Friday, June 26, 2009

Frugal Fashion Fashionista

Twitter led me to a fun blog today, called Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. (Note for my friends facing infertility: Yes, there are many child-related posts on the BB&B blog, but also several topics that do not involve motherhood.) Today the blog owner is featuring a Frugal Fashionista Fashion Show, highlighting how to put together great outfits on very small budgets through yard sale and thrift store finds.

Well, since my mom calls me "The Yard Sale Queen" and my husband says I should write an ebook on successful yard-saling (both how to host one and how to shop them), you can bet I got excited to find this post! The wardrobes these ladies have put together for a handfull of change is amazing. Makes me want to make a run to Savers and see how many cute outfits I can put together for $10! Who says Frugal Fashion can't be fun?

Because I'm still wheelchair bound, I don't suppose today's a great day for me to try to model any of my super-saver fashions for you. :( It's pretty hard to find anything that makes this heavy black medical boot with 2-inch wide Velcro straps look too attractive (and it certainly wasn't a discount purchase at the price of the ER and orthopedic specialists), plus it is incredibly hard to change clothing around! So since I can’t show you my finds, I will share with you a couple of fun shopping stories instead.

As newly weds we lived on a TIGHT budget; down-to-the-penny tight. After rent and utilities we usually had only about $100 a month for everything else from food to toiletries to clothing. So by the second year of marriage, when I was very much in need of some specific clothing items, I just had to make it a matter of prayer and wait to see how the Lord would provide. I walked into a department store that I normally wouldn't have even stepped foot into, but that day I decided to go in just for fun. I happened upon a clearance rack and found that the store was offering additional discounts on top of the clearance prices that day.
I don't remember all that I found, but I know the purchase included 4 skirt, 2 of them suit-style and 2 more casual, some blouses and some much needed under garments. The suit-skirts alone had been originally priced at about $65 each, and I walked out of the store with the entire purchase for around $32 after tax! Since I had received a $50 birthday check earlier that week, all I could do was thank the Lord for His amazing provision.

A similar experience happened when I was in need of a formal dress for a business occasion and we didn't have a lot of wiggle room in the budget. I went straight to a high-end department store in town, sought out their clearance rack, and ended up walking out of the store with a $120 evening gown that fit me like it was tailor made for me, for only $24. What made that shopping trip even more exciting is that I was spending a $25 gift card that we had won as a promotional gift when the store had it's grand opening a few months earlier, so the dress literally was FREE! Moral of these stories is not to be afraid of pricy stores as long as you are willing to stick to the bargain and clearance racks.

My wardrobe is at least 50% made up from thrift store or yard sale finds under $6, often just $1-2. Sometimes I need to make minor repairs like replacing a button or taking a 50 cent risk on the hopes that I will be able to remove a stain, but usually I can walk out of a thrift store with items that are perfectly wear-ready, just no longer wanted by the previous owner (maybe a size, style or color she didn’t like or couldn’t wear?), sometimes even still with the original tags in place! On several occasions I've found beautiful dresses at yard sales in new or next-to-new condition that would retail for $60-$200 but are being sold for $5-10!

My favorite yard sale finds have actually been kitchen appliances and house wears. One was a nearly-new drink maker I had drooled over in the past but been unwilling to pay $200 for and I picked it up for $8. Another was a crystal punch set that matched my grandma's antique cake plate - I paid about $10 then priced it on eBay when I got home and found it selling there for around $300. My mom spotted a china tea service at a thrift store and when she told me about it we looked it up on eBay and discovered the creamer alone was reselling for $60 so she turned around and went back to spend her $40 on the entire set!

Speaking of eBay, it’s worth keeping your eyes open for deals there as well! We received two plates and one mug from the china pattern we had registered for as wedding presents. Call me old fashioned, but yes, I still love setting the table with fancy dishes for holidays and special occasions. So about 10 years after our wedding, still with just those three pieces of China sitting in our cupboard, we went on eBay to see if we could pick up additional pieces at an affordable price. Nope, each place setting there sold for about what it would cost at regular retail and we weren't interested in spending that kind of money for china! But we kept the search on a watch list just to see what might happen.
One day we saw our china pattern listed as an estate sale in a set of 14 place settings and multiple serving pieces. The starting bid was equivalent to only about 3 full place settings at individual pricing. Yes, it was used, but in excellent condition, so we placed a bid and kept our eyes on it over the next few days. Because it was such a large set, there only seemed to be a few interested bidders. We decided what our maximum investment we were willing to bid would be and we jumped in again in the last moments of the auction (yes, I'm a self-admitted eBay sniper) and placed our final bid, then walked away from the computer so as not to be tempted to overbid.
We came back a couple of minutes later to find that we had indeed won the auction! We sent our payment and received our china quickly thereafter. Then we turned around and re-listed several of the place settings individually (we certainly didn't need 14 place settings in addition to the couple of pieces we already owned!) and re-sold everything we didn't need, one place-setting at a time. In the end we kept a full service of I believe 10 of everything for ourselves, also acquired all the serving pieces we had never had before, and not only fully paid for the entire purchase by reselling our additional pieces, but actually made a few extra dollars in the process - better than free! :D
Moral here is to know your market and be willing to think a little bit outside of the box. We had seen a consistant market for the individual place setting of this china pattern so we were willing to take a calculated investment in bidding for more than we knew we could use because we had valid reason to think we could recoop at least some of that money through resale of the items we would not need.

OK, so I promised a picture for the fashion show and here it is, even if it is a year old. ;) No, not a deal quite comparable to the other finds showcased by other bloggers here, but not bad for a Sam’s club clearance at only $7 for the blouse. And the brand new necklace I bought at half price using my Gurrlie Girl consultant discount, so it was $7 as well. Makeup also at consultant discount (though already an amazingly great price to start with) through Affordable Mineral Makeup™.

God created us as beautiful women. He longs for us to see ourselves as beautiful through His eyes. He also delights in abundantly providing for not only our needs, but the desires of our hearts when we trust His to help us feel beautiful through Him!
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:28-34 (NIV)


Jen said...

Great stories. I remember my very frugal newlywed days and have a few similar stories. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I did it.

T~T said...

awesome - I remember when I was out of college and had just bought a car and a condo and HAD no money for like two years - I didn't buy anything - hardly even food. All my friends felt sorry for me and feed me!

Jen - Balancing Beauty and Bedlam said...

Thanks for linking up and sharing your great ideas about living within your means. Definitely hits my heartbeat. So glad you found me through Twitter and thanks for linking up.

I have walked through infertility with my best friend and know the pain. Thanks for being sensitive to that, even when mentioning my blog. :)

Melanie said...

Great stories of God getting in the details of your life!

Julie D said...

Hey Jenni!
E-mail me please! I don't know what address you are using these days. You won the eBook (Christian Reviews) and I need to put you in touch with the author. :)

Miss you sis!

Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates said...

Love your stories! You do find wonderful stuff! Thanks for sharing!