Sunday, August 11, 2013

When Frugal Isn't Thrifting

Loyal readers of Frugal Upside now how I love thrift stores -- great prices, great way to keep products out of landfills.  It's a win win.  But it isn't always the most frugal approach.  Yes, sometimes a trip to the high-end mall is more frugal.  

This past Friday the kids and I were in "back to school" mode.  An odd phrase since this is their first school season; our son will be in kindergarten, and our daughter pre-school. Both are enrolled in the full-day, 5 day program, and Madison Waldorf.  And with enrollment comes many things, including a supply of appropriate clothing.  At Waldorf there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.  Rain boots are a key feature, and will be used a lot.  

With our son having a growth spurt, I know his current boots will suddenly be too small.  We need new ones, and being Type A, I want them now so they are ready when needed.  It was to Morgan's Shoes at Hilldale that I directed my shopping.  In the past I have found excellent footwear at thrift stores, but the supply is not certain.  I knew I needed size 11.  Throw in a coupon for $10 off plus a store credit of $50, I knew Morgan's was the best bet for maximizing our time and money.  They'd have exactly what I'd need, in the correct size, be of durable quality so that our daughter can use them too.  And the prices on everything else will not tempt me to "buy because it so cheap" -- something too many people, including myself, fall pry too at thrift stores.   Off we went!  My daughter led the adventure.

And frugal it was.  Boots, sized 11, were acquired.  And classroom slippers (required for both kids) were found for our daughter.  I had already found some for our son over the summer, at Goodwill, paying $2.99. Her slippers were marked down to $14 and then had an additional 50% off.  The total for both boots and slippers would have been $42, but I had the $10 coupon.  The final bill was $32 and a little for tax.  My loyal shopper card was full, giving us $50 store credit.  When the transaction was complete the clerk handed me my new punch card and a receipt showing my credit.  I had already done the math in my head, and expected to see $15 listed.  Instead it said $5 -- "hmmmm, why is this $5 and not $15, looks like the $10 coupon is not reflected?"  And that was the case.  My kids and I waited while the clerk battled the computer.  In the end the credit was adjusted, and she gave us a few extra punches on our loyal shopper card for waiting patiently.  I was pleased....once it is full, it will be worth another $50.  Here was the end product, not costing a penny out of pocket.

As you find yourself with a shopping list and a desire to save money, ask yourself is thrift is really frugal. Will you be tempted to fill the cart knowing you can leave with a ton of stuff for $50?  Sure, it may only cost $50 and you have a ton of it, but did you need it?  A "good buy" is not always wise or frugal.  Also, make sure you have a total amount in mind as you approach the register.  Mistakes happen all the time.  Don't overpay because you were distracted or had no idea what the bill should be.  This behavior is common when paying with credit or debit; when you pay with cash you are more mindful of the dollar amount spent.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the back-to-school season!

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