Shopping on the wild side

As a thrifter, I rarely have a reason to visit the Oak Park Mall despite it being less than five minutes from my apartment. Every time I drive by, nearly all the parking spaces are full, which means the mall is crawling with people hustling from one store to the next. While I’ve dealt with busy thrift stores, a mall is a whole other world in terms of busyness. It’s loud, chaotic and overwhelming. I only brave the chaos when I have a good enough reason, and for my birthday, I got one. One of the presents was a $50 Maurices gift card from my godmother.

During the first week of 2018, I ventured to the mall at 9:50 a.m. and waited in my car for 10 minutes until it opened. I made certain to park near the entrance closest to Maurices, so I didn’t have to walk through the entire mall. I was their first customer of the day, which meant I received special attention from the salespeople. With a frugal mindset, I stayed in the clearance section. Lucky for me, they were having a huge sale where all clearance tops were $6.95/each.

Since I’m in between pant sizes right now, I focused on tops. After several trips to the dressing room, I finally decided on six winners. These shirts ranged from casual to dressy, which was perfect for an upcoming trip I had to Washington D.C. in mid-January.


After all six items were rung up, the total was only $45. I wanted to spend the whole $50 on one visit, so I grabbed a pair of $8 earrings to finish it off. Given Maurices’ usual pricing ($30+ for shirts), I was impressed with how much I’d gotten within the $50 parameters. I will admit, it was a nice change to buy brand new clothing that wasn’t pre-worn and had zero chance of stains or holes. But like I said, shopping in a mall isn’t something I do often. It only happens when a gift card is taking up space in my wallet. 👚💰


Couch found by Christmas

Moving into a new space is an ongoing process. Whether a house or apartment, everyone has a little shopping to do after the transition. For me, I needed certain furniture pieces, like a TV and couch, and household items, like a vacuum cleaner and dish drying rack. With Christmas last Monday, I received several things as gifts, which helped shrink my list tremendously.

As most of you know, I found a 43-inch Vizio TV for Black Friday and a cheap black TV stand at Blessings Abound at the end of November. So after those finds, the only missing piece of furniture was a couch. I’d been casually searching every since I moved in with no luck. I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a brand new couch, but I also didn’t want a stained, pre-worn couch from a thrift store. Then a few weeks after Thanksgiving per the recommendation of a co-worker, I looked on Facebook Marketplace.

The great thing about Facebook Marketplace is you can search by item name, category, location, price or “free”. After I inputted my search factors, I started scrolling through dozens of couches. Some were better than others. I kept scrolling until I came across a dark brown microfiber couch for $175 in Prairie Village. It was from Nebraska Furniture Mart and was owned by one person for less than a year in a smoke-free, pet-free home. I sent the owner a message asking if he’d accept $100 due to a tiny tear and scuff mark and waited.


After a short conversation that answered all my questions, I decided to move forward. With the help of my boyfriend and his brother-in-law’s truck, we drove to Prairie Village to collect the couch the Wednesday before Christmas. I was very lucky to have two strong men with me who were familiar with transferring furniture. An hour later the couch was situated in my apartment. Then after Christmas, it was decorated with blue throw pillows and a sequin pillow (gifts from my brother and sister).


“It’s so nice to be able to lounge and watch TV whenever I want on this comfy couch. It was a true Christmas miracle for only $100.”

God provides for the frugal

When you’ve shopped at thrift stores for as long as I have, the concept of saving money starts integrating into your daily choices. Soon you’re looking at the price tags on everything – not just clothes – to make sure you’re not paying too much. While being frugal has its perks, it can get to the point of absurdity if you let it. When I moved out, I became extremely cautious about spending. While I did have a steady stream of income, I didn’t want to freely spend it. This is why I searched for “free” furniture from relatives and only went grocery shopping when I absolutely had to.

My boyfriend finally called me out on how ridiculous I was being. I had over $10K in my checking account and yet I was refusing to spend money on groceries. My paranoid frugality had also affected my search for a TV and TV stand. I knew if I held out until Black Friday, I’d spend less. Having never purchased a TV, I wasn’t exactly sure what classified as a ‘good deal.’ I was told the best brands were Samsung, Sony, and Vizio, and the best size would be around 40″. So when my boyfriend called at 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day to tell me he was at Walmart and could pick up a TV, I was ready to hear the Black Friday deals.

One of their Black Friday deals was a 43″ Vizio for $198. While this sounded like a great deal, my frugal state of mind kicked in and caused a 10-minute montage of second-guessing while my boyfriend sighed on the other end. I finally told him to grab one once the sale started, and at exactly 6 p.m. a text message stated that he’d succeeded. While I was not thrilled about $200 leaving my checking account, I knew it was worth it to FINALLY have a TV in my apartment.

The next challenge was finding the right TV stand to put the 43″ Vizio on. In my mind, I could picture my ideal stand: a moderate-sized unit with open shelving to accommodate DVDs, a PS3, etc. My strong desire to save money made me hesitant when browsing thrift stores. After seeing the grungy options at a Salvation Army on Saturday, we stopped by Blessings Abound, a Christian thrift store, to browse their section. Most pieces were dressers until my boyfriend pointed out a black TV stand with a price tag that read $19. I couldn’t believe it.

After bringing the tag to the front to pay, I was told I’d get an extra 35% off (partly because it was a Black Friday deal on furniture and partly because I was taking it with me that day). The total came out to be $14. God truly provided for the frugal part of me with my ideal TV stand that was only a couple scratches away from perfection.


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Apartment layout: TBD

My living situation drastically changed less than two months ago. Before October 7, 2017, I was Amy, 23-year-old woman living in her parents’ basement, and now I am Amy, 23-year-old woman living in her very own apartment. It’s an exciting lifestyle change with several advantages (designing the layout, controlling the thermostat, leaving dirty dishes in the sink, having company over whenever, etc.) along with a couple downsides (increased anxiety and occasional loneliness).

It’s a big step into adulthood when you strike out on your own. When I look around my one bed/one bath apartment knowing it’s mine … it’s a great feeling. My 618 sq./ft. apartment currently features a hodge-podge of furniture: foldable chairs from my parents’ house, bar stools from a family friend, a nightstand from my aunt, a bed from my grandpa, etc. I won’t be able to put finishing touches on the apartment’s layout and design until I have three key components: couch, TV and a TV stand.

Luckily with the holidays right around the corner, I’ve crafted an Apartment Wish List that features all the items I still need. Now instead of being pestered by family and friends, I can direct everyone to the same list for birthday/Christmas presents. After hearing about my big move, many relatives and friends offered me items for FREE, which was a huge money saver. The less I can spend on furnishing my new apartment, the better off I’ll be savings-wise.

But I highly doubt I’ll find every single thing I need for FREE, so at that point I will narrow my search within the walls of thrift stores like Turnstyles and Blessings Abound: two stores with extensive furniture and home decor sections. 👍🏼🏡

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Garage sale browsing

I didn’t wake up Friday morning planning to go thrifting, but when an opportunity arose … I snatched it. It all started when my dad returned from walking the dog. “Hey Amy, a house on the next block is getting rid of a sectional couch for free. Might be good for your new apartment.” I’ll be moving out of my parents’ house and into my first solo apartment in October, so I’m in the process of rounding up furniture and other necessities. And a couch, especially a FREE couch, was definitely on my list.

My mom and I quickly visited the next street to take a gander but were disappointed with what we found. This couch was a mess. Stains and bird poop (it was settled under a tree) covered this cream-colored leather sectional. “You can do better Amy. Plus, you don’t have to have a couch the day you move in.” I knew she was right, so we moved on. She’d mentioned earlier that our neighborhood was having some garage sales, so we did a quick lap and visited five of them.

“Even though I didn’t plan to go garage sale hunting, that doesn’t mean I’m not happy it spontaneously happened.”

We each scored treasures. My collection included two shirts (each $1), a skirt ($1), a collared shirt for my boyfriend ($1), a flower painting (for my apartment – $2) and a Royals World Series signature frame (birthday present for my Dad – $4). I spent $10 in total. Simply amazing.

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Big score on Labor Day

You all know how much I love 50% off sales at thrift stores. Clothing and accessories that are already inexpensive are marked down even more. It’s incredible what you end up spending. Last time I was at City Thrift I signed up for their scheduled text alerts. Now every time there’s an upcoming sale there, my phone beeps. They hosted a Labor Day 50% off everything sale on September 1st and 2nd.

After I got off work on Friday, Sept. 1st, I went there to see what I could find. The parking lot was packed when I got there around 2 p.m. The store’s exterior was decorated with balloons and banners to draw in customers. When I walked in I saw people everywhere! This worried me because the aisles in City Thrift are very narrow, which makes it difficult for more than one person to occupy an aisle simultaneously. However, I was already there and I wasn’t leaving empty-handed. I strategized when to visit each section based on how other customers shifted.

“As great as thrift store 50% off sales are, there’s one downside: competing with dozens of other customers. However, if you’re patient and strategic, you can still strike gold.”

Despite the crowds, I never had to wait in line for the dressing rooms (and there are only three stalls in total). As I moved from aisle to aisle, I filled my cart an assortment of items: blouses, skirts, dresses, capris, and shoes. After two visits to the dressing room, I finalized my options. Before I visited the register, I calculated my total cost plus a 50% off discount. After over an hour of searching and finding new treasures, I was eager to leave. Crowded thrift stores always get on my nerves, especially in a store where getting past people in narrow aisles is difficult and annoying.

I finally walked out of there a little before 4 p.m. feeling amazing. I snagged four shirts, one pair of khaki capris, two skirts, one pair of shoes, a DVD, one sweater, a dress and a belt. This purchase cost me only $30 after tax. A very worthwhile visit.

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Save for what you want

Since I started my full-time job two months ago, I’ve been watching what I spend on non-essential items and activities like clothes, accessories and eating out. This has cut down on my thrift store visits. It’s been really hard to ignore the 50% sale emails I get from Savers and City Thrift. Being a hardcore thrifty fashionista comes with responsibility and a need for strong discipline. It’s difficult to keep myself in check when cute $4 tops and $6 jeans surround me in every aisle of my favorite stores, so it’s better not to go at all.

“Do not save what you have left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” – Warren Buffet

However, saving is worth it when I know what I’m saving for: my dream apartment. After sealing the deal last night, I’m now in waiting mode until October 7 when I pick up my keys at 10 a.m. and start moving in. Even though waiting for two months is tough, I’m glad I have extra time. I’ll have the chance to figure out how I want to furnish and decorate. Right now, I’m sleeping on a pullout couch in my parents’ basement. I have some kitchenware saved from my last apartment but am lacking in the furniture department.


Since my grandma passed away back in March, my grandpa has been living in their house by himself. There is more stuff than you could imagine. I’ve already talked to him about taking one of the guest bedroom beds off his hands. Best part, it’s FREE. Hopefully, he will have more furniture pieces he’s ready to part with so I can avoid spending more than I need to transform this 618-sq./ft. apartment into my home.

After accepting donations from family and friends, I will be turning to thrift stores – one in particular: Blessings Abound. This Christian, volunteer-run store is mainly comprised of furniture, which is why I haven’t bought very much from them. Normally, I wouldn’t trust buying a used-couch, but my mom said she’s seen items that look brand new, so who knows what I’ll find. The most important thing is to use thrift stores as a last resort. First I need to see what all I can gather together that doesn’t cost me a dime.