Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Frugal Shopaholic

I am by nature a "spender" at heart. I like to shop - I shop for clothing. I shop for seasonal updates for my house, for things for the yard and garden. I shop for craft items of all kinds especially good quilting fabric. I shop for nice gifts for my family-individualized gifts that I know they would appreciate.  I shop for books, although I'm learning to appreciate the library. I shop for souvenirs and mementos when I travel.

I'm not a hoarder-I use the things I buy and I rotate things in and out. I have no debt, and live within my income.  Awhile back, that income was much different than it is now.  But you know what?  I've decided that living on a pension doesn't mean no more Christmas gifts, or not having my house be comfortable.  So what happens when a spender meets a pension?  She relearns how to get what she wants.

I'm very patient.  I have a list, sometimes in my head and sometimes on paper, of the things I need and want. This ranges ranges from Christmas ideas (For my $400 holiday, on which I'll expound later), to clothing to fit my fifty pounds less body (knowing that my goal is fifty pounds more). It includes items to update my home (both needs and wants). In my case it even includes places I want to go and things I want to do that would not otherwise be affordable-prime time movies, museums, the occasional dinner out. This article however, is mainly about the purchase of things.

I take advantage of every possible offer and opportunity. This means that I actually LOOK at the offers that come from companies I shop at (like the $25 CG for my birthday from Vera Bradley that got me the wristlet in the photo below for free, or the coupons mentioned below). I take a few minutes to check out various freebies, group buying sites and like on the web, and I keep track of my rewards through my debit card and hotel preferred customer accounts.  This doesn't mean I have no life and spend all day on the computer or shopping. Remember I have three business, a college student at home, a house to maintain, quilts to make, books to read, a dog to walk and play with, gourmet meals to cook and a life to live. Saving money does take some time, but it doesn't always take a lot.

I shop when the item is available, not necessarily when I need it. This means that I shop ahead and store things. Just as some folks (including me) buy food at loss leader prices, I buy other things, big and small, large and expensive.  Silly example?  We've broken four coffee carafes in past year. While we have one now, if I see one for a quarter, you're darn right I'm buying one (or maybe two or three, knowing myself).

This week as been a perfect example of taking advantage of deals and steals.  I had available to me the following coupons: $10 off $10 at JC Penny, $25 off $25 at Casual Male (my son is six foot six), a coupon for a free pack of undies at Adidas, a $20 coupon to Old Navy (for which I paid $10) and a $40 coupon to the Body Shop (for which I paid $20). I also had two $5 Kohl's cash coupons.  For a total out of pocket expenditure of $45.00 (plus tax) I purchased a summer shawl, a good quality designer style"Americana" polo shirt, a pile of jewelry, a three pack of boxers, a pair of good tall men's swim trunks, a quality wallet, the linen tablecloth shown below, the picture frame shown below, and two large bath and body sets.  Some of these items will be used now, and some put away for Christmas.  The extra five bucks was for the tablecloth-originally 29.00 at Kohl's, marked down to 11.99 before my five dollars Koh'ls cash.

Note: some folks, as evidenced by the comments to Donna's article over at Get Rich Slowly, seem to think that buying gifts in advance is somehow less personal, or less Christmassy. My comment to the first is that I think it depends on your family. In my greater family, we know each other's interests, hobbies, and general needs, so for the most part, its appropriate for me to buy ahead. My six foot six inch son will ALWAYS need extra long Polo's to play golf in, for example. As to the second, I love Christmas and gift buying. By shopping this way, not only do I save money, but I free up Christmas for the relaxing fun stuff-including window shopping with spiced wine afterwards.

I don't consider used a "bad word", and I know well that much stuff in the used market is new and like new.  I understand that for some people this is a reach.  But I have found like new, brand name items in thrift stores since I was buying my now 22 year old Tommy Hilfiger ten years ago. The designer label I wore to church last week on my thinner (not thin, thinner) body came from a consignment shop and cost less than ten dollars.  On my last trip to the thrift store I spend four dollars, got five books, a Longaberger chip and dip bowl and spreader and the candles shown here (a quarter, five bucks each originally at home goods, and like new with the the tags still on.

Shopping is a small part of my life.  As I mentioned above, I have three small income streams I am trying to start, I volunteer and have a full life. More importantly, my needs have lessened. My kids are grown or growing and almost out of the house. I've had a lifetime to build my household and the items in it, although having lived overseas has certainly cut down on the amount of "stuff in my possession.  But I still enjoy getting new things and spiffing up my house on occasion, and being able to gift usable, needed items to family members. More importantly, the tips I use can be used by anyone. By being patient, shopping ahead and being aware of all the deals out there, most folks can lots of stuff, for a little bit of outlay if they play their cards right.


  1. As usual your thoughts are so direct, practical, and on point. I never fail to have my eyes opened to another possibility when I check out your blog.

    Our family is going "giftless" this Christmas, except for the children. One of the family units is on a tight budget, one on an even tighter budget, and the other family member just lost her job. There will be plenty for the youngsters but we adults will pass.

    Last year we tried handmade presents which was just fine, but too much work for the Mom with the three kids under 5.

    For us, Christmas isn't about presents anyway, it is about the birth of Jesus. So, frankly none of us will miss the frantic shopping rush.

    I'll be interested in your promised post about holiday shopping.

  2. Bob. no gifts work for lots of people. Our gifts generally are not all that expensive, and we actually share Christmas lists in the fall )which is why I dont do all my shopping early. Our gifts are a mixture of homemade, bought, and experiences. Last year the best gift I got was a stove top teakettle so I could stop nuking water.


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