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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Thrift Store Meditations and Frugal Son's Financial Adventures

The thrift store meditations are mine; the financial adventures belong to Frugal Son.

I've often thought that I go to thrift stores for the opportunity to philosophize as much as for the sense of community, fun, and, of course, the stuff. So what is a fancy label if no one recognizes it?

Today I stopped by the Food Bank Thrift ostensibly to donate a few items, but really to look around. They have started to price items individually, so the pace of putting new things out has slowed considerably. Not much of interest, but I did spot a top and capris by the label Per Se. It was an outfit, but the parts were not together.

I would never have heard of this label had I not read a piece last fall in the Wall Street Journal. The writer talked about how she spent big bucks on a St. John set and discovered that this non-trendy outfit garnered her R-E-S-P-E-C-T in upscale restaurants and shops. I, of course, was motivated to test this out and within the week found a St. John jacket at Goodwill for $3.50. I wrote a post about this. (Note to devoted readers: No, I have not had the zipper fixed yet. I will have it done this summer.)

I even added a comment to the WSJ article. Others wrote extolling the similar effects of Carlisle clothing, sold by socially connected women in their homes. Motivated once more, I have been collecting these too at the thrifts and, indeed, two of the jackets elicit compliments.

Per Se is an offshoot of Carlisle. As it happened, the two pieces were a bit small for me (size 6). The pricers marked each piece at $3.00, so obviously they come off as nice, but nothing meriting a higher price. Yet knowing that together the pieces sold for at least $400.00 was a temptation, especially since the pants did sort of fit me. But I resisted. I haven't visited that thrift for a week or so (yes, I am an addict), and I bet the outfit has been passed by more than once. So the set had value to me in large part because I recognized the label.

I wonder if my Carlisle jackets, which are both Chanel-style, elicit the compliments because I know that they were super-expensive. An instructor in fact asked me if one was a Chanel! Is it the jacket that gives off the aura or is it me?

So...if an expensive item is at a thrift store and no one recognizes the label is it still expensive?

On to the financial adventures of Frugal Son. Frugal Son has a lot of freedom financially because, as I have written before, he selected the state university, which handed him a tuition, room, and board scholarship. Last summer, he went to Korea for a month with some friends who had family there. He also worked for 3 weeks in a summer academic program at his beloved residential high school.

He only earned $1000.00, and he just put that into a Roth IRA. He avoided the fees levied on low balance accounts, because he is under our family umbrella at Vanguard. Because he had so little to put away, he was limited to the STAR fund, which, coincidentally, is the fund my own first IRA is in.

His second financial adventure. He wants to buy GE stock! I have never bought an individual stock myself. I am proud of his spirit. It turns out that you can buy GE stock directly without a broker. I said, "Go for it." He has little to lose and much to gain, including knowledge.

Any thrift store philosophy, Dear Readers? Any advice for Frugal Son?


Over the Cubicle Wall said...

I have been looking at the GE stock too lately. Thanks for the tip regarding direct buying without a broker. I am not sure I will pull the trigger on it though. The financing side of the company is a mess, and the traditional part is slow due to the economy. It is tempting though as low as it right now.

Also, I don't know anything about brands :P

Frugal Scholar said...

@Cubicle--You don't have to read my stuff on thrift stores and "high fashio"--but thanks for doing so.

Did you find the site where you can purchase GE direct? It seems very easy. I wonder why my son (college sophomore) hit on this idea. Let me know if you take the plunge. (Son also wants to buy Citibank for some reason)

Duchesse said...

"If no one recognizes the label is it still expensive?" Depends on whether the eye of the beholder can parse quality, or is solely tuned to logos. DH has a German trench coat from the early '60s, given to him by my Dad. Label unknown today, but the quality is so remarkable that waiters, designers and anyone tuned to design asks about it.

Per Se is Carlisle's attempt to attract younger clients. (Carlisle and St John are too "ladies who lunch" for my taste but have admired it when mixed with other clothes, which loosens them up a bit.)

Do you know anyone you could buy the Per Se for as a gift?

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--I've found a few treasures like that trench coat over the years. Carlisle is terribly old-lady and I find it and Per Se awfully fussy, but my new uniform of Carlisle jacket and jeans has worked well this year.