Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thrifting-The Goodwill Experience

Did you know in these troubled economic times that Goodwill has experienced an upsurge in shoppers. The first reason being is that it is just cheaper, and sometimes you can find amazing deals with careful shopping. What you need to know.

1.       The store’s clientele- don’t think who shops there, but rather who donates. Different stores tend to have better items in certain areas.  A Goodwill near an upscale residential area will have excellent furniture due to residents redecorating. Near a college, you’ll get dorm items and textbooks.

2.       Best months to shop thrift stores- January and summer months. January because Christmas has just happened. People are cleaning their closets to make room for new stuff, and they are also ridding themselves of Christmas presents they don’t like.

Summer months-because of all those yard sales that didn’t work out, plus wedding gifts they didn’t like, plus cleaning closets, and moving.

3.       Goodwill Online-looking for a unique item, something that is out of print. Try Goodwill online which searches all its Orange County stores and ships out the item. This is run a bit like Ebay. www.shopgoodwill.com/

4.       Goodwill also lists its used books on Amazon and Half.com.

5.       Mondays is your best shopping day due to the influx of everything dropped off over the weekend.

6.       Use your discounts-there are discounts for seniors, and college students. Many Goodwill stores have loyalty cards that give you monetary credit. Example: $5 off a $20 purchase.

7.       Drop by often. Maybe once a week for a 15-minute walk through. You never know when that brand new tent still in the box or the extra plates to complete your china set will show up.

8.       Looking for clothes-be prepared to spend a couple of hours. I’ve found clothes are usually grouped wrong because employers are unfamiliar with particular brands. A great women’s blazer may be tucked in the men’s or boy’s department. I’ve found a Valentino suit, Coach purse and Jimmy Choo sandals.

9.       Carefully scrutinize your bargain. Is it electrical, plug it in. If it needs batteries to work, have a few AA or C’s with you for this purpose. Is the clothing worn, stained, or faded? You might be able to replace missing buttons, but you cannot re-weave a moth hole in a cashmere sweater.

10.   Holidays and weekends-Most Goodwills offer 50% off sales on holidays. There are color coded sales, plus Sunday specials.

11.   Do you have a legitimate need for your purchase? Some people like to buy things at Goodwill, and then later sell them on Ebay. This is okay if you have a guaranteed market for the item. Otherwise, you’ll be bringing it back in a couple of months.

12.   Dropping things off at Goodwill then get a receipt. Before you even pull into the parking lot, have your donation itemized for tax purposes. This might be the difference between a 1040 and 1040ez.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Budget Dorm Decorating

Even if you have the money to throw away on college supplies or your kid’s first apartment, don’t. You’ll only be peeved when you find broken chairs, and bottle rings on the wood. The best way is to go with the bare minimum. Since it is currently yard sale season you got it made.

Think out of the box—Need a table, consider a camping table, not only it is rugged, but it folds up well. Consider patio furniture, because of it toughness, waterproofness, and cheapness. The plastic parson cube tables you can pick up at thrift shops still work well.

Double Duty Items- these are items than can be used for more than one purpose. A sturdy mini-filing cabinet can store homework, books, or even toiletries while balancing a television or microwave. The fan is must have for an occasional breeze, but mainly white noise so students can sleep is its best function.  The plastic shower caddy is wonderful for carrying your toiletries to the bathroom, carrying art supplies to group project meetups, or even refreshments.

Refurbish-got old furniture in the attic? A simple chest of drawers can be updated with new handles, two colors of paint, and a sea sponge for fewer than sixteen dollars. Feeling especially adventurous-tackle other items headed for the dorm like bookshelves. Be forewarned do not paint the shelves the books actually sit on because paint does come off.

Sheet decorating- find a favorite patterned or solid sheet and get several flats to make curtains, tablecloths, even a body pillow to match the bed. Can’t sew? Just run the rod through the top fold and hang them. You can double the sheet for tablecloths or other coverings.

When picking up free or cheap items do not purchase any cloth items. You can buy new pillows, upholstery or stuffing later. Bed bugs are sneaking into several states via cloth items.  You want to be able to clean everything to get rid of unknown contaminants.
Rentals that are not a good deal- Many colleges often offer to rent a microwave fridge combo, but you can buy the two cheaper separately. They will also rent loft beds, but most parents and students can loft a bed, or assemble one from a kit.
College is expensive enough without laying down money for coordinating accessories. Allow your student to mix it up some. Maybe she’ll get busy and develop a theme to tie the varied items together. As a parent, you don’t want to know what happens when it is time to go home. Many of the must have items are sticking out of the dumpster…not because they are broken either. Your student has grown tired of it or better yet doesn’t want to bother dragging it home. He may give it way to a friend. Or you might successfully get it home for the summer, but he refuses to use it next year. Aren’t you glad you didn’t drop a wad of money on this stuff?

Happy Decorating

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Trimming Moving Expenses

Don’t be seduced by the idea of a large semi with uniformed employees coming in and packing your items with a smile. This service can cost as much as the down payment on your house.

Beware: you might be quoted one price, but once the truck is loaded with your worldly goods the price goes up significantly due to weight. Always have your estimate in writing. Check references. Best bets are recommendations from friends and family. Well-known companies often charge the highest price while local companies move for much less. They also know the area, and will not get lost.

Before you move, gather up boxes. Look for someone who has just moved and will give you their boxes. Often people will advertise on freecycle.org or craigslist that they have free moving boxes. Hit the grocery on their stocking day, which is often Monday for the best selection. Remember to ask wherever you shop. Liquor store boxes are stronger and meant to hold glass, which is perfect for your dishes. Start gathering as soon as you know you are moving. Medium boxes work best because you will have to be able to lift them too.

Look at moving as your opportunity to get rid of unneeded stuff. Start by throwing out broken items. This is a perfect time to reduce your inventory to essential items only. Don’t hold onto clothes you haven’t worn in the last year. Do not move your adult children’s stuff. If they want then they can come get it.  A yard sale of the unwanted items could net you extra moving bucks if you have time or the inclination. If not, donate it, but get a tax receipt.

Your packing style is the difference between things arriving safely or being broken in route. Pad breakables with towels, washcloths, pillowcases, even pillows.  This will save you money on bubble wrap and precious space. Label everything in detail. What room does it go in, what is in the box, and what order should it be opened; taking your time while packing will make your move so much smoother at the other end.

Your move may keep you out of dishes for a couple of days. Have snack foods, drinks, paper plates and cups available for hurry-up meals. Do not fall into eating out and using money you need for your new home.

The movers have arrived. Basically they know their job, but do it better if tipped in the beginning. Standard tip is twenty to fifty dollars per mover depending on distance and size of house move. This is money well invested because they will work harder for you. Also offer them drinks and snacks because it is grueling work often done in the dead of summer. Anything you have doubts about like grandmother’s china, put in your own car to drive to the location. Movers cannot move your live plants. Plan accordingly. Remember to keep your moving receipts for taxes.