Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The frugal, the cheap, and the wardrobe

guest post written by Pam Roberts

My closet is full of name brand clothes, I get compliments on the way I dress, and I have never spent over $15 on any one item. Having labels like Ann Taylor, Talbots, Tommy Hilfiger, Cold Water Creek and Jessica Howard hanging in your closet is easy if you know where to shop.

Thrift stores and consignment shops have become a weekend tradition for me, and the great part is that practically every community has one. If you’re on vacation, ask where the nearest is. In resort cities, wealthy people with summer houses will redecorate every few years, guess where their old, barely used furniture and accessories goes.

I prefer smaller, more private shops, for name brands, but I found my Stairmaster at the Salvation Army for $25 and the mirror hanging above my couch came from Goodwill for $15. I stripped and refinished it to match the rest of the wood in my living room and it looks great. At high end stores I’ve seen much smaller and less elaborate mirrors sell for over $400.

I searched department and specialty cooking stores for almost a year for a plain tube pan, evidently this staple of baking is no longer made or sold, I own a couple of Bundt pans, but I needed a tube pan. Then it occurred to me that I could probably get one from one of the thrift stores I frequent. Sure enough, that weekend I found exactly what I needed for $1.

Since then I have stopped narrowing my searches to only clothing, I now look for bestselling paperback books for .25 to .50 and hardcover books for .75 to $1. I’ve scored kitchenware with names like Pampered Chef and Visions, not to mention the jewelry, Christmas ornaments and beautiful flower pots that I would never have been able to afford if I had to pay full price.

During her pregnancy, for just a few dollars spent at her local consignment shop, one of my sisters dressed like she had just stepped out of a magazine. Now that my nephew is here, she gets all of his clothes and toys from the same consignment shop; in a couple of months, after he’s outgrown them, she takes them back & gets more. She has such a large store credit that she hasn’t had to pay for anything in months.

My niece bought the last two of her prom dresses from consignment shops. Each dress was in incredible condition, obviously worn only once and cost well under $100.

Before beginning your shopping spree keep these things in mind:

1) A thrift store sells used articles, especially clothing to benefit a charitable organization. They will accept practically anything and in any condition.

2) A consignment shop is a retail store that stocks and sells merchandise on consignment from individuals. A good consignment shop is particular about the condition the clothing they sell.

3) Stores may be set up differently. Some stores organize clothes by color, some by size, and some by style. Most shops have the clothing, books, and household items separate; although I have been in some store where everything was together in a couple of large rooms. Personally, I consider this junk & since I have absolutely no patience for shopping, I turn around and walk out, but I’m sure if you like to plunder, you’d find some really good buys in these stores.

4) In most of the stores, the listed price is not the absolute price, especially if you frequent the same stores & the cashiers get to know you. Don’t be afraid to make an offer, in the consignment shops the cashier will have to get approval from the owner of the item before the price can be reduced, but that’s usually as simple as a phone call & I’ve never had an offer rejected. It seems a good rule of thumb is to offer at least 20% off the marked price.

5) Just because you’re in a thrift store or consignment shop doesn’t necessarily mean items will be inexpensive. Remember, most of the time these are used items, so look at them for flaws, make sure the electronics work, but most of all don’t pay too much. Now $150 for a designer dress may be cheap when you compare it to the regular price of $800, but I’d personally NEVER pay $150 for used clothing, I wouldn’t pay $20 for a used Mr. Coffee, and I certainly wouldn’t pay $200 for a used headboard and footboard that I’d have to refinish. I actually saw some of these prices at a Habitat for Humanity store.

Today I walked out with a really cute wind chime for my patio, and 3 shirts (pictured), each top costed me $4. The total for all my purchases was $13. Not bad for Woolrich, Coldwater Creek & Kim Rogers!

The next time you get tired of seeing the same old thing in your closet but can’t afford a new wardrobe, take a trip to your neighborhood thrift or consignment shop. Believe me; you’ll be surprised at what you take home with you.

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