Friday, July 31, 2009

What's Inside?

A few readers have been curious as to what’s in some of the holiday gifts pictured in the post photo below. Here’s a sampling:

· 14 Alfred Meakin England Royal Ironstone China, Tea Leaf pattern dinner plates purchased for $7 total. All plates are in excellent condition and usually have a Buy It Now price of $5 per plate (not including shipping) on Ebay. This is for a collector.
· A Cinnabar Lacquerware beaded necklace for $8. For a jewelry enthusiast.
· A 14” tall, engraved crystal vase for $3.50, purchased on a 50% off day.
· A vintage heavy copper-baking cake mold with lid made in Italy for $4. For a baker. There is a name for the type of cake this mold makes, but alas, I am not a connoisseur of European cakes. I just enjoy eating them. The baker I am giving this to will know and I am selfishly hoping I can eat cake.
· Two bestseller hardbacks for a total of $4. Both are amazing books.
· A new Neiman Marcus boxed set of holiday-themed cocktail forks, $3. For a person who loves to entertain during the holidays.
· A new scalloped French sandwich press that makes my daughters favorite grilled cheese sandwiches for $4. For a person who needs easy dinner ideas and loves my daughters.
· A still in the box handmade pewter ornament for $3 with a quotation from Coco Channel my friend will appreciate and can hang in a place for encouragement when she needs it. Retails $19.
· A new box of six English Pimpernel place mats for $4. For a person who loves afternoon tea.
· A set of three vintage enameled bowls for $5. For a person with a rustic cabin in the mountains.
· An Alan Stuart handbag with tag still attached for $4. This will make a certain teen quite happy.

Be assured, I didn’t wrap mustard-stained t-shirts and avocado fondue pots but for these prices one might think that's just what I did.

It would be wise during this deep recession to think of what people need and will use and give simple luxuries when possible. This year, more then many before, requires thought for a gift. Imagine a person who is financially scrapping by through the skin of their teeth receiving $250 dollar chocolate fountain. What a shoulder-slumper that would be.

I'll end this post with a noteworthy comment from a Ms. A from the Living Without Money blog on the March 7th Wow this is so you! What's happened to the fine art of giving? post:

"I found a first edition book of small prints all about the Virgin Mary and how she was depicted in art. It was .89 cents. It's out of print and was printed by a religious company early in the last century. I gave it to a friend at Christmas and couldn't believe how profoundly touched he was by it. It was a small book but he spent most of the morning going through it with his children. His mother has borrowed it too. I thought he'd like it, but I didn't realize it would end up meaning so much. I absolutely do not believe that there was any gift out there on a store shelf that he would have felt more touched by. It is very likely that more and more people will find that what's on a store's shelf or retail floor is not the most fulfilling option when it comes to gifts (or life in general)."


The Queen of Fifty Cents said...

Wow...I think you'd better put me on your gift list! ;o}

Anonymous said...

Your list is very impressive, and I am envious of your thrifting bounty.

Which is what has led me to comment:

You, apparently, are blessed to live in a community of abundance, which tickles down to the thrift level. However, many thrifters such as myself, live in poor communities. Many of us thrift out of necessity, and I can assure you that the when the stuff trickles down to the thrift level, it is NOT from Neiman Marcus. On a good day, damaged goods from Target will be the thrift caviar of choice. On a bad day, made in China plaid polyester from the Clinton years will be the fashion-forward statement of choice. IOW, please be aware that we poor folk are doing our best to do what you city folk flaunt, but it just may not be possible to find the classy goods, even in the best of times. I know you are considered a thrift goddess of the 2K generation, blahblahblah, but it would be nice if your view was broader and your experiences a little more encompassing. And yes, mine are. I applaud your enthusiasm. Good buys, all. But those who brag the most are those who are successful. You wouldn't have a blog if all you ever found was total crap from Walmart which should never have seen the light of day to begin with---and then HAVE to buy it because you literally CAN'T afford anything else for your family.

RachelBClarke said...

Wow! Green-eyed monster? I think the list is fantastic. I've lived in a rural community and still found loads of good stuff at thrift-stores. Perhaps the burden of HAVING to shop at a thrift-store has clouded your perception on the potential of the things you see? My thrift-store back home doesn't have anything NWT from Neiman Marcus, but there are still loads of good finds. If you're bitter about having to be there, you probably won't spend the energy to find the good stuff and that's sad.

Shopping Golightly said...


I’ve been thrifting for about five years and realize that I am very fortunate to live in, quite possibly, our nations fifth largest repurposing market to which I intend to take full advantage. I’d be stupid not too. I can easily produce a valid argument that I thrift out of necessity to make ends meet for my family. I do not wish to go into detail about my family’s finances but will note that had I been spending like the rest of America, my family might be set to lose our home during this deep recession.

We live a frugal life on a very limited income. We do not have cable or a huge home bought for a modest price considering the market. Several of our furnishings have been found in the alley and restored by our on hands. We were a one-car family the first eight years of our marriage until we were forced to take on an old car to commute. Our vacations are spent camping in the mountains outside of Denver where all we really need to pay for is the gas to get us there.

My scope is a bit broader than you know. I find that in communities I believe to be like yours, antique dealers have first dibs on goods at estate sales and take items to the cities to jack up prices then leave the rest for vultures. I even wrote a college thesis on this.

The Thrifty Chick mission is, as listed on the banner is “Dedicated to developing a robust repurposing market.” Our nation needs it. We buy more than we need. We don’t use all that we buy and it’s helped put us in a huge financial pickle. And, IF the stuff we buy doesn’t make it to a thrift store, it goes into a landfill. Then to think off all the fossil fuels used to make and transport this stuff we didn’t use, didn’t need.

If I had Saturday mornings free, I’d be out there with The Queen of Fifty Cents on the tag sale market. But with children, we’ve a full Saturday morning schedule. When the girls grow older her Highness and I will have good stories to swap.

Do not think I hold no sympathy to less fortunate communities where thrift is not so thrilling. However, I do see a lot of Target and WalMart items too. I don’t balk on the Target, just make certain it’s a good deal.

I don’t know exactly what you are looking for but, I might be able to lend you a few ideas if you write me. My email is on the Blogger profile page. I have more empathy for your situation than you might suspect.


Bee Balm Gal said...

You speak my language! Love your blog. Today, as on many fair weather Saturdays, I garage-sale shopped and came home with several unique items and great bargains. A set of three colorful Williams-Sonoma nesting mixing bowls, brand new, for five bucks, will go to my daughter. She was married earlier this year and will be returning in the fall from a deployment in Afghanistan to set up her first home with her new husband. I'm hoping to inspire her to become a Thrifty Chick groupie.

Shopping Golightly said...

Dear Bee Balm (one of my favorite flowers),

Firstly, I thank your daughter for her service in Afghanistan.

Next, I don’t believe she will have a hard time converting to thrift after she has been witness to such extreme poverty. Many soldiers and Peace Corps volunteers have a shock when they re-enter the US. The sheer product abundance in the US can be overwhelming after coming from third world countries where people have so very little.

Godspeed in your thrifting adventures! And, to your daughter’s safe return!

Saver Queen said...

I must admit, when I read your last post, I wondered how you could collect meaningful gifts so far in advance. My family always shares ideas closer to the date. We ask each other what we need and want. Tastes can change throughout the year, and this was my only caveat to shopping so early. I wondered if you just bought generic gifts. But after reading your list, it's clear that you've found gifts that are extremely practical but also tailored to the unique individual's tastes. You obviously have put a lot of thought into the gifts and I couldn't agree more that practical items and simple luxuries will be badly needed this year. A job well done. Very inspiring.

Also, you responded to that negative comment very kindly. I have so much respect for you and I love your blog. It inspires me and cheers me up every time I visit. I recently found a beautiful new pair of Levis and some other clothes in great shape on a thrifting experience inspired by your blog. I certainly enjoy reading everything you write, especially while being unemployed and living on a limited budget.

Anonymous said...

Here's my workaround:

I don't have a lot of luck with thrifted gifts.

However, I find that, if I find our everyday items through the thrift store, I can use more of our disposable income for gifts.

So, for example, my teens get a high percentage of their clothes from thrift stores, but they got ipods for Christmas last year.


Anonymous said...

Green-eyed monster here (hey, I freely admit I'm jealous, lol. No secret there.) I live in a community/county that is post aggie, currently supported by government jobs and tourism (can you say "DEEP SOUTH"?)Our Macys' are the dumping ground for the crap that did not sell all over the country. Your thesis intrigues me because, for the past ten years, our community has been inudated with "collectible stores" and ebay queen places...those folk were the real vultures. Funny, a lot of them have gone out of business. Since we are in the land of the newly wed and the nearly dead (catch phrase is "nearly dead"), all the good stuff is donated BEFORE the nearly dead (read: rich retirees from "up Nawth" (read: any place that is NOT in the south, including Oregon, Washington state, and yes, even your state) come down to live in their Chinese dry-walled dream homes or trailer parks. They buy all white-trash plastic furniture (soooooooooooooo sunbelt and good for the grandkids)and spend everyday shopping in thrifts by the 1,000,000,000s. Our thrifts have picked up on the thrift surge by jacking their prices up on everything, since our thrifts are used much like Walmarts, by both the newly-wed/nearly-dead, now also the unemployed masses, those looking for the lastest craze, and everybody else. I've been doing this for 30+ years and I've seen the quality of donated goods in this area go right down the toilet and even absolute Made-in-China crap can command top dollar.

I wanted you, as an official voice of this movement to be aware of this. You may be able to do it well in your area, but in some places it just ain't possible. Maybe it's a trend you can watch for (though in your neighborhood, you seem you to have a slug of rich people with nothing better to do but spend money and then give the goods away). Thanks for your good response.

Shopping Golightly said...

Dear Anonymous,

You raise many interesting points.

The most prominent is the “economy of excess” that has been playing out for decades in the retail market. Can we talk plain? American retailers do an amazing job of convincing Americans to buy crap, pointless stuff. I mean really pointless stuff that is a waste of energy to produce, package and ship only to be tossed in a landfill. THIS needs to come into play in this national discussion on energy conservation because the retail market is one HUGE energy hog. I cannot scream that too many times.

Another point is that there is cheap and there is cheap crap. I think most Americans have been brainwashed into not knowing the difference.

Surprisingly, I don’t believe wealth is at the root of Denver’s robust thrift market. The major charitable thrift organizations are on the cutting edge in this town. They even run television adds and their stores are clean and organized. Their volume and quality of merchandise is most likely based in the retail machine’s notion of “retail therapy.” Keep in mind that retail therapy knows no limits and one can easily max out a credit card engaging in this behavior only to end up with a continued feeling of emptiness but a fully stacked credit debt.

I sincerely believe that it is the middle class that feeds Denver’s thrift market. I suspect the wealthy place their goods in consignment shops for there are plenty of them in Denver with prices I cannot afford. However, reuse is reuse and I want to see this market grow in our country. So, if you can afford the consignment shops, do so, do it now, and be proud! When I was a single professional, I shopped consignment.

Given you have been thrifting for 30 plus years, it is only natural that you have seen the quality of items plummet. This has been playing out on the new market as well and we have been fools, just eating it up and spitting it out in landfills. Long gone are the days when a piece of china from China was exotic and something of unique value. So if crap is being sold on the new market, crap will also be a part of the thrift market. The key is to bring a shovel to unearth the items of value and need for there is treasure, you must dig for it.

I am very limited in my resources but wish to help inspire attention to the repurposing market in America. I want economists and environmentalist studying it and learning more about it. So little is known because, unlike the new goods market, the organizations that build thrift stores do not channel their profits into marketing but directly to their mission of helping those in need and they should continue on in their mission because there are plenty of people who need the assistance.

Please keep on thrifting. Just carry a snow shovel or, if you wish, rent a backhoe to clear out the crap. If they don’t sell snow shovels down yonder, I’ll send you one however I can’t help you with a backhoe.

Godspeed to you in the land of the newly wed and newly dead. I’ll certainly keep you in mind. And, I am honored you described me as “the official voice of this movement.” That is a title I cannot take for I am just a novice blogger with a big mouth of 10 months.

Anonymous said...

You're a cool and open-mined young lady with a lot of good insight.

Today I ran across a book which interested me and might interest you. It's called "Cheap" and interestingly enough, it's written by a woman named Ellen Sell. I am too impatient to wait for it to come to my local library, (where it might take a year or two) or my local bookstores (who always say so sweetly, "No dear, we don't have it in stock be we'd be happy to order it for you if you don't mind waiting two weeks") but Amazon will rescue me in 48 hours. The review was originally published in the WSJ. I think it speaks to both of what we have discussing, and I would be pleased to share my insights in with you if you are interested in the future. I chose to comment on you blog
because you seemed the most open-minded to hearing the flip-side of thrifting and the tons of garbage that is passing as thrift-able merchandise. I was recently on a blog that showedcased a certificate being hung by a local thrift asking donaters to please leave only those goods which have value and that will sell...I've noticed comments as well from other bloggers from how things seem to be drying up and there is less to thrift; it makes me wonder if it is not a regional thing or folk are holding back during this economy. THanks again, and I do appreciate the bandwidth and your voice of confidience. Would be happy to share insights about book as well. Cheerfully, "Ano" PS: I had the horrible experience a few years ago to watch a film that was shown at the Wadsworth about whata happens to junk/garbage that is not reclaimed or recyled. It made me anxious all day. Have you ever seen it?

Shopping Golightly said...


I have not seen the movie you write of but I will note that Little Pie's 2nd grade Brownies took a tour of Denver Goodwill's final processing center. All the stuff that doesn't sell ends the for a last chance at $0.99.

The remainder is either:
-boxed up in huge bins for auction;
-picked through by a select group of people;
-broken down into simple parts for recycling.
As for the bins, they mostly go to Mexico. There is gentleman who comes to sort through shoes to send to countries with land mind conditions.

Given the volumes of goods that Denver Goodwill takes in, they truly have little waste. They are an amazing organization that just celebrated 90 years in Denver.

One of the girls said it was the best field trip she's ever experienced. It really made a difference to these girls to see piles and piles of leftover items. They'd gone on a trip to Denver Recycles and we were ready to see piles and piles of material but were given treat and a video instead.

If we had the attention of economists perhaps we could determine what drives donations by region. And that in turn would help regional thrift organizations learn how to build their donation base.

The media keeps it's eye on the new product market. I realize they have payed some attention to thrift as of late but fear this is a passing trend.

Anna said...

Before I read this series of posts I was considering having a garage sale to help clean out things we moved 2 years ago but never unpacked (and never missed).

This discussion reminded me of an important part of the "robust repurposing market" in the headline of this blog--the *donating* part of the thrift market. I try to make sure what I donate is stuff that is worth someone buying. I totally agree with the discussion about the marketplace being pumped full of junk that no one wants. I'm always disappointed to see cheap, crappy stuff at the thrift store.

So, instead of using up an entire Saturday just to try to make a few bucks off my stuff, I just toted it all to the thrift shop. Sure, I could've made a little pocket money but this discussion made me want to put my stuff directly into the thrifting stream. It's not all name brand designer stuff but I hope someone is happy to find the nearly new (and freshly cleaned) Nordstrom's women's suit or the Venetian glass bottle stopper or the 2 table lamps with shades (and bulbs).

I don't have the economic power to buy everything new and expensive (that's why I thrift too) but I try to be mindful of what I donate, knowing that I'd appreciate the same. Perhaps the blog writers might want to discuss the donating side of thrifting in a future post?