Tips for Quick-Shopping Thrift Stores

>> 9.19.2011

From my experience, there are two ways to get great deals at thrift stores:

1. Get lucky.
2. Go often.

I think that my blog can be a little misleading at times... I pop in every once in a while to show off my super cheap finds and after reading for a while, it might seem like I have some magic touch for getting 50-90% off of everything I buy. By now, you've probably caught on to the fact that I'm getting most of those deals from non-retail spots to start off with (Craigslist, Marshalls, outlets, thrift stores, garage sales, etc), but I can't emphasize this enough- I'm not super lucky, I'm always shopping!

Thrift stores can be really tricky places to shop for deals. I know most people don't really enjoy the atmosphere, but even more people are turned off by the selection. For these reasons, you need to try and get in the habit of getting in and out of there as often as you can (because it's more fun when you're not shopping for an hour and walking away without anything!).

My tips for quick-shopping thrift stores:

1. Remember, Goodwill is not the only thrift store out there!  I like to pick stores that offer specials and individually price each item- this gives me a better opportunity to find a great deal. Other than some local favorites, I like Savers because there's always a big selection and they rotate through 50% off tags on weekdays.

2. Shop early or on weekday evenings. Most stores are going to be replenishing stock throughout the day, but you want to avoid wasting your time on a picked-over selection on the weekends. As a bonus, you'll avoid any annoying lines if you do find something to take home.

3. Shop with your eyes. Housewares, clothing accessories, and furniture are the easiest to shop for when you're in a rush. I always try to remember to bend down to check the backs of each shelf and hone in on the material/ shape/ quality of the items.

Thrifty Little Tip: Used book stores are the places to go for books- they're always better organized and prescreened so that there is less junk to sort through.

4. Get strategic about the clothes.  If you're looking to spend hours searching for treasures, it will be easy to do, but I save a TON of time by only targeting women's jeans and dresses (and that's only if I need them). Sure,  there are cute tops to be found and shoes that have barely been worn, but they'll be more the exception than the rule. Think about it: which items hold up really well, but become the first that don't fit when you gain or lose weight (this is not true for men's jeans)?

5. Don't forget the "fancy stuff" cases. In a lot of cases (but definitely not all), the thrift store employees are able to find the most valuable donations for you! These cases are always worth a quick glance.

6. Never feel bad for walking out empty-handed! Buying junk or paying too much for a used item is not thrifty.


My New Bedroom

>> 9.08.2011

Don't worry, I'm not going to follow up my wedding post with a "I'm no longer sharing the master bedroom with my husband" post... but I've come to find out that the extra bedroom is really turning into being more my bedroom than anything else. Apparently, it's where I throw in all of my decorating choices that receive the veto from Nate:

First off, you can see that my possibly all time favorite Craigslist find, the x-bench, has turned into the desk chair until it's reunited with its partner when we someday have a bigger house. My vision of it as the perfect place to put on shoes in the bedroom was not so great whenever Nate would run into it during  the middle of the night.

And apparently my guy has an aversion to strong smelling candles and pretty apothecary jars ($3 estate sale) with "no purpose." Pssh...

I still love my gold frames and I'm sure they'll be much more appreciated in my new room! You know that gold is making a comeback, right?

Oh, and I'm sure that all of the people in my bedroom will agree that organizing books by color is way more fun than by author and country!

All of my things are much happier living in my new room- especially the Euro shams that won't have to put up with being thrown on the floor each night.

So, really it's "my bedroom" that I just look at and let other people sleep in. Instead of "Mom Cave" (I'm not a mom), I thought of calling it my "Lady Cave," but somehow that sounded dirty... so "my bedroom" it is.

Do you have a special place in your home for all of your taste-specific decorating choices? Have you ever heard of organizing books by country?


Budget Breakdown: Our Wedding

>> 9.06.2011

Remember when I promised to keep the wedding out of the main blog until the big day passed? Well, the time has come for me to share way too many pictures of my wedding budget breakdown!

I'm still working on finishing up detailed recaps on my wedding blog, but for our purposes, I'll go ahead and give you the main steps of how I went about planning and budgeting our thrifty day....
1. We decided that it was important to have our friends and family present to witness the wedding (so eloping was out).
2. Realizing that most of those friends and family would have to travel in order to come support us, we decided to put a little extra effort into creating a nice day for them (so we had to feed them).
3.We rarely stay up past 10 PM, have the most fun in summer, and could save a ton of money by doing an off peak day so Sunday summer brunch it was (plus, breakfast food is the best)!
4. I wanted to have as much fun and as little stress as possible so hiring experienced professionals was key!

Here's just how much everything ended up costing (oh, and thanks to my very detailed budget sheet I did count every penny I could on my very detailed Excel spreadsheet- except for some potted plants that went home with my mom)...

The Venue and Rentals: $2338.03
$1,815 for 10 hours at Mercury Hall
$276.79 rental of tables and chairs
$246.24 purchased some used and some new linens

Officiant and License: $11
$0 Officiant- Lucky for us, my uncle is a judge.Ordaining a friend online was our backup plan.
$11 Marriage license- We took a free (thanks to my work's benefits plan) marriage counseling course which discounted the license down to $11.

Photography and Videography: $2,111
$2,111 for photos by Mary Sledd- I went for quality over quantity and purchased a two shooter 5-hour package without any prints, but with printing rights.
$0 for video- I came to the conclusion that the wedding would seem more magical in my head and seeing the video would make me pick things apart (yes, I'm that person). Apparently my uncle did take some video so I might watch it at some point.

The Food: $3,611.13
$3,491.13- Included food for 85 people, silverware, plates, glasses, cake cutting, table and chair setup, cleaning afterwards, and waitstaff by Whole Foods.
$120- additional tips

The Music: $700
$700- Ceremony and reception music by Greenbelt DJ with an audio file of the entire event
This is another place where the off-season Sunday morning timing really paid off for me because I was able to get a generous discount on a DJ with an amazing reputation (see #4 above). If dancing were realllly important to us, we would have probably done the Saturday night thing, but to my surprise people got out on that dance floor and had fun.

Day of Coordinator: $250
Money well spent!!! There is no way that I could have done everything myself and have gotten ready!

The Drinks: $475.38
$185- Bartender and tip including bar tables and set-up
$290.38- Misc. alcohol and non-alcoholic welcome drinks including a lot of sparkling wine that probably should have been returned but ended up with my sister...

The paper: $370.74
$126.95 for invitations
$55 postage
$18 online save-the-dates
$14.06 thankyou cards
$88 ribbon, tape, and paper for programs
$68.73 more misc. supplies
All printing was done on my home printer without any ink refills.

The Flowers: $237.30
This was one of the areas I couldn't handle spending a big chunk of money on. I decided that the venue was nice enough that I didn't need elaborate flowers for decoration and just made some carnation bunches for the tables, my bouquet, and the cake topper.

Misc. Decor: $87.52
Included: Dollar Tree vases, DIY cake stands, thank-you notes for escort cards

Cake and Pastries: $348
$225- Cake from Russell's Bakery
This was maybe the one thing I was surprisingly well under budget on! I was also happily surprised at how well they replicated the cake design that I found on Google the day before ordering the cake. 
$103- Pastries and tax
$20- Tip
Notice no delivery charge... they didn't deliver so I actually had Nate pick up the cake the morning of... in his suit!
Hair and Makeup: $124.19
$124.19 Makeup supplies- I did my own makeup, but bought several products and brushes that I'm still using today.
$0 Hair- My cousin, a hairstylist, gifted me my hair styling.

Clothing: $973.58
$298- My dress (Nicole Miller via Rue La La)
$253.79- Alterations: hemming, bustle, cups, and steaming
$231.32- His suit (Tommy Hilfiger via Macy's)... which he has worn to work several times already
$53.97- His tie and shirt (Nordstrom Rack)
$64.31- His shoes (Nordstrom Rack)
$21.63- Pocket squares for him and BM
$34.33- Earrings
$16.23- Hair pin
$0- My shoes and his belt (we already owned them)

Grand Total: $11,637.87

PS I don't think that they really count as far as "wedding" costs, but:
$0- Engagement ring (family ring)
$1,372- My band
$85- His band
$TBD- Our honeymoon: Nope, haven't taken one yet.

This Labor Day weekend marked the one year anniversary of Nate's proposal. It reminded me of two things: first, of course, that I hadn't shared my wedding budget breakdown... and second, how much things can change in a matter of a year. Although I did think that we would eventually get married, I had no idea last September that I would be married within the next year- not unlike in January of 2009 when I had no clue who Nate was... or that I would be living with him 11 months later :). And with smoke across the Austin skyline and the destruction of a park that Nate and I have shared great memories in, I can't help but think how dramatically things can change  in the other direction within short time periods as well. With all of this in mind, I am so grateful that I did go ahead and put the effort into having a "real wedding." With each day ahead of us filled with the unknown, I'll always have the memories of that joyful Sunday morning in late July with my friends and family supportive and smiling. Worth $11,000+? Absolutely!


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