Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thrift is truly orginal haute couture

"Do people mind that you give used gifts?"

That's a frequent question. As I have written many times, it's hard to discern the origins of my gifts (unless it's clearly vintage) because I free new products from their horrid packaging. Look, this packaging is not designed to delight the recipient, the intention is to slide that product over home plate (the register scanner) to be added on to a score board (a well stacked credit card statement). [Sigh.]

Besides, my friends and family know that I give thrift. But, whenever I surprise someone they look at me with mouth agape. "Where!" they demand. Upon learning they usually follow up with, "I'm going there tomorrow!"

If you are new to thrift, please scroll down and on the left there is a series of posts on How to Thrift. Since thrift has recently been in the news, many reporters, with no thrift experience, have taken weak stabs at "How to thrift." I find 99% of these articles quite lacking. The thrift couture is an entirely separate game from conventional retail. With the exception of paying the cashier, the rules are completely different. Trying to mix them would be like serving goulash and sushi for dinner. Blech! Wonderful separately. But a disaster when mixed.

Mr. Golightly heard this intriguing piece, Second Hand Christmas in France, from Public Radio International's The World. I recommend you listen and be a little more enlightened about other cultures. So, not only do the French eat lovely buttery, creamy treats with fine wine while still managing a lovely figure; but their haute sense of style is due in part to second hand items. However, I learned from a spot on CBS Sunday Morning that the recent rise in the French obesity rate might just be linked, in part, to the rise in sales of Big Mac's in France. [Double sigh.] American influence is not always a plus, well maybe in dress size.

Unfortunately our country, probably by geological design, has a tendency for monoculture. Consumerism has done an amazing job of furthering and filtering a craving for excessive homogeny through nearly every aspect of American culture from chain restaurants to clothing to furniture to home designs. I believe this merely happened because it's cheaper to produce 20,000,000 pairs of the same blue jean design than it is to produce 20,000,000 originals. Let me be plain, I think that kind of sucks and wonder if most Americans really understand what it means to be an original or how we desperately need originals. The idea of being an "original" has even been mass marketed! Come again?

Esteemed author Michael Pollan points out the perils of farming monoculture species in his best seller, The Botany of Desire. This amazing book was made into a PBS documentary. I recommend the both it and the documentary. The documentary is easily viewed online.

I believe Pollan's argument in favor of promoting plant diversity holds true to human culture. Much that plays out in nature plays out in human culture. The parallels are astounding. We need pioneers. We need diversity. We need originals. Else-wise our culture will weaken and problems will be widely homogeneous, like mass obesity, children with brittle bones, mass home foreclosures, mass credit card debt, mass unemployment, dot com bubbles, real estate bubbles, and overdependent reliance on one particular source of energy...I truly believe a healthy culture has diversity on many levels.

If you're a parent, don't follow trends. My best advice to do is to yank the cable TV and dare your child to develop their personal inner interests. Our children really are truly individuals until commercials take hold of them. Let them decide what they enjoy and they will grow up to be originals, pioneers.

If you are a new visitor to this blog, be certain to scroll back up and pull up the Thrift Catalog slide show featuring over 240 items. This could give you an idea of what could be waiting for you. Also check to the Table of Blog Contents to read on how to incorporate thrift into your life in Thrift Store Conventions.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Golightly 2009 Holiday Annual Report

This Friday was the last day for the 2009 school year. We are now on official holiday break. Friday was a giant personal deadline, my cut off date for purchasing holiday gifts and having them wrapped and ready for Christmas morning. I don’t like staying up until 2AM to wrap gifts while my children sleep.

Like most deadlines it can be a bit frantic as it nears completion. It’s not the shopping that makes this deadline brutal, it’s the wrapping. Given that I have 365 days to find items that recipients will appreciate, I won’t stress over shopping. Along my quest, I find items my family needs, often in advance of the need. This too lowers my stress.

My methodology is quite different from the 28 days of standard holiday shopping from Black Friday to Christmas Eve. As explained in the post Designing a Thrift Routine, most of it is accomplished in a series of 10-minute recon strikes married to the routine of my errand life. For example, when I visit the bank, I visit the thrift store next door for a quick ten with a pair of Snake Eyes to hone in on what’s new.

As an aside, I truly believe the thought counts more than the amount. If you’re in a tired, frantic, grumpy state, are you really thinking? Or are you desperate to be done with it? Please remember, the True Gift is to be Known & Understood, to have someone who’s taken the time to know you, understand you and supports you being who you are. Those are the gifts that make people want to fly. No price tag can be put upon knowing a person. I think this true gift is often lost in the holiday madness culture our country’s market has crafted. We might drive retail sales figures but in turn do those figures drive our happiness? Do they fill our closest needs?

Aside from making an honest effort to find gifts people will need or appreciate (and saving money) I want to spend the winter break with my family. I have a finite number of holiday breaks with my children and this number is shrinking every year. Why would I spend it in crowded malls getting grumpy? Truth be told, I absolutely hate spending a day driving all over town to find the right gift in panicked state. It makes me mean and impatient. Is that a decent role model for my children? Is that what I want them to believe giving is like?

Before reviewing the Golightly 2009 Holiday Annual Report, please know:
  • We have a large extended family that spans the country, our shipping costs are often more than the actual gifts. Mailing done before Thanksgiving rewards us with a cheaper ground rate.
  • None of these gifts are re-gifted.
  • These gifts are a mix of thrift and conventional retail.
  • These gifts do not include items for Little Pie’s and Petite Poe’s stockings. But most of that was thrift, I just didn't keep count of the cost. The cost is not much but the girls will love the goodies.
  • Since I work at this through the course of the year, the spending has been spread out over many months. December’s bank and credit statements won’t be bleak like the long winter nights.
  • These gifts do not include the cost of Little Pie's three wishes to Santa which tipped just over $100, very steep indeed but so worth keeping the belief alive for another year.
  • These are the gifts I have purchased and don’t include items that my daughters will give to each other, Mr. Golightly or myself. Nor do they include gifts that Mr. Golighty will give to me – that is for him to know and me to find out.
  • Though mostly thrift, these are not gifts to snub your nose at - they are eclectic, antique, brand new, and many are worth hundreds more than I paid for them whether it be a new item from thrift or a vintage item purchased thrift minus the mark up finder's fee on EBay.
The 2009 Golightly Holiday Annual Report:
  • for the extended family, I spent $87 for 17 gifts, a $5.11 average per gift;
  • for friends, I spent $28 for 9 gifts, a $3.11 average per gift;
  • for school related items, I spent $33 for 8 gifts, a $4.12 average per gift;
  • for my immediate family, I spent $199.75 for 35 gifts, a $5.70 average per gift.
My 2009 total spending for the holidays was $347.75 for 69 gifts , a $5.03 average per gift. I an pleased with the results. My average per gift was only three cents above my Flinch Point. This is especially interesting given that many greeting cards sell for more than my $5 Flinch Point.

Now, this many sound really obsessive, but I keep an Excel spreadsheet of holiday giving. Let’s face it, when the rubber hits the road, I cannot remember what I gave three years ago. But recipients remember. A similar record is kept for birthdays. These spreadsheets also help me keep track of what I’ve already purchased and for whom. For example, I bought an amazing find at the thrift store two days ago for an August birthday. I boxed it up, put it in my gift bin and noted it in my records. This particular gift is so cool that it will be hard not to give it for the holidays! Giving gifts early is a chronic temptation of mine.

You may think my process entirely obsessive, perhaps over the top, but I don’t stress over what to give people or how much I am spending. And, when Little Pie receives an invitation to a birthday party that she forgot to hand over and the party is tomorrow or that afternoon, I don’t need to race out and shop. I go downstairs to my little girls birthday bin and pull out a gift that this particular child would like. Done!

I stuck to my schedule and met my deadlines. But something is happening in Denver that is making things most difficult for me. This year has brought, what I believe to be, an unprecedented surge in last minute donations for 2009 tax deductions like no other. It’s wonderful for the thrift stores. But it’s cramping my shopping methodology. Knowing that incredible deals are quickly and rampantly running through my local thrift store as I write is making me edgy. Really edgy. In the last three days, I’ve purchased five brand new, wonderful birthday gifts for little girls for a total of $7.50 and the retail cost is $47.79. This is 15% of the retail cost for new items! Why wait for holiday sales in the conventional retail universe when the best deals are at the thrift stores now?

As Little Pie and I went to our neighborhood Goodwill last night a large U-Haul truck was backing up onto the donation ramp as we walked in. The theme from Mission Impossible blared in my head as I daydreamed of taking a blowtorch to the side of the van and burning a hole to climb inside to check out the goods first!

Like many people, some of my relatives send me money for the holidays. Usually I spend a small amount at post-holiday sales. However, within the last few days I bought myself a key necklace from Tiffany’s for $4, and a handcrafted vintage sterling spoon bracelet for $4. Last night I caught a vintage 1950’s button-down cape in mint condition for $13 -literally as it rolled onto the sales floor. I love my gifts!

So, maybe I will break with my methodology if it scores me some good stuff even before 2010.

If you are a new visitor to this blog, be certain to scroll back up and pull up the Thrift Catalog slide show featuring over 240 items. This could give you an idea of what could be waiting for you. Also check to the Table of Blog Contents and read about other Thrift Store Conventions.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Santa’s elves shop at thrift stores too

In the December 6th post, Little Pie’s three sweet wishes, I wrote of our experience taking our youngest daughter to meet up with Santa. At eight years old, Little Pie is a solid believer. You may recall, our family has a standing agreement that we wish for three items, anything more might appear greedy and greedy children are not good children. For at least a week out, Little Pie had her list on the straight and narrow: 1) a monocular, “like the sea captains of old used;” 2) a big plush tiger to cuddle; and 3) money from around the world. We were set and I had all my plans in order.

The monocular above I ordered from Ebay. I found a wooden box at the thrift store for $1 and had reindeer moss for filler to spare. In the previous post, I mentioned my elfish notions on North Pole gift presentation. Simplicity is critical. If you need help to think like an elf to make the magic, I recommend and elf’s diet which is mainly cupcakes and coffee. During the holidays I figure eating sweet helps make you sweet and the coffee, well, to stay awake. Achieving a full belief system of magic requires a lot of skill so best to be alert.

I could not afford the full sliding brass monocular as typical with what we think Captain Ahab might have used. But, this monocular is old. It’s not from 1891, but old enough. I love how my daughter asked for something vintage and has a notion that Santa also gives vintage or shall we say “reused” items. Yes Virginia, Santa is indeed green and cares very much about the state of our planet and is saddened by waste.

I’ve often found old objects carry more magic and evoke more curiosity. Ever noticed how when children draw bathtubs, they are often claw foot tubs? Yet, most homes do not have a claw foot tub. Ours does and if you like the luxury of a hot bath, you should ask for an old iron claw foot tub for the holidays, if your stacked with money get a copper one.

The plush tiger. I found him at Goodwill for $4. He is in like new condition and passed a cuddle test. A quick wash, not in our claw foot, put him right and ready to meet Little Pie on Christmas morning. Many of the plush toys at thrift stores are in excellent condition. The average American child receives more plush toys than they ever could play with and it’s off to the thrift store they go. I clipped off the tiger’s tags. As mentioned in the prior post, the North Pole is a free enterprise. So when possible, get rid of the tags, boxes or anything else that might even hint that this toy is not from the North.

The money from around the world. Wait! Little Pie pulled a shell game on me and at the last moment. While on his lap, she switched strategies to an EGYPTAIN COSTUME!

What? Once home with Little Pie asleep, I raced down stairs and dove into the Net. Most everything there was that barely-threaded, flammable fabric stuff. Sigh. Santa wouldn’t give that! I was in a pickle because I do not sew. Really. I have about 30 Girl Scout patches to sew on two uniforms. I am years behind. I have two girlfriends who are amazing designers but they have daughters of their own and asking them for an Egyptian costume would not be cool in December. Maybe in June but not December.

I did what I always do and took my snake eyes to the Goodwill at Archer and Broadway in Denver. There, I found the ultra cool necklace and two little red cases. Feeling good I jumped over Broadway and went into Boss Unlimited, a well organized vintage store. I found a simple cotton vintage slip in good condition. I figure Piper is thinking ancient Egypt so this dress has to have an old feel to it. Great! I’ll sew some kind of hieroglyphic on this slip. It’s hot in Egypt and the images portrayed are always in a simple white dress.

Finally I drove over to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science where I found the gold headdress and a few scarabs to sew onto the slip. I figure that is enough to make my Little Pie feel like an ancient African queen. As little girls, didn’t we all dream of being Cleopatra? I printed off a few “tags” to help the little suit cases look like they’ve been traveling and passed through customs because this costume was coming from Egypt.

Thankfully I carefully checked out the gold wig. It had a “Made in China” sticker in a hidden spot. Good thing I found it. An Egyptian wig made in China? Indeed! I’ve always wondered what factory workers in China must think about as they whip out oddly shaped erasers, plastic blow horns and other senseless stuff. What would you think about another culture if you sat in a factory for 8-10 hours a day making paddleballs for them?

So there it is. A little girl who is asking Santa for antiquated items. Children are fascinated by the past. I refer to real items from the past. Conventional retail would have you think otherwise because they don’t sell old things. But when a child is suspended from the mass advertising, amazing things happen.

If you are a new visitor to this blog, be certain to scroll back up and pull up the Thrift Catalog slide show featuring over 230 items from thrift stores to give you an idea of what could be waiting for you.

Now, I have to find me a few good cupcakes. Being an elf isn't so easy.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Little Pie's three sweet wishes

Pictured above is our little elf, Nimble. He finds a spot in our home 'round the holidays and is the eyes and ears from the North. Nimble is quick, so quick human eyes cannot catch him. He appears when it's time to visit Santa and stays until Baby New Year arrives. Baby New Year is another story. All kinds of magical creatures visit us during the holidays including Mother Nature.

Last Friday evening we went to a little pocket of locally owned businesses on three blocks of South Pearl Street in the Platte Park neighborhood of Denver, a mile due south of us. Each year, these businesses sponsor Winterfest with horse-pulled wagon rides, roasting chestnuts, mulled cider and Santa makes a call. Even though mom and pop stores sponsor this, it’s not heavily commercialized and that’s really nice. It all happens outside and sometimes it can be very, very cold. But, the man lives in the ARCTIC, so 30 degrees is like Miami. That’s where Little Pie has caught up with the old man since she can remember.

Plus, it's fun to visit the stores on South Pearl. They are the mom and pop of Anthropologie. Actually they are a step above for their inspiration is not dictated by some corporate standard and the shop owners are the people we live next to and meet in coffee shops. If not thrift, these are the people who might be best to visit first when purchasing new items. Little Pie is pictured next to one of the Five Green Boxes stores. There is a home, clothing and now cards and decorating store in the Five Green Boxes genre. All are completely inspiring.

Petite Poe used to eagerly come too, but at 12 years old, she opted out for spending the night at friends. Why must we grow up?

As mentioned, our family has a long standing agreement that we offer up no more than three wishes to Santa. Anything more would make us look greedy and greedy children are not good children. This limit also makes the girls think of what they really want instead of just listing whatever comes to mind. This year Piper asked for:

1. A monocular, "like the sea captains of old used". Hmm, the sea captains of old. She is envisioning a brass instrument, something worn. Could Santa possibly save old treasures to give? Interesting concept. Speaking of sailors, our freshly chopped Douglas fir from the Rocky Mountain wilderness continues to drink like a sailor. As a family, we made three wreaths from the extra trimmings and the remaining trunk is in the fireplace as I write.

Last year, he did give her two bells from his ancient sleigh. Pictured above, you see they are old. These are real sleigh bells, not made by Hallmark with the words "Polar Express" inscribed upon on them. What does a card company have to do with making bells for Santa’s sleigh? Wouldn’t he have elves that tend to that? I love the book and the Polar Express movie but the bell is supposed to come from the sleigh, not the train!

2. An Egyptian costume.

3. A big plush tiger that is soft so she can cuddle. Piper is selective on the plush toys she keeps and she truly plays with them.

It’s wonderful to see that my daughter’s imagination travels the high seas, visits ancient Egypt and explores the jungles and mangrove swamps. All these places still need exploring, though we’d prefer to think otherwise, there is still so much to this wonderful planet that remains inconceivable to our current knowledge - of which we have only skimmed the surface.

In the past Piper’s asked for: magnetic rocks, a big bag of jellybeans, a little bag of jellybeans, a plush butterfly, skeleton keys, an hourglass and a thimble. Poet used to ask for similar things. She had one recurring wish, to fly by her own powers. Perhaps that’s why she is a champion swimmer and makes the breaststroke look like a waltz. But, I imagine if she keeps up her smarts and that resolve, she will fly someday.

No, we did not stand in line at Denver’s upscale Cherry Creek Mall for 45 minutes while getting blasted with the next Disney promotion. And no, there was no expensive photography scam attempting to make us feel guilty for not buying a poorly shot $18 photo of Little Pie on Santa's lap. At Winterfest, we take our own photo – no cost!

Parents, you must think like an elf to make things magical for your child. Here are some tips:

1. Elves make toys. They do not twisty tie down dolls or put toys in garish boxes intended to market the toy. Besides, it almost seems like a cruel punishment if you have the child's view that a toy can be a living being to tie it down. An elf-made toy comes ready for play in a simple brown reusable box. Children want to pull that toy out of the box and start playing right away! Any assembly, batteries, whatever needs to be done is done in advance. Your child has been waiting for –in some cases- months for this object. They want to play with it upon opening!

2. There are no discount chain retailers at the North Pole and they do not have access to cheap wrapping paper. Simple wooden boxes are great to hold gifts from the North. Okay, I know there are no trees on the polar ice cap but a wooden box looks more magical than misprinted Scotch-taped candy cane paper. Especially candy cane paper that is making other appearances around the tree – that is one of the most common belief killers! Children notice that and quickly conclude it is no coincidence. Besides, elves would get to the Boreal forest before they'd find a Walmart. Simple wooden boxes make appearances in thrift stores.

3. When elves need to add filler to a box to hold an object, reindeer moss is a good choice. This makes appearances in thrift stores too.

4. Elves use real ribbon – no plastic-icky imitations. Real ribbon can be found in thrift stores.

5. If it’s a big present, the elves will put a pretty bow on it. Presents don’t always need to be completely wrapped to bring magic.

6. A very quick note on nice paper, usually parchment or vellum can be left behind. The Man has class and is older than the mountains, so he’s not going to leave it on a standard sheet of paper or a card that has a company’s name printed on the back.

7. If a stocking is stuffed, it is not stuffed with name brand candy! Elves make candy! Duh! Well maybe the North Pole has a contract with Frango from Marshall Field & Company in Chicago. (If you’ve had Frango you know what I’m talking about.) Remove candy from it’s packing and tie it up with cellophane or put it in little satin bags.

8. The North Pole is its own enterprise. Despite what TV commercials tout, the North Pole neither partners nor endorses any one company. That needs to be very clear to little ones who doubt and are looking for the signs. You may think your child is a believer but, a simple faux pas could sway the pendulum in the beat of a heart.

Do whatever it takes to encourage the magic. The way I look at it, elves are sweet-natured. I figure that if I eat sweets (cupcakes mainly) I too become sweet. So make this the one time of year where you can mack on a few tasty C-cakes to get you in the mood. Gingerbread is a nice choice too. Grumpy elves, they’re no fun and their toys usually don’t measure up to North Pole magic QC.

I ask all other elves reading this to chime into the comments with their activities to educate the masses.

Oh, here’s a funny irony with gift giving. It’s often hard to tell whether my gift is thrift or new because I most always remove items from the original packaging. Let’s face it, it’s ugly! Well Tiffany’s isn’t, but just about everything else is. Packaging is not designed to present something pretty, it’s designed to market the items or make it impossible to be stolen. Besides, why would Santa Baby need an inventory control chip on a gift?

These earrings that I placed on vellum, did they cost 75 cents or $17.50? Do you like them? Does the cost matter? Or does it matter how they look on you?

If you are a new visitor to this blog, be certain to scroll back up and pull up the Thrift Catalog slide show featuring over 200 items from thrift stores to give you an idea of what could be waiting for you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thrift Store Conventions: Addendum to Entertain

Mr. Golightly and I worked a marathon photo shoot last Saturday to document items for The previous Thrift Store Conventions: Entertain post featuring items readily found in thrift stores. Two things happened today: 1) we realized we forgot a few items and 2) I hit the thrift stores and scored. For your viewing pleasure and thrift enlightenment we offer an addendum to the initial post on Entertaining a la thrift.

These "snack sets" are a must for entertaining either at a cocktail party, a dessert party, a luncheon or a book group meeting. I bought this set of four for $2. They are still in their original box that reads “This snack set of four plates~four cups in sparking crystal glass for quick attractive service.” I love that.

Let’s grow that exponentially. You could serve, say 16 guests for $8. Consider the cost of paper plates and cups, make them pretty and sturdy. Hmm, you’re going to need more than $8 to cover that. Plus, paper plates are outright wasteful. So why not go to the thrift store, stock up on these “hospitality snack sets” and never buy a paper plate again? Have more refinement for a better environment and save money. The Elegant Thrifter writes, "I always keep odd dinner and salad plates on hand to give a guest a little something to take home. That way, they don't have to worry about returning the plate. They are also great for baked-goods gifts for the same reason. I love to say to someone who wants to return a plate, 'Why, just keep it!'"

Plate stands, like pedestals are great for entertaining. Like Louis Sullivan, they build up to add more content to the table without sacrificing real estate, $3.

All this for $1.90! I was feeling frivolous. Imagine that, frivolous for $1.90. That’s less that a latte and I get to keep the silver. If you are a connoisseur of fine dining, you may have noticed that my $4.61 place setting was missing a dainty butter knife. Bump that cost per setting to $4.71 for I hit silver plate pay dirt at the Salvation Army today! Note the dainty butter knives in my booty.

I also picked up this darling teaspoon set I just wanted to share. It was $4 and will make a lovely gift. Yes, it’s used but would you be offended to receive it? Might it not bring a smile to your face each time you measure Vanilla or Almond extract? Sonya, over at Dime Store Thrift doesn't have a hang-up with reused gifts either. She wrote a post about it today.

I must thank Mr. Golightly for humoring me tonight and snapping these extra photos. But he was pleased with this 1908 Keuffel & Esser slide rule that I picked up for $7 in it’s original case. It’s gorgeous. It’s art. It’s not planned obsolescence. It’s built to last like the old refrigerator in my grandparent’s basement that’s been running as a spare for 50 years unlike the many replacements that have come and gone from their kitchen. Currently, Mr. Golightly and I are in a tug of war over that slide rule. He wants it in his office but I want it on display in the living room.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thrift Store Conventions: Entertain, $4.61 per placesetting

When most Americans think of entertaining, they think of racking up purchases at department stores or discount retailers. To put on a full spread for twelve guests for one swank occasion could spend $500 on the china alone!

But there is an alternative that few consider. The thrift store is the smart entertainer’s choice. Thrift stores routinely have all the accoutrements: punch bowls, domes and pedestals, linens. The host can save hundreds of dollars buying these items thrift.

The above photo features one of my treasured finds, an L. Bernardaud $ Co. Limoges antique covered dish bought at Goodwill for $5. LIMOGES at Goodwill! Well not so surprising, I found a sage Wedgwood cake stand for $4 at ARC Thrift. You can ask my grandmother about that. She loves it. The photos in this post have been added to the Thrifty Chicks Thrift Catalog featuring well over 200 items purchased from thrift stores; some new, others gently-used, some antique, all unique.

My favorite spot to save big is the $0.49 per item shelves a la Goodwill stacked with plates, bowls and glasses; both tumblers and stemware. That’s right $0.49 per item. Sure some of its Corelle, but some of it can be Alfred Meakin Tea Leaf Ironstone, or crystal.

The above photo serves testimony. Not certain if it’s apparent in the photo but the water goblets are new, with sticker still affixed. They were $0.49 apiece, the heavy crystal tumblers $0.49 per item too. When buying china from the $0.49 shelves, stick with a simple dinner plate for the foundation of the pacesetting. These $.0.49 apiece plates have a simple gold rim and fit well with most china patterns. Now, I confess my grandmother pulled the green glass salad plates and gold bread plates (I think) out of her giant grandmother’s purse that also serves as a weapon in a pinch. But similar items can easily be found on Goodwill’s $0.49 shelves. Okay, my grandmother found them at estate sales and they didn’t put a dent into her checking account. But they could fit in that purse.

Wait. It gets even better. Silver plate flatware shows up in thrift stores for $0.10 apiece. The flatware in this setting is a mix of estate sale and thrift. We use it daily. Sure, it’s not sterling but I prefer the vintage patina that silver-plate earns. Sterling can be 100 years old and polish up looking new. There are advantages to that, but I don’t want to pay the price for a set of sterling flatware.

Adding this up per place setting we have:
three plates $1.50,
two glasses $1.00,
seven pieces of silver-plate flatware $0.70,
individual salt and pepper shakers $0.41,
tea cup and saucer (not in photo) $1.
The entire placesetting totals $4.61.

That’s a tiny fraction of one plate in the conventional retail market. There is but one catch, place settings as such are built over time. A few months should do it.

Add simple glass votives and candles purchased at thrift stores and moss terrariums will save on fresh flowers and won’t be obstacles to conversation.
Mix and match silver-plate flatware with wild abandon, just about any combination looks cool. The more patterns, the more eclectic the look.

Buffets can be arranged with thrift. The silver covered dish was purchased at Denver La Cache’s annual sidewalk sale for $5. One would never know it based on the quality of merchandise but La Cache is the white elephant for Denver’s Children’s Hospital. The crystal jars with silver lids and footed bases were $15 for the three. All candles and candle holders are thrift. The runner was $3 at Goodwill.

Punch bowls are easy finds at thrift stores and can usually be purchased with cups for about $7. Always wise to buy two, one for virgin and one for alcohol. All candles and candle holders came from Goodwill for pennies on the dollar. Vintage books, for one to two dollars a piece, are a lovely way to raise items. The buffet was purchased at a yard sale for $80. I refinished it and transformed it entirely.

This B Rogers silver, footed ice bucket has an attached lid that swivels back, purchased at Goodwill for $4. This product sells for $20 minimum online. The Six Baccarat Tumblers I wrote of from my great grandmother rest nicely on this mirrored tray from Goodwill, $7. The decanter was purchased at a 50% off Saturday at Goodwill, $3.50. Champagne is served on an aluminum pedestal, $4. French lemonade bottles may be reused to serve water or purchased at thrift stores for around a dollar. Marbles can be purchased for about a dollar a bag and to ensure you never lose your marbles, store them in apothecary jars for a dollar apiece and lift them on a pedestal for $4. Don’t want to lose those marbles, especially after a glass of champagne. Thriftfully Modern Mommie and I prefer, Gosset Champagne Grand Rose.

Glass pedestals and domes are musts for entertaining and are easy finds that run from $7 to $12. We don’t need bother to compare these prices to conventional retail the difference is laughable.

To the left, decanter $3.50 and cordials off that wonderful $0.49 shelf again that mirrored tray comes in handy, $7. Total ensemble, not including brandy was $13.50.

Entertaining doesn't need to hurt. And, my guests do not flip a dinner plate over to see what they are dining off of. Golightly's guests are not that rude.

If you are a new visitor to this blog, be certain to scroll back up and pull up the Thrift Catalog slide show featuring over 200 items from thrift stores to give you an idea of what could be waiting for you.

Please see the addendum to this post.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Thrifty Chicks leak thrift store deals before Black Friday

Reports are out that the giants of conventional retail are leaking deals early, before Black Friday that infamous shopping day after Thanksgiving, to entice shoppers to get ahead in 2009’s retail home stretch. But, they’re talking $598 television sets. Call me crazy but $598 for one gift is not a deal and I think most Americans, given this economic climate, would agree. I don’t believe I'll spend anything close to that this holiday season. But I certainly won’t feel cheated.

We thought it wise to leak thrift store deals in turn. In the left column there is a Picasa Slide Show titled “Thrift Catalog” of over 200 items we have thrifted for pennies on the dollar. I believe the most expensive item is an antique gilt mirror for $30. The vast majority of items range from $3-$9 and don't compromise quality, most of them are originals, some brand new.

We tried to assemble a catalog that would appeal to most everyone from brand new items still in the box or store tags still attached to gently used to vintage to antique. Yes, even in this rough economic climate, people are tossing brand new items over to thrift stores. How could we?

I understand that many people have hangups with the idea of giving a used object as a gift. Funny to think that just a few generations ago, a used item would be accepted with gratitude, appreciation and grace; ahh - the days before planned obsolescence.

News flash - if you shop EBay chances are you’re buying a used object – that’s where I go to learn about many of the products I find in thrift stores. I also learn that I pay a lot less than the EBay list price and don’t pay shipping. For example, I purchased a beautiful silver plate ice bucket for $4 at Goodwill. The same bucket had a starting bid of $20 on Ebay before shipping.

I don't wish to knock EBay, it's a fantastic venue for the reuse market, which in turn is better for our economy and environment. And if you prefer not to thrift, please feed EBay buckets of money. I just find it amusing that people who so readily peruse EBay listings say “eww” to thrift.

A funny thing happened the other day while Thriftfully Modern Mommie and I were checking out a boutique in Denver’s upscale mall. This store was a mix of new and vintage items, some of which I’d seen on the shelves at Goodwill a few days before only now at a 300% to 400% markup from the thrift store price. There was a fur stole on the rack and I noted to Modern Mommie that I had just seen this fur stole at the ARC Thrift just a few days prior. A customer glared at me like I’d said something blasphemous. We had a giggle over that. Where else would the buyers find vintage inventory? Do customers think these buyers have a time machine that transports them back to the 1920’s fur shop to buy the stole fresh off the rack or better yet, from a French trapper? If I had a time machine, I’d certainly do something other than retrieve new old items before they are used.

There is much to the thrift store mystique that needs some clearing up. Once converted, most people rarely go back to conventional retail.

Please take a few minutes and double-click on the left column in the box marked “Thrift Catalog”. I recommend you run it full screen, to really see the products. I am certain there will be enough items to inspire you to thrift. We will continue to add to this slide show as we post photos to our weekly post, Thrift Store Conventions, on how to incorporate thrift into your life.

Please enjoy the show. I’ve learned so much more about products and quality since I’ve been thrifting. I’ve an eight-year-old daughter who can spot cashmere in a ten-foot long rack of sweaters. I think that's pretty darn notable.

Should you not go holiday tree chopping at in certain programs sponsored by National Forest Rangers on Black Friday like Thriftfully Modern Mommie and I will do, I hope your Black Friday leaves you in the black and not the red.

The items below were prepped for shipping at the end of the summer. The total cost of these items was $129. To peek what's inside, click Here. But remember that ultimately The true gift is to be known and understood and that's something money cannot buy.

You're mission, should you choose to accept it, its to relax and enjoy your time this holiday season. Being an adrenaline junkie for nearly two months is not what I call fun.

The next post will show you how to create a gorgeous table for entertaining at $4.61 per place-setting.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In lieu of shopping, go chopping!

Thrift store regulars are a fortunate lot during the holidays. Since they’ve been planning and shopping all year, they can take a reprieve during the national retail nightmare.

Reported as news, the final two months of the year play an abnormally large role in the American economy. Is it profit procrastination to hope all falls in line in the last two months of the last fiscal quarter? Does this create an economic bubble that is bound to pop?

Should shoppers dare to follow our January 1st post of 2009, Thrift Shopping a New Year's Resolution Revolution, retailers will have to change if we remain steadfast and Shop Like Pioneers and seek out the holiday gifts, which we know we're going to give, year round. When we have more time to shop, we just might actually find something worth giving and redefine the Art of Giving on terms with what the recipient needs or likes.

Must we really all race like lemmings to the stores at 5AM the day after Thanksgiving and trample to death the store guard? I’ve never been able to figure how shoppers can do that after feasting on L-Tryptophan-laced turkey not even 12 hours prior.

"This looming Black Friday, I urge people to
replace shopping with chopping!"

For over decade my family scores a $10 permit from the National Forest Service to wander a designated area near the quaint town of Buffalo Creek and hunt for our holiday tree. This particular program helps remove forest fire fuel and helps set the terrain straight, as Mother Nature would have it be. Smokey the Bear makes an annual appearance at this event.

We bring our sleds and Thanksgiving leftovers to the hunt. Sometimes it snows, making it idyllic. We drive home with a tree on the roof of the car, hot cocoa, and holiday tunes on the stereo.

Our trees are fresh, just a few hours from the forest so they go up early. Who knows how long it’s been since the trees in the parking lot bid farewell to their roots? Harvested in Oregon or North Carolina, they can cost over $100.

I suggest people to take Thanksgiving leftovers to the forest as a picnic for a holiday tree hunt. Permits are up for grabs now, often in limited numbers and sell fast. Any Internet search engine will list local options. Typical time frames for chopping are in late November to mid December. If you are along along the Front Range in Colorado, you can contact The South Platte Ranger Station for information regarding this program. Perhaps living in Colorado makes me a bit spoiled because National Forests spread far and wide. So, I apologize the options are few to none. (I guess there wouldn’t be that many options in El Paso or Palm Springs unless cacti are available.) A quick Internet search will reveal what programs are available in your area.

One bit of tree hunting advice; the forest provides a different perspective. A big tree can look really, really small, when dwarfed by giant trees and set against a panorama of mountain ridge lines. Our first experience resulted in 15-foot tree we thought was only a baby, so we had a bit more sawing to do one we arrived home. But, we did make good use of the extra greenery.

Now, I must get back to wrapping gifts to mail. Doing this now saves me from the killer lines at the US Post Office and saves money. I ship ground, not Priority or worse, Next Day Air. Some people think I’m nuts, but come mid December they’re nuts and I’m playing dominoes while sipping cocoa and mackin’ on cupcakes

We've come to find that the best trees come with their own decorations of Douglas Fir pine cones and a wee bird's nest from time to time.

Happy chopping!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Haunted Cookware

One type of thrift I've come to love is kitchen thrift, vintage cookware. I’m not writing about Calphalon or Kitchen Aid, which can be purchased at thrift stores. I’m writing about enameled cast iron from Belgium, Yugoslavia, and old copper saute pans from France. Emile Henry ceramic baking dishes from France. Haunted cookware.

Haunted by the meals they have brewed, simmered, sauteed and served. There is a spiritual element to a well-worn piece of cookware. With is comes a long history of trial and error that eventually gave rise to perfection.

We often cover our pots, set a timer, and walk away never giving one ounce of thought to what’s lies beneath. That’s when the pot takes over and orchestrates the mix into a pièce de résistance. This seasoned cookware knows how to properly blend ingredients and make them sing. They are cooking companions, friends you can count on. It’s surreal to hold the brass stem of the copper sauté and have it almost tell you when to flip the crêpe.

Sometimes I ponder the possibility of a séance around my island chopping block, inviting the women who once held these pots into my kitchen. Perhaps we might have tea and share our stories.

Never, never frown upon a piece of fine vintage cookware. Be assured, it knows more about cooking than you. Well, unless you’re my 85-year-old grandmother who lives in a house that smells like cake.

Should you see a quality piece of cookware on the shelf at a thrift store, grab it, clutch it close to your heart, and race home. It will tell you what to prepare. You just have to listen.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Psychic Shopping. Do you have “the gift?”

There is a constant tactical debate amongst thrift store shoppers. To make lists or not, that is the question. I am list-less in thrift. I regularly and list-lessly shop at thrift stores in 10-minute recon strikes in conjunction with running the routine errands of my life and it rewards my pocketbook and my family. I learned to have an omniscient understanding of my family’s needs. Call it intuition. Call it psychic power. Call it Snake Eyes. But, find it and don’t leave home without it.

Though list-less, I am strategic. My overarching goal is to avoid the retail pinch. I think ahead about changing seasons, upcoming events and growing children while I peruse the shelves and racks in thrift. I imagine this is how pioneers shopped, in advance and within budget. I might shop six months out. Why do some people consider it gauche to buy a winter coat in April, especially when that coat is in quality condition, costs $8.99 and will be needed for a six-year-old who has outgrown his or her current coat? What many don't know is that Americans are so wasteful that we toss brand new merchandise over to thrift stores where the shopper actually cay pay less than 10% of the retail cost for a new item. The coat in the adjacent photo is a fine example. Is it so smart to wait until October/November when coats are in department stores costing well above $80 and your child has already suffered through a few cold days?

What’s a retail pinch? That’s when the market has you by the you-knows, and you’re desperate. You
think you are in immediate need of something. Retail pinches can be brutal. One chilling example happened last year when holiday shoppers (shivering en masse outside a Wal Mart waiting in the dark and cold at 5AM for bargains) were so harried to get inside they trampled a store employee to death. Another example from last year happened when two men were shot dead in a Toys "R" Us after an argument. Could we really feel that frantic about shopping to play out events that would end in manslaughter and possible second degree murder? I don’t think our nation was allowed to completely process those horrific events or do any national self-reflection on how insane holiday shopping has become. That’d have been a great story for investigative journalism, but no one picked it up because they were too busy reporting daily holiday sales figures, contrasting them to last year's and the projected figures for Wall Street. I used to run with that harried crowd and have near PTSD from the experience.

We’ve been trained to think daily. Granted, there are some days that are so rough and crowded, we can only think hourly. Daily tasks lead to daily lists. Ever draw little boxes next to the tasks to so you can check it once done? Ever made a checked box for something already done just to have an immediate sense of accomplishment?

Becoming parent taught me to place the stake out far beyond daily tasks. Parents need to think in terms of months, years and decades to keep up with the growth of a child. Time is not going to stop and wait for us to catch up – that becomes most clear with the onset of parenthood when you watch a newborn zoom through countless developmental stages in a mere year. Best to think ahead. When baby is born the crib, diaper changing station, clothes and car seat are all ready. Put up the safety gates before the baby tumbles down the stairs. Put safety latches on cabinet doors and drawers before baby can open them and pull out a knife. Have a new winter jacket before it gets cold and baby doesn’t have a jacket. Start saving for college at birth. How I wish I had learned this lesson of projecting long term retail needs long before becoming a parent. Alas, it's tough to live with the regret that accompanies hindsight. You don’t need to become a parent to shop smart and have vision.

Shopping in thrift stores gave me a new awareness of want, need and planning ahead. It is a place untouched by spending researchers and strategists. The thrift store is free from specialized marketing tactics devised to jack up the number of items purchased via impulse, along with a sales staff on commission. Thrift stores do not have strategists laying out the merchandise in the store so that a shopper must walk by X, Y, and Z to get to A. There’s no study on what music to play or specialized fixtures. The retail market plays a little dirty but because it's a part of the free market, no one really calls it dirty. Never mind that retailers (along with credit lenders) have preyed upon the consumer to the point where we are sitting on piles of retail waste - and are over our heads in debt. Never mind that US shoppers mostly buy products made abroad because companies bow to Wall Street rather than to balance out a sustainable economic system with manufacturing operations providing jobs to the folks that actually
buy their products. It's The American Way, shoot yourself in the foot and act like it doesn't hurt like hell because you meant to do it. Okay, that's a bold statement. Truly harsh. But as we reexamine our banking system, housing markets, automotive industry, and the granddaddy of them all - health care - would it be so wrong to toss retail into the mix?

The thrift market leads seasoned consumers into a different form of shopping behavior that tends to benefit the consumer. As I have noted countless times, shop thrift stores for about three months and you’ll find that you develop a Flinch Point, a dollar amount that you must ask yourself, “Do I really
need this?” My Flinch Point is $5. That’s right - $5. If an item is over $5 I really think about it. But, I really don’t have a Flinch Point if I go to the mall. I have it on high suspicion the retail market works hard to eliminate the possibility of a consumer Flinch Point because it is not in their best interest. Another behavior that accompanies the thrift shopper is that they tend to check their carts before checking out. They review their selections, and often put things back. The focus is on need and, often times, budget. Rarely does it seem mall shoppers perform a final overview of their purchase. Ever been asked, “Would you like me to put those items up at the register so you don’t have to carry them around?” Once it’s at the register, odds are that sale is now closed. Plus when standing in long register lines during the holiday season, one can almost feel the hot breath of consumer rage breathing down your neck. Best to not review your purchase there or the annoyed crowd behind you might react.

I’ve had a lot of people try to apply conspicuous consumption to thrift shoppers. Sure there may be some cases, but they are rare. Most thrift shoppers shop out of need instead of want. Thrift stores are not in the business of casting want or impulse. You see people rummaging through their carts near check out all the time. It's difficult to apply standard retail jargon to thrift because they are very different in operation. Sure, there's racks, cash registers, even returns but that's about it.

Given this, I believe retail does not want you to plan too far out. They focus on the here and now because it creates a false sense of
urgency. When faced with urgency, you are more likely to spend whatever it takes to be relieved of it. No one likes the feeling of urgency. I've come to think of the word urgency with a dire need of a bathroom like a mother with a newly potty-trained child searching for a store that will allow her child to use their restroom.

This is where having an omniscient understanding of your future needs is essential. If you are focused on a strict list, opportunities will be missed. My crystal ball tells me that a stinging retail pinch is in your future. My
knowing has done well for me at the thrift and, it actually adds some creativity to my shopping. I really do some of my best thinking in thrift stores. Perhaps Goodwill should open coffee kiosks and dot their stores with little conversation pits. I wonder what would happen if a congressional committee routinely met in a thrift store, free from external influences where they could really focus on the needs of the American public at large. Boy, that’s pie in the sky.

Speaking of government, let’s do a little Supreme Court word play on list-less thrift shopping, “I can’t tell you what I need, but I know it when I see it.”

A friend of mine cautioned me to not be so bold or challenging. If you're a reader you know my retort. In the words of my family's matriarch, "Someone's gotta!" Perhaps this was just a release of bad air. I've been holed up with bronchitis.

Friday, October 23, 2009

We count calories. Why not carbon?

This is one from the archives, it ran in May of 2009 in The Christian Science Monitor. It's wise to pause and reflect. I believe this is what I was discussing with Little Pie while we took a stroll in the Adirondacks one day.

Little Pie is especially concerned
about environmental issues. She tells me that "Too many people have let go of the thread that ties them to the earth."

Denver - Thanks to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), I see that my serving of Honey Nut Cheerios has 110 calories. This, along with dozens of other data points on the box, helps me make educated choices to do right by my body. I'm ready to tackle the day as an informed consumer of food.

Wait! That box: What "ingredients" went into that? Ditto for the plastic liner and all those O's: How many "calories" did it take to manufacture them and then ship them to my table? What's the carbon footprint of my breakfast?

At the store, I can compare cereal carbohydrates but I can't compare how much they cost the planet. I'm not empowered to shop right by the health of the planet. I might as well put on a blindfold.

Americans need to broaden their understanding of energy and its cost. Nearly everything in our homes, from toasters to hair dryers, consumes energy (and emits pollution) from start to finish. But we don't think about that. We think that's the job of the energy companies. We turn down the thermostat and buy reusable bags at the grocery store, but that's about it.

Americans are voracious shoppers. We use more than our fair share of resources in this world. To embrace conservation, shouldn't we consider a product's carbon cost? Take appliances. Many come with an Energy Star rating. We all nod and feel good about it. But this label just shows the relative energy cost of ownership, not the absolute cost of manufacture. I wonder if it is confused with the car device OnStar; consumers may think washers have satellite connections offering emergency assistance for grass stains.

Think about all those products that companies dare to call "green." Unlike "organic," which is a federally regulated label, companies can affix "green" to just about anything, even petroleum-based plastic Easter eggs from China! Head slap. The manufacturers can't be trusted – they're colorblind. By "green," they must mean the color of money. Unless they start making edible sofas, this is beyond the FDA's scope, so who is going to settle this issue?

Misconceptions abound. Most runners don't think they have a negative environmental impact. The runner just runs, right? Hats off to Runner's World magazine for taking a hard look at this question in "The Runner's Footprint." The article showed that the carbon cost associated with a shoe's life cycle can be eye-popping. My husband is a runner. Runners don't like air pollution. So I know a shoe's carbon cost would weigh heavily on his choice.

If price and quality were equal, which widget would you buy – the one that cost 10,000 carbon points or 100? From jeans to washing machines, we need a common metric for the pollution costs that products incur during their life cycles. If we can list the nutritional value of a pickled egg, surely we can drive a healthier market and planet through system-cost comparison.

While we wait for that, we don't have to wait to be smarter shoppers. When we spend money on new products, we spend a great many carbon points. But when we buy repurposed goods at thrift stores, we spend close to zero carbon points. We have choices, but we need to be informed to make responsible ones.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More are inspired to purge!

This just came in from a new reader:
"I am more in a mode of getting rid of stuff, as more stuff seems to creep into this tiny, but well-built, 1955 house…I have done little shopping…and I have not missed it…I keep asking myself, ‘What do we NEED?’”

This from reader and celebrated activist Kim Bent:

I think I appreciate your name more and more! Though not really a shopper, I am a saver. I cleaned out this week. What I thought would be a three-day weekend, turned into six days of sorting and organizing. Some decisions were easy and some were not. But, I did it! I donate yearly to organizations and, again, I do not consider myself a shopper. But it was disturbing to "see" all the stuff we decided we did not use and could part with. Boy can stuff accumulate! I am going to make an effort to shop thrift shops more when looking for items I need. It saves water, electricity, transportation, and packaging costs. And it feels GOOD!

I believe we should listen to Kim’s revelations. She is one active, smart and involved woman. She founded Catch the Science Bug, a childrens television show that airs on Rhode Island PBS, has an extensive website, and sponsors science enrichment programs in schools.
Thank you Kim for your comment. It is something special coming from such an inspiring person.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Make more than a mark!

If you are a parent, I think you’ll really enjoy “Make more than a mark!” on our sister blog, Mommy Golightly.

Mommy Golightly doesn’t post often because Shopping Golightly consumes most her time. But there are plenty of posts waiting to come out of Mommy’s fingers and onto the keyboard. Please have patience with Mommy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Don’t splurge! Purge! You’ll feel much better.

I value emails and comments from readers. This email came in last Saturday after the September 25th post, I’m sorry major retailers, say what?

Dear Thrifty Chicks,

On my job, we were invited to have old papers shredded in exchange for donating food for the Food Bank…I took 9 big boxes of old paper to the shredding truck!

Tossing out the old paper was like Atlas getting a chance to take the load of the world off his shoulders!

It felt so good that I sorted through the clothes in my closet and found 50+ garments that were the wrong color, size, fabric, or style and took them to three or four of my favorite thrift stores. Not only did I feel good about recycling the garments for those who can use them and get them at a reasonable price, but I also appreciate the tax write-off. I also had a defiant, courageous feeling, "You call this a recession! Hah! I can afford to let go of these clothes!" [Like Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn].

Clearing the clutter made me feel much better than if I had just acquired new things. What is left (of the clothes, at least) is harmonious with each other, and I can better see what garments I need than in a crowded closet. I still have plenty.

This process has been one of the most uplifting events I have experienced in years!

Karen A. McDowell

Denver, CO

Three points need to be highlighted:
  • Clearing the clutter made Karen feel better.
  • She can now utilize her closet because it's not stuffed and her wardrobe mates, meaning she can build more ensembles from less.
  • She still has “plenty.”
Compare that to a trip to the mall to engage in some retail therapy and a few more items that would have been lost in the mix of an overstuffed closet.

We need to wind up that donation cycle and jump start this reuse economy. When economists study sales indicators and make statements about the condition of the national economy, I’m not certain thrift is tossed into the mix. But, it’s high time it is.

How about us take all the stuff we’ve been buying for the last 30 some odd years and put it into the reuse market and make it explode! Good grief America, the inventory is sitting unused in your homes, filling up rooms and closets.

Thank you Karen for such great testimony. And, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a favorite book of mine. I have a vintage hardback copy for my library that I bought for $1 at the thrift store. Last night I began reading to my youngest daughter Little Pie. It's a long book and will require some editing while reading but I figure it's a story she should know. Little Pie was very intrigued how the children of the neighborhood salvaged gum wrappers and bottles to take to Carney's to sell for pennies on Saturdays. It's hard to imagine that Betty Smith based this book on her childhood and was published a mere 66 years ago. So much has changed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I'm sorrry major retailers, say what?

Okay folks, we are in hard times. As of August, the US unemployment rate is 9.6% and it’s on the rise. More layoffs. I’m baffled by the lack of response from the retail market. I don’t watch much TV and we don’t carry cable or dish. But when I do, I see business as usual in commercials and am left feeling deficient because there is no possible way I can go out and live as the television instructs. Retail denial, that's what it is.

We need to reform our retail structure and there has not been one word about in Washington. It's head-scratching to watch this Economy of Excess flap around like a fish trying to get back to water to swim through this deep recession. Retailers, the days of more upon more upon more are behind us. An Economy of Excess is simply not sustainable. It's hurting our pocket books, the economy of our communities, our health and our planet. How do we overhaul this broken retail system?

Retailers don't get it as highlighted in this article brought to me by The Queen of Fifty Cents from the LA Times, "Savers need to resume buying habits to aid recovery, experts say." As far as I'm concerned she is the Queen of the Fiftieth Sense! "Experts" are telling us, who have no money, we need to start spending to get us out of this mess? Do "experts" really think the average American's tiny little pocket book is going to get us out of this mess? Who are these "experts?" I desperately need a job and think I could make a lot more sense and produce a healthier economy than they've been. I want to elbow my way through this crowd and take the helm.

Hey America, it's time to Dump Our Current Retail Mindset! Eventually retailers are going to be forced into change because I need that money for my mortgage payment, not some stupid chocolate fountain or a $90 pair of jeans!

This is reminiscent of the whaling industry scoffing at the prospects that a coal industry would ever take over the need for whale oil. Why everyone needs whale oil!

Stock your stores all you want guys. We cannot feed your registers if we can barely feed ourselves. Many of us cannot even afford your sale racks.

My grandfather grew up in The Great Depression. He honestly tells me he never felt deficient because "we were all in it together." I sense no togetherness here. I sense an odd isolation and a confused fragmentation. I sense identity crisis.

We cannot let times like this pass without it making a permanent mark on our ways. This is a time to suck in some serious life lessons. I wish we could turn back to the days of economic practices of my great grandmother as described in the March 10th post Six Baccarat Tumblers.

I personally like Le Dandy’s Shopper’s Fast.

You are not alone like the TV might like you to think! And this recession is not your fault. Maybe this post sounds a bit angry, but given the path that the American consumer's have been led and being told shopping is patriotic, someone's gotta be! We're none the better for it! In fact, we're jobless and in the hole.

Should you want more on this Economy of Excess and the lessons it MUST teach us, please read Kurt Anderson in the April 6, 2009 issue of TIME The End of Excess: Why this crisis is good for America. Anderson went on to write, "Reset." I've been hoping this book would eventually land on thrift store shelves and I've yet to see it, which possibly means it's something to hold on to. Yeah, new books can land on thrift store shelves in a matter of weeks of release. I was hoping Anderson's cover page feature would have made more stir in the economic dialog. But, I guess the major retailers are going to have to go by the way of the whaling ship captains.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Golightly trips to the mall and what does she see?

I’d burned through my stash of premium scented candles and decided to trip to the local upscale mall. Off to Anthropologie I go to score a few good candles in the back 40 of the store also known as the saleroom. Illume’s Yuzu Mint fragrance gets a big thumbs up and also I bought Sweet Rhubarb. They were $20 but I pay $9.75. That’s $4.75 above my Flinch Point but, hey, this is my one simple luxury. Well, it’s more than a luxury. It’s piece of mind. We have three cats and I am forever in fear that visitors can smell the litter box. The candles come in handy. The other day, I almost didn’t clip any fresh basil because I’d feared the worst. But no, it was just a pungent basil odor, nothing more. I’m not shy about my fears either and will often interrupt good friends to ask, “Do you smell cat pee? You’d tell the truth wouldn’t you?” I’m a bit flakey that way and my friends are used to it.

As I walk out of Anthroplogie I see SALE posted in five-foot tall letters in some garish color over at Urban Outfitters, a younger cousin to Anthropologie. Sale is one of my favorite words, so I’m game. In the kitchenware section I spot something that instantly flashes me back to a comment from Saver Queen from the August 27th post Faux is Foe!

“I also notice styles from antiques or vintage house wares being recreated. I recently noticed a bunch of kitchen products being sold in stores and advertised in magazines that have the "hobnail" look. I wonder why anyone would by modern hobnail items when this style can be found on vintage items that are easily gathered from garage sales or thrift store. For example, hobnail milk glass vases are a dime a dozen.”

Saver Queen is right! But what I saw reproduced at Urban Outfitters made me laugh. I cannot count how many times I seen this covered dish made in the shape of a nut with a squirrel sitting on the lid in thrift stores. It’s usually marked at $2.99 and does not fly off the shelves. So, technically one could wait for a 50% off Saturday and buy it for $1.49. The buyers at Urban Outfitters have a different approach; they are promoting a remake of this head-scratcher of a classic for $18. Don’t believe me? Click Here. If you don't see it on that page to back or forward a page. They keep moving it.

As an aside, on my way out of the mall, I spied a new boutique that caters to uninformed Francophiles. A quick look-see raised my eyebrows to find items I’d seen on the shelves of Goodwill just that week. This shop was selling a certain item at a 500% mark up. Who knew? Thrift shoppers that’s who! All other customers are unsuspecting and are paying heavily for their lack of awareness.

What a strange retail world we shop in.

Oops! I almost forgot. You know how you see all these wonderful candles in Anthropologie alight and resting in a glass container atop sand, birdseed or acorn tops?You can find those containers at thrift stores for $0.99. Or you can pay huge mark ups else ware. Tough choice, but someone's gotta make it.
So, say I bought the original at the thrift store on a 50% off Saturday, which run frequently. I could pick the original for about 8% the cost of the remake. Funny, I always thought originals were worth more than remakes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Would you? Could you be an environista?

We’ve been having a lot of laughs lately. But I feel a need to bring back an old post from January and get a little serious.

Thrift is easy on the pocket book. It’s a sustainable economic practice. It drives funds into charities that repurpose lives. Thrift is an eco-friendly practice and this is not always discussed.

The act of thrifting can be silly and light and fun. But, it is a serious endeavor and we need more people participating because, trust me, American homes have enough inventories to feed our nations thrift stores for a good long while.

We need to change our retail ways and going to the neighborhood thrift is one of the easiest ways to start.

January 28, 2009

For months I’ve been brainstorming a sister for frugalista. I’m a proud frugalista. But, it’s not just frugality that drives my thrift store pulse. As mentioned before, Shopping Golightly is also Shopping Go Green.

I’ve been hard pressed to find a word that describes a person who “shops with the intention of reducing their personal carbon footprint.” I’ve thought and thought and thought. I’ve banged my head against my desk. I went on a week-long vision quest in Death Valley without water, food, clothes and sunscreen. (Well, okay, I did that my dreams.) I even got punchy and fell into Rob Schneider’s SNL Copy Guy persona, “The Greenster, the Eco-ater, the Green Meister savin’ the planet, protectin’ dolphins. Greenorama, Green!”

I tried eco-thrifter on Wikipedia and the wiki police eventually gave that humble attempt the boot. Admittedly, I didn’t think it all that great but had to try something.

Then it hit me, environista! It rolls off the tongue just like frugalista! We need environistas! We need a whole lot of environistas!

I kindly ask you to comment to this post and pledge that you too are not only a frugalista but a smart and beautiful, handsome environista too! Okay?

For other references on this topic, please see my commentary in The Christian Science Monitor on March 2nd “Green shopping, Don’t Say ‘eww’ to thrift stores” and on May 3rd “We count calories. Why not carbon?”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sturdy Black Dress

My hand-crafted, little black dress for $8.99 from Goodwill was so well made, I just learned I've been wearing it INSIDE OUT for over six months since purchase! Call me a fool but the only words I’ve received while wearing that dress were compliments.

It took Little Pie, while zipping up the back this morning, to discover this fact. Tell me folks, can you buy something of THIS quality, so nice you can't tell inside from out, for $8.99 at a mall? Don't think so.

Now get to the thrift store and find your item of exquisite quality. It’s there. I’ll race you!