Monday, February 21, 2011

I saved $1,000 in two purchases

Petite Poe and Little Pie’s birthdays makes for our March Madness. What to get Little Pie? I’ve been looking for months. I’ve already scouted out her party favors.

The answer finally arrived in the window of the Archer Goodwill this Friday. A blue Electra 24” Townie kids step through bicycle. Pie is too big for her old bicycle (we reclaimed it from the alley as did my Schwinn red cruiser). This Electra is specifically designed to grow with the rider so we need not purchase a transitional bike.

Electra is the current crème de la crème of new cruisers, which have been popular in Denver for years. So popular, citizens can rent shiny red cruisers at sites all over town. Just slip a few dollars into the machine and voila, a cruiser complete with basket is yours for the time paid for.

Given it’s a holiday weekend, Mr. Golightly and I have not had the opportunity to photograph the bike for there are little eyes about the house that would discover us. It’s going to be a tough month of not spilling the beans.

When I find something like this, I cannot wait to give it. I think this might require the use of duct tape over my mouth, or as Pie used to say, “duck tape”. Pie loves duct tape and she gets it honest from her great grandfather, The Big Messer we call him. He, like so many WWII veterans, has a life long love of the invention that could fix nearly anything, or at least hold it together until it could be fixed properly. One super-hero day at school Pie went as Duct Tape Girl.

But I ramble. We purchased this bike in excellent condition; the rubber on the kickstand shows little sign of use at all. Not a spot of rust. This bike has over $100 of added components including a removable basket.

It retails $480 at our local REI (without components). We paid $170 for it. Family members are chipping in and Little Pie will be so delighted to ride a slick bicycle that fits her. Petite Po has Electra envy though she has no reason to complain for she has a beauty of a Trek cruiser with white wall tires and blue fenders with two over-the back tire baskets acquired from Craig’s List for $140.

I was on the cell phone with Mr. Golightly, discussing the possible purchase of the bicycle when the guys from the stock room placed another treasure just two feet away. A beige microfiber swivel rocker from Room & Board, the fabric hardly worn, not a rip, stain or imperfection now sat in the window for $40. How long do you think the sale sticker remained on that chair? Generally, I’m very polite in thrift stores, but when it comes to high-end items for pennies on the dollar, I am a Tasmanian Devil, I’ll either beat you to it or scare you away from it.

Everything in this photograph is either estate sale or thrift. The lamp for $6, pillows $6 total, rug for $30 and round mirror for $8 were purchased thrift. The antique knitting cabinet and dresser from an estate sale for a total of $120. I refinished both. [We're working on a better photo but this small version will do for now.]

This chair was EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for our sitting room. When we came home, Mr. Golightly looked up the chair that is currently listed on The Room & Board site for $700. Wow.

Like many Americans, we are economically stressed and are compelled to discuss any large purchase, generally anything over $75. But, even in better times we discussed large purchases.

The biggest purchase made without mutual consult was our 100-year-old, quarter-sawn oak, up right grand piano for $600 at a neighbor’s estate sale. I couldn’t call Mr. Golightly because, after I heard the price, I involuntarily exhaled, “I’ll take it!” and fainted. Okay, I didn’t really faint but I did need to grasp hold of the piano to steady myself. I figured the price at least five grand and just asked out of curiosity. At first, Mr. Golightly was a bit miffed but after walking a block down to see it, he exclaimed, “Honey, you told me you purchased a piano! You didn’t tell me you purchased an institution!” We’d been wanting a piano for about a year.

We named our piano Sarah, after it's previous owner. We know it's entire history. One hundred years ago, the grandparents of Sarah's husband boarded a train to The Packard Piano Company in Fort Wayne, IN to select this piano which was one of five on the show room floor. They brought the piano back to Denver and Sarah's husband grew up playing it. During it's 100 years of life, it's been moved twice. It has a rich, robust sound that has come to be a blessing and a curse. When someone sits down to play, the entire house hears a concert ready or not.

Does your family mutually make decisions on high-end purchases? What price point? Have you always done this or have current times made for dialog?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A real peach of a woman from Georgia

Every once in a while a little gem lands in my in box that I like to share. This note came from an attorney in Georgia. Though I love that she’s participating in the thrift market, the thing that touches me most is that she uses the money she saves from thrift to help her justify more pro-bono work! Becky, as far as I’m concerned, we need more people like you. Her recent thrift scores are mixed in with the copy. Godspeed Becky!

(Editor's Note: OMG how darling!)

Hi Shopping Golightly!

Thought you’d like to hear about my recent success.

I went to a trunk show at a friend’s house a few days ago and was tempted to buy a very cute but very EXPENSIVE jacket.

(Editor's Note: I love zipper pull jackets! They've an uncluttered, crisp look.)

When I go to trunk shows, I feel a compulsion to buy items to support the hostess plus a daunting peer pressure to jump on the spending bandwagon!

The temptation? A darling cropped yellow gingham jacket. It looked quite retro.

But wait a second! It reminded me of many of the jackets I’ve spied at Goodwill during previous perusals.

So, THIS TIME instead of pulling out my credit card at the trunk show, I went to Goodwill afterwards to see what was hanging on the racks.

I walked out with FIVE nice jackets for just $24.00, less than $5.00 each. WOW! My five jackets were a small fraction of the cost of the jacket that started this at the trunk show.

They are perfect for work. Add a camisole from and scarf from my collection, and I am prepared to meet clients. They will never know what I paid for my look!

Keeping my “overhead” in line allows me to do more pro-bono work and not feel guilty. It’s a win win!

Thanks for making the reuse market an exciting and rewarding treasure hunt where you can come home with a SPLENDID bargain not a guilt trip!

Alpharetta, GA

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sticker shock in a bookstore?

Thought I’d surprise Mr. Golightly this Valentine’s Day with the latest selection for his Man Book Group. This book was wait-listed at the library. He’d probably would not have had a copy in hand before the next meeting.

I went to the bookstore. It’s been awhile, though I used to practically live at The Tattered Cover, Denver’s largest independent bookstore. Then they moved.

I thought there was an error when the clerk said “That will be $17.95”.

I only purchased one paperback. That’s the price of hardback.

So I learned that, during my hiatus from the bookstore, they’ve seriously jacked up prices. $15.95 for a paperback, $28 buys a hardback!

Two feelings hit me at once: 1) I felt crotchety, whining about the current price of books; 2) I felt Jedi smart for buying best-sellers a la thrift, not paying full price for years. With the amount my family reads, I've possibly saved over a thousand dollars.

Mr. Golightly was happy to have his book but the price hike shocked him too, which made me feel less crotchety and even smarter.

Why? Because we’re accustomed to thrift store prices, $2 for a hardback, $1 for paperback and often less.

For more testimony on savings, here’s what I gave my family for Valentine’s Day.

Petite Poet received this darling cardigan. It was $5. She looks like a rose when she wears it.

Little Pie now has this darling hand hooked wool rug from Orvis in her room. Take a minute to look at it. It took me awhile to see. It’s a circle of cats drinking from a saucer of milk. At three times my Flinch Point, I though it worth it. Little Pie loves cats. We have three. We’re not against dogs but I refuse to allow any more animals that require clean up in this house. I can barely keep up as is.

Mr. Golightly received this pristine vintage mohair blanket from Scotland by Andrew Stewart for our sitting room. It was $5 and had just been dry-cleaned. We read a lot and find a nice blanket makes for good company.

The last is a bit of a joke. Mr. Golightly loves odd containers. I found this Valentine-like container for $2 and stuffed it with Biore pore strips. We secretly play spa. If you Biore, I know you relate. If you have not, you need to try it.

It's going to take some time for me to grieve about the old prices of books. I don’t have sticker shock in clothing and home stores. I just never thought I’d experience this shock in a bookstore.

At least our facial pores will come clean tonight. (I really didn't want to share this secret, but Mr. Golightly wanted the world to know this to possibly free a few clogged pores with Biore. I guess he's set on cleaning the world, one facial pore at a time - his secret superhero power.) I apologize for the cheekiness and candor. My husband made me do it, because it's Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Party favors from thrift? Get out!

Many of today's birthday parties for children seem to be on steroids. Some parties have 20 children in attendance for expensive activities like horse back riding or painting your own pottery. Ugh, we cannot afford that, but that doesn't mean our parties must be a boring flop.

I like to keep parties at home and follow the basic rule of inviting one more child than the age of the child until they are 10. For the Golightlys, March Madness translates to birthdays upon birthdays. (June must be a hot conception month.)

Little Pie turns ten this year and we will be serving a high tea for ten of her friends. I've been preparing for a year. The above assortment of tea cups will serve as party favors. I've been scanning thrift stores for months to pick just the right cup at the right price. This has been a lesson in patience and since I have the party favors set, all I really need to do is prepare the table. I acquired each teacup and saucer for around $2. Each find gave me a pleasant feeling of a small accomplishment; something we could all use these days. And, I brought each new cup and saucer home for Little Pie to see which offered her satisfaction and anticipation.

A funny thing happened near the end of my acquisition. I discovered one of the tea cups was quite valuable. (Guess now and I'll let you know at the end of the post.)

As noted in the former post, A place of possibilities, if one Dumps their retail mindset, the thrift store becomes a place of many unimagined opportunities.

If you have children or enjoy entertaining, consider the thrift store a resource. The items found there will be more fun than paper horns and tiny bubble blowers that discount retailers sell. In many cases, they'll be less expensive too and won't be so quick to become landfill fodder. To me, favors bought at party stores/discount retailers scream, "I'm not worth keeping!" Is that really what you want to give a guest?

Not only can you find the favors at thrift but you can lay a beautiful full place-setting (china, glasses, and silver-plate flatware) for under $5 from the thrift store. This is one incredible place for those who love to entertain.

Follows are a few easy ideas for party favors al a thrift. To be successful, plan ahead with patience. I promise it will take a stressful situation and make it less stressful. And, the chances that guests will actually value their favors skyrockets.

Sometimes we find things we never imagined, like these tiny clay tea pots, $3 bought all. These pots were in Little Pie's holiday stocking but easily could have been darling party favors.

All these marbles were found thrift for about $8. How about a cultural renewal on playing marbles? I do a lot of gardening about our 111-year-old home. When building out a new bed, I usually find old change like a buffalo nickel buried in the soil. I've also found several marbles.

Empty nesting dolls are easily found at thrift stores from 50 cents to a dollar. They're darling and could hold candy as a favor.

Paper parasols are another easy score in thrift stores. They run from $2-$4 each. Always check them to ensure they are not torn; there's about a 60% chance they're not. What little girl does not love a parasol?

Even small teapots can be gathered.

I purchased five pounds of old crayons thrift for $2. Little Pie and I recycled those old crayons into what we call pastel pies. We made over 250 pastel pies - that's enough favors for a classroom party!

They're really quite lovely and - if you wish - you can name your own colors.

Visit our sister blog, Mommy Golightly to learn how to make Little Pie's pastel pies.

Need more ideas? How about silk scarves, jewelry, collectible teaspoons, aprons, handkerchiefs? Or, you could host a party to make personal crowns from thrifted supplies. A few of my friends have handed out cash and cut kids lose in a thrift store. Believe it or not, teens especially love that one and usually have a fashion show afterward to see who landed the coolest score.

It doesn't end with party favors. Paper plates, napkins, paper lanterns, place-cards and invitations are easy thrift finds. I purchased Little Pie's invitations about six months ago, an unopened box of printable pink cards from Papyrus for about $2.

Try some patience and plan ahead. We all need practice on patience these days. Be open to possibilities and shop thrift. Thrift is not standard retail, think Portobello Road or a Parisian flea market with items unexpected. For example, I saw an antique rapier in the case of my neighbor thrift just this Saturday. I've seen so many exotic things, it's hard to remember them all.

As for the pastel pies, Piper and I noted something interesting in a few of them. What do you see in each pastel pie below?

Little Pie and I see a woman with a papoose on her back on the left. We see a child's face in the lower left of the middle pastel pie. A squirrel appeared to us on the right pastel pie.

Post Script: The teacup on the right with the violets was produced by James Kent, Ltd. pattern 5018. It's probably worth about 2,500% what I paid for it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A place of possibilities

It’s Saturday morning. The house is quiet and I have coffee. I woke to NPR’s Weekend Edition. I’ve a brain crush on Scott Simon, his commentaries and his laugh. I miss his weekly dialogs with Daniel Schorr. Funny, anytime Mr. Golightly has an author who’s been interviewed by Scott Simon sign a book, he has the author write a postscript, “P. S. Your husband’s better looking than Scott Simon”. This happens even if the interview was not done in person in the NPR studio in DC.

I think I’ll hit the neighborhood Goodwill when it opens. Sometimes I wish I lived near my friend Apron Thrift Girl so that Saturdays would be filled with estate and yard sales in Sonoma. I need a friend to jump about the county in a car. Truth is, I don’t like cars and didn’t own one until I married Mr. Golightly at 27. A car is a heavy thing to carry around and hell to park when in the city. Then, I was in the accident in 2003, which makes me dislike cars even more.

A quick aside, I wrote a college thesis on estate sales for a sociology major but rarely go to them. My other major was Biology. It was a small liberal arts college and there were but a few biology majors. We were a tight group, hanging out in lab till midnight with a few beers iced down in the lab sink. Hey, it was college! My peers went on to be doctors and one veterinarian. I didn’t have the guts for medical school. I studied biology out of ultimate fascination; completely awestruck.

Denver’s not a hot spot for year-round yard sales and given that I do not like driving much I stick to thrift.

My family went to the mountains a few weeks back and I bought a magazine to read. It was the January edition of O, one arranged around channeling creativity. This edition offered a "Five-Step Un -Quiz" to readers, asking for submissions. One un-quiz step was to think about things you need in life and designate a place to that contemplate that need. They asked readers to make a simple sign for that spot.
We all need possibility. I’m going to ask the manager at our neighborhood thrift if I can place a sign in the store that says, “This is a place of possibilities”.
If you can dump the retail mindset, the thrift store truly is a place of possibilities, many within immediate grasp. Next time you visit, take a deep breath at the door and prepare to open the mind. Reflect, visualize a future, have hope. Basically learn to meditate in the thrift store and the possibilities will present themselves.

Godspeed in your journey to your place of possibility.