Today, as yard sale, garage sale and outdoor market season ramps up, I plan, and I turn my vehicle into a well-stocked “thrift-mobile.”
I’m all grown up. And, I think I have a pretty good handle on who I am. After all, I’ve spent years assessing and reassessing my actions … my directions … my choices. Along the way, I’ve thrown out the bad and kept the good. At least I’ve tried to. But, some things just seem to stick and I’m unable to shake that old feeling or experience. That’s when I realize that, despite my efforts, I’m still a slave to my past.
One event, in particular, still haunts me. It has shadows my life in many ways … most often in the still of the night. It invades my dreams and even sneaks into my days whenever I watch a parade or attend a celebratory event or even view a lovely prom dress in a store window. It’s still there; 20 years later … 40 years later. Hell, almost 50 years later I still think about “it.” Funny how one event can define one’s life. Quietly, secretly, it imbeds itself into the very core of one’s psyche and festers there like an unattended wound.
Years ago, I was elected Homecoming Queen of my school. As Dickens once said, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…
At seventeen “the event” became the central focus my life. It defined me. I didn’t know how to handle such a coveted award. Its announcement was met with immeasurable joy. As Sally Fields naively said in her Academy Award acceptance speech, “You like me … you really like me!”
Yet, I felt awkward. Uncertain. I was humbled, but, still imprisoned in those self-conscious teen years, I had no idea how to be humble. Graciousness was not part of my social repertoire. I was self-conscious. Hyper-vigilant. I assessed every action, every reaction. I even became paranoid. What were the girls saying behind my back? Did the boys like me better?
Then there was the dress … the pièce de résistance … a symbol of the most outstanding, notable time of my life; the dress that was to symbolize my short reign. I envisioned myself as a Cinderella walking into her ball.
And finally, the highly anticipated shopping excursion arrived.
My mother took me to a secondhand store. A thrift store. A place where only poor people shopped. I was devastated. This was my moment?
I riled against the chances of finding my gown in some seedy, back-alley shop. Where was my fairy Godmother? What would people think if they knew?
After much agony and rejection, we selected a gown. I took it home. It wasn’t wrapped in tissue with a gold sticker holding the crisp papers together, nor was it enclosed in a pretty colored bag with the shops name emblazoned on it. Rather, it was stuffed in a plastic bag. So unceremonious … so deflating … so sad.
I wanted to weep. But, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I would never let my mother, who was doing the best she could to feed, clothe and house four children, see my distress … my shame.
I get it now. I understand why I had to travel down that thrifty road. I get that I had to get over myself. I now understand the wisdom in shopping secondhand. Today I am the “Thrift Diva”. All that I own is secondhand. And, I am proud of it. I am satisfied with smart purchases. I am proud of recycling …everything. I even like the thrill of the hunt. I relish unpacking my thrift hauls. And, yes, my purchases are still unceremoniously wrapped and stuffed into plastic bags.
But thrift has changed from the days of back-alley establishments. Thrift and consignment proudly claim their right to be on Main Street. Towns are sprinkled with thrift super-stores, mom and pop enterprises, posh antique malls and elegant consignment boutiques.
And, me? Well, I still feel the sting of those long ago moments. But, I am a different person. I’m comfortable with me. As I wander through my beautifully decorated home, run a hand over my array of fun jewelry or slip into a designer jacket I’ve paid pennies for…well, I feel like that fabled Cinderella that I longed to be … so many years ago.
Barb Tobias created another fabulous wardrobe without breaking the bank…
For Barb Tobias of Evergreen, thrift is a lifestyle. In her book, “Tossed and Found; Where Frugal is Chic,” she asks, “How would your life look if you tossed out the tired and unwanted … and found a new you?”
Tobias writes of treasures such as a $1,000 vase for $40 and designer outfits for $50. She decorates all shapes and sizes of homes using only thrift items. And she says you can actually thrift shop your way to wealth.
Tobias gives all kinds of ideas on where to find these items — from demolition to estate to garage sales — and how to look for the “good stuff.” She also has a great list of stores and marketing ideas so you can make the most of buying and selling.
Her web site is http://thrifttalkdiva.com/
Three caveats to living the chic life on thrift: Have patience. It takes time to make the best finds. You can’t build your own cheap and chic Rome in one day. Sometimes, a store might be packed with deals, other times, you might not find a thing. Secondly, make sure to purge the old when you bring in the new. Third, keep an open mind. This classic form of recycling has stood the test of time for a reason. Snobs do not find the real treasures.
On a personal note, I absolutely hate the feeling of knowing I left behind a diamond in the rough. As long as an item isn’t too expensive for my budget or too large for me to store, I’ll pick it up to avoid that pang of regret. If I change my mind, I’ll sell or give it away as soon as possible rather than let it collect dust.
And remember, there’s no law that says you have to tell people you bought something second hand. I usually do, just because I get a kick out of getting compliments on my Goodwill shoes. But if someone says they like your new find, you can always just smile and say, “Thank you for noticing!” — wink.
By the way — end-of-season clearance at Payless Shoes right now — I found some really cute styles for the kids (and even some for me!) for $3 to $8! I even bought some school shoes and some of those cool wedges I wanted, but wasn’t ready to pay full price. The sales clerk tells me the deals are going at all Colorado stores.
Happy hunting! Don’t forget our CBS4 Deals of the Day, and please pass along your thrifty tips in the comments section! I’d love to hear from you.
- In her Brooke’s Bargains blog Brooke Wagner writes about finding bargains and saving money for her family. She calls it one of her favorite hobbies. Blog entries cover everything from the latest steals, deals, and freebies to cheap family activities, saving for college, and what to buy right now.
People often question why I continue to thrift shop … after all, I have more than everything I need. I guess it boils down to my love of the hunt. I love to scour the thrift shops and garage sales for items that can be made into something else. I enjoy creating new things out of old or used items. After all, I am a Diva and I love to change my environment … often.
I’m past worrying about whether I’ve made a purchasing mistake because I hold a Diva Sale at least once a year where I sell my “mistakes” and items I’ve simply grown tired of.
Another defining reason I shop thrift is knowing that I am saving so much money. In addition, recycling everything I own keeps my stuff out of our landfills.
On a recent “sale” shopping week I recorded my purchases and calculated the difference between what I paid during the 50% off sale, what I would have paid at normal thrift store prices and what retail would have cost me. I was astonished…
|Item||Retail||Thrift||1/2 price Sale|
|Cousances Cast Iron Vintage Blue Deep Skillet||$109.99||$ 9.99||$ 4.99|
|Cousances Cast Iron Vintage Blue Omelet Fry Pan||$ 9.99||$ 6.99||$ 3.49|
|Pfaltzgraff Gravy Boat||$ 7.99||$ 3.99||$ .99|
|Smoothie Freeze juicer||$ 29.99||$ 12.99||$ 6.49|
|CX-CD241 Portable CD with AM/FM Stereo Tuner||$ 29.99||$ 6.99||$ 3.49|
|Audio phase CD and Cassette player/2 speakers||$ 59.95||$ 24.99||$ 12.49|
|Video tape rewind component||$ 15.99||$ 3.99||$ 1.99|
|Glass Storage Jar||$ 9.99||$ 3.99||$ 1.99|
|Drawer Divider||$ 5.99||$ 1.99||$ 0.99|
|Men’s Red Handkerchief||$ 4.99||$ 0.99||$ 0.49|
|Auto Flashlight||.||$ 4.99||$ .99||$0.49|
|6 – Faux Leather placemats (Bed, Bath & Beyond||$ 35.94||$11.94||$5.94|
|Ceramic Box||$ 9.00||$ 2.99||$1.49|
|Long black scarf||$ 9.99||$ 1.99||$0.99|
|3 – Dinosaur Eggs||$ 9.99||$ 2.97||$1.47|
|2 – Decorative throw pillows||$ 32.00||$ 8.00||$4.00|
|7 – (Tag-on new) pairs underwear||$ 41.93||$ 13.93||$6.93|
|5 – Variety Cooking Utensils||$ 9.99||$ 2.45||$1.20|
|2-Books||$ 49.90||$ 6.00||$3.00|
|7 – CD’s||$ 90.30||$ 14.00||$7.00|
|Crazy Horse Ski Sweater||$ 24.99||$ 4.99||$2.49|
|2 piece silk PJ set by Cerie||$ 15.99||$ 4.99||$2.49|
|Wise World Sweatshirt||$ 32.99||$ 4.99||$2.49|
|Pair (NEW) Diane Gillman Jeans||$ 46.00||$ 8.99||$ .99|
|Pair Liz Claiborne Jeans||$ 28.99||$ 5.99||$ .99|
|Pair ETHYL Vintage Jeans||$ 32.00||$ 5.99||$ .99|
|Pair Faded Glory Black Denim jeans||$ 14.99||$ 5.99||$ .99|
Totals $824.84 $184.09 $79.17
I call this type of smart shopping “investing”! Not only am I investing in my home and wardrobe, I am making wise purchases that can be sold at my “Diva Sales” after I’m finished with them or have found something better. This way my merchandise is almost always recycled and I often recoup my investment. I have started to put the difference between what I pay thrift and what my items would have cost retail into a savings account. To hell with retirement! I am dying to take a trip; Africa is calling me, Victoria Island is my spring fantasy and Australia is beckoning me . . .
I’ve been happily thrift shopping for over 30 years. But, I wore gently used clothes from my toddler days clear through my teen years … from the proverbial hand-me-downs to the secondhand gown my mother bought me when I was voted Homecoming Queen. Needless to say, having to live on the cheap for so long, I abhorred anything thrifty.
Once I was married, and on the rebound from anything recycled, I was determined to buy new and staying far away from a life filled with someone else’s cast-offs.
Today I can honestly say that my beautifully decorated home and fabulous wardrobe have cost me nothing. I buy exclusively from the remarkable thrift venues that pepper the nation; garage sales, flea markets, yard sales, consignment shops, auctions, tag sales, antique malls and estate sales!
Furthermore, I hold a garage sale … every year. Actually, I call them Diva Sales because they are stocked with all the fabulous things I let go of after each season. The yearly purging of my home allows an array of new-to-me items back into my home and a fresh wardrobe every year.
Coming full circle, there are layers of reasons to love and live frugally. And since I buy only thrift, here are 15 of my best and brightest motivations:
- No more sticker shock!
- Best bargain bragging rights
- Guilt-free shopping . . . the price is always right.
- Decorate for FREE by purging yearly … Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Cupboards!
- Incentive to clutter-bust your home – Reduce, Reuse, and Redo
- Create magazine spread homes using trendy thrift
- Donate to feel GREEN and great!
- Capture items not normally affordable
- Find once-in-a-lifetime treasures
- Power dress for pennies
- Find Red-Carpet fashions . . . cheap
- Have fun while saving a ton
- Unique finds that express your individuality
- Build personal wealth by dressing and decorating for free
- Ignite the creativity within; repurposing at its best
I began thrifting because it was fun and, quite frankly, I loved to shop. Okay, I still do. But, initially there was a deeper motivation for my need to haunt the secondhand shops that peppered my town … I was broke. I loved the fact that I could buy fabulous things for pennies on a dollar. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked on the thrill of furnishing my homes or fashioning chic wardrobes found in thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets, consignment shops and auctions. I became a veteran power shopper, quickly falling in like with each venue I tested and every tarnished treasure I uncovered.
It wasn’t until much later that I began to realize I was actually recycling, inadvertently turning into a green queen rather than adding to the burgeoning problem of waste in America.
It began to occur to me that how we dispose of our used goods was critical to the overall health of our planet. Although we are encouraged to recycle our wastes, the truth of the matter is that this country still leads the world in the amount of trash that it produces.
I was astounded to learn that Americans generate over 200 million tons of garbage every year. That didn’t resonate until the EPA broke recycling figures down to the fact that each person produces about 4.5 pounds of solid waste per day! Yikes, that got my attention.
I thought that our country was pulling its weight in the recycling movement, but a full 67% of our junk is still tossed into landfills, while only 17% is recycled and 16% is burned as an energy source.
What really blew my mind was how much of our resources consume every year. The average person, over a lifetime, will use up;
- 411 trees
- 900 wire hangers
- 43,000 cans of soda
- 3,895 paper cups
- 2,025 rolls of paper towels
- 15,334 plastic water bottles
- 18,306 shopping bags
- 12 shopping carts full of wrappers from candy bars!
Recycling is certainly the answer for those that are intent on the greening of America, but only 17% of our nation has yet to establish an effective way to dispose of their used goods. According to the Wise Geek, 35% of the total material filling up landfills is packaging;
- new product wrapping
- fast-food containers
- office paper
- disposable diapers
- Styrofoam inserts
- and plastic bags
A partial answer to the country’s recycling woes might be eased if more people proactively chose to purchase used goods from the wide variety of thrift venues that pepper our nation. Shopping for goods at these thrift outlets could all but alleviate the 67.9 pounds of used clothing each person tosses out every year. That individual number quickly adds up to a whopping 20 billion pounds of used clothing and textiles that make their way into our landfills yearly.
In the end it is up to us. Companies have little incentive to use recycled materials because it is expensive … a cost that is passed on to the consumer. It is simply cheaper for them to use new materials to make new products. Therefore, buying used clothing and household furnishings eliminates the time, energy, labor, and money that go into making new products.
In summation, buy less, buy used, reduce the amount of garbage we produce, chose items with less packaging, reuse what you have and donate items that are no longer needed.
Turning Garbage into Gold – http://www.solidwastemag.com/library/garbage.htm
Reassessing the History of U.S. Hazardous Waste Disposal Policy – http://www.fplc.edu/risk/Vol8/summer/Brown+.htm
Environmental Protection Agency – http://www.epa.gov
Start you own High Profit Thrift Store -http://startthriftstore.com/index.html
Wise Geek -http://www.wisegeek.com/s/recycle
Barb Tobias, America’s “Thrift Talk” Diva, is an admitted thrift-aholic. This veteran radio and TV personality has crisscrossed the nation in her search for thrift. She is a master at teaching people how to find deals, repurpose before they toss, and reconstruct the broken.
A professional speaker, author of Tossed & Found and entertainer, Barb’s passion has become her profession; sharing her cost-conscious secrets with the nation.
Visit her at www.ThriftTalkDiva.com.
For some of us, our insatiable Diva curiosities find us scrambling to get a peek at the gowns worn by celebrities during the awards season.
So, check this out. You can rent one for a night or even own a designer gown that was worn by a star on the red carpet.
Although those gorgeous frocks are usually rented by the stars and are extremely expensive, the designers often auction them off after they have been returned.
So if you’ve spied a dress you simply must have, like Taylor Swift’s 2009 Grammy Gown, then keep checking auction sites such as www.clothesoffourback.org, www.donatemydress.org or www.celebrity2nds.com. You may just be able to own that gown . . . albeit at a high price. The good news is that all of your costs go to charity.
But as a frugal Diva I must issue a word of caution. The auction prices are hefty and you may watch your favorite gown propel beyond your reach for ever more.
However, if the starting bid price of that coveted Vera Wang gown, which you would almost kill for, is off the charts, don’t lose heart. That dress can be yours for an evening in a price range more favorable to your pocketbook. Visit sites such as One Night Affair, Light in the Box, and My Celebrity Dress to find your favorite gown, stun your friends with your Diva fashion sense, and smile radiantly because you can still afford groceries the week after the party.
Below is an email that I received from a very excited client. We are working to transform her somewhat worn home into a chic and stylish habitat.
Just last garage sale season, Jo learned how to shop using a newly frugal but creative eye. She quickly learned to spot the potential treasures beneath the tarnish.
After holding a garage sale of her own, we spent a few fun and productive weekends looking for bargain furnishings to replace the items we literally hauled out of her house and sold on the spot. Remember the old addage; One woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure? (Okay, so it is close enough.)
Jo was very hesitant at the beginning of our project. She was skeptical of finding quality items at local thrift venues. Now, she is an ardent believer and often ventures out on her own to find her bargains. She has learned that imagination and resourcefulness are key factors in finding the right deals.
I just made the best buy of the day… a– FREE, courtesy of Aurora Library. I was actually looking at all their $1 books because the library is closing for good.
I found a free bookcase and had just taken it to my car when I walked back in to find that they had just pull a love seat from the back room and pushed it onto the sale floor.
I was the first to look at it, then another lady started pushing it around and inspecting it. Since I had already made my decision to buy it, the sales person let me have it. Can you believe that?
I felt like I just gave myself a big ole’present. I can’t even tell you how great my family room feels to me – it’s beginning to feel more like home every time I add something.
Oh, and I picked up a fabulous lamp Goodwill for $24 with my Senior Citizen’s discount! Ha, ha! My family room is so cozy and the lighting is great now. I love it.
I can’t believe that I’m so looking forward to next garage sale season! I would have never thought I would be such an ardent convert! This is fun and it is not costing me any more money because I am using the funds that I made when we held my garage sale.
Thank you so much . . . and, Happy New Year!
To your success,
Denver Entrepreneurs LinkedIn Group