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.


Haylee said...

You guys are so amazing! <3

Anonymous said...

69 gifts! Man! I do NOT have the patience to shop for 69 gifts.

Several years ago, after we realized that the family had got into the mode of just exchanging gift certificates, I waited until March and then said we wouldn't be doing the family gift exchange any more. It eased the Christmas hassle considerably.

I'm missing something in the math with this statement:

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 6% of the retail cost for new items!

Hope you can clarify. $7.50 is 15% of $50, so I'm not sure where the 6% comes in.

Still, even at 15%, that's quite an achievement.

I have a gift stash, so I'm thinking of copying your spreadsheet idea.

Anonymous said...

Oh! Something else I remembered. A few years ago, there was a cute TV commercial that your 'mission impossible' quip reminded me of:

A truck is driving down a the streets of a suburban neighborhood. Women are running out of the houses to follow the truck. A loudspeaker blares, "No, ladies. You can't shop from the truck; you must come to the store."

Then we see the logo on the truck: Goodwill Industries.

Clever, wasn't it?

Theresa said...

I LOVE your blog. Here in Canada, thrift stores do not give charitable tax receipts, therefore, finding some of the gems you find is nearly impossible. Still you inspire me to try this thrift mindset. I have never been against thrift, it is really mere laziness on my part. Oh, and your gift spending total was mind blowing!! I spent that on one kid. Well, there is always next year!! Thanks for being an inspiration.

Shopping Golightly said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for finding my error. Holiday fatigue. I'll correct that right away.

Think of it as 69 holiday cards. Yes, tis a high number but shift that into a year and it's about six gifts a month. Besides, some of the gifts to my immediate family are thoughtful but small since there are so many.

When you can find something wonderful for the cost of a card and the value of the wet eyes of happiness, well wouldn't you rather give the wonderful thing? Especially if your purchasing it from charity, saving it from the landfill, no additional energy is required to manufacture it and you KNOW the recipient will LOVE it.

And the birthdays. Birthday parties are getting more and more extravagant where parents in invite the child's ENTIRE class. What ever happened to until the age of 9, take the age of the child and add one to make a proper party size?

Remember, I am not a conventional shopper. I shop in ten-minute strikes when I'm running an errand near a thrift store. Denver is blessed with a strong reuse market (which I intend to make more robust). In this time I also find things that my family needs or will need, like outdoor clothing for hiking/camping. My family does a lot of that. I also have a growing tween. For the most part Little Pie happily wears her hand me downs and considers it a rite of passage because she loves her sister so.

As I mentioned I hate shopping round town all day for something. I don't think it's in my blood. About six months ago I had to go patrol the local upscale mall on a weekend because both daughters wanted Converse lace ups for their birthdays. I knew this was not going to pop up on the shelves of thrift in time. It was a nightmare of this giant mass of slow moving people who seemed to not know why they were there. They just roamed, very slowly.

Afterward, the birthday girls wanted to go out for sushi. I drink a small bottle sake to free myself of the mall mania that was trapped in my head. To put this in perspective, there are about four times a year when I have a drink, even if it's half a glass of wine. Mr. Golightly, who was not drinking, lovingly asked me, "Do you feel better now?”

The next week - I kid you not - a new pair of white converse turned up at Goodwill in Little Pie's size. It was like the Thrift Gods were saying; "Now Honey, you didn't need to go through all that mall hell. We’re here for you."

The spreadsheet is a lifesaver, especially since I give books. This ensures I do not repeat a book to a friend.

As for the Goodwill commercial I never knew. How funny is that! When I hear Mission Impossible in my head, I am honed and focused, ready to spring. I think it's a very frequent song for yard sale shoppers. Anyone?

This Thrifted Life said...

You are so inspiring! You have scored some amazing things, and serves as such great encouragement to the rest of us to get out there and search for sustainable and meaningful gifts, *without* breaking the bank. I thrifted quite a few Christmas gifts this year, and I plan on thrifting or making even more next year.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your great response about the 69 gifts! I find a lot of boxed Christmas cards at the thrift store -- I sent out about 50 of those this year.

I can't say that I'm giving thrifted gifts this year, but tonight we're having a Christmas potluck for a group of teens/tweens and their families. I'm using a lot of thrifted serving pieces.

I'm serving
-- raw veggies on a thrifted glass tray
-- baklava on a thrifted silverplate tray
-- eclairs on a thrifted glass tray
-- little smokies served from a full-price crockpot
-- hot water for cocoa and tea from a thrifted hot water server.

And I have thrifted mugs and cups for serving hot beverages. Thrifted (sealed) packs of napkins with a snowman theme.

Although the tablecloth was bought retail, the gingerbread man table runner was $0.50 at a garage sale.

I find it fascinating that the reuse market varies so much around the country: When I lived in the Midwest, garage sales were the biggest bargains. Here in the Southwest, our garage sales are scanty, but the thrift store is a treasure trove.

Anonymous (Jora)

Anonymous said...

" About six months ago I had to go patrol the local upscale mall on a weekend because both daughters wanted Converse lace ups for their birthdays. I knew this was not going to pop up on the shelves of thrift in time. It was a nightmare of this giant mass of slow moving people who seemed to not know why they were there. They just roamed, very slowly. "

Sounds like a bunch of zombies, doesn't it?


Shopping Golightly said...


Did you see the Thrift Store Conventions post on Entertaining where I assembled a gorgeous, totally outfitted placesetting for $4.61?

Tonight I'm hosting a Solstice celebration of girlfriends and will use the glass snack sets I have instead of paper plates.

Retail Zombies! That's what they truly are!

Jennifer (a.k.a. Mom, Mrs. L, Auntie J.) said...

This post was inspiring! I've thrifted our family's clothing and decor items for years, but I think thrifting gifts has been uncharted territory for me... I'm inspired to try it for 2010.

shopping for girls and women seems pretty easy at thrift stores. I could use gift ideas for men.

Also, do you (delicately) tell the recipients that their gifts are used? Or don't mention it unless they ask? Or what? An honest question here.

Shopping Golightly said...


Everyone who knows me is aware that their gift will either be thrift or it will be from the sale racks of a rather posh store.

It's very hard to discern the origin because I tend to take new gifts out of their ugly "to market to market" packages and place them in simple brown boxes that are reusuable. Probably more than 90% of new product packaging has NOTHING to do with delighting a gift recipient and everything to do with getting hands to grab it off the shelf for purchase. These are two completely different temptations.

I just bought three premium-scented candles from the thrift store at $3 a piece. The packaging was about four times larger than the candle and was an absurd mess of cardboard and more clear plastic than you can image! I had to get out a steak knife to get the darn things out of there! Really!

I don’t want people to have to wrestle to get my gifts out of their boxes.

Corinne's blog of Berlin and area happenings said...

I just discovered your blog... a few days ago you posted a photo of "Nimble" ... I have that same figurine... I'd never seen it anywhere else.
Looks like you have lots of wonderful information to share.. perhaps I'll have time over the holiday break to look through your posts more!

Merry Christmas!
- Corinne in Berlin, VT

Anonymous said...

Hooray! My local Goodwill has Christmas decor at 50% off! I stopped in last night to finish shopping. Music CD's for parents (new) $2. A wind up musical Christmas figurine for my daughter (who loves Christmas so much)- $1.50. A mantle piece for my neighbor who's birthday is on Christmas Eve - $1.50. Christmas cards for next year - 50 cents. Oh, and a beautiful angel who is playing a mandolin - she will hold Santa's letter (he leaves one every year!) - $2. And I may go back today - the clothing racks (for a change) are packed with "new" items. It really is Christmas in Michigan!