Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Finds

My mom and I went thrift store shopping today and I was blessed enough to find some great deals.
My favorite thrift store expanded their children's book section- YAY!!!! I sat in the floor and looked at every book...I think I ended up with almost 50 today and it only cost me about $25. I tried on a pair of Seven for All Mankind jean capris (for only $17- a steal for that brand) but they didn't work out (my legs are too short- I have a hard time finding capris to fit me). At the second location of that thrift store, I found a Banana Republic shirt for only $3 and Gianni Binni shoes for $8. GREAT FINDS!

My great finds for today!

My new Banana Republic shirt was only $3!

My new shoes! I can't wait to wear them!
Gianni Bini is one of my favorite shoe brands- they are comfortable and last a long time.
Only $8- You can't beat that!

As you can tell, they look brand new- the soles are still really clean, they don't even look like they've been worn. That always makes it a great find!

Hope this has inspired you to go out and look for your own great finds. Just remember many stores will be closed Monday for the holiday- you might want to call ahead to see if they will be open before you head out.
Everyone be safe this weekend! Get out to a thrift store if you can this weekend- you never know what you'll find...Happy hunting :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Well, I know this blog is mainly to showcase my thrift store or yard sale finds but... I had to show case my use of coupons too.

Now, I'm not an extreme coupon lady like the women who have made the headlines lately. I don't get my total down to $2 from $200 but I do save some money when I shop using coupons. I'm also not as crazy, obsessed with it like these ladies are- I don't have closets and pantries full of items I've bought with coupons. I just use coupons when it is something I am going to buy anyway and I always add up what my savings will be and if it's worth it. Let me explain...

I've always liked using coupons- who doesn't? You get to save some cash, which is awesome. Well, a few weeks ago, through a misunderstanding in words, I subscribed to our local newspaper. The guy came to the door, asked if I had gotten the free Sunday paper the week before, told me they were doing monthly subscriptions for $8, then asked if I'd like one. I thought he meant the free Sunday paper, he meant a month subscription- so I ended up with a month subscription. I thought I'd try it out- only $8 to get a paper everyday for a month- too good of a deal to pass up. I spoke with my husband and said I thought it would be worth it if I got $8 worth of coupons out of the deal. To put it simply- I have gotten more than my $8 worth- and it's not even the end of the month.

When I cut out coupons, I cut out everything I think I'll use. Most of the time the expiration date isn't for a month or more- who knows if I'll need ketchup or toothpaste a month from now. I'm a super organized type of person, so I organize my coupons into groups based upon the isles in the store. After I make out my grocery list, I check to see if any of my coupons match what is on my list. Then I usually go through the coupons anyways to see if there is anything I forgot I needed, or to see if any of the coupons are about to expire. If I land upon a coupon that is about to expire, I consider if I need the item- or if it will hold out until I do need it. When I actually get to the store, I have my coupons separated by section and I write a 'c' out to the side on my grocery list, reminding me that I have a coupon for that item. After I put the item in my cart, the coupon goes in my wallet next to my debit card so I don't forget to hand it to the cashier.

So, that is the basics of how I use coupons. I do check to make sure the item is worth purchasing using a coupon. I'm a fan of the 'Great Value' brand at Wal-Mart. It's always cheaper than the name brands and usually, not lower quality. Sometimes, using a coupon for a name brand item is cheaper than the Great Value brand- other times it isn't. I always use the calculator on my phone to make sure the coupon I have is worth it. For example, I had a coupon for $1.00 off two boxes of Kellogg's cereal. My husband likes the crunchy raisin brand cereal and we usually buy the Great Value boxes which are cheaper than the name brand boxes. Well, after comparing the amount in the box and price, then with the coupon, I found out using the $1.00 off coupon would make the name brand cereal the same price as the Great Value cereal. So, I bought two boxes and used my coupon. For other items, like zip-lock bags, it was an easier call. I quickly figured out that using my $1.00 off coupon for two boxes of name brand zip-lock bags wouldn't be cheaper than just buying the Great Value bags- so I didn't use that coupon. I always make sure I'm going to use the coupon- getting 60 cents off 3 cans of biscuits might be a good deal if you really need those 3 cans, but I'm not going to use 3 cans of biscuits any time soon. I know there are options too- like freezing and such- just make sure you really have room and you want to spend the money now.

Some people only buy name brand, and for them it is probably better to use coupons. Other people, like me, who usually buy Great Value, it isn't always cheaper to use the coupons. Just make sure you check the prices before you commit to using a coupon just because you have it.

I got a really good deal with one of my coupons recently. I had a coupon for $2.00 off razors if I bought 2 packages. So I did, and I received $5 worth of music downloads for free with each package of razors. So, not only did I save $2 but I received $10 worth of music downloads. Awesome, I know. I'm a kid at heart and still love drinking Kool-Aid, except now instead of using sugar, I use the no-calorie sweetener to make my drink. Well, I had some coupons for Kool-Aid- buy 2 get 1 free, and buy 10 get 5 free. Needless to say, I'm set on Kool-Aid for the summer.

In my last post, I noted that I saved over $11 using coupons. During my trip yesterday, I saved $10.80 using coupons. It makes a difference- especially when it is worth it. My advice would be to just make sure you really need the item, you'll use it before it expires, and it is actually a better deal.

Hope this gives you some ideas or insight to using coupons...just remember it isn't for everyone and don't feel bad for not using them. Till next time....happy hunting :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wal-Mart Great Find of the Day

Well, my dreaded trip to Wal-Mart left me with a GREAT find for the day.

If you know me, then you probably know how much I hate going to Wal-Mart, and how I find myself there more often than I like. It drives me crazy, from the moment I drive into the parking lot until I drive out of it. I usually try to go by myself when I'm shopping for a lot of stuff because if I bring anyone along with me (even my husband) it seems to make the trip worse. Well, I didn't have a whole lot to get today but I did have a list and my coupons and headed in trying to get out as quick as possible.
I ventured down the middle isle between the clothing section and found some clearance racks with items for $3 and even $1 items! Needless to say, this did make my trip a little better.

I found this rain/workout jacket for only $1!

As you can see, it had been $10 originally!

I was super excited with my great find; and to make my trip even better I used some coupons and ended up saving $11.45 off my total!
So, I guess my trip today wasn't as bad as some have been...I walked out having saved some money and with a cute new jacket. Always check the clearance isles at Wal-Mart, but make sure what you are buying is worth it. Sometimes items will only be marked down 50 cents or so and it's not really worth it- unless it is something you really need or want.
I was proud of my great, go out and find your own! :) Happy hunting!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Great Finds for the Week of May 8-14

This week I was able to visit two of my favorite thrift stores in my area. Now, I know no one cares but this blog is going to be a little backwards because of how the pictures loaded. I'm the only one who will know, but still...we are starting on Tuesday, not Monday but oh well...

So, Tuesday, I check my Facebook and there is a post from a thrift store that has a location in Rogers and Springdale saying that at their Springdale location all the books and VHS movies are 50% off. Well, after I picked my jaw up off the floor I decided that I would have to make the drive down there to check it out and I'm glad I did. When I pulled up I saw another sight that made my jaw drop- all the pink tag clothes were 50% off as well. YAY!
Needless to say, I loaded up on books. L O A D E D U P. I think I ended up with 42 books (an insane amount for one trip- even for me). There were several hard-back children's picture books and brand new soft-cover books. I was very pleased with my finds. So, after checking out the books, I laid my basket down by the registers and headed for the clothes.

My first find was this like new denim jacket. I had been wanting one ever since my cousin, Joie, found one at a thrift store (actually I was pretty jealous that she found it before I did). Well, I found one and it had a pink tag so I got my jacket for only $4.

Next, I went on to the men's section (sadly, these items had green tags- no 50% off) to see what I could find for my husband.
I got him some great shirts.
First, is this Calvin Klein dress shirt. I looked online and I found similar styles for $65 and up. I only paid $7.

These next two are pearl-snap shirts. My husband loves the look of pearl snap shirts and he looks good in them so I don't mind buying them for him- you can never have enough pearl-snaps. Well, I found two at only $6 each. I found similar styles on the Levi's website for $50 and up.

Now, back-tracking to Monday. I stopped by a larger thrift store I love in Bentonville. I've never seen a store (thrift store or regular) that ALWAYS has a full parking lot. The place is always busy- there is a constant turn-over on their items. So, you have to act fast- if you want something you better throw it in your cart because if you look around and try to come back to it, it might be gone.
Well, my main mission was books- I was going to run in 'real quick' (a total lie- a trip is never real quick) but I got sucked in to the clothing section. Here's what happened. I was walking to the books and cut through the clothing section- mistake, turned into a blessing though. I saw out of the corner of my eye this fun green and yellow pattern, then I saw an original tag hanging from the arm. I went to take a look, praying for it to be my size- and it was! Inside my head it was like an little old lady was standing beside me yelling 'BINGO!' (Oh, and I did find some books).

So, I ended up with this super cute dress for only $8.

Remember how I said before to look for winter stuff in the summer? Well, this jacket I found was too cute to pass up. I love the sequins and it was only $5. I can't wait to wear it this fall and winter- it was worth buying to save for a few months.

I'll be honest about this next find. I picked it up, and put it back, then picked it up again, and debated buying it the whole time I was shopping. It's an official 'Wizard of Oz' shirt. It was only $4 and here is my justification for buying it.
1) It was new- I could tell by looking at it that someone bought it thinking they'd wear it and never did- or it was a gift.
2) I have always liked 'Wizard of Oz' stuff ever since I was in the play. (Quick side story- when I was in 6th grade, the high school did a performance of 'The Wizard of Oz' and cast elementary school kids to be the munchkins- obviously that was the role I played).
3) I figured that I could wear the shirt to school when I get a teaching job and the kids would like it.
4) It was only $4- worth it in my eyes.
So, that is a run-down of my thrift store finds for this week. Like I've said before, you never know what you are going to find. I do suggest to you to become 'friends' or 'like' thrift stores in your area if they have a Facebook page. They'll post sales and makes it easy for you to plan a trip rather than just taking a chance at them having a sale.
Well, that's it for this post. As always, I hope that I've inspired you to go out and hunt for your own great finds....and happy hunting :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Clothes! (Part 2)

So, here are some of my greatest clothing finds. I didn't get pictures of everything, like my Juicy Couture 100% cashmere lounge pants for $10 or my Banana Republic cashmere blend sweater that was only $1.50 during a thrift store's 50% off sale, or the Gap cashmere sweater that was also only $1.50 because those are boxed up with the rest of my winter clothes. Oh, and sadly my Banana Republic jeans that were only $2 because they are just a little too tight, so they are in my 'one day soon can be worn again' pile. But here are some of my more recent finds...enjoy and oh, yeah, be a just a little jealous :)

These three tops all came from the same yard sale a couple weekends ago.
The first black and white sleeve-less top is an brand I love that is sold at Kohl's- $2
The brown top is from Banana Republic- $2
The other black and white top is from Talbot's and was BRAND NEW with the original $89.00- marked down to $52.00 tag still attached.- $3

These are examples of other tops I have found for nearly nothing-
I think they were $1 each.
I hate that this trench coat showed up so orange in the picture because it is a gorgeous coral color. I wore it to church a few Sunday's ago over a brown and coral dress and it looked amazing. Only cost me $5.
I can't wait to wear these two dresses. The one on the left is pink and white seersucker, which I think is so timeless and classic- I only wished I would have found it a week before so I could have worn it for Easter. Found at a thrift store for $6 (but my total purchase was 35% off though because the thrift store was celebrating its 35th birthday- so it was even cheaper than that)
The green and white dress I found at a yard sale. I was debating spending $5, but it looked like it had never been worn and that sealed the deal.

Ah, shoes.
Starting at the left- the red heels and the navy (although they look black) sandals are both brand new- with the price tag still on them. The red ones were $5 and the navy ones were $4 both at the same thrift store.
The red polka-dot wedges in the back are so fun and totally worth the $4 I spent on them.
The black and white polka-dot ones in the front are Naturalizers, which can be pricey- but mine weren't at $3.
The black heels in the back, it's hard to tell, but are covered with black sequins- a little over the top? Not for me- and especially not at $4.
The silver heels and the black peep-toe shoes on the right are both Gianni Bini brand. I love this brand because they are made to last ( I have a pair of brown sandals I got 7 years ago that still look new). Both pairs were $5 I believe. I'm still trying to figure out what to wear the silver ones with, but I just couldn't pass them up.

I have to say, it's hard to find pants/skirts at thrift stores, but these made the cut.
Brown Bass Brand capri pants- $4
Black C.K. Jeans brand shorts -$4
Gap Jeans brand denim skirt- $5
Silk black and white skirt- $1 at a yard sale
These jeans have to be one of my favorite finds.
DKNY Jeans- just my size- looked brand-new- only $10
My husband has also found some great finds on clothes- he would probably hate for me to say this, but he finds more stuff on his own that I do shopping for him. We both have found him nice button-down collared shirts, polo-style shirts, jeans, and swimming trunks for hardly anything. I think my favorite find of his were the brand-new Gap jeans he found in his size. I won't forget him walking over, and being completely unaware of what any brands are or how much they retail for, and asking, "Is Gap a good brand? Are these worth $6?" Yes, they were worth the $6 and they look great on him.

I hope to stumble upon some more great finds in the clothing section- but it takes patience. I hope this has inspired you to search through your local thrift stores clothing section or to take a gamble on that yard sale down the street. You just never know what you will find. Have fun looking for your own great finds...happy hunting :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Clothes! (Part 1)

So, one of the things of I had a hard time getting used to shopping for at thrift stores/yard sales was clothing. I'll be honest, it took me some time to be comfortable wearing other people's clothes. My older sister always brings me her 'yard sale' clothes before they go into the 'yard sale' pile. I never worried about her clothes- I knew where they came from and usually remembered her wearing them about a month before. I joke with her that for her birthday and Christmas I get her stuff I want because I know I'll end up with it before too long. :)
So, I did have a hard time with the clothing issue. But I was brave, and started looking in the clothing sections and WOW was I surprised. I was used to finding last-seasons cast-offs or the dreaded 1980s jeans that hadn't felt the presence of someone's legs since the 1980s. But, around all the tacky sweaters, faded tee shirts, and high-waisted/ weird legged/ 'Mom' jeans I found some real gems.
Name brand clothes aren't uncommon in thrift stores or at yard sales. They are there, you just have to look. I'll be honest, I have to be in the mood to dig- and trust me, you'll have to dig in the clothing section at most thrift stores. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood, and I'll pass up the clothing section altogether. But when I'm in the mood to dig through the racks, you better watch out.

Yard sales are great for finding baby clothes- I pass up a lot of yard sales because I can tell just by driving by all they are going to have is baby clothes (which I have no need for at this point in my life). It is harder to find adult clothes in your size at yard sales; thrift stores are usually better because you are more likely to find items in your size. It's just common sense- in order to find clothes in your size at a yard sale, you have to stumble upon a house with someone close to your size; but thrift stores have a wide range of sizes.

Last weekend I found some great deals on clothes when I went to some yard sales. I will admit, I was shopping in an 'upper-class' subdivision where, not pointing fingers or trying to make anyone feel bad, things can be overpriced. I know lots of websites and people tell you to price yard sale items at 10% of what you paid or whatever. In some areas of the country, you might be able to do that, but when I'm going to yard sales I don't want to spend an outrages amount of money on your old faded work out clothes- I don't care how much you originally paid for it. That's just me and my opinion on things. Obviously, there are people who will pay the higher prices for nicer, name-brand items but I'm not one of them. I usually have more luck at thrift stores on clothing, but I was blessed with some great finds. I'll highlight some of my greatest finds in part 2 of this post.

Now, yard sales/thrift stores can be wonderful places to find great items. But there are some noteworthy ideas you can't forget when looking at yard sales or thrift stores for clothes.

1) You can't try on the items at yard sales (usually, thrift stores have fitting rooms). I know when I have a yard sale, I don't want a stranger coming into my home to try on clothes. I should probably be more trusting, but sadly, that's how the world works. So, don't think you'll be able to ask to try items on and be let right in their front door. The only exception I can think of would be the case of a formal prom dress or other evening gown that is priced significantly higher. So, do what you need to hold items up and debate whether it will fit. I know that it is hard, hard, hard to tell just by looking if something is going to fit, but that's when a background knowledge of brands that fit you are great to have. I know that in certain brands I can wear one size, but in another brand I need one size bigger. I know I can rarely find junior's clothing that fits so I stick with women's clothing. But worst case, you spent $1 and in your next yard sale you can probably make your money back. Or of course my mantra- donate it! Also, at thrift stores there is hardly ever a 'junior's' section. The sections are either separated by style (sweaters, tee shirts, long sleeved shirts, etc), by color (whites, pinks, reds, grays, etc), by size (small, medium, large- with no indication as to whether that small is a women's size small or a junior's size small- which we all know there is a big difference between), or a combination of the sections (women's size small tank tops). Don't rule out looking at the size large racks if you are a small- items get misplaced, or shrink, or are really a junior's size large hiding in with the women's size large. Just skim through them all- you never know what you'll find.
2) Make sure the item is worth the price. Like I said earlier, some items are worth 10% of what the original price was, but more often than not, they aren't. Just make sure you are comfortable paying the price listed. At thrift stores, usually-not always- clothing is priced as a group. For example, all the sweaters are $4 no matter the brand, size, condition, or whatever else. Some thrift stores take the time to price items individually and might have a section dedicated to 'boutique' or 'designer' items. These items are priced higher, but usually worth it. At yard sales, sometimes people are, what I like to refer to as being, 'proud' of their items and will firmly price their clothes at the amount they see fit- which sometimes is reasonable, but other times not. Just be careful, and as long as you are comfortable, that's all that matters.
3) Look clothing over CAREFULLY. Not always, but sometimes, items have holes, are ripped, have missing buttons, or not working zippers. For example, I was beyond excited when I found a brand-new, with the original over $120 tags hanging from the hip, designer jeans at a thrift store. I hurried to the dressing room to try them on and come to find out the zipper was broken. That wouldn't stop some people- they can fix it or take it to a tailor- but for me, it wasn't worth it. Just make sure if there is damage you can fix it.
4) Know that it is okay to buy summer clothes in the winter and winter clothes in the summer. Think long-term and broadly when you shop for clothes at thrift stores or yard sales. I know, from experience, that it hard to imagine wearing that red sweater when it's 100 degrees outside and your face is the same color as the sweater. But, when December rolls around, you'll be wishing you had that red sweater to wear to a Christmas party. Also, buying that cute summer dress in the winter might be a motivator to make sure you can still wear it when May comes around.
5) Wash it when you get home. Because just like you never know what you'll find at a thrift store/yard sale, you never know where or who last wore that top you just bought or where the top next to it on the rack was...

What clothing I like looking for at thrift stores/yard sales.
1) What I call 'fun' shoes. You know what I'm talking about- those shoes that are super cute, but you know you'll only wear once or twice. Or the shoes that can't really be worn all day, the 'special shoes.' I will tell you, just like my mama told me, you get what you pay for when it comes to shoes. My 'work' shoes that I wear teaching and standing on my feet all day, I make sure are quality shoes that are comfortable. It's worth it to me to spend more on shoes like that and then buy my 'fun' shoes at thrift stores. I have found great shoes like this- just make sure you try them on. Shoes are kind of a tricky thing because usually- not always- once shoes are worn- they are WORN and not worth reselling. I've stumbled upon some gems which I'll show you in part 2.
2) Summer dresses or swim-suit cover-up dresses are always good finds at thrift stores. In the spring and summer, I love to wear dresses because they are easy, light, and fun. You do have to be careful about getting styles that are too out of date- just be sure to look at the cut of the dress, that can show how old a dress is. Formal dresses are also common at thrift stores and I don't mean just prom dresses. I've seen lots and lots of formal, not necessarily evening gown dresses, but I guess you could call them cocktail dresses, at thrift stores- many with the tags still on. We've all done that, bought a dress at some fancy department store when it was on clearance thinking we would wear it next year- well those dresses end up at thrift stores or in yard sales when they don't get worn that next year and make great finds for you and me.
3) Work clothes- mainly tops. Since I am a teacher, dressing professionally is part of the job. I normally wear black dress slacks and nice tops. The slacks I usually have an easier time buying at J.C. Penny's (they have a brand that fits me well) because slacks at thrift stores or yard sales are often very worn and are faded- pretty much any material that is black is going to be faded- not always, but often. I find a lot of my tops though, and it's such a good buy. I like polyester kind of tops and there are usually lots of them at thrift stores/yard sales. I also buy sleeveless tops/ spaghetti strap tops because I can wear cardigans or light sweaters over them.
4) Skirts/jeans/shorts but only if I can try them on. We women all know- you can't tell by the number printed on the label.

I know once I post this, I'll think of something else I could have there will probably be more post about clothes and what to look for or stay away from.
Part 2 of this post will contain pictures of my greatest clothing finds...check back in to see what items I've found.

Lights, camera, action!

Like I promised, I'm posting about great finds other than books! YAY!

Before my husband and I got married, he was wonderful enough to fix up our house so I wouldn't have to deal with it after we got married and I moved in. That's the kind of sweet man he is, also the smart one because he knew he wouldn't want to deal with me dealing with a turned-upside down house. So, he put in new tile (entry way, kitchen, dining room, bathrooms), new flooring in the laundry room, painted every wall, put in new counter tops, built a floor to ceiling bookshelf in the living room, and had new carpet installed. I have to brag on him just a bit- he did it all himself (with some help from our fabulous friends) except for the carpet.

When he got done it looked amazing-don't get me wrong, but it was just an updated bachelor pad with nothing on the walls and his college textbooks on the bookshelf. So, what was a newlywed to do but start decorating? We got pictures to hang on the walls (on clearance plus additional percentage off at Kirkland's), a real coffee table, end tables, entry tables, and other 'stuff.' One of my main goals was to update the lighting because almost all the fixtures were gold (shiny, ugly GOLD= horrible) and didn't do much 'lighting.'

My first find in the lighting department was this beautiful chandler for the dining room.
(Practically brand-new)
Cost- $65
Found online for over $250

Next, I found this hallway light for $5
(that was originally in our entry way until I found the next light)
(Sorry, the pictures didn't turn out too well)

Last find was this light in our entry way for $3.50
(originally $7 but I got it during the thrift store's 50% off sale.
It had visibility been used-no one bothered to clean off the dust-
but a quick soak in the sink and it was ready to go.)
I got this practically brand-new fan the first time I visited a new thrift store in my area.
I had to go ask the lady for sure if the $5 price tag was right.
I'm planning for this to go in our bedroom after we get some new recessed lighting.

About purchasing's scary to purchase anything with wiring. Thankfully, my husband is a jack-of-all-trades and he knows a thing or two about wires and wiring and all that stuff I have no idea about. Since I know he'll either know if the light is going to work, or be able to fix it if it doesn't, I'm not so hesitant about purchasing lighting. If you don't have someone like this handy, you might want to pass up the electrical items.

Most thrift stores will test out electronics- if they can plug it in. Table lamps and such are easy to test- just plug them in- they either work or they don't. Lighting and fans can't be tested so they are a gamble. Most thrift stores that I've seen price these items cheap- that way if they don't work you aren't out that much money. I don't know the general return policy thrift stores have on items like this. It is always best to ask if the store knows whether the light works or not- there is a chance the previous owner informed the store about whether it was in working condition or not. Also, ask about the return policy before buying if you aren't sure you want to take the risk. Before I bought the fan, I asked the store owner about it. She said the couple that donated it said it worked- but since they had no way to test it out, she would accept it as a return and I could exchange it for $5 worth of other merchandise. Other stores might not be so easy to accept a return and might have a 'sold as' stance on items. But, you do have to remember, these stores are often non-profit and can't risk a lot of returns, so as a general rule they might have a no-return policy on everything they sell. If you do happen to get a flop, you can always bring it back to the thrift store and have them resell it with clearly written statement that it does not work and will need to be fixed.

I'm still looking for other lighting for my house. Every room needs new lighting (except of course the dining room and entry way). The hallway light needs a mate. It works for now because you can't see the mismatched light around the corner, but I'd like to have matching hallway lights.

Next, I believe I need to discuss clothing...which will bring up some GREAT finds I've found. Until next time, enjoy looking for your own great finds...happy hunting :)

Miranda and the Order of the Great Find

My Great Find for today
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Year 5 of the Harry Potter series
(hard back with the dust jacket-which is unusual)
for a jaw-dropping $1.50
Original cost listed inside the dust jacket $29.99
Total savings $28.49

Now I only have two more Harry Potter books to find until I have the whole series. My running total on cost- $6. Not bad. I will admit though that this book has some damage. The spine is no longer attached after page 118, and that page is ripped in the middle. Usually, I would pass up a book like this, BUT, I know it can be fixed and that is the only problem in the 870 page book. The spine of my bible became completely separated from the pages and my husband fixed it with some gorilla glue. I'm pretty sure if the stuff fixed The Holy Bible, it can handle Harry Potter. Plus, it was $1.50! Can't pass up a deal like that. :)
Also on my list of great finds today- Judy Moody Declares Her Independence (soft-cover chapter book) for 50 cents. After I found out a movie was being made based upon the Judy Moody books I decided to hunt after the series and so far I have 5 of the 12 book series.
Also, a 'real' book for me to read titled How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls. The title cracked me up, and since I'm a teacher I was drawn to it. Seems like it will be a good, easy, summer read.

For those of you wondering if I'm ever going to post about anything but books, I'm here to tell you that I'm working on a post about the awesome lighting I have found for my house. Stay tuned. Until then, enjoy looking for your own great finds....happy hunting :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How I got started...

When I was a little girl my grandmother would take me with her to garage sales. She loved them, and to this day she still loves to go to garage sales. She can always find something she 'needs.' I, at the time, hated them. Growing up I never understood the idea of digging through someone's old stuff, while they watched on, hoping I would buy up half of their 'junk' just to get it out of their house. My grandmother, on the other hand, loved the hunt, and would often have a pile of garage sale stuff waiting for me when I got to her house. I was never too impressed with the naked Barbie dolls with horrible hair, or worse, the imitation Barbie dolls, that I tried to act excited about. A few times though, she did hit the jackpot with brand-new, still in the box gems.

My cousin, Joie, on the other hand, loves thrift stores, and always has. I used to hear stories of her going to thrift stores and finding amazing deals on clothes. Being a young teenager at the time, I couldn't believe someone would actually go into such a 'gross' place to buy clothes. It was a small step up from garage sales- these clothes were actually on hangers not in boxes on the ground- but still it was someone's old, out of season clothes.

In my mind, nothing good could have ever come from garage sales or thrift stores and I avoided them. That all changed about a year ago...

My new found interest in all things garage sale, yard sale, and thrift store related came about a year ago when I graduated from college in May 2010 with a degree in Elementary Education. I couldn't wait to get a classroom (which I'm still waiting on) and start decorating it. I knew some schools did building-wide themes so I didn't want to start buying too many decoration type items. Also, I didn't know which grade level I would be teaching which makes buying education items difficult. But what I did know was that I loved books and instilling a love for reading in my students was a goal of mine as a teacher.

Most people, not including those in education, don't know much about students and their 'reading levels.' Here is a quick review- a guide is used to gauge students and what 'grade level' they are reading on. It is very possible to have a third grade classroom with students reading at a third grade level, a first grade level, and a sixth grade level- all in the same classroom, and all wanting to read books out of their classroom library. It was my goal to find books at a wide range of levels and styles. I wanted to stock my future classroom library with picture books and chapter books. But I didn't want to spend a small fortune on these books.

I say all of that to say this...thrift stores and garage sales are excellent places to find cheap books. Which started my love for all things thrift stores, garage sales, and the general satisfaction I get from finding a good deal. Most of the books I found were visibly used, but more often than you would think, I found new and like new books.

I get a lot of comments about my wide range of book purchasing.
"What if you buy lots of picture books and you get a job in an upper grade classroom?"
My answer- Students of all ages like picture books- plus they can often be a great resource for teaching writing techniques or showing interesting word usage.
"What if you buy lots of chapter books and you get a job in a lower grade classroom?"
My answer- Some students may be at a higher reading level and get bored with shorter picture books and would enjoy the challenge of a longer chapter book. Also, I would like to have an ongoing read aloud from a chapter book (which helps students visualize the story instead of the illustrator showing them what to see).
"But aren't those books old and worn out? Don't you need brand-new books?"
My answer- No.
Simply put, books are going to get worn out, beat up, stuffed in desks, stepped on, and 'lost' no matter what. Buying a book that has already seen some wearing isn't a bad thing in my eyes. But you do have to be careful about how much wearing there is. Even though brand-new books are awesome- no bent corners- they are expensive; too expensive for my taste- and hard-back books?- you might as well forget it. I can't see spending that much money on a book that is going to get worn out anyways. Now, spending $.25 on a used, worn book I can see.

Over the course of a year, I have bought well over 1,000 books- actually make that pushing 2,000. Crazy, I know. Yes, I understand how crazy that sounds. Yes, I understand how expensive that sounds. But, when you look at how much I bought those 2,000 books for and how much money I saved, you'll be singing a different tune. Oh, and how do I keep track of all the books I have? Part of it is memory and when that fails me, I have a notebook where every title of every book I have is written down (separated by first letter of the title). More on that in another post.

On average, most picture books I buy are $.25 or $.50- occasionally, hard-back books are $1.00. Soft-back chapter books are usually $.50 or $1.00, with hard-backs landing in at $1.00-maybe more depending on the size. I have never spent over $1.75 on a book (the two times I have spent $1.75 if was for hard-back Harry Potter books- which we'll get to later).

Now, on average, a brand-new, from a 'real' bookstore, picture book will cost you around $5 and up. Chapter books (depending on size) can range anywhere from $5, $10, or even $20 for large, hard-back books like some in the Harry Potter series.

Already, you should be able to see what a great deal I am getting. For my sake, we'll make this simple, and say I bought 500 books for $5 each at a regular book store. That's $2,500. Or a couple house payments.

Now, let's say I bought those same 500 books, but at thrift stores and garage sales, at $.25 each. Now, my total is down to only $125. Big difference, I know. Let's up it though, say I bought those same 500 books for $.50 each- I'm still only paying $250.

But what about the chapter books which I could pay up to $1.00 for? Well, 500 of those would be $500 or at a regular book store at $10 each...$5,000.

Are you starting to see why I'm practically addicted to buying books at thrift stores? The savings have shown themselves. Of course, you have to factor in the wear and tear on these books but even with that factored in, I still feel like I'm getting an amazing deal.

Now, I haven't kept tabs on the price of all the books I've bought. But, I do buy most of my books from two main thrift stores in my area. I know most of the time the books I buy are about $.25, if that book originally cost $10, then I'm getting it for 87.5% off the original price. A book that originally cost $5, that I get for $.25, I'm getting for 95% off the original price. Some might think $250 is still a lot of money to spend, but this is how I justify my purchases.

1) My future students- and children- will be able to get their hands on amazing books. I will get to teach using a wide range of books, and I will be able to fulfill my goal of instilling a love for reading in each student I have in my classroom.
2) My money is going towards a great cause. The thrift stores I frequent are non-profit organizations that use people's donations to stock their stores. The money from each purchase goes directly to help out fellow members of the community that could use help paying bills, a hot meal, or clothing assistance (among other things). Knowing that my $5 purchase could feed 30 people makes my heart warm. Knowing that I am helping out the people in my community makes every dollar I spend well worth it.

I can't explain how exciting it is for me to go into a thrift store and find amazing books at such great prices. It's hard for most people to understand, unless they come from the world of education like me. I have found other amazing deals on non-book related items (be looking forward to my future entries).

Here are some examples of the great deals I have found on books.

I bought two paper-back books from the Harry Potter series (years 1 and 2) for only 50 cents each. I bought hard-back copies of the series (years 3 and 7) for $1.75 each. I'm still waiting to find the rest of the books in the series (years 4, 5, and 6) but patience is a part of this process. I know that I will eventually find the rest of the books, but I'm in no real hurry to have them right now. I would like to read the whole series, but I have time and plenty of other books to read. :)

Only a section of my books, I have more in my living room and more in boxes too. :)
The Caldecott Award is an honor given to outstanding children's picture books and the Newberry Award is another honor given to outstanding children's chapter books. Books that have won these awards are excellent books to have in classrooms and I have found countless numbers of both at thrift stores and yard sales.

If you are interested in purchasing books from thrift stores or garage sales there are a few pointers I have for you.
1) Flip through the books- especially picture books- for marks. I have found some great books that I was very excited about, only to open them up and find crayon marks or writing all in the book. This is not the kind of wear-and-tear I can be okay with. Also, water damaged books are just that- damaged. Sometimes, the pages can be flattened back out or the damage is only to one page, but you'd have to really want a book to deal with water damage.

2) Worn-edges on a book are going to be a common occurrence. Just make sure the edges aren't too worn. Books with a missing cover or pages are not good buys. A few dog-eared pages aren't going to hurt, but books with significant damage to the edges need to be passed up.

3) Quality within- I'm talking about the story line. Just because a book is 25 cents doesn't mean it is worth that 25 cents. I pass up lots of books because they aren't what I'm looking for in a classroom book. Winnie-the-Pooh and commercialized characters are great, but 5 years from now when the show is off the air, no kid is going to want to read a book about a character they don't know. I don't know how many Nickelodeon and Disney books I see in thrift stores with characters from shows that have been off the air since I was a kid. They might make a good addition to a personal collection, but not the best idea for classrooms.

4) Thrift stores and yard sales are a great way to buy books for your children, but chances are they won't read the book again. So, consider re-donating it back to the thrift store where you purchased it (or donating it to a thrift store if you purchased it at a yard sale). I heard a lady at a thrift store recently say that she re-donates all the books she buys- except for the paper-back romance novels because she can't remember which ones she reads and often re-buys the same book after re-donating it. :)

5) Be careful about buying series of books. Some, more than others, build upon each other and you might not be able to keep up with the story line if you haven't read the previous books. Like I said earlier, I got a great deal on 4 out of 7 Harry Potter books. I know I'll probably be able to find the other 3 books I need, but it will take time and patience and I'm okay with that. Just be sure you can wait to find the rest of the series.

6) Don't think you'll be able to find the latest best seller. I generally don't buy adult books (because I'm too busy reading all my other children's books), but when I do look through them I see titles from 7 or 10 years ago. Some resell book stores specialize in newer books, but generally at thrift stores you can't find new books. If you can find books from the last year or two, expect to pay a little more for them. A book from 10 years ago might only be $1 but a book from last year might be $4 and up.

7) Be comfortable with the price you are paying. Almost all thrift stores are non-profit, so please don't try to get a better price on an item, but do make sure you are comfortable paying the price they have listed. In the past, I have passed up books because I didn't want to pay the price- this occurs mostly at garage sales. I know I can buy picture books at 50 cents or $1, so I don't want to pay $3 or $5 at a yard sale.

8) Last, but not least, buy it now because it probably won't be there the next time you come in. That's how thrift stores work, there is a constant change in inventory, and if you want it or think you'll use it, you better buy it before someone else does.

Needless to say, I have changed my ideas about garage sales and thrift stores greatly. No longer are they 'gross' places filled with other people's discarded 'stuff.' They are now wonderful places of excitement. Every time you go into a regular store, you know what you are going to find, and it's going to be in the same spot it was the last time you were there. Every time you go into a thrift store or stop by a garage sale, you never know what you will find. There are always new discoveries to be made and new treasures to uncover, which is part of the reason why I now understand the thrill of the hunt my grandmother and cousin refer to.

More posts about my other 'non-book' related finds to come; in the mean time, happy hunting :)

First Blog Post!

Welcome to my first blog post!

I don't know that much about blogs other than...

1. A few of my friends created their own blogs about their personal lives. - This blog is not about my personal life, but it is about the great stuff I find at thrift stores and garage sales.
2. There are a ton of other 'thrift store' and 'good deals' blogs and how mine is different. - The items I buy at thrift stores and garage sales I use, do not intend to sell, and buy because I want/need them.
3. A man on the Today Show today created a blog and before he knew it, his second book was being published. ( So, just so you know, if you are a book publisher- I'm ready to start writing a book, please make a big, preferably colorful check out quickly with fancy handwriting.

Like I just stated, I intend for my blog to be slightly different than the other blogs about thrift stores you'll see. I've looked at a few, and from what I saw, I'm different in my approach because I actually use the things I buy, I'm not just making fun of what I see in thrift stores, I don't buy stuff just to be buying, and last, I don't usually buy something to make something else out of it.
I like to thrift store shop, not because I'm trying to save the world one recycled item at a time, but because I am saving money buying awesome items that I really want and I'm helping out those in need in my community as I shop.
I am a 24-year-old, recent college graduate, without a permanent full-time job (substitute teaching is not full-time and definitely not something that I want to be a permanent fixture in my life), recently married, and I love finding great deals whether it be at thrift stores, garage sales, or just at a great sale at a regular store. I live in Northwest Arkansas and like any other girl, I love to shop. I have intended this blog to be a way for me to share my great finds, give you ideas, and inspire you to find amazing items at even more amazing prices.