Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What I did not buy

Maryanne and I love colorful thrift shop finds. Recently we chatted about walking away from things we really didn't need. Maryanne calls it "practicing contentment."

As a Christian blogger, I do worry about abstaining from even "the appearance of evil,"--in this case, spending without purpose. I would hate for someone to buy what they didn't need because of my example. It's taken me a few years to learn the lesson of "enough" for myself!

After all, for every find I photograph, I can't show you the times I walked out of a thrift store empty-handed, or the tempting items I put back on the shelf.

Or could I?

This week, the Goodwill shelves overfloweth. Drawn by all the autumn decorations I've seen online, I found myself picking up item after item. Before I knew it, my cart brimmed with the thrifty harvest.

Did I really need this stuff? I snapped a photo as I reconsidered the haul.

  • I did need the wooden bowls for a quarter. I came specifically to buy two matching containers for fall flower gifts.
  • The brown corduroy skirt just sings fall, and yellow tags are half-off. But, this probably isn't the most flattering style. Back to the rack.
  • Farewell, sweet acorn-and-oak tray. Old trays are getting harder to find, and this one had a vintage patina well worth its 99-cents. But, don't I already have a wall of tole trays? Can't I just put a sprig of oak leaves on one of those and call it fall?
  • This mossy tangle of berries is much more handsome than the Dollar General bouquet we put on my late father-in-law's headstone. (He's in the fake flower section of the cemetery, and we visit once a season to freshen things up.) With the same $4, I could buy a package of daffodil bulbs and a six-pack of pansies to plant instead.

I hope you enjoyed seeing what I didn't buy! The feeling of contentment is almost as good as the thrill of the hunt.


Amy said...

Wow, that is a great post and a good reminder! I know how hard it is to do that and I struggle with that myself. Thank you for reminding me of this important lesson!!

martha said...

Thank you for role-modeling contentment. I can't help but wondering....since you have such a knack for finding treasures....if you were looking to make some money you could easily sell online. But I suppose you're trying to simplify your life, and this might not be the time to start a new enterprise. Just a thought, and another note of appreciation.

*carrie* said...


I really appreciated the perspective you offered in this post. A deal is not a deal if we don't need it! Thanks for sharing--

Tamara said...

Meredith, once again you've hit the nail on the head, and I appreciate the godly wisdom you've shared!

I made the garage sale rounds this weekend, with several items on my list. I managed to find everything I was looking for, but in the back of my mind, I was thinking, "Meredith wouldn't pay this much", or "Meredith would look for higher quality". And actually, that helped me to turn away from some of the items I was considering!

In the end, I'm pleased with my finds, but I'm grateful for the reminder that just because it's a great find, doesn't mean I "need" it! It has helped me to approach yard sales with a shopping list.

Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a wonderful post. And I love the term practicing contentment. :)

Marbel said...

I was glad to see this post. So many times I see frugal blogs focusing on buying, not refraining, particularly about nonessential items. (And I don't mean to say that fall decorations are nonessential.)

Somewhere I read an article about buying from the dollar store - spending small amounts of money on little unnecessary and ultimately unfulfilling items, and pointing out that if those dollars had been saved, something more useful, or nicer or more important could have been purchased later.

Miranda said...

Thanks for the reminder. I, too, walked away from several things yesterday. We are facing some mounting medical bills and I couldn't bear to part with one cent. It's so nice to know that I'm not alone.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this perspective Meredith. I am working on this too. Since much of it is the thrill of the find, I would think taking a picture could be very satisfying--if I can get a camera phone free when I renew my plan maybe I will start doing that too.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am probably standing out from the pack here, but isn't part of the fun of living on a budget the fact that it affords one the chance to have money left over for a little fun and frivolity? Maybe it's just the life stage I am in, but I find that if I have to be serious about EVERYTHING I buy, I lose heart, and want to give up completely. I LOVE the fact that a thrift store lets me have fun, getting things that are pretty for my home, without a big outlay of cash. I get the point that we shouldn't always be buying just to buy, but buying to have some fun is ok sometimes, too, I think. We have 5 kids, live on one income, and the pleasures that we can afford are pretty limited in comparison to what many in the world would consider a pleasure. The "mad money" we spend at the thrift store not only buys items we actually "need", but provides for unexpected treasures we didn't even know were out there! I guess my point is to not make moms feel too badly for spending a little bit of money for no particualr reason at the thrift store, etc. when most of them, especially homeschooling moms, or moms who stay home with young children, etc, don't always have much in the way of things they do just for themselves!

Anonymous said...

I don't see how Meredith is saying not to buy anything frugally or of a thrifty value. This subject is something I have been commenting about for several weeks myself and seems to be spreading amongst the frugal blogs (which I think is a good thing).

There's nothing wrong with shopping thrift stores or yard sales, etc. At some point though, it is easy to make ourselves believe that any type of shopping, even "thrifty" shopping is okay or even more acceptable. Any type of shopping can become excessive, and it's a wise woman who will stand back and really think "do I truly need this item" rather than just buying it because it's inexpensive.

Many bargains in the end will still mean clutter, whether it costs .25 or $25.00.

Sometimes NOT buying is the best way you can help your family's future. One never knows what tomorrow may bring and too many people live for today.

Good for you, Meredith for taking a frugal stand!

Anonymous said...

Susan-I agree that it is fun to find those unexpected treasures at the thrift stores or garage sales when you are shopping for those things you need and not to be a serious shopper all the time. However, too much of a good thing can sometimes turn on you. I'm blessed with thrifts in my area that have a wonderful abundance of goodies that are very tempting. I've given in to that temptation of things I don't need which results in lost money, lost time and a lot of clutter.

Meredith said...

Oh, Susan, that wasn't what I was hoping to say at all. I do find a lot of beautiful and nonessential items...most of which I share here already. Thrift shopping is a lot of fun, especially when you can find something you need and something you want for less than the cost of new!

I just wanted to show "the flip side" of thrift shopping...what goes through my mind as I evaluate a purchase...and how I keep my budget in balance by bringing home only a sliver of what I find.

Jenny's Vegcafe said...

I agree with you completely but I can't help thinking, "I wish I had that tray."

It -is- a sickness. ; )

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

It seems my Goodwill and thrift store finds are either feast or famine lately. I'm wondering if the "feast" comes when someone with similar taste has dropped off items.

Since we have moved to a smaller home and we are on a tight budget, I don't go to nearly as many garage sales as I used to.

I know this sounds strange to some but I ask God to lead me to the garage sales (and Goodwill at times) because HE knows when there is something there I want and need. :)

I agree, beautiful items you found there.

Missy K said...

This post is a good reminder for balance. This was running through my mind this weekend as I put out my home fall decor. Much of it was thrifted, bought on super sale, or given to me. I struggled to find good places to display all my "pretties." There is a time to say, "enough," even to wonderful bargains. Meredith, thanks for so often taking the frugality discussion a level deeper.

Mary Ann said...

Great post, Meredith! It is all about balance. I've thought about this very subject a lot recently. You worded it so wonderfully!

Anonymous said...

Meredith, I've put off making the Apricot Nectar cake until I could find a non-stick bundt pan. There it was at Salvation Army today, 50 cents, heavy and with no scratches in the coating! However, I did think about your post today and returned over half of the items in my cart before checkout.

How does it feel to know Thrifters Around the World are influenced by what you're writing ; ) ?

deb meyers

Natalie W. said...

Meredith, I learned of your blog through Biblical Womanhood. I work in Nashville and I read your post about your great thrift store finds for 1$. Talk about an awesome, frugal deal! I just wanted to let you and other TN residents know that when I stopped by there today they were having another "all you can fit in this bag for 1$ sale." It looked a little picked over to me...but I'm not super savvy on these things. Thought I'd pass along the info! Best, Natalie

Anonymous said...


Apolpgies to you! No, I know that was not what you were trying to say. I think I just have a dark cloud over my head today since a sweet little 11 month old daughter of mine kept me up last night from 12:15am to almost 3:00am for no apparent reason! She's as happy and as cheerful as can be today...but I'm not!!! I do think it's a good thing to have some mad money for thrifting, etc., but I will also agree with all your commenters that too much of a good thing is too much! And since we live 4o miles from the nearest thrift store (and 40 miles from almost everything else, too!), it's very easy for us to go overboard when we shop, just because we're so thrilled to have a chance to buy something!! Beautiful home things are especially tempting to me, but since we have literally outgrown our house the past few years with the birth of 3 more children, I am finding that it causes stress, and isn't a blessing, when I have too much. So, enough said by me. You had a wonderful post that made me do some thinking today, and that's always a good thing! But I have to agree with your other poster....I love the tole tray, and don't think I could have put it back!
Thanks, Meredith-

Anonymous said...

As an "over 50" lady, I admire Meredith's thrift store restraint. I have over-indulged in great bargains,that weren't such a bargain for my family. What I have come to realize is a bargain is no bargain if you a) never use it even though it was only a few dollars, b) never get around to giving it to someone or ebaying it like you planned, c) have more at home just like it, but want it anyway, d) have long since run out of storage, e) never get around to fixing, hemming or refinishing it, etc.. and finally. e) you suspect you are trying to fill a "hole" and feel He is being replaced on the throne by "stuff" and the pursuit of it.

Just talking about me, no one else--

Bless you Meredith, for addressing this topic.


Roberta said...

Funny you mention this today as we popped into the thrift store today, on the return trip from an appt, looking for jeans for my son (as all his other pairs currently have holes in the knees). Praise God we found a brand new name brand pair. I also picked up and admired a vintage set of casserole/refrigerator dishes that I wanted SO VERY MUCH!!!! But after a time of admiration and searching for a justifiable reason to purchase them set them back on the shelf (a few times) as I knew it would not be a blessing to my husband to add more clutter and spend the $...even if they were so beautiful and useful. Still thinking about them though. :)

Anonymous said...


I so enjoyed hashing this important issue out with you. It is really important to me to both learn the art of beauty on a dime, and the other side of it all: restraint. And contentment. I have to say that clutter is really not my thing, so the more our house fills with kids, the less "stuff" appeals to me for "stuff's" sake. However, I would also say that like you, if it is beautiful and very inexpensive, I can almost ALWAYS use it- for a gift, to supplement a gift, for a thoughtful, just-because. I have never regretted my stash of wonderful treasures that can be pulled out for a teacher, a friend, a sister, a child. You know? It's about enjoying beauty, but as much about being prepared. And that is a HUGE part of being a wife and mother. Seeing occasions coming, and being ready for them with appropriate festivities. Just my two-or-three cents' worth:))))


Anonymous said...

After 25 years of moving 18,000 lbs of stuff we put everything in the barn and only brought to the house what we NEEDED. We are empty nesters and the chicks come home and pick out what they want. There is still plenty in the barn.
There isn't a thrift store in my town- maybe I should start one:>)
Still- a good bargain comes to me-and I hold it and cherish it and usually put it back. Saving for flights to see the grand baby is what I do with the extra fun money:>)

Karla Porter Archer said...

thank you for sharing this!

I've been trying to practice this too.


Hyperactive Lu said...

I loved your finds, but I understand why you didn't get them....I wouldn't have needed them either, but its so hard when its a "deal"... My mom and I discussed this a few weeks ago... Contentment is right!

Carrie J said...

Nice post. I wrote about almost the same thing last Friday in my Frugal Friday post. This seems to be on the minds of lots of people because several of the post last week were on the same topic. Being frugal is using our money to buy the things we need at the best price and using those items well. Even so, sometimes a pretty tray feeds the soul and is worth buying if you need something pretty in your life right then. Much better than going to the mall for something.

TJ said...

Great post Meredith! I did the same yesterday at Target. The dollar section was brimming with fun things, and I began picking up 4 different bath items for my secret prayer partner, and a gorgeous wooden bowl to put them in. Then a few packages of toys that were perfect prizes for my Sunday school students to trade their good behavior coins in on (long story as to why there was a need), while in line I saw someone purchasing school supplies at .06, and .12 a piece. So I got out of line, found the 6 cent rulers, the 12 cent pack of pens and 24 mechanical bright colored pencils for .98 cents. I also found 2 Christmas presents for my daughter at $2 a piece. Then I realized it was too much. so I took back my dollar find bath stuff, and prizes but kept the bowl as it will be perfect for some other gift for my prayer partner. I felt silly taking out so many items, but I'm glad to hear others do the same.

Michelle said...

Great post Meredith. I am officially convicted. So much so that I posted about it on my blog as well. See, you should have posted this BEFORE I went to the Goodwill on Tuesday and then I wouldn't have had buyer's remorse! Yes, yes, that'll work! I'll just blame you for my implusive buying ways! heehee!

Rose of Sharon said...

Oh.....I love it! I do the same thing. If it kind of speaks to me I throw it in the cart because if I leave it on the shelf some other thrifter might snag it! At the end of my spree I do the "should I or shouldn't I" routine and put back most of it! I agree with what you say about not just spending because it is cheap, we still need to practice not hording!

Blessings to you and your family! Sharon

Anonymous said...

Good post. I just found your blog and am sure enjoying it. Lots of wisdom. I just had to write to you to say I have that black tray that I picked up at a thrift store too! I am always finding uses for trays so I had to pick this one up when I saw it