kill the plastic squirrels: retail entertainment

Rethink shopping.  I really am not a huge fan of shopping in most situations.  We practice the ‘no impulse buys’ philosophy.  If you see something you want, and you remember it 24 hours later, then you can go back and get it.  This saves us HUGE amounts of money!

We went to Garden Ridge to look for some planters for the yard, and only because we were in the area.  We found nothing of interest to buy, but we sure had fun playing in the store.  It’s amazing we didn’t get kicked out.

You might be asking why I would even go into a store since I have no intention of purchasing anything.  Sometimes I just need to get out of the house.  Other times I just like to see about all the current purchasing hype and expensive fashion trends.  We have enough self-control to go into a store and know we’re not going to buy anything, so we go to look around and have some fun.  There are so many phone-camera photo ops in retail stores.

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If it’s the thought that counts, think about it.

I wasn’t going to do much blogging on holiday shopping, but people keep asking me what kind of stuff I’m buying for Christmas gifts or what are good gifts to give that give back to people in need?  So here it is… my brain dump on Christmas shopping.  Yes, I call it Christmas shopping, not holiday shopping.  I suppose we could also call it Black Friday shopping.  It seems as though that’s become a bigger holiday than the actual Christmas holiday we’re shopping for.

Now that I think about it, these principals could apply all year long and to any holiday where it is customary to give a gift.  Birthdays and Christmas are the two big ones.

So what gift shopping is considered good?  Shopping in and of itself is not bad, it’s some of the things associated with it that are bad.  Debt is bad.  Buying gifts for people you don’t want to buy gifts for because you’ve succumbed to the cultural purchasing pressure is bad.  Buying people stuff they don’t want or need is bad.  Spoiling kids with a bunch of stuff they don’t need is bad.  If it’s the thought that counts, then let’s think about it.  There are many positive ways to shop, supporting good for humanity, the environment and for your pocketbook.

Service, not stuff.

You might believe our country is using up most of our planets’ resources and you might be trying to lower your carbon footprint as much as possible, or you might even think that’s all an bunch of hype.  No matter which end of the spectrum you’re on, buying services versus physical goods is, well, all around good.  Why?

  • You’re supporting a skill or a trade.
  • You’re helping the economy without physical stuff.
  • You don’t have to worry if the recipient likes your gift, and the best part? No looking around their house to make sure they’re using the item you gave them and no getting your feelings hurt when they tell you the dog broke it.
  • Maybe the gift recipients will get this concept too, then they won’t give you anymore giant golf ball candles, Chia pets or Santa figures that poop candy.
  • Most service places have gift cards or gift certificates.
  • It takes less time to shop because you can shop at places you do business while everyone else is in line at W*%#@!t.
  • There’s a better chance they’ll have a need for a service than a need for more stuff.  If you need something, or even want something, you go buy it, right?  Why would your giftees be any different?  Well, they could be unemployed.  If that’s the case, they have needs, not wants.

So what are good services to buy?  There are many choices here, some more practical than others.  Some of these services could be provided by you, which means no cost to you other than your time.   Continue reading

…customers will form a line outside the store…

I love reading and making fun of the Black Friday ads, but better than that, reading the fine print can be quite entertaining.  I started this last year on black friday.  I got to do it this year with my friends Jason and Carrie.  You can read last year’s post about this or just read this year’s insanity.  Get out your reading glasses…

Let’s start with the big stuff.

ACADEMY.COM OPEN THANKSGIVING DAY!  Wow!  What a great idea!!  Have your online story open on Thanksgiving day!!  Why didn’t anyone else think of that???  LOWES.COM says you can start on Thursday.  Sure glad they gave me permission!

Guitar Center:  They have happy returns and surprise protection.  And you can shop from your smartphone!  Again, why didn’t I think of that???

Kohl’s Early Bird Deal:  For $19.99 (regularly $49.99) you can get a motion-activated candy dispenser.  (a) It’s plastic crap nobody needs, (b) do you really want candy spilling out on the floor every time you walk by this thing?  (c) It probably takes batteries, and really big ones.  (d) Does your family need candy?  You probably still have leftovers from Halloween.  (e) Candy not included.

Now for some fine print.

Old Navy:  Customers will form a line outside the store.  I guess it’s good to be prepared.  It’s kind of presumptuous though.  And they’re giving out cameras.  If they’re a clothing store, why give out cameras?  I just don’t get it.

Burlington:  *Savings off other fine department stores.  Great!  they’re cheaper than Neiman Marcus!  I’m getting a deal!!

Dick’s Sporting Goods:  Something about a cash bonus.  Here’s a picture of it, because I cannot read it easily and it would take so long to figure out what this deal really is that it’s just not worth it.  The one thing we know is that your $99 purchase must be all the same brand, even though they have 3 brands pictured.  Don’t even think about mixing and matching!

 

the 7 shopping holidays

Black Friday:  So I didn’t go out for Black Friday like I did last year… to make fun of people shopping.  Here’s the video from last year.

Small Business Saturday:  Why is this after the big retailers get all the money (applied credit card debt) the day before?  Seems like people supporting this cause may want to skip Black Friday.  I like supporting small businesses whenever I can, and I also like supporting service based businesses.  Less buying stuff, but it still keeps people employed without creating more waste for this planet.

Cyber Monday:  Is there really any money left for this?  Lots of credit I guess.  It seems as though you would want to start with this, as you don’t have to fight crowds and drive around.  If I was going to shop, this would be the way.

So there’s still four more days in the week that are not associated with shopping.  I would like to take this opportunity to use and name all of them now.

No Shopping Sunday:  Just don’t shop.  Do you really need the stuff you’re buying?  Take a break.  Spend some time with friends and family.  Take a long bubble bath.  Do a staring contest with your dog.  Clean your car.  Fix that loose door knob you’ve been ignoring for a year.  Stay out of stores.  Your bank account will thank you.  This particular shopping holiday can be applied any day of the week.

Service Only Tuesday:  Instead of buying stuff, use services.  Get your nails done.  Get your car washed.  Get a massage.  Support people that use their skills for a living instead of filling the planet with more stuff.

Resale Wednesday:  Buy used stuff.  Shop at a thrift store or resale shop.  Buy on eBay or craigslist.  If you buy it with door dings, you don’t have to worry so much about it looking perfectly new.  A lot less stress.

Benefit Others Thursday:  Buy something that benefits other people with your purchase.  Buy a pair of TOMS or a pack of gum from Project 7.  If you just need to spend money, go give a Kiva loan or support a cause through micro lending.

Okay, so I’m being a bit snarky, but at what point do we say enough is enough?  You can try and keep up with the Joneses, but let’s be real.  You really think they paid cash for all that stuff?  I wouldn’t want to be sitting on their nest egg.  Did you notice all of this is based on Christmas, yet I didn’t even have to mention that word.  Did you miss it?

hours and hours of fun for only $16

The first thing I do when I’m on vacation in a new city is scope out all of the local thrift stores and resale shops.  It was raining yesterday, so the kids couldn’t do some of the things they had planned, so we hit the thrift stores.  The first one had some cool stuff, but way higher prices than what I’m used to.  The second store was a combo resale-thrift store.  I found a great t-shirt there, but they only take cash.  Of course I didn’t have any cash with me.  The boys found a treasure here, something I had when I was their age, but I said no impulse buys.  If they wanted it, they were going to have to return the next day to get it.  I was going back, after a bank run, to get my t-shirt.

The third thrift store didn’t have much that peaked my interest, that is until I turned the corner and found this little gem for $2.  A vintage Polaroid 600 camera.  Now that there’s a company making film for these, they’re not as easy to find.  These are selling on eBay from $10 to $50.  Replicas are going for up to $150.  This little beauty was only $2, an expenditure that was not part of the $16 hours of fun that I’m about to share with you.  I’ll have to order the film for this.  Did I need this?  No.  My kids and I will have some fun with it, then probably turn around and sell it.

My kids were talking the entire time about the vintage toy back at the second shop.  Honestly, I knew they would appreciate it and it was a cool flashback for me.  When we returned, the nice lady working there greeted us with a big smile and said, “You’re back!”  We bought the vintage toy…

Meet Rex, a 70’s vintage string puppet named after our favorite restaurant in Steamboat Springs, CO.  He cost $16, a price that seemed fair for a real vintage toy.  My boys have a great appreciation for vintage things, as they love our 12 rotary dial phones as much as I do.  We decided to take Rex out on the town!  Continue reading

minimalist challenge update… 88% depreciation?!

With a goal of 365 items, downsizing one item a day over a one year period, has proven to be more difficult than I imagined.  With the exception of my garage, there’s just not much left to downsize in my house.  When I open a cabinet or a drawer, thinking I might be able to find some things I’m not using anymore, I’m rarely able to find anything.  This is good, as I don’t have a lot of clutter and a lot of stuff, but on the other hand, I still have 214 items to go.

Now I still have a lot in my garage.  Way less than I had a few months ago, but still way more than I need.  The problem with that right now is the heat.  It’s too hot to clean anything out, as my garage faces west. It’s a sauna x3.

At 150 items, here’s some financial info… that makes me want to cry.  Think we don’t spend a lot on stuff we don’t need?  Take a look at this.

If I bought these 150 items right now at the store, full price, it would cost me $12,320.36.

I paid $8,523.89 for these items, mostly shopping second hand and discount stores.

I didn’t sell much, as I gave most of it away.  I have made $180.00, with an estimated potential of $1,487.00.  Best case scenario, my stuff depreciated by 88%!!  If this isn’t a reality check, I don’t know what is.

Wow.  Even I’m astonished at these numbers.  Even though I’ve had much of this stuff for many years, it’s still a disturbing snapshot of how much money I can waste.  Have you ever added up how much money you’ve spent like this?  If so, please share.

The 3 most difficult things to part with so far 

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I paid full price… twice

Yes, I paid full price.  Two times.  But it was planned.

As I said early on in the no retail shopping challenge, I would love to have a pair of TOMS shoes.  I love what they’re doing and if I buy a pair of shoes, a child that is in need of shoes gets a pair.  The one-for-one model.  [day 295]  I went to the mall… I know, but let me explain!  I went to the mall to go have my phone checked out at the Apple store.  I told my son I would take him to the Lego store too.

After going both of those places, wondering how I’m going to lower my blood pressure, I made my way back to Nordstrom’s, where I parked.  The ambient noise included crowds of people doing their weekend shopping routine and the louder noises of my son chatting about plastic crap and how Lego pieces are not crap and his friend begging to go to girl stores to clothes shop.  Why are these kids with me??!?

We stopped in Nordstrom’s in the shoe department to try on some TOMS.  I guess I could have bought them there, and I might have, but they didn’t have the color I wanted in the right size.  I decided to go home and buy them online.  The shopping experience is just not my happy place.

I bought my ash gray canvas TOMS online.  I paid about the same price I would have at Nordstrom’s when you calculate shipping for the online order versus tax that I would have paid retail.  I also bought a pair of TOMS boots, or botas, as they call them.  These were not an impulse buy, as I’ve been planning on buying boots for months.  I’ve been looking at thrift stores but either women don’t have boots or they don’t give them away.  Now that I have two pairs of TOMS, I feel like I bought two pairs of blank canvases to paint.

While thinking of what I will paint on my TOMS, I found a pair of beige Sanuk’s at Plato’s Closet for $10.  Screaming deal, but I’m allergic to beige.  Yes, these are perfect to paint!  I can practice my painting techniques and ideas on these.  I used fabric paint, fabric dye, old fabric scraps, glue and acrylic paint.  I also used a piece of iridescent plastic and some paint pens. So what happened?  All of my ideas worked just fine.  They’re a bit bright, so my next pair of painted shoes will be toned down a bit, but all in all, they turned out good.

I feel good about all three of these purchases.  Why?

Goodwill. Two kids somewhere got a pair of shoes they desperately needed.  TOMS are not cheap, but what they’re doing is awesome.  I will gladly support a company that helps people in need.

Good deal. the Sanuk’s were a good deal.  They retail for $54 and I paid $10.  Not my best deal, but still good.  Very comfortable shoes!

Good practice. I was glad to have a pair of practice shoes to paint before painting my TOMS.  I’ve painted shoes before [day 145] but these would be a little different.  $10 is not a bad investment.  I had all of the painting and embellishment supplies.

I also thought of a fundraising idea to do with TOMS to help the kids down at Casa Hogar Elim, and the ball is rolling on that.  Great stuff!  Yes, I feel good about these purchases.  :)

I really tried, but I just couldn’t do it

Since the no retail challenge ended over a month ago, I stil haven’t shopped retail very much.  Shortly after it ended, I thought I would buy a car charger for my phone and a case to protect my iPad 2.  No, I didn’t buy the iPad, I won it.  I’ve been carrying it around in a Ziplock baggie and my friends say it looks like an evidence bag.

Off to Best Buy.  I had no desire to go in there, but I reluctantly crossed the threshold into the air-conditioned abyss of electronics and accessories.  I quickly found the iPad cases, ranging from $39 to $69.  I picked them up, touched them, then I set them right back down.  I just couldn’t spend that kind of money on a case.

I then found the car charger.  $29.99 for the cheapest one.  I carried it around for a little while, then put it back.  I thought maybe I should get one of those car plug converters that change the car outlet into a standard plug outlet.  That was $35.  Again, I picked it up, held it for a moment pondering this purchase, then I put it back.

I left the store feeling like I had wasted time.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to make those purchases and be okay with them.  I ended up using my evidence bag for a couple more weeks until I got my faux leather case for $12.00, including shipping, on eBay.  As for the charger, I ended up buying one retail at the Apple store out of necessity.  I paid $24.99 for it.  I don’t feel great about it and I doubt I will do that again anytime soon.

After a year of no retail shopping, I have really changed.  Honestly, I don’t have less stuff than other people and I don’t live much differently than other people, I just go about my shopping process a lot differently.  Retail shopping just isn’t my thing.  So what if I need something?

Plan. If I plan ahead, I don’t have to buy it right away and I can ‘shop’ around for the best deal.

Need. Do I really need it?  The iPad case was a need, as I have two boys that use it.  It needed protection.  But before I buy something, I like to look for alternatives.  The baggie worked nice for a little while, for screen protection anyway.

Think. Had I really thought about it, I would have realized that buying these things at a retail store would cost more than what I was willing to spend.  And I would have been right.  There’s an hour I’ll never get back.

I’ll retail shop again at some point, but those visits will be few and far between.

lucky brand bag [minimalist challenge item #132]

[item] Lucky Brand shopping bag

[purchase info] Given to me

[time in my possession] Approximately 6 months

[last used] Never

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Thrift store

[info] This might seem like a really ridiculous thing to add to my ‘get rid of’ list, but I have a bunch of shopping bags and I don’t know why.  I don’t shop much, but I still keep a few of these bags around.  I just don’t want to have lots of junk I don’t use or need laying around the house.