosty The Snowman because the kids have complained that it's not on Netflix.

I swung through the kids' clothing even though, there's nothing they really need.  But that very morning I had been searching for a warm cardigan when Punky wanted to go to preschool in this: 

(I let her go like this anyway)

So I found this nice white Gap cardigan that will hopefully go with a few other summer dresses she still likes to wear in December.  Also, I found these cute, black shorty boots for her. 

Here's a fun little stocking stuffer for The Mister.  I wish there had been a full set, but I know he'll like it, especially if I get him something to fill it with.

While in my basement sewing area, I often wish I had a handy, tabletop ironing board next to my machine to press seams.  So when I happened upon this cute little IKEA ironing board at Arc, I was pretty happy.  The 7.49 price tag seemed high to me, and maybe I should have said something about it, but I let it go because the money goes to a great organization and I figure I get so many great deals there that I can pay a little more once in a while.  I got home and looked online to see how much they normally go for at IKEA, and it was 4.99.  Ugh.  And on top of that, it was more work for me because I had to take off the cover and wash it.  

Also, after putting the cover back on, I realized that it was really wrinkly.  So now I have to iron the ironing board cover.  Facepalm.  Don't get me wrong--I'm still really happy I got it because it will go to good use.  It's a good lesson for me to do my research when a price seems off.  

Goldie Blox 1.49
Goldie Blox 1.49
The Polar Express Book .99
Olive The Other Reindeer VHS .69
Frosty the Snowman VHS .69
Gap Cardigan 1.49 (yellow tagged items 50% off)
Cherokee Boots 1.99 (yellow tagged items 50% off)
Surly Pint Glass 1.09
4.99 IKEA Ironing Board 7.49 (I really love you, Arc!)

Total paid: $19.00 (after rounding up to make a contribution)
Total time in store: 30 blissful, kid-free minutes

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: Kid Stuff

For this week's thrift store adventure, I went to Goodwill.  Goodwill has been around for, like, ever, but in the past couple years, the stores have undergone a huge upgrade.  They are bright and organized, with amenities like electric car charging-stations out in front.

In preparation for the holidays, I noticed the shelving had been rearranged to spotlight the new, in-the-box, toys donated by Target.  

 Notice the sad little orange clearance stickers half-covered by Goodwill's price tags?  I guess Angry Birds GO Telepods weren't such a hot seller and Target had to dump them somewhere.  Fortunately, my kids think they are the greatest things ever, and have been wanting to collect the whole set.  

I'm not crazy about bringing more dumb little plastic toys into our house, but I figure if we already have a designated storage box for our Angry Birds stuff, what's a few more?

Punky spotted this Hello Kitty miniature garden set, and I agreed that it was the perfect scale to integrate into our dollhouses.  

They had fun all afternoon playing with their new, super-cheap toys.

I got a few other things:  a wooden salad bowl I'm going to clean up and use for storage, another Angry Birds toy to keep hidden until Christmas morning, and a couple movies.  We'll probably keep the movies around a few months and re-donate them so they don't clutter up the house.  It's still cheaper than Netflix or Redbox, and don't even get me started on buying brand new DVDs.

The best find of the day goes to Punky, who spotted something pink and ruffly in the kids' racks.  I checked the tag and saw it was Crewcuts, so we nabbed it.  Why would anyone donate a perfectly good silk Crewcuts dress?  Probably because it requires 15 minutes of tedious ironing after every wash.  Still, it's a lot of fun and has already inspired a lot of twirling, dancing, and make-believe.

Angry Birds toy 1.99
Angry Birds toy .99
Hello Kitty toy 1.99
Wooden bowl 1.99
DVD 1.99
VHS .20
Crewcuts dress 2.99

Total price $12.14
Time spent in store 30 minutes

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: Decent Things You Can Get The Dollar Store

Hey, Friends.  I haven't been thrifting this week, but I wanted to talk about my secret obsession with the local dollar store.  I hadn't set foot in one until a few years ago, because a lot of what you find there is weird plastic, breakable tchotchkes made in China.  But there are a few surprises, some of them the exact same things you'd pay extra for at your usual store.

First off, the dollar store is always stocked with decor for whatever holiday is coming next.  Most of it is pretty tacky, but there are sometimes a few things that could pass for something more elegant.  For example, I found these felt cut-outs that would look really cute hanging from the ceiling or as a table runner,  

I don't buy a lot of greeting cards.  And when I do, I walk away with sticker shock for what is essentially a pretty piece of paper.  If it's truly the thought that counts, I say save your cash and get your greeting cards here.

Plastic tablecloths have so many uses.  I like to use them as drop clothes for painting and a floor protector under the litter box.  Or, you know, use them as tablecloths for a party.  They come in dozens of colors and patterns.  And every one has paper plates and napkins to match.

A 2-pack of brand name tape.  Score!

I like to stock up on tissue paper.  Especially with with the holidays coming up.  This is a perfect example of something where quality just doesn't matter and you can go as cheap as possible.

When I have one of the kids with me, and they're bugging me for a toy, I divert them to the craft aisle.  Sticks, beads, glue, paint: you can find them all.  Even these chenille stems, which were called pipe cleaners back in my day.  

There is a variety of classroom supplies, mostly decorative, but sometimes you can find some good teaching tools and wipe-off calendars.

I'm not too picky about pens because I lose them quickly, but most of the usual name brands are here, even Sharpie markers.

This is crazy.  I found nail wraps!  And they're the good ones!

OK, so I think these styles may have been discontinued because of how ugly they are and that's how they ended up here at the dollar store.  Still, a fun find.

 Super cute houndstooth wrapping paper!  They also have Christmas paper with every popular cartoon character.  Not normally my style, but Punky was excited to see it.

I love using parchment paper for baking, and I love it even more when it's only a dollar.  They sell wax paper, foil, etc. here too.

What kid doesn't love getting a bunch of helium balloons for their birthday?  They last forever and, let's face it, some kids would rather run around with a balloon than play with a fancy new toy.

Of course, there is always a dark side to the dollar store.  Some things are better left on the shelf, such as...

Nasty migraine-inducing, chemically-scented candles.  I hate even walking past them.

Cheap plastic stuff for babies and children (especially the sippy cups and eating utensils that go in their mouths).  Are you kidding me?

Plastic cooking utensils that could melt or leech chemicals while they touch your hot food.

So, while the dollar store is not necessarily the best place to buy a gift for a loved one, or outfit your entire house, I like to peruse the aisles once in a while to see what kind of stuff it makes sense to buy here.  My philosophy is that even Target sells some cheap disposable crap, so I might as well buy it where I can get it for much less.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: If You Want To Destroy My Sweater

For this week's Thrifty Thursday, I scoured the sweater racks at Savers in Bloomington and came across a beautiful wool shawl-collared cardigan from J. Crew.  I have to admit, I was a little annoyed at the 12.99 price tag.  Even for a J. Crew sweater in excellent condition, come on, it's Savers, and it's been who-knows-where.

But it had so much going for it.  I love a shawl collar.  I love a sweater with a little structure that could be worn as a jacket.  I love that it has some silver sparkle in the yarn (holidays, here we come!).  And it's so soft and cuddly, it's like wearing a baby blanket.

Oh, yeah, and it's Dry Clean.

Now, if I was working outside the home, with a wardrobe that required regular dry cleaning, it wouldn't be such a big deal to drop off the sweater with the rest of the clothes.  But to make a separate trip, and shell out even more money right away, doesn't seem cool to me. 

The sweater smelled and looked clean, and I don't believe wool needs to be cleaned much at all, but you never know where it's been or what the last owner did to it.  So I decided to throw the wool sweater in the wash.  

 Woolite was the gentlest detergent I had on hand.

I let the washer fill with cool water and Woolite .

Then I gently submerged the sweater.  Gulp.  Point of no return.

I hear there are fancy new washers that have settings for washing wool.  Mine is about as old-school as they come so I had to move the dial manually, to do what I wanted.  First, I let the sweater soak for about 30 minutes, with the lid of the washer open, so it wouldn't agitate.  Agitating, along with heat, turns a pretty knitted item into a shrunken piece of felt.  As soon as the wool is wet, you want to move it and touch it as little as possible so you don't mess up the fibers.  The same is true for curly hair, except when curly hair gets frizzy you can condition and reshape it all over again.  Ruining a wool sweater is forever.  

I moved the dial straight to the spin to drain the soapy water.  Then I moved it back to the beginning to let it refill for the rinse, let it sit for a few minutes, then set it to spin again.  

While the washer was spinning, I set up a drying area for the sweater.  I know there are special mesh racks for drying sweaters, but I don't have room to stash something like that.  I used a laundry basket turned on its side with a towel for a clean drying surface.

I gently laid the damp sweater flat on the towel with the sleeves up off the floor.  

Then, because I wanted it to hurry up and dry already, I set up a fan (not pictured) and both my dehumidifiers.  After a few hours I removed the towel, which was damp, and set the fan in the opening of the basket so air would move through the holes to the sweater.  

By evening the sweater was mostly dry, and it looked great.  No pilling or fuzziness.  It honestly didn't look (or smell) differently than it had before, but now I had peace of mind knowing it was clean.

This was the best picture I could get in my badly-lit house.  I stood directly under a light to show off some of the sparkle.  

Total price $12.99
The cashier at Savers told me that if I had brought a donation, they would have given me a 20% off coupon.  Also, next Monday there's a 50% off sale on all clothing and shoes.  I could have put the sweater back and gambled on it still being on the rack Monday to get it half price.  But I liked it enough not to chance it, and I had to consider that the time it would take to go back, and the gas it would take to drive there, would make it less of a good deal.  

I did start a punch card, which will get me a discount in the future if I continue to shop there.

Total time in store 45 minutes
 (much of which was spent negotiating in the toy section with Miss Punky)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Morning Roundup 11.3.14

Ugggh.  It's November.  It's cold.  And we just had one of those sleep-depriving, kid-confusing time changes.  I was up at 4:30 this morning, watching my kids play video games while my eyelid developed that twitchy thing it does when I'm stressed.

The early birds get the pannekoeken.

Here are some links:

Good advice for parents (even ones like me who despair when the house is a mess and the kids sometimes only get cheese and crackers for lunch): Applying the 80/20 Rule.

This blog is funny and helpful: Adulting

The front of my house needs something, and I'm not quite ready to go all out with the Christmas decor yet.  Maybe one of these fall wreaths?

Unexpected views of historic moments.  I got chills from more than a few of these pictures.

I started a gratitude journal before, but didn't keep up with it.  Now there's this app called Happier, I think I'll try.

Have a great week!