There are lots of ways to waste money; two of my personal bank-draining demons used to be shoes and purses. How did I kick the habits? I’ll tell you, because I’m just a damn awesome person. How awesome? I’m not making a joke about how modest I am. That’s how awesome. You don’t come here for run-of-the-mill humor; I’m assuming you come here for crafting and to bask in my radiance.
Let’s start off with shoes. I grew up in a desolate area, with nary a movie house or coffee shop in sight. It was basically not even suburbs, but suburb adjacent, and we shared it with cows. Once a mall was built in my late teen years, it became our sole source of entertainment. We spent evenings and weekends wandering the air-conditioned wonder, taking in the endless delights of Sbarro and Claire’s.
I don’t even want to think about how much money I spent on cheap earrings and plastic garbage. Payless fed my shoe habit with their relentless “Buy one, get one half off” sales to draw in vulnerable, naive teens like myself.
In an effort to curb my habit, and avoid being buried alive in accessories, I forcibly grew my own feet to a women’s size 10 1/2, or about an 8 in men’s. (Actually, I just inherited my 6’2″ dad’s feet, without the height to match; but I can go snorkeling without flippers!) Since I have yet to find a store that consistently sells shoes large enough for giant-monster feet like my own, my spending decreased dramatically.
Unfortunately, flip-flops are one size fits all, and they became my new addiction. They’re comfy, cheap, and easily accessible. I finally realized I had over-dosed this last year. I found 3-4 pairs I had never even WORN, so I handed them off to a friend who has worn the hell out of them.
At this point, I still love my flip flops, but I have realized I have ample to last me for the next ten years at least. I have also developed a bunion, which flip-flops are bad for, so out of fear I will stop buying (but probably not wearing) them. So all you have to do to reduce your shoe-buying, is stick your feet in a nuclear reactor. You get Godzilla feet, and your wallet gets a break. I bet you never knew it was so simple!
For serious though, take an inventory of all the shoes you have on hand. I generally keep one pair of nasty sneakers for things like yard work (HA! Yard work! Right.), and one pair of old flip-flops for the beach, or playing at the river (much more likely than yard work). Other than that, the same rules for reduced clothes-buying apply to shoes: buy durable, simple, classic styles. That way they won’t wear out or break, and they will match with everything.
You can also consider reducing the color palette in your wardrobe. I have one friend who wears only black and shades of grey; everything of hers matches everything else, she doesn’t have to separate her laundry, and she always looks sophisticated. I’m not planning to go that extreme, but if I get rid of my brown office clothes, I can avoid buying a new pair of pants and shoes. I don’t even really like most of my brown stuff anyway, so I’m seriously considering it.
If you have shoes that you like, but look a little worn, or aren’t quite what you want, consider painting them, or altering them in some other way to make them what you do want. The basic rule you should always follow is make it last, make do, or do without, before making any purchase.
I have just returned from an expedition to find new cooking pans. We just got a new stove (because the old one broke) and I thought it was about time to replace the had-them-since-college-probably-giving-me-cancer frying pans in our home. I didn’t find what I wanted. Not only that, the entire experience was baffling.
I don’t know if it’s just the fact that I usually stick to thrift stores, but I feel out of place in normal stores. Something about all that shiny, new merchandise, with duplicates all in a row doesn’t make sense to me. Nothing is unique. If I buy a sweater, about 30 people in my neighborhood have that same sweater. What’s the point?
So much of the stuff in stores is just useless crap. Yeah, it might be cute, but it just takes up space in your home. I saw a pretty gold Buddha statue that tempted me, then I thought, “What’s the point?” If someone comes to my house and says, “Ooh, that’s a beautiful Buddha; where did you get it?”, “Target” just seems like a lame answer. I much prefer to have things in my home that have a story to them.
And I have to ask, what is up with these onion holder things everywhere? Did some study come out that says onions can’t be in normal tupperware or plastic baggies? You would think after the hideous recession we all just lived through, single-use gimmicks like this would have died out, but apparently not. And now different types are coming out, like for avocados and tomatos. How are these necessary?
Not only are the items for sale in the stores pointless, the stores themselves are unpleasant. Why does every store feel the need to choke me to death with potpourri stink? What horrific smells are proliferating the store that you’re trying to cover up? Or are you hoping that my eyes will be watering so much I won’t realize what a shoddily made, probably-toxic item from China I’m buying?
Stuff is also way too expensive. I know I am probably the cheapest person you’ve ever come in contact with, but seriously. How many hours would I have to be at work to purchase a giant ceramic chicken that does nothing? Too long. It also seems like just going out and buying some random cute chtotchke is too easy. If I have something awesome in my house, I want to be able to say either “I crafted that myself”, or “I found it at a thrift store/garage sale”. Unless you’ve had to create the item, or dig through random junk for 20 minutes to find your treasure, you haven’t really earned it. But maybe I’m just nuts. Regardless, I headed over to Amazon to look for my pans, rather than trekking all over the city.
I know that I tend to type on and on about thrift stores. I can’t help it! I freaking love them! But I also know many people have never been thrifting (it’s okay, breath, we’ll get through this). I want all of you to know the joy I feel every time I go thrifting. The thrill of hunting for treasures in mounds of stuff from the 80′s, and buying your treasure for a teensy price. Plus, I LOVE when people compliment me on something and I can say “It’s from a thrift store!”
The first step, is scouting out thrift stores in your area, via the interwebs. Salvation Army and Goodwill are pretty much nationwide, and Savers are good, if there’s one near you. There are also probably some local ones. If you are fairly nervous about going to a thrift store, maybe drive past once to “case the joint”. There’s no reason you should be nervous, but I know back in the day, I had a certain amount of trepidation, not knowing what to expect.
Once you get in there, there will probably be tons of clothes on racks, some furniture, and small household items. Most places have the clothes divided up by men’s, women’s, and kid’s at least, and some even divide by size and type.
Every thrift store I’ve been to has things pretty well labeled as to location of merchandise, and prices. Goodwill tends to have one large label per rack, like “Women’s Blouses $5″ or something like that, while Texas Thrift puts a price tag on each item. Certain stores, like the Goodwill Outlets sell by the pound, such as $1.49 per pound of whatever you want, and items over 4 pounds are priced separately.
Keep your eye out for gems like this. My sis Beans is obviously super excited about it!
Most of these places take credit and debit cards these days, and they should have those pictures by the front door letting you know which ones they take.
I worked at a thrift store for over a year, so I’m going to tell you a bit about behind the scenes.
1) They do not wash any of the clothes. There is no giant laundromat in back. If things come in dirty, they are probably just trashed, but most things are donated fresh from the dryer.
2) They can sell tons of stuff, from sporting equipment, to fabric, so you can donate and/or find almost anything.
3) Things do not stay on the shelf forever. With the clothes, we would pull everything that had been out for over a month, bag it up, and it was sold, by the pound, to another company that recycled the fabric into other things, like mattress and teddy bear stuffing.
4) This is not a garage sale. Do not try to bargain with the employees. I have never been to one where anyone was given that kind of authority by the company. You are at a THRIFT STORE. If the shirt you want is missing a button, or has a tiny tear, it’s probably because someone else already wore it a lot.
5) I have never been to one that allowed returns, but there are almost always dressing rooms.
I just loved this bizarre unicorn, with what appears to be a pool cue coming out of its head, having recently eaten lots of jalapenos.
I generally approach a rack, and start flipping through very quickly, to see if there’s anything interesting. Sometimes I have a small list of items to look out for, or sometimes I just look for fun. Many places have a color tag system, where tags of a specific color will be on sale for half off for a week. There is usually a big sign at the front of the store to let you know this.
Over the years, I have found supplies for costumes, stuff for around the house, and antiques for dirt cheap. I love thrifting, and I hope anyone who has never gone will try it, at least once.
The dishes are running, the dryer is drying, chicken is cooking, errands have been run, and I have a nice glass of Irish Cream on the rocks. Brace yourself, people. We are heading into full rant mode!
I am not going to go into any of the “it’s a giant evil corporation that treats its employees horrifically” stuff. You probably know all about that and have already decided if you agree or disagree, so I’m not going to beat a dead horse. My issues with Walmart are much more personal, and therefore make me more violent (hence the alcohol; I self-medicate).
I went to Walmart today with a list of 5 things. I bought one of them before I gave up and left. I went to my HEB for the other things instead (HEB is a Texas chain of grocery stores, and you should weep everyday that you don’t have access to one, they’re that awesome). Here’s my problems with Walmart, in no particular order:
1. People always go out of their way to block as much of the aisle as possible. Today I had to turn around on three different aisles and head back the way I came because all the inconsiderate jerks in the area moseyed over to Wally World today. I got stuck by a woman blocking an entire 4-way intersection with her cart, herself, and her children that she was carefully ignoring destroying merchandise and beating each other. Keep in mind, I was in the store for twenty minutes.
2. I had to buy a dog crate for my darling Flapjack. The display dog crates were 6 (I counted) aisles from the purchasable crates, which were on the top shelf, and uber heavy. Of course there were no employees around to help me, and even if there had been, what use is an 87 year old lady going to be? Whoever loaded the boxes over there must have been the same guy that put the Arc of the Covenant in storage, because he obviously didn’t expect it to ever come out again.
3. The price tags do not show the cost per unit. I have to have my cell phone out the whole time I’m there to figure out what’s the best deal. How am I supposed to do the math in my head to figure out how much per ounce the 63.5 ounce container is? HEB puts the price per ounce, or sometimes per count, right on the label, so you know just what you’re getting. Maybe I’m spoiled, but if so that’s just more evidence why you should campaign HEB to open one in your area.
4. The store brands were more expensive that the name brands. I looked at dish washing detergent and light bulbs, and on both of these items the store brand cost significantly more than the name brand. The light bulbs were about a dollar more, and the detergent about $0.50. They are counting on the fact that people assume the “Great Value” brand will be the cheapest option and pick it up without looking. It is totally their right to prey on the stupidity of their customers, but I’m hoping you are too clever to fall for their schemes (or at least will be aware of it now that your resident Clever Chick has pointed it out). I just don’t want any of my loyal minions to be duped!
5. I hate it!!! Something about the warehouse feeling, the chaos of the aisles, or the over-dry air inside Walmart creates some kind of visceral discomfort in me. I can’t explain it, but the second I walk in the door my shoulders tense up, and I can’t wait to be out of there. The buildings look like they should be in the USSR, holding people for thought crimes. And (at least in the one I was in today) the aisles are short and set at right angles to each other, and nothing was in any kind of logical place. Why is lotion next to pet stuff? Why are dishes next to hardware? Why is fishing gear next to party supplies? Walmart is all the things I detest: inefficiency, fake frugality (or frauxgality, as I like to call it), and clutter.
I want you all to know how hard it was for me to relive the horrors of Walmart. I did it just to save you the effort of finding out for yourselves. Now, maybe the healing can begin.