Saturday, February 24, 2007

How to look rich by thrifting

Or one needs to know it is from Goodwill!

My son's friends, being male teenagers and not caring about saying something that could offend, have often told him no one would ever know we're "poor". Now you must know, many of his friends live in the wealthier subdivisions and have two parents who work "professional" positions, mostly at the University. So by their standards, we're poor. Come to think of it, by any American standards having to do with income (and not, unfortunately, with getting health care)...we're darn close. However, if compared to much of the world today, we are immensely wealthy.

I don't take offense at what the boys say, on the contrary, it just shows one can look much richer than their actual income. My son is just as well dressed (if not more so) than any of his friends due to his sister's Birthday and Christmas gifts, as well as his increasing ability to find "Brands" at Goodwill (his goal this year is to locate Armani, hehehe). In the last month, all three of us have found very nice clothing when needed at Goodwill (Polo for instance for my son and Talbots for me), some even at the half-price color that week. My Talbot's blouse was half price because it had been put in with the men's clothing.

The same boys have often commented how nice our house looks, which is amazing in itself. To be truthful, we do have nice "stuff" because we have inherited some nice "stuff", and when we have had a good income, we purchased nice "stuff". When one's husband has a graduate degree in furniture engineering, one does not purchase cheap furniture. However, I have learned from him that paying a little more for quality with furniture is just the same as my mother teaching me to purchase clothing that cost "just a little more" to get long wearing clothes...on sale, of course.

The only time I can recall we've gone into debt for furniture was just this last year when we purchased a very nice sofa bed for the living room (a necessity!). Even then, we used the money from two temporary part-time jobs and one tax refund to pay the remainder of what we owed off before being charged any interest. Good furniture...on sale...a good thing. (I should add that I don't purchase furniture which I've seen in catalogs, paying prices that look like they should accompany pictures of automobiles, not furniture.)

I believe "rich" is all in the details and that is where the fun comes in. I have had more enjoyment over the years shopping garage sales, thrift stores, antique malls, etc. than I ever did going to a store "that sells purple" and spending money. For one thing, those are the places I can find the vintage items I love, made before things were manufactured to fall apart quickly. I can look through my house, see an item, and often remember the day the treasure was located. So many items that look expensive, because they may have been originally, were purchased with leftover grocery money.

Often people were selling them cheap just to get rid of them, items that were very expensive when purchased (like my silver candlesticks purchased for $1.00 at a garage sale because the woman was tired of shining silver) or the beautiful embroidered tablecloth my daughter framed and has up in her house, also purchased for $1.00 even though the embroidery must have taken a very long time to finish. I can't tell you how often I've come away with treasures purchased so cheap (thankfully) but shaking my head at how little such items are treasured today.

It does help to be able to see things in a new way. My daughter has the neatest "arrangement" of two framed pictures, each hung on the wall within a narrow section of window screens (the kind that that can be inserted at the base of a window and then removed when not needed). Below them, on top of a bookshelf, a vintage table fan adds an architectural element. You wouldn't believe how pretty they look.

My living room has bookshelves full of books...old and new...purchased mostly at library sales and garage sales. There is one complete shelf of old books purchased for a quarter each at a garage sale, all excellent early 1900s fiction titles. Another shelf (and part of a second) is filled with classics with a pretty binding, purchased for $10.00 for the entire box at a garage sale. The shelves are filled with proof that you don't have to be rich to collect good books, unless you are searching for a first edition of a rare book (which I am not). Having said that, I still see books as a good investment, even when purchased at full price. Treated correctly, generations down the line will enjoy them. I believe bookshelves filled with books bring a rich feeling to any room.

We enjoy our our "little house in the country" very much and reaping the benefits of having a talented young couple live here before us who transformed the house from "simple" to " goodness", which was what I kept saying when I looked at it. He was an engineer, she a stay at home mom with great design talent, one father-in-law was an electrician, and the other a carpenter...good people to have around. A simple brick ranch with great bones was transferred into something special with all the detail work they did in the years they lived here, not to mention the french doors added to the very large deck they built. All of this and it was still in our budget (Thank You, God!). They didn't spend a lot of money, either.'s all in the details...and so is the fun. What brought about this particular pondering was a stop into Goodwill this morning after dropping my son off at work. When alone, I can search a little deeper than when I'm just running in and out. I finally found a very nice cheese slicer, which has been on my mental list since my old one broke (79 cents). It even has a marble handle that looks like it won't break off as did my old one with the wooden handle. Like Laine, in Laine's Letters, much of the fun is trying to find something we need while thrifting.

Then there are the Serendipity moments, when we see something we've WANTED, perhaps for a long time...there it is in full color...we try to get to it as quickly as possible without knocking over elderly ladies and small children...we grasp the object and check the price and practically swoon when it is sooooo within our budget. Then, when someone admires said object, we just smile and tell them the story of the day we found it (for I am one of those people who gets more pleasure telling the story behind my treasures rather than having people think I just paid full price at the store). :)


Leslie said...

This is my first visit to your site. I just couldn't help but comment & chime in my whole hearted "amen". :) I feel so rich as well & love to share my stories. We built our home from mostly salvaged materials so my hubby loves to give the nickel tour to all the new guests. He also likes to brag on our "finds". Many of which were free! Thank God for big trash day in these little country towns!!!

Thanks for sharing. You put it so well.

Anonymous said...

I grew up buying Goodwill type clothing! I was well trained and have done the same with my daughter. For her Senior Formal - yes, our homeschool group has a formal - we checked out Thrift Town and found the most gorgeous celadon green formal and matching shawl in her size. Brand name? David's Bridal. The crossed out price was $49.99, marked down to $19.99. Because it was a yellow tag day we got 50% off making it a whopping $10.76 formal! Pinch us! We fairly skipped out the store! Once home I checked on the David's Bridal site - the dress is listed for $165.00. Goodness! My husband is 6'6" and I can find *him* clothing! Name brand at that. Thrifting is the way to go, imho.

deb said...

I'd love to go thrifting together...and then have lunch. Your town or mine? :)

Kelli said...

Oh, I really enjoyed this post, Brenda! Makes me want to go to Goodwill and look around. :0) We have found wonderful clothes at goodwill and 90% of the girls and Benjamin's clothes I get at children's resale stores. I also like to tell the story behind a good find!

Sandra said...

Great post! You're right, it's all in the details. Isn't thrift store and yard sale shopping so much better than retail? I just don't like going to the mall anymore. I like things with a little "age" to them anyway. :o)

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I think we'd all have a great time going to garage sales and thrift stores, then stopping for coffee and "a snack".

Being true thrifters, we'd want to get out and find the early bargains before having coffee, hehehe.

Actually, in garage sale season, I go through the window at McDonald's for a big coffee on my way to garage sales. (I purchase Starbucks when I can sip it and enjoy every expensive drink.) :)

Anonymous said...

My 10 year old daughter ADORES Goodwill. We went last week, and she got:
4 shirts (2 were brand new)
4 skirts (2 new)
a striped scarf she wears as a belt
a brand new pair of tennis shoes

Grand total: $36. I put in $11, my mom put in $10, and Emily put in $5 of her own money. She was very, very pleased with herself! I pointed out that, had she gone to the mall, she would've only been able to purchase one or two things with the same money. She's a great shopper!
South Carolina

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

Yes...Christopher is not one for clothes shopping at the mall but shopping Goodwill is like a good hunt (except one is hunting bargains!).