Friday, September 24, 2010

Secondhand finds can be great problem solvers

Another ACCE Money Tip!

Shopping secondhand is more than just a quest for inexpensive objects. If you focus on price alone, you could end up with a mishmash of goods that clutters your life and even strains your budget. But careful, thrift-focused shopping can help you organize and beautify your life while stretching your money.

Control your home’s clutter: If you want to make the most of thrifted finds, evaluate your home to identify ways you want to improve the livability of your space. Then, when you shop, look at everyday items with fresh eyes, and you may find unusual ways to enhance your home.

For example, if your entryway is constantly awash in a sea of junk mail, hats and gloves, coats, book bags, and serves as a repository for all those things that don’t have a permanent home, the clutter becomes a source of stress and makes it difficult for you to find the items you need. You could conquer the clutter by buying bins, racks, and hooks at a home improvement store. Better yet, you can look for thrifted solutions to creatively resolve your entryway problems. Sturdy fruit crates outfitted with casters can hold recyclables, winter gear, or pet supplies. Old doorknobs mounted on a piece of reclaimed lumber can become coat hooks. Rimmed cookie sheets lined with smooth stones can serve as boot trays. A piece of vintage pottery or small basket can hold keys or loose change.

When you look for secondhand items to repurpose, choose objects you will truly enjoy having in your home. Such carefully chosen, reused pieces can add flair to all your living spaces. A silver tray can hold your remotes on your coffee table, serve as a place for outgoing mail, or become a place to set your houseplants. A bongo drum or a stack of vintage suitcases can become a side table. A hobnail cake stand on your countertop can keep readily-used spices close at hand.

You can employ similar strategies to hold craft supplies, sports gear, small toys, or anything else that tends to float around your house. In my home, I use retro canisters I scored for $1 at a thrift store to hold tiny pieces for our wooden train set. Secondhand wooden bowls corral all the found treasures—feathers, shiny rocks, pinecones—my children insist should come indoors. An old wooden toolbox organizes first aid supplies and medicine.

Dress up your wardrobe: Secondhand finds can punch up a tired or uninspiring wardrobe, too. A thrifted brooch or silk scarf can infuse new life into an old jacket. A splashy tie can update a classic wool suit. With a little creativity and some DIY skill, you can shorten a secondhand skirt, transform a formal dress into a sassy cocktail dress, or embellish a plain t-shirt with embroidered flowers.

Prepare for the holidays: Save yourself the hassle of last-minute shopping and big credit card bills by scouring secondhand stores for items that can become distinctive gifts. A dozen chocolate chip cookies or cupcakes are instantly elevated to gift status when they’re presented on a piece of thrifted china. Pretty teapots (that no longer have their lids), gravy boats, and small silver cups make lovely vessels for flower arrangements. A thrifted flower pot scrubbed clean can hold new gloves and seeds for a gardener. Or you may find a piece of art or unusual collectible that suits someone on your holiday gift list.

Whenever you shop secondhand, look for items that have the potential to make your life better. Look past their obvious uses and consider their possibilities. You never know what useful treasures you’ll discover.

CCCS/ACCE –American Center for Credit Education

Carey Denman


(605) 348-4550

Friday, September 10, 2010

Secondhand shopping yields practical, beautiful finds at bargain prices

From ACCE Money Tips by Carey Denman:

"A few weeks ago, I admitted that thrift and secondhand stores can be a serious point of budget vulnerability for me—my Achilles heel. Still, in making such a declaration, I didn’t explain why my family shops at these stores in the first place. When I shop carefully, I can use the money we save to fund our family’s goals, such as buying a new vacuum cleaner that can handle pet hair and the volume of dirt brought indoors by our four children.

Whenever possible, we scour secondhand stores for things we need. We dress our children (and ourselves) almost entirely in secondhand finds. We buy nearly all our winter gear, such as coats, snow pants, and boots at thrift stores. And we buy virtually all of our household goods as seconds too, including kitchen supplies, bedding, furniture, even paint, all at a fraction of what it costs to buy these items new.

In the process, we don’t have to sacrifice beauty, utility or quality. In fact, buying secondhand often allows us to purchase things we wouldn’t be able to afford in traditional outlets. Some of our recent great finds include the $2.50 black cocktail dress I wore for our anniversary dinner this year, the Italian leather boots I bought for $8, the classic pinstripe suit my husband found for $4, and a handmade quilt I recently bought for $20. Even our large collection of original artwork came from secondhand sources, each costing less than $20 apiece.

Friends who visit our home often remark on our finds. “How can you afford to buy so many pieces of original artwork?” a friend recently asked. “All the gallery pieces I’ve seen cost hundreds of dollars.” She didn’t believe me at first when I told her that I found every piece of art we have through secondhand sources.

Another visitor, who has interior design training and who is well acquainted with my thrift-focused shopping habits, registered the same kind of surprise when she came to our home for the first time. “Your home is warm and comfortable . . . and doesn’t look like a thrift store.”

These comments reflect a common misconception about thrift stores: buying secondhand means forgoing good looks. On the contrary, some of our most remarkable pieces—mohair chairs with an intricate nail head trim, a giant painting of the Moulin Rouge, a nearly-complete set of vintage china, and an Art Deco lamp—came from thrift stores or other secondhand sources. Sure, you’ll find flotsam and jetsam, garish lamps and brown plaid sofas, but there are plenty of unique and practical goods if you’re willing to look for them. A found thrift store treasure is also satisfying because it isn’t just something you can go out and buy anywhere – often, it’s an unexpected, one-of-a-kind find.

Buying through secondhand sources allows us to support small, local businesses and organizations that use the proceeds of their sales for worthy causes in our area. What’s more, buying the things we need secondhand qualifies as a “green” choice, as well.

Outfitting ourselves and our home this way does take time and patience. It helps to use a few tried-and-true bargain-hunting strategies. And if you overdo thrift-store shopping, you’ll defeat the purpose of trying to stretch your budget. But when you know what you want to buy – perhaps a painting, a grater for your kitchen, a dress for your daughter, or a chair for your desk – and you shop with purpose, you can reap some wonderful, affordable rewards. Next week, I’ll share some of my best strategies for shopping effectively in thrift stores and secondhand shops."

CCCS/ACCE –American Center for Credit Education

Carey Denman


Friday, September 3, 2010

Let's Do a Little Math!

Since the launch of Counselor Direct on August 9th, over 328 homeowners have used the service provided by Family Services, Inc. to take the initiative to save their homes.

If we assume even 50% of them complete their application and we have an average success rate of 85% that means 139 of those homeowners will be able to stay in their homes! The positive effect that this has on the South Carolina Community is even greater! Here’s how:

Studies show that the cost of a foreclosure on a community ranges anywhere from $30,000/house to upwards of $70,000/house. When foreclosure happens it immediately affects everyone in the community- surrounding property values decrease while city costs increase. When property values go down tax revenues decrease so in order to make up for that loss in tax dollars the town has to increase taxes. Increased city costs include, but are not limited to, the increased need for police surveillance and burden on fire departments, demolition costs and higher demand for city social service programs.

What this means is that at the low end, Counselor Direct and the services provided by Family Services, Inc have already likely resulted in at least $4,170,000 in cost savings to be passed on to all South Carolina residents!

Of course we must take into account the average cost to save a foreclosed home which studies show is between $300 and $3,800. We will assume the high end of $3,800, giving us $528,200 in costs. This means that we will likely see a net savings of $3,641,800 just from the first month of our implementation of Counselor Direct.

Here’s to South Carolina homeowners, the community, and a little math!