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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Wishing you a very Merry Thriftmas!

Breaking the bank again this season?
Remember:  Just because you still have checks doesn't mean you still have money!  
Don't drain your bank accounts and rack up your credit cards trying to keep up with the hype of providing the most sought after gifts this holiday season.  
Instead, how about a little unconventional giving?  
Let's make Christmas this year a little less commercial, a lot less stressful and a great deal more memorable for your family and friends!  
The "unconventional" I'm referring to is the way it used to be when no one had tons of money and they had to rely on their own imaginations to create a perfect holiday for their loved ones.  Everyone has such great memories of simpler times when Christmas wasn't about the cost of your gifts and how many you got, it was about attending church, getting together with family and friends and celebrating the season!


Here's some of my stories and ideas that I hope will inspire you to roll back your holiday to simpler times:
Don't be an overachiever:  It's great that you have the ability to provide wonderful gifts for children, but please take into consideration that their parents and SANTA have to account for their actions when you have provided WAY MORE than either of them have.  Also take into consideration that the parents are more than likely strapped for cash and are doing the best they possibly can in providing ample gifts for everyone.  Can you imagine how they might feel if you provide more than them and make them look bad?   Example:  Being a single mother with NO cash I was able to spend a limited amount of money for Christmas on my only child, then 2.  Imagine my HORROR when I brought her downstairs on Christmas morning and it looked like Toys 'r Us blew up in my living room!  It was completely filled with things she did not need, was too young for and entirely too many toys for one child to enjoy.  There in the corner, pushed aside, were the items I had bought her for Christmas...completely minimized by a mesmerized child who had no idea where to begin.  Honestly..the only thing that was not covered was the car she would get a 16!  To add insult to injury, all of these presents were purchased by my sister's boyfriend who had a really sick need to be continually recognized for his efforts.  The next few hours went a little like this:  

My sister, "Who go you that, Ashley?"
Ashley:  "Santa!"
My sister:  "No, Uncle *&^% did!

As horrible as it sounds, I sat in the corner silently wishing one of the WONDERFUL gifts would have been a blow gun so I could use it on the goof!

The moral of this story:  Think before you act!  If you feel the need to overachieve, perhaps it could be blamed on Santa instead of used as a tool to make those less fortunate feel even worse about their efforts?

Last year's popular gifts can be purchased at minimal pricing at thrift and consignment shops!
I remember being pressured by a family member in the 90's to purchase "the only two things that my daughter asked for for Christmas", MALL MADNESS and MYSTERY DATE.   I gave in and I bought them for a whopping $44 bucks each!  Caving to peer pressure I neglected to consider that:

a)  She is an only child
b)  Sorry, I'm not playing these games with her
c)  Even when her friends and family came over they didn't play them!
The moral of this story:  Kids want everything they see on TV.  What is popular today will be quickly replaced by something even better and you've wasted your money on the last "hot item".  Don't cave to peer pressure and always trust your better judgement.
Needless to say, that's the year she no longer believed in Santa Claus and the years following she was given cash to buy exactly what she wanted, which I will discuss later in this post.

Here's my point:
We're all thrift shoppers at heart and want the best possible bargain.  Just the other day I saw MALL MADNESS in mint condition at GOODWILL and was reminded again that this was not such a good purchase at $44 retail, but you could now steal it for $3.  I was also reminded that it apparently lacked any substance as the "desirable" game of the season as here it is, many years later, in mint condition.  After having my silent retail horror flashback, I left it on the shelf where it will probably sit for another 20 years!

Getting back to overachievers, they really do provide a great service to thrifters.  (Though I do apologize to any of you who endured the same horror as I did!)  You see, since they provide more products than one child can use, many of their purchases end up in secondhand shops and thrift stores in mint condition.  Now we're talking!  If you are patient, you can collect all sorts of neat gifts for your loved ones at a small fraction of what they cost retail.

Start a new tradition!  How about Santa leaving gifts unwrapped under the tree?  Go to the thrift store and purchase some of these barely used items in great condition.  Who cares if they have a box?  You don't need one!  And now you don't need to waste money on wrapping paper either.  In addition to the money you've saved and the wrapping paper you did not use, some other poor sap has not only assembled these toys for you, but they spent painstaking hours putting the little decals on too!  It's a no brainer!
My challenge to you:  Pick one child and take $20 to a few thrift and consignment shops of your choice and see what types of items you can come up with for gifts now that you don't have to bother wrapping them or putting them together.  When you are done, research these items and see what you would have paid if you purchased them retail.  Put them under the tree and watch your magic!  Not only have you provided some excellent gifts, you did it at a fraction of the cost.
Remember that wrapping paper you didn't use??  It will come in handy for this next project:

Goody Baskets!

Ever been to a benefit or silent auction and you notice that most of the baskets donated are from the same person?  How do you think they did it?  I think you've caught on, but I'll tell you anyway...


Any great THEME BASKET starts out with a trip to the thrift store.  Look at how many wonderful items you find there with the tags still on them or that are in mint condition.

Theme baskets are perfect gifts and let you use your imagination to create one of a kind memories.

They don't necessarily need to be in the form of baskets, either.

 How cool would it be for your nieces and nephews to get an inexpensive snow disc (purchased at a retail store) wrapped with ski pants, hats, scarves, gloves, hats and boots (purchased from a thrift store)?  Throw in a package of hot chocolate, a mug and a poem or note indicating that you will be taking them sledding at the next possible opportunity.  Would you be the coolest aunt or what?  Heck to the yeah!
How about a game night package?  Scoop up all the $3 games in mint condition and present them to your loved ones with a promissory note of having them over for pizza and game night.
Grandma's Attic:
Got little girls who love to play dress up?  Leave the messy make up alone and replace it with bling!  Since the airlines reduced their luggage sizes there are lots of big old suitcases just prime for the pickin' at thrift stores to nothing! 

Pick out some great costumes (1/2 off after Halloween), clothes, purses, lots of shoes and jewelry and fill the suitcase with them.  It's amazing what you can come up with and it will provide hours of enjoyment!

Got little boys instead?  Fill it with trucks, fire engines, bugs and spiders, GI Joes, etc.  Don't forget the army men!

Have someone who really loves your cooking?  Buy them all of the ingredients and make a gift basket.  Include your special recipe and some other kitchen items in your basket.

There are so many themes you can create that will be perfect for gift giving and cost only a fraction of what you would pay retail.

I always threatened to make a basket of all the junky little toys at the checkouts that I refused to buy Ashley because they would break before I got them out of the package.  The only reason I have not done this yet is because I still refuse to buy them unless they are in a $2 grab bag at a thrift store.  (It would be funny though!)

Now, about that wrapping paper you don't need anymore?  Shred it and use it for filler in your baskets.
Where do you get baskets in bulk?  Salvation Army on Lesh Rd in Canton usually has big old bags of baskets for $3-5.  Take what you'll use and donate the rest back for the next person to buy.

Wrappings?  My favorite and most inexpensive wrapping is Tulle.  I buy it in 25 yard bolts and it looks wonderful on a basket.  You can usually purchase it with the 50% coupon from JoAnn Fabrics and get a much better deal, but there are also sites on the internet with some really good prices.  Use zip ties (Dollar Store / assorted sizes) to pinch them off and add your bow there.  I do, however, find discarded Tulle at the thrift stores on occasion which is the best pricing I have found!  (You can also use Tulle to create your own balloon drop, saving the price of helium, but that's a whole other blog!)
Explaining the fact that I gave Ashley money to buy exactly what she wanted for Christmas:

This seems insensitive, but here's why I did it:  By the time she was 12 she had an agenda all her own.  This was the time that she would tear jeans up and make her own outfits, rip t-shirts and string them with side panels, etc.  There really wasn't anything I could possibly buy that she would like.  The thought of wasting one dime on something that would not get used or would go to waste was unbearable.  In addition to teaching her the value of money, she also got to hand select the perfect gifts for herself.  (Of course she had to wrap them all and suffer without them until Christmas though.)  There was always a few things she didn't know about wrapped for her along with a bag of natural pistachios that are her favorite!
This brings me to the point of re-gifting.  While I am very thankful for unwanted gifts that end up in thrift stores for me to buy later, it really is a shame that people pay as much as they do for things that are not wanted.
Making gifts baskets about food, drink or other useful items just makes sense.  It brings us back to the simpler time when homemade gifts were a blessing by those who made them and cherished by those who received them.  Do you ever find yourself picking up meaningless gifts just to have them on hand in case they are needed?  Make something instead!

Now I will caution you, you may still get your feelings hurt!  When in doubt, stick to food and drink!  Remember those really cool Quillows (Quilts that folded into pillows when not being used) that were popular in the 90's?  Yeah, those ones.  I thought I was cool making one in Americana material to present to a new friend of mine to use in her newly constructed house that had that decor.  Imagine my surprise when I visited and found that the use for it was in the dog's bed!  Instantly deflated my ego, totally insulted me and haven't talked to her since!  Looking back at it now, I realize that she didn't have children and adored that dog as if it were her own child.  It had the coolest bed, it was a covered wagon.  Perhaps I should suck it up and call her?  She was a good friend.  I'm just sayin'...what was an insult to me may have been perfectly logical for her.

In all seriousness, now, I hope to have presented you with some useful information to make your season brighter and less expensive.  Fight the urge to shop retail and replace it with resale!  Remember that in shopping resale you are still supporting charitable causes!

Merry Thriftmas to all and to all a good plight!

Here's a bonus non-Christmas idea for you to ponder for your next vacation or event:
Planning a trip to Disney??

This is perhaps the most brilliant idea I have ever heard!

My sister was taking her 4 year old to Disney World and of course was on a very restricted budget.  She had the sense to put her thrifting skills to work and make it a huge success!

Realizing just how many discarded and again in WONDERFUL SHAPE Disney items she saw at the thrift stores she started stockpiling before her trip.  

She arrived at Disney with her little girl and a big bag.  Like a super hero (I gave her some of my Megathrift powers before she left) she was able fight the temptation of peer pressure and inflated retail pricing by reaching into her bag and producing the same item she had already purchased at a fraction of the cost.  It was a sad day for Mickey Mouse, but a great day for them!

**This can also be useful when attending the circus**

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