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The Living Frugal

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A Basic Guide to Thrift Store Shopping

Wed, 09 Jun 2010 17:52:00 +0000

Part of my game plan for living frugally, that I have put into practice over the last forty years includes the tips presented in this guide to thrift store shopping. Thrift store shopping might seem like regular shopping, but there really is a big difference! How is shopping at a thrift store unlike making purchases in regular stores? Well, because most of the merchandise is used and each item is unique, you need different strategies to make thrift store shopping more effective. 

The merchandise in thrift stores has been donated usually and is generally not new. It is therefore important to inspect the merchandise to see that it is complete and functional without imperceptible imperfections. For clothing you want to make sure there are no holes, stains, ripped seams, malfunctioning zippers or botched alterations. Do the snap buttons all work? While it is fine to buy something defective, make sure you are able and willing to do what it takes to fix it.

I once found a beautiful virgin wool coat made in Germany for under $10. The hem had been completely taken out as if someone meant to change the hemline, but abandoned the project. I bought the coat, re-hemmed it and repaired the top stitching. I now owned a quality $400 coat for just under $20, after I paid for the dry cleaning.

It is important then, to check the clothes before you buy them. Pay special attention to the collar, cuffs, underarms and front of the garment where people tend to spill things. For slacks, check the zipper area, back seam and the hemmed areas. If clothing is synthetic, you want to check it carefully for burn holes.

To land a good bargain, be prepared to buy items out of season, e.g. skates in spring and summer clothing or lawn chairs in winter. They are at the second hand shop because people are cleaning out items they do not want to put in storage and the thrift shop will likely want to clear them out as well because they are not in season. It is possible to get items at a deep discount this way.

While shopping, when you see something you like, put it in your basket or cart. If you decide ultimately not to buy it, you can put it back before you go to the till. Keep in mind that merchandise in thrift stores is not restocked like in regular stores and when you visit again, the item you passed up will likely not be there anymore.

Some thrift stores put merchandise out daily though out the day. Others have a set time when most of the merchandise is brought out. They will often have a day where the store is closed and volunteers stock the shelves. When the shop reopens is the best time to shop to get first dibs at the items. Other opportune times are when the weather is exceptionally poor, keeping folks home or when it is hot and they are opting for the pool or the beach.

Trying to pop in for a quick look when others are preoccupied will give you an advantage.

Due to the nature of thrift stores you will not likely find bargains or things you need each time you visit. The trick is to get in the habit of making a quick scout of the store on a regular basis and you will find amazing stuff. For years I had one hour while two of my children were in music lessons. This one hour every week netted me so much on a regular basis, that the savings helped pay for the lessons. Here is a smattering of what I found: children's clothing and outerwear, yarn and embroidery thread, patterns, kitchen items, a vacuum cleaner and lamps, encyclopedias, books and magazines, gold and silver jewelry, shoes and boots.

Shopping second hand can save you a lot of cash in the long run. Applying these tips can save you even more. I hope this guide to thrift store shopping has helped you progress in the living frugal lifestyle. Have fun shopping!

Learning the Frugal Life

Sun, 30 May 2010 22:15:00 +0000

Learning the frugal life approach to help us save and live simply might not come natural for many of us. After all, we live in a society where we are bombarded with advertisements to spend our hard earned income with psychological ploys that tell us directly or indirectly that we have a low sense of self worth if we do not recognize that we deserve it. With many around us striving for instant gratification and the push to do as our peers do, the frugal mindset is something that we need to cultivate. How do people who live frugally manage their finances and what do they do differently?

A case in point that comes to mind due to being in the news recently is the example of 98 year old Verna Oller, a resident of Long Beach, who on May 10, 2010, passed away and left a legacy of $4.5 million - to the amazement of most people who knew her. How did she do it?

Clearly, she avoided spending money and worked hard. Not only did she work at earning money, she worked at hanging onto it and investing it too. To save the expense of getting her hair cut, she cut her own. She did not shrink from acquiring stuff secondhand, whether it was clothing, the Wall Street Journal or getting free meals. Flaunting her wealth or spending money frivolously to impress her friends was not part of her lifestyle. She kept a careful record of her investments and learned about investing. How does her life give us principles about learning the frugal lifestyle?

1. She lived debt free, a simple life devoid of accumulating interest charges. How many of us can say the same?

2.Like her, we should not be too proud to accept hand me downs or used items we have a use for. They can help us build up a bank account quicker in our current climate of rising prices.

3. Honest labor has its rewards, and it pays to hang on to our earnings and find legitimate substitutes for spending money. We could trade services with a friend, to avoid out of pocket expenses, such as babysitting, hair care, housecleaning, baking, the list goes on.

4. Educating ourselves about financial matters pays off. It is essential that we know how much of our earnings we are spending, so we can budget and plan our savings strategy.

5. True friends will value us for who we are and what we mean to them, not for the money we spend to impress them. Leaving a legacy of value to our fellowman is far more impressive than flaunting money to win their approval.

Verna's life provides us with many clues how she accomplished surprising her community with a wonderful gift.
Learning the frugal life from Verna Oller and her amazing legacy is a genuine inspiration to save and live a simpler life.

Frugal Living - Changing Your Perspective on What is Essential

Wed, 12 May 2010 21:50:00 +0000

Frugal living is almost a necessity for many people in this day and age. With prices going up and up, it is a challenge for most families to have something left over at the end of the month to add to their savings.It is surprising what we learn when we begin to practice thrift at home. Today I want to share some tips with you about living frugally, that I learned over the past almost thirty years of married life. We were married in late 1980 and in the early spring of 1981 there was no work for my husband who is an industrial electrician. Who could have guessed that would happen -certainly not me! I thought there would always be work available in vocations like construction, nursing and teaching. This downturn of the economy taught me lessons that I still value today.We do not always need what we want or imagine we have to have. While it is nice to only buy new things, second hand works too. Furniture, appliances, vehicles and electronics are often available at excellent prices due to people moving or upgrading. I remember buying a desk second hand from an elderly couple who were downsizing. After we explained that we had moved out of province due to lack of work at home and that we were setting up a household temporarily, until things got better, they gave us a bunk bed, a table and various kitchen utensils. They were happy to give the items to someone who needed them and we were delighted with the gifts. Often older furniture is more durable and with a coat of paint or stain can be made to look like new. Changing one's perspective on what is essential can help a person manage with a lot less.Personally, I found that comparing my situation with those less fortunate, has aided me in being grateful for what I do have. Once, when I felt our three bedroom home was getting too cramped for a family of six, we received a newsletter from a mission in which mention was made of a mother and daughter living on a balcony. A balcony! Immediately, I tried to picture our family living under those circumstances. Suddenly I was very grateful for all the space we enjoyed. It was amazing to me to realize that my circumstances had not changed one bit, but my perspective sure had!When you open any fashion magazine, you cannot miss the emphasis on clothes. But how many clothes does a person actually need? Generally people have far more clothes than they wear on a regular basis. Deciding to stop acquiring anything for a certain time frame can help you with your budget. Sometimes just pairing up your clothes differently gives you a new look. For frugal living, not buying clothes for awhile, can add substantially to your savings.Saving money at the grocery store can also make a difference in the weekly budget. Cooking your own cereal and doing your own baking can save you big time. Buying boxed breakfast cereals, cookies, cake and bread really adds up. Besides saving money when you make your own, you will not have to eat all those ingredients you can scarcely pronounce and that sound more like chemicals than food. If you do not have time in the morning to cook cereal, you can prepare it in the crock pot the night before. In the vegetable section look for clearance items. Often produce, with spots you can remove will still make a lovely soup or stew. Mildly bruised apples can be used for apple crisp, apple pie, or apple sauce.If thrift at home is not something you grew up with, it will require adjustments to change your habits. Managing with less is a goal you need to embrace and strive to reach. Examine the ways you can change your perspective and engage your creativity. Use your common sense, be patient with yourself and your family members as you go through changes. Think of the rewards you will gain when you accept the challenge to succeed at frugal living.[...]

The Living Frugal Lifestyle

Tue, 11 May 2010 18:22:00 +0000

When my parents married they had just enough funds to buy a bed and table and chairs ... seriously! Needless to say that I grew up immersed in the living frugal lifestyle. My mother and grandmother were thrifty housewives. Today I would like to share with you 6 ways my mother taught me to practice thrift at home.1. Do not go to restaurants for dinner on a regular basis. Assuming that $40.00 to $60.00 buys dinner for two, think of the groceries you can buy for this money. You can have a week of dinners for $60.00 if you cook the food yourself.2. When using cleaning products, and items like shampoo or conditioner, always use less than the recommended amount. The manufacturer is considering his profit when the guidelines for use are drawn up. You consider your pocketbook when you dispense the product! First try a small amount. Then if you need more, add a bit more until you find the quantity that does the job effectively.3. Do not use paper towels. Instead use rags made from worn out clothing and towels to clean up a spill.Throw the dirty rags in the wash and reuse. Toss the rag if it is too dirty to put in the washing machine.4. Take advantage of thrift stores and buy secondhand. Back in the fifties, as I was growing up, there were no thrift stores. Mom would sew our clothes. She would take used clothing and fashion clothes for us. I still remember the woolen skirt she made for me from her tweed winter coat. She carefully opened all the seams, turned the fabric over and cut out the pattern for my skirt. The wrong side of her coat became the right side for my skirt. The buttons from the coat were saved for a different project.In later years after thrift stores became more prevalent, she would exclaim how much more convenient it would be be to buy children's clothes, rather than make them yourself. Whether you buy new clothes and wash them several times or used clothes and wash them, they both end up looking pretty much the same, she would reason.5. Bake your own bread and pastries. Homemade bread, cake and cookies are much cheaper than store-bought and often taste better too. Her idea on saving energy was that once the oven was hot, you might as well bake a couple of different recipes, rather than have to reheat the oven later on.6. Lower the thermostat. Mom believed in keeping the thermostat set a little lower too. She thought a great way to save on the heating bill was simply to dress a bit warmer. When she was cold she would reach for her sweater and only raise the temperature if she needed more than her sweater to get warm.The living frugal lifestyle was a necessity for my parents, growing up in the 30's and 40's. Our parents were always asking themselves how they could improve on their frugal lifestyle.My husband tells me that to save money his parents sold the butter they churned, bought margarine to use themselves, and pocketed the difference.In hard times a person needs to be creative about saving money. When you give some thought to where the money goes and how you are spending money, pay attention to the value you are getting. Ask yourself if you really need the item, or is it a frivolous expenditure? An awareness of the value you are getting for your money is an important step to achieving the living frugal lifestyle.[...]

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Tue, 11 May 2010 00:23:00 +0000

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