Saturday, December 27, 2008


I've been having some fun looking back over the year’s thrifty purchases. Yes, I keep records, which may strike some as obsessive, but I like knowing how I've spent my money. Thanks to spreadsheets it takes very little time. When I get home from garaging on Saturday morning I spend a few minutes entering data—what I bought, how much I paid and how much it would have cost if I'd bought it in a store. I include a category, like clothing or door prizes for work, and any notes about the item. Later I may go back and add information, such as an item being donated to the thrift store if I decide not to keep it. By the end of the year I have a complete picture of my Saturday activities.

I started doing this about four years ago when I started reselling on eBay. I knew I'd need to keep records for tax purposes. You know, I've seen discussions on other people’s blogs questioning the morality of reselling, that somehow it's wrong to make a profit on something bought at a yard sale or thrift store. I don’t see it that way. I figure other people have the same opportunity to sell stuff as I do. There’s nothing so difficult about selling online that an average person with a computer and a digital camera can’t learn to do it. Yes, I make a profit on what I resell, but I also spend my time and resources finding stock, taking the pictures, writing the ads, and paying for the auctions. Besides, isn’t the basic advice for making money to buy low and sell high? That’s not just for the stock market!

Anyway, if you’re curious, here’s how a dedicated garager spent her money this year.

I bought 29 pieces of clothing, two for my husband and the rest for me. Eight ended up being donated. Total expenditure: $17.35. Included were 5 sweaters, 4 shirts, 2 skirts, 3 slacks, and a bathing suit. Best deals:
• Land’s End cashmere sweater for my husband—a $130 value for 25 cents
• My Pendleton wool bathrobe—you can buy one like it on their website for $198 plus tax and shipping. I paid a buck
• A beautiful Jones New York silk skirt that would be about $110 at Macy’s. Another one dollar deal.

The only clothing we’ve bought in stores this year were shoes and a new billfold for my husband when his was stolen. I haven’t bought myself anything in a store since August of 2007, and that was undies and shoes, which I admit are hard to find on driveways.

It was a good year for accessories too. I bought 29 items for $20.45, including 2 hats, a watch, 2 vintage purses, 9 pairs of earrings, 7 pins, 3 scarves and a new billfold. One of the scarves is a silk Ralph Lauren thing that retails for about $80.

I hadn't done anything crafty for a long time, and I threw myself into it this year. It's been fun, I've learned some stuff, but I may be over the fever now. I bought 54 items for $24.60, but ended up donating 18. So I had a year’s worth of fun for 25 bucks and made the Goodwill store happy too. Included in the stash:
• Many, many buttons—huge bag, plus carded buttons @ two other sales
• 5 pieces of yardage, including entire roll of Schumacher drapery fabric and 7 yards of vintage paisley
• 22 clothing items for fabric
• 11 sweaters for felting
• Supplies, including tiny ceramic clothes pins, inkjet transfer paper, box of imported threads, jewelry findings, & picture matting cutter
Best deals: Schumacher fabric, approx. 20 yards for $2
Red cashmere sweater vest, $0.50; made at least 6 roses for gifts
The felted sweaters have been the most fun. I've used them to make shoes and slippers, flowers, and fingerless gloves. And yesterday I created this patchwork cover for an old wool-stuffed bed pillow we were going to throw away. I think it looks wonderful in the huge basket I paid a dollar for a couple of years ago, and I'm hoping it will become a favorite sleeping spot for Noll Baxter and Mrs. Wilberforce.

Had no idea I'd picked up so many—51 items for $42.42! But I liked what I got, because I only ended up donating four. Included were:
• 4 figurines, 2 vintage
• 6 picture frames
• 8 vintage linens
• 3 toys
• 6 vases
• 7 items for my work office
• 1 vintage quilt
My favorites? The Sunflower quilt, big foot chicken & Thurber dog. They make me smile, every time I look at them.

We subscribe to Netflix, and occasionally go out to a movie (the ones that need to be seen on a big screen, which turned out to be 5 this year). And we splurged on season passes to Disneyland. But I pick up a lot of entertainment on Saturday mornings—124 items for $59.50. This bought me 18 books, 13 CDs, 44 movies—many of them DVDs—and about 70 magazines. No wonder I’m letting subscriptions lapse! We did donate 18 items, but that was mostly books and movies after we read or watched them.

Gift giving is not something I'm especially good at—but neither are a lot of other people, judging by the number of items I see on driveways that were originally received as gifts. I picked up 16 items for $10.48 that I gave to friends and family. Best deal: embroidered raw silk robe for my friend Heather, who happened to be staying with us that weekend. Most fun: pink flamingo skirt for making Christmas gift bags. Reusable!

Good lord, I brought home 101 items! Only spent $58 though, which got me
• Food, including tea, oat bran, and fresh picked fruit & avocados
• 3 pieces of furniture—2 antique benches & glass/rattan patio table
• 25 bars of soap, and 5 other bathroom items
• 19 kitchen items—red tea kettle, candy thermometer, new vacuvin, stainless steel cookie press and more
• 15 dishes—plates, bowls, glasses, teacups, tea pots…
• 13 office items, including photo paper, vintage stapler, fiskars scissors
• 6 x 8’ wool rug
Ended up donating 6 things.
Best deals: the rug, which goes with the $2 roll of fabric
Brand new sweater shaver—works great
Free kumquats—we made a whole bunch of kumquat marmalade!

I lashed out $42 for 62 door prizes, but hey, my children’s librarians are worth every penny! ;o)

Here’s the category with the highest average per item: 28 items for $66.60. But most of that was spent on one deal—an electric lawn mower, hedge trimmer, and 150’ extension cord for $45. We spent about ten more bucks for a new blade, and now have the exact mower we were about to buy for over $200. I also brought home 4 yard art items and 12 pots, many large and expensive. Well, not expensive for me, but for the person who bought them in a store.

Last category: ITEMS FOR RESALE
I was amazed to see I'd picked up 49 items, spending $52.75. I only sold 19, ended up donating 15, and am holding 15 more for future sale. As I've mentioned, sales were really off this year, which was discouraging, but even so I’ve made a 462% profit on the original investment, and if you can show me anything on the stock market doing that well I'd like to buy some! Best return on investment: $15.29 for a 25 cent sweater. Okay, the dollars aren’t big, but that’s over 6000% (I think I'm doing the math right…). And the best part is, the person that bought the sweater got an amazing deal too—a new item that would have been at least $80 in a store. Hooray, we all win!

So that’s my year o’ garaging. Hope yours was as much fun—and as lucrative!—and that we’ll meet up out on the thrifting trail in the new year. I'll be the one in the green convertible!


  1. I totally agree with you about the reselling...everyone has the chance if they want to do it. When I have a garage sale I really don't mind why they buy the item that I want to get rid of...just so I can sale it!
    Have a great new year of garage sales:)

  2. I buy to resell all the tiem. I also have yard sales and know fellow resalers who buy from me. I don't mind if they are going to resell it. I do mind, however, when they talk about what they can sell it for and then they haggle my already low prices down. Aggravating! I never haggle but sometimes I am offered a lower price. That's a different story!

    I'm getting ready to do my Annual Best Thrift purchases post on New Year's Eve.

    I'm so happy I found your blog this year!

  3. I, too, am happy to have found your blog this year!

    And, I am impressed with your record keeping. I shall have to try something similar this year.

  4. You are an inspiration! I am IMPRESSED with your record keeping!! I always intend to do that, but it nevers fails but to go astray!!
    PLEASE don't let your record keeping interfere with your GREAT BLOGGING in 2009 - I would really miss my weekly 'fix'!!

  5. Excellent post! I'm going to try to keep track of my spending in a similar fashion so I can be a little more mindful of what I buy.

    I think of my thrift shopping as therapy. Much, much cheaper than any therapist I've ever had! Amazing what a little fifty cent bargain can do for my mood, not to mention how great I feel when I find something valuable for a dollar or two.

    Look at all the fun you've had through the year - it was worth every penny.

  6. And I'll be the one in the ventage red one following you around. My dream come true! We'll have tea and scones and discuss the days treasures.

    Untill then my friend
    Miss Lila in Atlanta

  7. Great blog! There's nothing I love better than stumbling across like minded individuals.

  8. I love this post! What a fun idea. I've been meaning to keep better records of my junking and maybe 2009 will be the year for it--you've inspired me!

  9. Love it! Expect an email asking for your spreadsheet layout! Good thing is I have until spring to figure it out, or maybe that's the bad thing, waiting for spring to garage sale!

  10. I applaude you, not only for all of your thrifty finds, but for your awesome record keeping!! How gratifying to see in black and white exactly how your "hobby" pays off :)

    Reselling is just the American way. If I am willing to part with an item for a certain price and someone else pays them more for it later, good for them! Time, effort and opportunity are all factors.

    I wish you even greater success in 2009. I also really look forward to each and every story. Thanks!

  11. Hurray for spreadsheets!

    Yeah, I don't know why some folks would think reselling is a bad thing.

    Best wishes for 2009!

  12. This was so much fun to read! I love your details. Sonya

  13. I think I would cringe if I kept a running tally. ;o)

    Totally agree about the reselling. It takes time, money (albeit not much) & talent to see past the junk & reuse discards.

    Hope you had a wonderful holiday season!

  14. OMG! I love the spreadsheet idea. I am all over that! It is definitely OCD which I also love. But it's grea to see what little you spent for what you got. Good job!
    Great post. Thanks for sharing

  15. I was just so excited to see this breakdown. I have always wanted to go to garage sales-- never have but always fantasize about all the "treasures" I'll find. NOW I get to live vicariously through you!

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I really love your comments. Thanks for coming along on my thrifty adventures!

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