One of the very nice things about the spiritual “path” is getting over yourself and losing your egoic pride. I was joking with a friend a few months ago about my new-found love for bargain shopping for fashionable threads. “I could have my pride,” I said, “but I’d have no clothes . . .” The point was that back in the day when I was too arrogant (and ignorant) to go to thrift stores, my wardrobe suffered tremendously. As a struggling student, I couldn’t afford very many beautiful clothes, so I was limited to getting a few nice pieces a year. Now I have the most extensive and gorgeous wardrobe I’ve ever had – not only because I’m now gainfully employed – but also because I can get a few nice pieces every day for less the cost of a Starbucks latte.
Anyway, after I got into thrift shopping for clothes, I started to branch out and figure out how I could save money on other things, too. I haven’t turned into an extreme coupon shopper or taken it to the lengths that real bargain hunters have, but I have undoubtedly started saving thousands of dollars a year by making some simple changes to what I am willing to spend money on.
In addition to regular jaunts to Kmart, the most important addition to my arsenal of thriftiness has been Dollar General. Before this spring, I had not been in a Dollar Store in my entire adult life. At the urging of a friend, I finally checked one out. Like a child in a candy store, my eyes widened with delight as I perused aisle upon aisle of mostly brand-name products that were all – you guessed it – ONE DOLLAR. I was amazed. I was bitter for the money wasted in CVS, RiteAid and the grocery store on items I could get for 1/3 or 1/4 of the price at Dollar General.
So, here are a list of items I was amazed to find myself buying at the Dollar Store, Kmart, Target or thrift shops, with no downgrade in my happiness or lifestyle:
1. Household cleaning supplies. From laundry detergent to toilet bowl cleaner, really – who needs to spend $5-$7 on this stuff?
2. Toothpaste. I use the same Aquafresh I did before, but I refuse to pay more than $1.
3. Hot sauce. Friends know I’m a hot sauce aficionado. But the generic hot sauce at the dollar store gets the job done just fine.
4. Curtains. I find curtains (and rods) for $1-$3 at my thrift shop. And they’re pretty! I’ve also found really cheap ($3!) gorgeous curtains at Target.
5. Furniture. 99% of my furniture came from thrift shops – especially St. Vincent de Paul’s. In the past, I always got new furniture – and lived to regret it when I would have to sell the pieces a few years later for 1/2 or 1/3 of what I paid. I love my thrifted furniture more than anything I ever got at a retail furntiure shop. Not only are the pieces beautiful and distinctive, but they also cost very, very little. If I move any time soon, I’d probably just donate the items to charity.
6. Electronics. I got my big pretty flat screen HD TV at a rock bottom price from Best Buy. It’s not a brand name – but who cares? Paired with Apple TV ($99), it’s a gorgeous entertainment and educational portal.
7. Kitchen and serving items. These include: trays, cloth napkins, mats, etc. In the past, I would go to Bed, Bath and Beyond and drop $10 for cloth napkins. What a racket. At Selden Thrift out east on Long Island, I found gorgeous napkins and mats sold for about 50 cents each. I love lining my Pier 1 bamboo trays ($4 each) with pretty mats for eating or serving tea. And the cloth napkins add another touch of at-home luxury that I greatly enjoy.
8. Glassware. I get champagne flutes (and any other kind of glass) for $1 from my thrift shops. Great for adding pizazz to dinner parties without the cost – and hey, if someone breaks a few, who cares? At these prices, they’re basically disposable.
9. Plastic containers, sandwich bags. Sold in surprising quantities for a $1 at Dollar General. I wouldn’t use the containers in the microwave, however..
10. Candy. If you have children – or a sweet tooth – you can get all of your favorite brand name candies (and off brands that taste just as good) for $1. Also a good alternative to the $4 fare at the movie theater.
What about you? What items do you like saving money on?