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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Frugality: Is it Fun?

I wrote a followup to my post on selling excess clothing on Tradesy. I received a rather horrified comment from Shelley to the effect that all this "in and out" made her head spin. She seemed to marvel that I found it fun.

But I do. So does at least one other blogger--Frugalshrink--who is doing similar things not because she has to, but because she likes to.

My family of 4 spends less than $1000 a year on clothing (not all is 2nd hand). I still treat both my 20something kids in this department because I have the time to do it. It is a major component of my frugal practice.

The other component is killer grocery shopping, sans coupons, but keeping an eye out and stocking up. This must work because I occasionally have to institute a "shopping fast" in this area and use up the stuff in my freezer. I mentioned in a blog comment the other day that my family has always spent well under the food stamp budget--not that I even knew what that budget was till recently.

My Partner in Frugality--Mr FS--would break out in hives doing my above fun activities (though he sometimes accompanies me on walks to a nearby grocery store). His frugal practices involve doing all the yard work and fixing whatever can be fixed. 

There are zillions of ways to be frugal. Read The Tightwad Gazette for ideas. Or check out the relevant chapter in Your Money of Your Life

My parents were pretty frugal when I was growing up (and my parents were self-employed for many years, which necessitates careful budgeting). They pretty much stopped when they moved to a fun golf community in Florida (at the exact ages of me and Mr FS!!!). I guess frugality wasn't fun for them.

I'm kind of curious to see how I may change in the frugal department when I retire. In graduate school (talk about stressful days!) I was frugal by necessity. Now, I am frugal by choice. That is the greatest luxury as far as I'm concerned. I don't think I would do it if it weren't fun.

Do my frugal adventures sound like fun to you or do they evoke "the horror! the horror!"? Do YOU think frugality can be fun?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Declutter/Reclutter Report with Tradesy and Thredup and Buffalo Exchange

Miss Em (in absentia) and I continue to rework our wardrobes with the above venues. One thing about buying on the secondary market: one need not be racked with guilt at overspending. I have been reading various blogs on wardrobe construction and the guilt at overspending and resentment at being manipulated by salespeople is very dispiriting.

Tradesy: Miss Em and I continue to do pretty well with Tradesy. We just sold a bunch of Hermes ties. I was saving them for the men in my life and realized that Mr FS has worn a tie exactly 0 times in the past 5 years. Frugal Son wore a tie at a job interview a few years ago. We saved a few Ferragamos for him, but that's it.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT TRADESY: You hold on to the item till it sells. You can sell items in less than pristine condition, as long as you are upfront about it. As might be expected, people search by brand (as on Ebay). So if you have "prestige" brands, go for it. We don't have much that is high end, of course (aside from those ties), but have done well with shoes (Naot, Dansko, and even a beat up pair of Tory Burch Revas that we sold for under $10 within ten minutes).

Interestingly, we have sold a lot on this site but have never bought anything. That is because the seller sets the price and most sellers put prices that are way too high. We put fairly low prices on everything.

THREDUP REPORT. We are the opposite on Thredup. We have bought 5 black Eileen Fisher skirts (Miss Em has high end taste for a 23 year old).  We especially like Eileen's washable crepe. These tend to be UNDERPRICED on the site because they are not listed as such. They are listed by fabric content. Since I know the crepe fabric content, I can buy with some confidence. (Hoping that Thredup is not reading this!)

We have never sold on the site. You send a bag; they pick what they want; they put extremely low prices on the items--and take less than 50% of what you send. You don't get the rejects back unless you pay a return fee. Check out the on-line reviews of Thredup. Sellers are miserable and angry  as a rule.

So in our experience, Tradesy is for selling and Thredup is for buying.

Yesterday, we had a bunch of errands in New Orleans. We topped off the day with free admission to a wonderful folk art show at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. We had a bit of time before Frugal Son got home from work, so I took a bag of clothing to the Buffalo Exchange, conveniently located just a few blocks from Frugal Son's abode. While the hip fellow went through my bags, I looked around. This is a rare treat, since usually Miss Em looks and I stay with the buyer.

I found two items: an Eileen Fisher poncho sweater and a Nordstrom wool cape/jacket (each $17: the Buf is cheap). After deducting those purchases, I got $45 in cash!

Are my adventures in the clothing trade "worth it." Probably not for me in a financial sense. I have a job. For Miss Em--trying to set up a biz in the arts--yes. We both find the process relaxing and unstressful. In fact, it is a destresser for me. That alone would make it worth it. But I also like going to the Buf (as we call it) because I am of an age where young hipsters generally ignore me. TOTALLY. So I have to work a bit there to get some attention. Maybe it will keep me young(er), at least in spirit.

Clementine Hunter from the Gasperi Collection at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Tradesy, Ebay, Buffalo Exchange: Cash for Decluttering Report

So sad! Miss Em is back in Belgrade, for four months this time. While she was here, she spent a lot of time amassing items that were requested by friends. So much is unavailable there, or scarily expensive. Most US companies will not deliver to Serbia. Here's what she carried: a post-mastectomy bra and forms (unbelievable that these are not to be had there); melatonin, Opi nail polish, well, now I can't remember the other things. We live in such over-abundance.

I have lost my in-house beauty salon operator (thanks for the haircut) and--perhaps most needed--my personal declutter assistant.

Here are the final numbers for her 2 months back in the USA. She got to keep all the money (much-needed) and I got a little breathing space.

TRADESY: An astonishing $800!
Ebay: An astonishing $500plus, mostly for two Filson garments!
Buffalo Exchange: A pretty good $200.

Miss Em also picked up some cash by taking care of a kid for a weekend. She was able to spend the rest of her time planning for her return to Belgrade, getting her art website set up, and applying to a grad program.

If you want some glimpses of our trip to the Balkans, see her tumblr: she captured so much of what we did, especially some of the little moments that truly define a vacation.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

In a Belgrade Cemetery

Two summers ago, Mr FS and I went to Vienna, where my mother was born in 1930.  Last summer, we went to Belgrade, where my mother and her parents (and other family members) stayed (1938) before emigrating to the United States.

A most moving part of our journey: a visit to a cemetery in Belgrade.

Image courtesy of my daughter. See her Tumblr for more travel illustrations or her website for more.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

How I Ended Up with a Wedding Dress and What Will Become of It: Tales from the Thrift Store

A while ago, I was at one of the two thrift stores I frequent. There was a huge rack of used wedding dresses at ridiculous prices (high ones, that is). Needless to say--having already done a wedding in a green dress at the courthouse--I did not give them more than a glance.

The employee asked me if I wanted a wedding dress. I said no, for the above reason. He said We'll never sell them and they are taking up a lot of space. You can have them for $3 each.

I felt a bit sorry for him. So I picked out JUST ONE, figuring I could perhaps take it to the Buffalo Exchange for Halloween. I took a silk one and thought that the creative and handy Miss Em could use the fabric for something. Two possibilities.

Miss Em and I asked at the Buf. No, they didn't want wedding dresses for Halloween. Miss Em thought the dress was too nice to cut up. We put it in the DONATE pile.

Then--the fateful sentence: Maybe I'll try this on.  Then an exclamation: It fits perfectly.

We put it back in the DONATE pile. Miss Em is not planning a wedding at the moment and she's sufficiently contrarian to NOT want a traditional white dress.

An hour later, another fateful sentence: I've always wanted to make a Snow Queen costume for Halloween.

No, I am not allowed to post a photo. (Below from Once Upon a Time wiki)

The Snow Queen

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Further Decluttering: The Dreaded Ebay and Bulky Items

I am continuing to make use of my dear daughter. She offered to sell some things on Ebay for me. I vowed many years ago that I would never have another yard sale or sell on Ebay. So far, I have kept my vows.

However, I do have some things cluttering up my space that I can't quite bring myself to get rid of. Put that in the past tense.

Thanks to Miss Em, I am now--or soon to be--the proud UN-OWNER of a pair of Filson garments (too big, too heavy for my guys) and some cowboy boots. And a giant puffy coat in an unfortunate shade of magenta. And a few other things.

Of course I made some rookie-mistakes. One, I priced too low, so had several items whoosh away on a too low BUY IT NOW. Second, not knowing how much shipping had gone up over the years, I offered FREE SHIPPING.

I consider my selling midway between making some money and getting ready to declutter for retirement. If I look at things that way, I have been successful.

Also the two Filson jackets and the big down coat took up a lot of space. Getting bulky items gone is a good thing.

P.S. We did not unload another space hog: a wedding dress (not mine! I got married in a green dress from a yard sale). More on the fate of that bulky item later.

We said bye-bye to this. The buyer got a good deal too.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some Snippets of Our Balkan Journey Last Summer: Immensities and Little Things

I've mentioned that Mr FS and I met up with Miss Em (and, briefly. Frugal Son) in the Balkans last summer. I feel like a Henry James heroine when I say that the experience was immense. But it was. Some of the immense emotional response comes from the region's history. As with 9/11 in the United States, everyone who was alive during the recent genocidal conflicts remembers what happened.

Part of the immense response for also comes from my encounter with a bit of my family's journey from another genocidal conflict to safety in the United States. A stay in Belgrade was a step on that journey and I was at last able to meet the surviving member of my family (a cousin's widow) and to stay in the very house that provided shelter for seven members of my family, including two who are still alive, my mother Renee and her cousin Herbert.

Some day I will write of more of this journey, including a surprisingly moving (though why it was surprising I don't know) visit to the grave of my great-grandmother, which she shares with her daughter, my grandmother's sister.

If our whole visit was as emotionally thrilling/draining as the above summary suggests, I would have been prostrate on a couch for the whole time. However, as Mr FS always says (I think this is from his beloved Proust), the trivialities are as meaningful as the big things. I haven't posted on the little things either.

But guess what? Miss Em--home for 2 months before a return trip to Serbia--has, in addition to helping me declutter, resumed her charming drawings. The last four or so are from the time of our visit.

True to the Balkan experience, half the drawings (so far) are of food. Check out her Snippets if you  have a chance.