Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Thrifty at Thirty?
If there's one thing I learned from my father, it is how to appreciate a good bargain. This doesn't mean I'm cheap. In the past I've paid $500 for a piece of luggage and driven a new car off the lot after paying the full sticker price. (I was young and dumb and didn't know how to haggle.) But as I've gotten older (30!), I find myself looking less and less to material things for happiness. This is a positive thing for me. I don't buy nearly as much useless crap as I used to in an attempt to keep my tiny apartment less cluttered and my bank account more solvent. Although I haven't yet achieved the desired lack-of-clutter level or solvency that I would like, it is--like everything in my life--a work in progress.
Which brings me to Dollar Tree. I spent a few days in Yakima last week and was happy to go visit family and have a few days to do whatever I wanted. The morning I caught the Greyhound bus was the same morning my paycheck had been directly deposited into my account. My bills were all paid and I had some extra money burning a hole in my bank account for the first time in quite a while. The shopping in Yakima may not be first rate, but I figured that I could find something I wanted there in three days time.
So what did I come home with? Four bags of stuff. Three from Dollar Tree and one from Goodwill. Not only did I do all of my mini-vacation shopping on a budget (unintentionally), but I actually bought someone else's castoffs.
I do really love Dollar Tree. I'm not ashamed. My three bags of things consisted of things like sponges, dish detergent, liquid hand soap, cedar blocks for the closet, a hardback book, dental floss, sandwich bags, and Skittles. My total bill was $18.31, which was less than the retail price on the book ($23.95). What thrills me about shopping at dollar stores, especially Dollar Tree, is that I can buy a bunch of household items for so very, very, very much less than I would pay at a place like, say, Fred Meyer. I would have been lucky to get out of a regular store with an array of toiletries and cleaning supplies in a single bag for twenty bucks, let alone all of the stuff I got; so I can't help but revel in the fact that I was being a bargain shopper. Thanks dad. All those years of dragging me to garage sales and scouring the newspaper for free events wore off a little bit. In fact, the receipt is sitting on the counter in the bathroom and I have no immediate plans to throw it away because when I see it, it reminds me of how much money I potentially saved. Brushing my teeth tonight was made more pleasurable because of that receipt.
The Goodwill thrift store was kind of fun too. I bought a shirt for work since I have to fit a specific color scheme and don't really want to invest much in outfits for a place I'm disenchanted with. I figured I could afford to spend four bucks to give me another option to drop into my current workplace wardrobe rotation. And I bought an unopened package of socks that was cheap because of irregularities (maybe they need Metamucil). What I find amusing about this is that the last piece of new clothing I got was a Burberry sweater the week before. It was a gift, and also from the outlet store, but the sale price was still more than I would ever spend on a sweater. This did not keep me from accepting the sweater and entering into a close, deeply meaningful relationship with it.
Am I really turning into my father? Not yet. My years of experience in the service industry (restaurants and spas) means that I know better than to leave two crumpled dollar bills on a thirty dollar tab. And I would never buy a brand new car without a stereo or air conditioning and then drive around with the windows down and a portable radio on the seat next to me (yes, he really did that). My mother was a banker's daughter who grew up with nice things. I think that some of her habits rubbed off on me too.