Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Frugal Living: The Art of Simplicity, Birthdays, and Consignment

Image Credit: www.sxc.hu - free image

To most people it was just another Monday, the start of a work week.  For me it is a mini-holiday; yesterday I turned 39.  And I have this little tradition on my birthday, I don't do paid work. But writing is more passion than work, so there I was at my desk.

Something about starting a "new" year inspires me to get my house in order.  So, for the past few days I have been donating items to Savers, giving outgrown kids clothing to friends with smaller children, and tossing papers into the recycle bin.  The clutter decreases, my mood improves; but, as my husband points out -- the world tends towards chaos, so don't be upset when a weekly later the clutter is building once again.  It's a continuous battle.  Today though, the cleanliness and calm trump the disorder of chaos.

And for a lot of people a birthday translates into chaos under the label "celebration".  Not here, we keep it simple.  More so for the adults than the children.  Turning 39 consisted of a lovely dinner out with my husband last night.  My plan to dine at Harvest was tossed aside when were learned they were not open on Sunday.  However, a meal at Bunky's saved the evening.  We paid a total of $45, including tip, for some amazing food.  My beef kabobs were divine; grass-fed local beef!  If you are in Madison -- this place is worth every penny.  If you go, I urge you to pay in cash as we did.  In the entry way is a framed news article about the costly impact of credit cards on independents, featuring Bunky's.  I believe my husband said that in one year the restaurant paid $38,000 in merchant fees!

I gave myself the gift of time.  The sitter came for her normal hours, and instead of handling client matters, I laced up my running shoes and took a long run along Madison's lakeshore path.   The fall day could not have been more idea; crisp blue skies punctuated with bursts of fall colors.  Following my run I enjoyed a cup of coffee while reading a recently released F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, Thank You For the Light.  My afternoon consisted of our normal Target errands with the kids, followed by toddler play at the local park.  My husband left work early to pick up Indian take-out and join us for dinner.  A simple balloon from the dollar store was the extend of his shopping.  I have no desire to open gifts.  Time, what I value most, cannot be bought in a store.  If your birthdays are about shopping and consumption, try my style one year and see if it works for you!

I also received a comment on the blog, which was a pleasant surprise.  It inquired about my thoughts on children's consignment shops.  In my opinion far too much of "frugal writing" focuses on shopping techniques.  A lot of it skews towards how to shop for the longest with spending very little.  My approach to frugality is more about efficiency with both time and money.  And I do not find consignment to be efficient.  I do not purchase items in consignment stores (they tend to be priced a bit high), nor do I attempt to sell my unwanted items at consignment. At one point in my life I did (the time when I bought new trendy items that would be acceptable).  Now I focus on thrift stores, especially Savers.  If I donate a bag, they give me a 20% off coupon.  As I wrote in an earlier post, this results in more cash savings, and is far more time efficient than consignment.  My approach to frugal clothing, for kids or adults, is:

  • simple, clean, basics are key -- you don't need tons of variety;
  • thrift stores are the first stop -- get a regular plan (1x month, every 3 months, etc.) and shop with a list (i.e. rain coats, snow pants, shorts, etc.);
  • shop clearance racks at one or two department stores that are easy to get to (I prefer Kohl's and Macy's).  Set a budget and again, focus only on basics;
  • use Amazon Prime -- the free shipping allows you to shop from home with very specific criteria.  You avoid impulse buys while standing in line and can compare costs;
  • if you are looking to get rid of items, donate to Savers and get the coupon -OR- box up the sizes and list them on CraigsList (i.e. Girls Winter Clothing, size 8-10 for $20).  It will save you a lot of time, and keep you out of consignment stores (which are also attempting to get you to spend).
Thanks for reading, and have a frugal week!

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