Friday, August 1, 2014

Gifts Galore!

By committing to live by thrift and frugality this year, we committed that gifts that we give still apply to those "rules." So far most of the gifts that we've given this year have been handmade...

I make onesies! I think I've made 20+ onesies for baby showers and first birthdays this year. During my mommy time at home when we had a newborn (or as my neighbor referred to it as "baby jail"), I created an Etsy shop where I sell these cutie clothes
 It's fun!

As with all of my and Andrew's projects, I'm the one with the vision and Andrew makes that vision possible. We made these crosses for our godson and our baby. I found the idea from a picture online and Andrew made them a reality with a miter saw and wood glue. I finished them up with some wood stain and varnish.

Technically these were Christmas presents from 2013...but I have to share! We made them for my parents and Andrew's aunt and uncle. We put our wine and beer drinking to good use - beer cap stepping stones and wine bottle lanterns! Repurposed plus some new materials.

Another gift idea was to get our one year old friend some books from Half Price Books. Many of the books in the kid's section (and beyond the kids section) are new or barely used.

Besides "things," we've also given the gift of experience. For our friend's first birthday we took him
to the Austin Aquarium and then out for a cupcake treat.

I think people really appreciate thoughtful, handmade gifts!

Adding to the numbers, the value of the onesies...

Year-to-Date Numbers
Secondhand Item Expenses:  $312
Would-be Cost if Purchased New:   $989
Handmade Item Material Expenses:  $230
Would-be Cost if Purchased New:  $520

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ready for Toddler Times

With our baby turning into a little boy comes exploring, new found interests, and the need for bigger clothes. Welcome to Toddler-Land! Since spreading the word to my friends about our secondhand mission, and posting to Facebook, I received many tips, tricks, and recommendations for finding secondhand items.

One of the highest "bang-for-our-buck" purchases has been a toddler wardrobe from our neighbor. She let me look through all of her boys' clothes and pick what I wanted - for $60 I came away with 60 pieces of 18 month - 24 month clothes for our lil tot. Score!

Our little one has taken a liking to cars, or in his words, "beep beeps." Andrew found this race track with 10 cars on Craigslist for $8. My friend Marilyn also bought him some cars at an event held a few times thorughout Austin called Fairytale Threads. I even have scouts looking out for secondhand stuff that I want, haha!

I also went Craigslist hunting for some things…a step stool and a bed rail…both easy to find and both  were sold by someone in our neighborhood - lovin' the community here.

Once Upon A Child is my go-to for baby/little kid shoes. They have never let me down. Everytime I've gone in for a pair, I come away with at least 2 pairs.

At St. Michaels Thrift Shop, I came across this head board I could not pass up - twas only $15! I'll put a fresh coat of paint on it and it'll be good as new to put in the little guy's room for a future big-boy-bed.

My next big purchase for the little will be a "learning tower." Our guy is reaching up to the counter top and wanting to be held so he can see what's going on up there. I've been scouring craiglist for this one and there's not much supply...

In summary, I shop around many different venues (Craigslist, thrift stores, second-hands sales, consignment shops, friends/neighbors) and I can find all my little boy needs to keep him clothed and entertained the secondhand way!

Adding the clothes, shoes, bed rail, step stool, and toy cars to the numbers...

Year-to-Date Numbers
Secondhand Item Expenses:  $312
Would-be Cost if Purchased New:   $989
Handmade Item Material Expenses:  $30
Would-be Cost if Purchased New:  $120

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"New" Mantle

I like to change up our mantel about once a season, with the changing of holidays or whenever I get bored of seeing the same old decor. After adding some recent Goodwill finds to the mantel spread, I took a step back to realize that everything on our freshly changed mantel is second hand!

Found this mirror at a thrift store when I first bought the house. It was ugly gold so I painted it purple to compliment the yellow walls. Now our front door is the same color purple.

This is an oldie from a thrift shop in Iowa City, I believe. I love it - it reminds me of the stars at Quinton's!

A recent find a Goodwill. It's a vase with rusted iron surrounding glass. Unique!

I got this gem at a garage sale when I was shopping for wedding stuff. 

A recent Goodwill find. Retails for $25 and I got it for $12.

My dad made these candle holders (for our wedding) from birch trees that he cut down at their cabin in Minnesota. Thanks Dad!

Finished Product - Ta Da !

Also found a bright green, shapely Crate & Barrel vase from Goodwill to accent our newly painted and tiled bathroom!

Adding the green vase, the iron/glass vase and the wreath to our grand total:

Year-to-Date Numbers
Secondhand Item Expenses:  $114
Would-be Cost if Purchased New:   $279
Handmade Item Material Expenses:  $30
Would-be Cost if Purchased New:  $120

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Consignment Shop Woes

When my dresser starts to look like this:

I know it's time to unload it by donating a bunch of unused clothes to Goodwill!

There is always some stuff that I just can't let go and donate - you know good, name brand, new clothing, that you just never wear but wish you did. Or you will someday. Right? That stuff ended up in a pile in our closet. I've been wanting to try clothing consignment to try to "earn" back some money by selling our used clothes to a store that will then sell them to customers - consignment. Seems easy, huh? Well, upon researching consignment clothing stores in north Austin, it seems as though there is a high demand for used clothing. Many of the stores that I researched wanted the clothes clean (understandable), pressed (that's pushing the envelope), and on hangers (ain't nobody got time for that). The clothing also had to be within 2 previous seasons of the current season. That was definitely a stretch for our clothing.

So after giving up on most consignment stores, I turned to Plato's Closet, a "chain" consignment shop (under the same company as Once Upon a Child, Play It Again Sports, Music Go Round). After a process (with a toddler in tow) of getting the clothes in the store, signing up, and waiting half an hour to an hour, I came back to the store fully expecting at least a couple of our garments (my skinny jeans or Andrew's blazer) to be accepted for consignment, thus putting some change in my pocket. Alas, no. Plato's Closet recommended that I go to an "older" generation type store called Style Encore (again, under the same company as above) to try consignment again. Sigh. So, same song, second verse. This time my skinny jeans were consigned, giving me $2.50. Thank you Style Encore!

I will never do clothing (or any type of) consignment again. The value of my time used to organize clothes, drive over to the store and especially wait while the clothes are being judged does not equal near the dollar amount that I get in return. More importantly is the value that Goodwill receives from my donated clothing by giving people jobs and in turn selling the products to make funds. I will definitely continue to donate our second hand items to Goodwill!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Building community with the help of Craigslist

couple weeks ago our good friends Justin and Paula welcomed their first son, Francisco, into the world.  Becky and I managed to stop by and visit them last weekend to extend our welcome, and during the visit we were honored to accept the responsibility of being little Francisco's godparents!  Prior to Elijah joining our family, I didn't really have much experience with the care and handling of these small human beings we call "babies".  Heck, I changed my first diaper EVER in the hospital after Elijah's birth with what could be described as a "deer in headlights" look on my face.  However, I've come a long way since then, and I held my new godson like a pro.

Prior to our arrival Justin texted me and asked if I would be able to bring my truck when we came over.  (Side note: I purchased my truck secondhand, it's fully paid for, and I have a lofty goal of handing it off to Elijah when he starts driving - only 15 years to go...I've had my Tacoma for a few years now, and I knew when I bought it what I was signing up for:  I was going to become the friend with a truck.  Some truck owners may find this role frustrating, but I don't mind because helping my friends is something that feeds my soul, and it's one way I have for "paying it forward".

As it turns out, Justin needed my and my truck's assistance for picking up an awesome Craigslist purchase for their home.  Justin found a nice patio furniture set at a bargain price relative to what he would have paid at a big-box store for an equivalent product.  The great thing about this purchase is that this patio furniture set is much more than just machined and welded metal used for sitting on and dining outdoors.  It is a key element in enabling Justin and Paula to do something that they are quite passionate about - build community.

What does it mean to build community?  There's plenty of organizations, clubs, groups, etc. out there with a mission, in part, to build a community of people around a shared set of ideas or a common bond.  Having relationships with others in a community fulfills a fundamental human need.  The way in which our friends are trying to build community hits right at home, literally.  In most neighborhoods, it is very common to see patio furniture set up on the back porch/patio of a house rather than the front porch.  When furniture is set up in the backyard, there is also often a nice wooden fence surrounding it to isolate all conversation and gatherings away from the neighbors.  This arrangement many times can prevent a family from even knowing who their neighbors are.  Isn't it amazing that we can live for years next door to someone whose name we don't even know, let alone rarely see them?

Justin and Paula have intentionally put this furniture set in the front yard of their home.  The belief is that if you bring your life outside your home and intentionally visible to your neighbors, they will follow suit and possibly even spend time and have conversation with you.  What a better common bond to build community around than the bond you share with those living on a slice of earth right next to your own!

To close out, you may be curious what the numbers look like for this Craigslist find.  Justin paid $140 for the full set that included 4 chairs, a table, and a large canvas umbrella.  From my research I have concluded that he would have spent approximately $500 for a similar set purchased brand new (~$400 for the chairs/table and ~$100 for the umbrella).

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Nap Mat Sewing How To

The last couple of weeks my patience and fine motor skills were put to the test. I busted out the sewing machine to make lots of gifts for the lovely little ones in our lives, and also a nap mat for the most important little one in our life.

Elijah started a "mother's day out" type program at our church. We call it school. Really, he plays with, eats with, and takes a nap with 8 other 12-24 month old toddlers two days a week. So obviously, when you start "school" you need a nap mat! Well, since I thought it was unsanitary to buy a used one, and I couldn't buy one new, I took on the challenge of making a nap mat. I found some tutorials on the web, but I pretty much just made up my own design as a hybrid of all those tutorials. (SCROLL DOWN TO THE BOTTOM IF YOU CARE NOT HOW TO MAKE A NAP MAT AND JUST WANT TO SEE THE FINAL PRODUCT).

queen size foam mattress pad
fabric (I used sheet sets)
sewing supplies (sewing machine, needles, thread, scissors)

I (ahem, Andrew) started by cutting the foam mattress pad into 4 pieces

1/4 of a mattress pad, then I stacked 2 quarters for extra cushion for the nap mat
 I used a fun graphic sheet set for the fabric to make a washable cover for the foam. The white printed fabric is the part a napping kid lays on. I cut 1 rectangle 39X29 inches from the white and one the same size from the dark blue. I simply pinned the white fabric to the dark blue fabric on the shorts sides (top and bottom), inside out.

I also pinned a fleece blanket to one of the long sides, toward the inside so that when I flipped everything right sides out, the blanket would fold over the kid.

Next, I sewed the pinned layers together on the top, bottom, and blanket side.

On the 4th remaining side, I sewed Velcro. Flipping the edge of the fabric over to create a clean hem, I pinned Velcro with the "soft" side facing in, and on the dark blue I pinned the "rough" side facing out.

Doesn't it look inviting? Why doesn't the adult work day include nap time with a nap mat?

After a couple weeks of toting around the nap mat to and from Elijah's school looking like this….

Cinched together using a tie-down

I decided to add something to wrap it up neatly. I simply sewed four 3 inch wide by 28 inch long strips of fabric by folding them long ways in half, then sewing the edges together with a 1/2 inch border, right sides in. Then I turned the right sides out, folded in one end and sewed it shut to make it look neat. Then I had to pick out some of the "bottom" of the hem to the original nap mat cover in order to create "holes" to stick 2 of the long strips back into the hem, about 5 inches inward from each of the sides. Next I stuck the 2 strips in the "holes" and sewed the part that I picked out. Now I can roll the mat up and tie the ends together to look like this…

I found similar nap mats on for $60 (and I made 2 nap mats with the listed materials). So to add to the "handmade items" of our grand total for purchases…

Year-to-Date Numbers
Secondhand Item Expenses:  $91
Would-be Cost if Purchased New:   $215
Handmade Item Material Expenses:  $30
Would-be Cost if Purchased New:  $120

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Since our baby started going to a "mother's day out" type program at our church, I had some free time to shop alone at Goodwill (Re: I was able to try on clothes without distractions/crying/whining/chasing). I brought home a handful of clothes from Old Navy, Gap, and some other "off" brands, spending about $50. One of the shirts didn't quite seem right so I changed out the buttons to contrast more and give it a glam look.

Not so great looking red pearl buttons
Much better! Gold buttons from JoAnn's
I've also been wanting some storage for Elijah's stuffed animals. I have been looking for some second hand garden baskets for quite some time with no success...

This is SO cute, no?
But I did find a basket that will do the trick! To freshen it up, first, I cut off the nasty handles that looked as if they had been gnarled by a woodland creature.

 Then I painted the basket using simple glossy bright white paint that we have in our paint stash (for a future project of painting all the trim and baseboards in the house). The paint was pretty thick so I watered it down, probably 1:3 water:paint. The paint went on in one coat simply with a 2 inch angled brush. Then for a little something special, I gave it a gold-dipped look by painting the bottom 2 inches with some leftover gold craft paint.

Goldie the dog and her new basket

Party in the basket!
A little work to give some items a 'face lift' so even though they aren't new - they look new!

I spent around $50 at Goodwill for a pair of pants, 4 shirts, and a sun dress. Let's say "new" those items would have cost $125, as a conservative estimate (I only shop sales for "new" clothing anyway ;))…..

 Year-to-Date Numbers
Secondhand Item Expenses:  $91
Would-be Cost if Purchased New:   $215
Handmade Item Material Expenses:  $0
Cost Savings from Handmaking Items:  $0

Friday, January 24, 2014

Jewelry Swap

I've heard of a toy swap and clothing swap, but not yet a JEWELRY SWAP. A friend recently hosted a jewelry swap at her home to get the girls together and drink wine, and clean out any of our unused jewelry. What a fantastic idea! That's what this project is all about - if I'm not going to use it, maybe someone else can!

Simply, we each brought 3 pieces of unused jewelry to the swap, and then laid it all out on the counter. We then drew names blindly to determine the choosing order. Then we each chose a piece of jewelry to take home, and repeated the process until everyone had 3 pieces of jewelry. A fun, cheap, practical way to spend time together!

What else can we get together and swap? Tools, foods, fabric or yarn?

Pending. Taking. Backups.

Pending taking backups.  For someone shopping for a home, these 3 words can either be a source of relief/excitement, or they can be a source of disappointment.  For those unfamiliar this means that the seller of a house has accepted an offer from a potential buyer and the two parties have entered into contract for an "option period".  The potential buyer basically pays a security deposit to lock themselves in and get all their ducks in a row for the purchase, and the seller has the freedom to take backup offers in the event that the original offer falls through.  Given how hot the market is around here right now, it's pretty unlikely the buyer will back out.

Now that Elijah is 15 months old and we're getting the hang of this whole parenting thing, the idea of having another child is starting to sound pretty appealing.  Having a house (or in our case, a secondhand house!) that can support a growing family is something we have been discussing, and we considered ourselves to be "casual shoppers".

On Saturday morning we received the daily email with newly listed houses in the area, and one of those houses caught our eye.  We went back and forth about going to see it, and 6 hours later we bit the bullet and called up our realtor to arrange a walk-through the next day.  Just 6 hours after we set up the appointment, however, the house was under contract with a potential buyer.  We still kept our appointment, but the entire walk-through was filled with disappointment - not disappointment that we had lost the house of our dreams, just disappointment that we didn't even have the chance to make a decision.  A home is the most expensive purchase that many people make in their lives, and in just 12 hours this home was off the market.

We learned a pretty valuable lesson this past weekend:  In the housing market, and in particular the housing market in Austin, there is no such thing as a "casual shopper".  When you're "ready" to buy a house, you have to be prepared to buy a house.  There are 3 big ways, among many others, that you can prepare to buy a house:
  1. If you aren't lucky enough that you can "make it rain" to pay for that house, get a pre-qualification letter from a lender.  This makes you legit to a seller, and many sellers won't even consider you unless you have one.
  2. Know your spending limit and have the discipline to stick to it.  If you're taking out a loan, you're placing financial risk on your future self, likely for 15-30 years.  It's going to be hard to enjoy the home you're living in if you spend too much and constantly worry about how to pay for it.
  3. Be willing to pounce on an opportunity if it comes up.  In a competitive housing market, this has to be a buyer's behavior.  Identify the top wants/needs, and if those are satisfied within your budget, be ready to put an offer on the table.
In general we aren't in a rush to buy our next home because we are blessed to already have a roof over our heads.  However, we know that there will be spikes of haste as the year progresses.

Pending taking backups.  When you have an opportunity to buy the right home for your family, do you want to be a backup?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Recent Finds at Goodwill and Salvation Army - Which Store Do You Prefer?

To do my shopping, so far I've stayed within my comfort zone of our local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. Hands down, our closest Salvation Army is more clean, cheaper, more organized and has a better selection than the Goodwill stores near us. Which do you prefer between the two secondhand stores?

Melissa & Doug Geometric Stacker - $3 at Salvation Army ($16.87 on Once piece was missing when I got it, and another couple pieces were missing when I took the picture due to toddler who likes to hide things in our shoes. 

Dog puzzle originally from Target - $3 at Salvation Army (approximately $13 new). All pieces were present at the time of purchase, not when the photo was taken. 

I've always wanted one of these! I see yummy recipes on Pinterest for popsicles frequently, so hopefully I'll actually use it when the weather warms up. $3 at Salvation Army - $8.95 new

A string of hanging lanterns, another thing I've been wanting but just never got around to purchasing them…original price from Target $17.99, for $8 at Goodwill. *I need to find more just like this*

Photo album $2 at Goodwill, with my best guess if purchased new $6

Rough looking basket. I'm going to take those gnarly handles off and paint it and then use it to store Elijah's stuffed animals. $2 at Goodwill, best guess at original price is $15.

I also found some stylin' new sunglasses for myself, which still had the price tag on them, for $2 at Goodwill originally $9.99. Andrew and I decided that we could occasionally buy "new" stuff (i.e., items with the price tag still on them) as long as it comes from a secondhand store. We won't make it a habit of always buying "new" stuff from secondhand stores, thus defeating the purpose of our project. 

Year-to-Date Numbers
Secondhand Item Expenses:  $41
Cost Savings from Purchasing Secondhand:   $170
Handmade Item Material Expenses:  $0
Cost Savings from Handmaking Items:  $0

Note: Handmaking items requires time, and time is extremely valuable. However, handmaking things happens to be a hobby we enjoy, so we don't consider it an expense. The expense of handmaking items is derived only from the materials needed.