Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Penny Pinchers United!

Penny pinching is alive and well in Salem, Oregon…and practiced by a lot of nice folks! I had a ball doing my Shopping on Driveways workshop last Saturday at the Library. Had about 50 frugal people in the audience. If you were there, thanks so much for coming!

I’m not sure I taught anyone much, since nearly everyone seemed to be an experience garager already. Unless it was the part about figuring out how much I’ve saved on each item by not shopping in stores. As I’ve mentioned here before, I keep a spreadsheet with all my finds.

imageThere was a little eye rolling over the idea of writing it all down. Okay, maybe keeping records seems silly, but there have been lots of times I’ve wanted to know how long I’ve had something or what I paid for it (as opposed to what I think I paid!). It truly only takes a few minutes each week. But the real payoff comes at the end of the year, when I look at my bottom line and compare what I spent for a whole year of fun treasure hunting with the probably value of my finds.

image Yes, that was a very good year…but typical. I just keep showing up, and the treasure is there. Not every week, but often enough to keep me more than happy.

More than the stuff though, I value the stories. And I got a couple of good ones at the workshop. Before we started the presentation I was chatting with a friend from the dog park. She said, “I was reading your blog the other day and saw that tray you found. Did by any chance come from an estate sale?” Why yes. “Blue house?” Sure was. “I thought so,” she said. “That was my mother’s tray. It was originally silver and I remember her painting it when I was just a little girl.” tray, carafe, quilt - all from yard salesThe sale where I found the tray was at her sister’s house! Of course I offered her the tray, but she declined, saying she just wanted to make sure it was the same one and that she was glad to know it has a good home. Her mom must have been a talented lady. It never occurred to me that a regular person had painted this lovely thing!

vintage metal pinecones tray

A little later I was talking with another lady, who said that Judy and I had come to her sale back in August. “You both bought wooden drying racks from me,” she said, which was the clue I needed. Of course I remembered her and her sale.

“Funny thing,” she went on. “My husband never noticed I had gotten rid of those racks until a couple of days ago. He asked me where they were and I told him I had sold them in August.”

Now it was my turn to look sheepish. “I have to confess I haven’t used mine yet,” I told her. I actually feel a little guilty each time I see it down in our storeroom. I still use our metal rack and probably shouldn’t have gotten the wooden one. “Would your husband like to have it back?”

But no. She got it out of her house and it’s not going back. Maybe I should have offered to pay her to take it? Guess it would be a lot more frugal just to start using the darned thing!

Friday, November 14, 2014


A day of freezing rain yesterday did nothing to encourage folks to have sales this weekend. It wasn’t very kind to the neighborhood trees either. This is the one I see from our kitchen window.

poor broken tree

I decided to stay home and warm and cozy. Pets are good for that.

Snuggly dogs Noll on rug

But I still have last weekend’s finds to share. As is usual in November there weren’t many sales around here. Judy and I were most excited about the church rummage sale, but it didn’t start till noon. So I went to a couple of estate sales by myself first thing, then picked her up later for a good rummage.

The first thing I saw at my first stop was my favorite find of the day.

antique wheelbarrow 2antique wheelbarrow with leaves

As soon as I saw it I thought, oh, I bet someone’s already bought that. But no – and it was marked only $15. Which as you probably know is a chunk of change for me; my flinch point is just about a buck. But sometimes you just have to live large, you know? So I bought it. The young man having the sale helped me wrestle it into the back of the Civic. It weighs a ton.

antique wheelbarrow all metal

I asked if it had a story, but they didn’t know. They said the people who had lived in that house had simply abandoned everything and the real estate agent had hired them to clear the place. This puppy is old, possibly close to a hundred years, so I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find out more about it. It’s made entirely of metal, and perfectly balanced – still rolls along on that big old wheel like a champ. antique wheelbarrow wheelOne thing I know is that someone valued it…because it is patched! You can barely see it from the top

antique wheelbarrow invisible patch

but when you look underneath, there it is.

antique wheelbarrow patch

I’ve patched plenty of things with needle and thread and cloth, but never with iron!

I know it’s a total cliché, but I’ll probably plant flowers in it next spring. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy it as sculpture.

antique wheelbarrow

My other finds were much lighter weight! This candy dispenser just made me laugh.

Slinky Pal dogSlinky Pals dogSlinky Pals dog tail

My sister in law told me to be on the lookout for a cake dome for her, and I finally found one.

cake cover

The complete set in fact.

cake plate

And it’s not only a cake plate and cover, turn it over and it’s a punch bowl!

cake cover turned punch bowl

Couldn’t resist one of those crystal cubes with the laser sculpture inside – of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. Just like the Beatrix Potter illustration. He’ll be living in the children’s literature guest room.

Mr. Jeremy Fisher in crystal

And this vintage metal tray was a two dollar splurge. I like the handles, the heft,

vintage metal tray with pineconesvintage metal pinecones tray

the pinecones.

vintage tray decoration pineconestray, carafe, quilt - all from yard sales

The estate sale it came from was one of those run by the family instead of a company. The lady who had lived there had a thing for sewing machines. I should have taken pictures, they ran the gamut from old (as in treadle machine old) to a newish serger. When I paid for my tray I said to the seller, “This is quite a collection of sewing machines. I think I saw at least a dozen.” He bit his lip and closed his eyes for a moment before saying, “Forty.”

“Forty?” “Forty sewing machines,” he sighed. “They were everywhere.”

I think it’s the first time I’ve heard of a sewing machine hoarder!

At noon I picked up Judy and we headed for the church sale. At the door we were handed big paper bags. Five bucks a bag, unless an item was marked separately. We had a grand time poking and searching. Judy had armfuls, but went back through her finds for a second look and ended up with one firmly stuffed bag. There were two pairs of very nice shoes, sweaters, shirts, I can’t even remember everything. We put back what she’d decided not to take, and looked through my finds. Which after a second look, I weeded down to…

purple turtleneck

one purple turtleneck! And yes, we rolled it up tight and tucked it into Judy’s bag.

But in case you are thinking what cheapskates we are for our bag stuffing skills, we were talking to the church ladies, complimenting them on going to by-the-bag pricing. One of them laughed. “It has saved us HOURS of work, and we make more money than ever,” she told us. She looked approvingly at our bag. “Well stuffed.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pinching Pennies at the Library!

The Salem Public Library is celebrating Penny Pinchers Month this November. Hope any of you who are close enough will be able to come to my Shopping on Driveways program on Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 2:30 p.m.

 Henegar Nov 22

There will also be programs featuring Jeff Yeager (the ‘Ultimate Cheapskate’), one on biking for adventure and thrift, and one on larger-than-life merchant Fred Meyer. The local newspaper recently ran an article with more info.

As some of you know, I volunteer at the Salem Library and one of my fun duties was putting together a bibliography of books to help folks be more frugal. Pick up a copy next time you’re at the library!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Clowning Around

Last week’s little wooden rabbit may have started something. Or maybe researching how much (other) people who shop in stores rather than driveways are willing to shell out for cute wooden ornaments.

Two of the sales we went to on Friday (both listed as estate sales) seemed to think they were retail outlets. I expect higher prices at estate sales, but my goodness. These folks (said Judy and I) had lost their heads.

However, the place where I bought three items hadn’t marked prices on everything, and there were signs here and there saying to ask one of the attendants if you needed a price.

I picked out a couple of possibilities and was still looking around when another lady approached the upstairs sale attendant to get some prices. She had a rug, and the attendant suggested $20. Oh my no, said the buyer. Fifteen? Ten? They settled on eight, and I knew which attendant to go to for prices. She was a tiny little woman with curly gray hair wearing a very oversized gray t-shirt. Of course she was being bombarded with questions on prices. She looked at my two items and said $5 for the pair, but then needed to go off and find more stickers to write prices on. By the time she got back I’d decided what I was holding wasn’t worth five bucks to me and put them back. Told her I’d talked myself out of them and we cheerfully agreed that sometimes not buying things is the best policy.

Judy and I kept looking. There were signs everywhere to keep folks out of drawers and closets. My favorite was this one. I had planned to climb into the microwave but now I couldn’t. Heck.

Get out of that microwave!

Of course just about everything we thought was interesting had no price. The big wooden Pinocchio did have a tag -$45 - but I already have one that cost $1 (purchased on 7/7/07 – great date, huh?).

Pinocchio sittingMy big Pinocchio

But then I spotted this small Pinocchio bottle topper. With no price. Back upstairs to my little old lady. $1 – I could live with that. He’s pretty darned cute and not something you see every day.

Pinocchio corkioPinocchio on the head of a cork

We finished looking around the house (trying not to wince too visibly at the prices – or break anything) and checked out the garage. Where Judy spotted this little guy     Wood shepherd Wooden shepherdand I found this big guy.

French clown skittles

I’m not much of a clown person but couldn’t resist his mustache. And he’s not a scary clown. A little research suggests he was part of a skittles set earlier in his life, and is French. So, back upstairs with these two. Five dollars, she said? I made a little face. Four? Okay.

Now, I’m not sure who the little old lady was. The sale was being run by a company, but from overheard conversation I gathered that the folks who owned the home and contents had not passed away but were moving to a much smaller place. I kind of wonder if little old lady was part of the family rather than the sale company. Or maybe she was the sale company owner’s mother, pressed into service. But she sure wasn’t pricing the way the others had. Which was clear when I went to pay. Put my three items down and pulled out the five dollars they totaled. The woman taking money looked at the handwritten price stickers and took my fiver, but her expression was priceless. Picture someone who’s just bitten into an unripe quince. Sour! Which made it all the easier to give her a very pleasant smile and carry my wooden score away.

And you thought I was nice before this, didn’t you? Hah!

We found one other regular old garage sale with regular old prices and regular friendly people. Somehow the subject of wildfires came up and I mentioned living in southern California. And as is fairly typical here, the lady having the sale was also from there, as was the other shopper in the garage, so we had stories to share. The other shopper, a middle aged guy, laid down quite a large stack of twenties and toted off at least four rifles. I spent sixty cents and went home with these vintage fireplace matches

Vintage Fireplace MatchesVintage fireplace matchheads

(don’t worry, won’t be starting any wildfires with them – probably impossible here anyway due to the days and days and DAYS of rain we’ve just had), plus a dandy pair of shoes for the hubs.

Cabella slides

Easy on, easy off, perfect by the door when you need to kick off your indoor slippers and go out on a wet deck.

Maybe I can borrow them to step out for a game of one-pin skittles with my French clown.

Skittles meets Zen

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