Tuesday Happy Thought: People still read books, y’all!

When Barnes & Noble released the nook in 2009, I thought it was a hilarious joke. Who the hell would want to carry around a light digital pad and forego the satisfaction of holding an actual weighty book with a colorful cover and crispy pages and that sweet paper smell?

Clearly I was wrong. So so SO super wrong. People LOVE reading on their little digital pads. It’s minimal. It’s easy. It’s affordable. It’s eco. I get it.

But I really like books. Luckily, I’m not alone. People still buy books!

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And they’re willing to throw down a nice sum of money for the rare goodies. When I visit thrift stores, I don’t stand for too long in the book section. I do a once over and see if anything catches my eye. This puppy caught my eye not long ago:

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I peeked inside to make sure it wasn’t a dreaded book club edition as those can be tough to resell. Once I was in the clear with that, I took a gamble and bought the little guy without looking it up online. The worst case scenario is that it’s worthless and I have a new Hemingway book in my library and am out $1.25. Not a terrible situation.

….And then it sat on my bookshelf for almost a year b/c I forgot about it…funny how often that happens…

When I finally did get around to researching this gem for resale, I found that I had a first edition on my hands! Ideally with books, you’ll snag a first edition and first printing – sometimes noted as 1st/1st on eBay listings. It’s unclear whether my copy was a first printing, but I still made a buck off it.

Mine’s the one in the middle:

hemingway

An easy peezy $177 was made. Not bad at all. This photo also illustrates how much listing details matter in netting a fair profit. The first photo is a well cropped close up and boasts “True First Printing” whereas mine is a little less confident in boasting the exact printing but the photo shows off the fair condition and the front and back of the book. And then we have that last one that didn’t even try – the photo looks cluttered and it’s not even right side up!

The lesson here is to always give a once over to the books in the thrift store. If it’s older, clean and not a book club edition, you can make a nice low stress profit. No extensive measurements to record, simple photos, and so easy and cheap to ship.

It’s almost too easy…

Exceptions to the Dollar Store challenge

Okay, so a few exceptions have come to light since I started the challenge a week ago.

1. Reddit gift exchange. I almost forgot that I had signed up earlier this month for the Reddit Secret Santa gift exchange. I go all out at secret gift exchanges because they make me super happy! So I will not confine my gift shopping to the dollar store.

2. Trader Joe’s wine. Aka “2 buck chuck”, although we frugal folk know it ought to be referred to as “3 buck chuck” since it’s $2.99/bottle and therefore closer to $3. Apparently The Beard thought that Trader Joe’s wine was not included in the dollar store challenge. I don’t drink much wine but The Beard enjoys a glass most nights so he has requested that Trader Joe’s wine be allowed.

The rest of our shopping is dollar store budget material. We’ve done okay the first week with just a few minor slip ups. May we keep it up for the next two weeks!

Dollar Store: Deal or No Deal

I last posted about my Dollar Tree shopping trip the other day:

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It was a simple trip, only 9 items: 2 glasses of wine, a bottle of foot powder spray, a plastic soap saver dish, Blistex, Carmex, Vitamin C supplements, a splatter guard, and a two pack of ankle socks.

I left the dollar store feeling happy at the deals I got. It wasn’t until I got home that I felt a plagued by whether or not I was duped into a purchase because “Everything’s a Dollar!” so it must be a great deal, right?

And so I ventured to my local Target to seek out the exact same items and compare prices. The results were pretty surprising to me.

1. Foot powder spray. Yes, let’s start with the good ole’ foot stuff. I paid $1 for 3.5oz with the same 1% active ingredient. At Target:

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Target’s off brand sells it in 4oz bottles for $3.79. Which makes it 28 cents/ounce at Dollar Tree vs. 94 cents/ounce at Target. Savings by buying at Dollar Tree: $2.79.

Dollar Tree: 1          Target: 0

2. Vitamin C supplement drops. I paid $1 for a pack of 30 drops, each at 106mg of Vitamin C. That’s a little over 3 cents/drop. At Target:

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Target’s off brand Vitamin C drops sell for $2.04 for an 80 pack of drops. That ends up being about 2 and a half cents per drop. Savings by purchasing at Target: 62 cents, approximately.

Dollar Tree: 1          Target: 1

3. Soap saver. Make that bar last longer! Of course, it was $1 at Dollar Tree. At Target:

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1 cent cheaper is still cheaper. It’s worth noting that it’s the exact same soap saver in different packaging.

Dollar Tree: 1          Target: 2

4. Blistex lip balm. $1 for one Blistex lip balm stick at Dollar Tree. At Target:

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I didn’t see them for sale individually, but a 3pk is $3.04 which makes each one slightly more than $1.01. And so it goes…

Dollar Tree: 2          Target: 2

5. Splatter guard. In case you’re as unfamiliar with the concept as I was when I first heard about it, a splatter guard is just a convenient little wire mesh flat circle that you can place over a pan when pan frying food to help prevent oil from splashing all over and making a mess. I think it’s a little unnecessary but worth a $1 to give it a try. However, at Target, the only splatter guard for sale is this:

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A fancy schmancy one for $20 more than what I paid for mine. Of course mine is much lesser quality but it will get the job done for my infrequent frying needs. It’s tough to compare, given the huge difference in quality of product, but I say Dollar Tree wins this one for offering a cheap yet effective product at 20x less the price.

Dollar Tree: 3          Target: 2

6. Wine glasses. Having taken my Dollar Tree wine glasses for a test spin the other night, I can review with confidence that they are thick, weighted, and sturdy wine glasses. I’ll even bet that people would be surprised to learn that they’re dollar store material once they’ve handled them. Target had a pretty wide selection of cheap wine glasses:

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The above glasses seemed as close a comparison in quality as possible to the dollar store ones. These end up being $1.49/glass which isn’t bad. Alternatively, Target also offers $1 wine glasses:

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But they just feel so flimsy, lightweight, and cheaper quality that it just doesn’t seem fair to call it a draw. And so I’m giving this one to Dollar Tree for offering a better wine glass at a cheaper price.

Dollar Tree: 4           Target: 2

7. Carmex lip balm. $1 at Dollar Tree for a single 0.25 ounce pot of lip balm. At Target:

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Even ignoring the really great promotion for the gift card, the regular price for a 3 pack of the Carmex lip pots is only $2.79. That makes it 93 cents each at Target compared to $1 each at the dollar store.

Dollar Tree: 4          Target: 3

8. Ankle socks. 50 cents per pair is a pretty good deal at Dollar Tree. At Target:

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$1.50 per pair. A value pack on Black Friday is the only thing that brings the price down to the dollar store prices, otherwise the value pack just brings it down to $1.04 per pair. If the quality of the dollar store ones seemed despicable then I’d consider a draw, but the quality seems quite comparable. And so it goes…

Dollar Tree: 5          Target: 3

 

Dollar Tree for the win for this shopping trip comparison! I do think it’s worth noting that the price differences were so minimal that I’m sure utilizing sales and coupons at Target would beat out Dollar Tree prices by a long shot. I was quite surprised by how close Target prices were to dollar store prices.

I’m definitely going to be more discerning about my dollar store purchases for the remainder of this challenge.

 

 

Day 2 thru Day 4: Dollar Money Challenge

I semi-purposely chose to do this challenge during Black Friday week in order to tame my compulsion to get the BEST deal on everything. Historically, I don’t usually participate in black friday and the deals never seem to justify the early rising and pushing through crowds – but it’s all the damn online deals leading up to Cyber Monday that really get the better of me! It’s not without shame that I’ll admit that I’ve already cursed this challenge more than a few times in the handful of days it’s been active. I see things like a Real Simple magazine subscription for $5 or an Amazon deal that features a Kindle for $55 and I immediately start rationalizing the savings in my head. Real Simple magazine has a lot of coupons in it, even if I just use only 3 or 4 of those coupons then the magazine PAYS FOR ITS SELF! And if I get a Kindle, I can download books for only .99 or even FREE instead of wait for them to be available at the library or to go on sale – this will save me at least twenty bucks a year and in no time at all the Kindle will PAY FOR ITS SELF!

I have to catch myself trying to justify the spending, call myself out, look around and notice that I have pretty much everything I need.

That being said, I finally ventured out to Dollar Tree to peruse their dollar store deals and get a feel for what I have to work with for the next three weeks.

I kicked myself when I saw that they had the EXACT SAME thermometer for $1 that I had bought for $4 at Walgreens because I assumed that the dollar store wouldn’t have a thermometer. It’s these assumptions about the limits of dollar stores that make us little toads for paying more. But that’s a post/rant for another day.

I loaded up my basket with the following:

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Let me explain.

Two wine glasses: Although The Beard and I received about two dozen Riedel wine glasses when we got married a little over two years ago, all but one has shattered. Ya, we handwashed them and everything, I don’t know what their problem is. One even spontaneously shattered in my hand last year. It was weird. But these $1 ones are sturdy and thick. Plus they come in two of my favorite colors – green and plum.

Foot powder spray: Because we’re all out of it and it’s important to keep your feet dry when wearing unbreathable winter boots.

Ankle socks: Because when I asked one of my sisters what she wants for X-mas, her response was, “I don’t really need anything. Except I’m all out of ankle socks so send those.” Right.

Soap saver: It’s an elevated plastic thing that has holes in so your bar soap can drain. Yes, I use bar soap. What brand? Dial. It only took one hospital trip with MRSA for me to convert from sweet smelling shower gels to no fuss antibacterial bar soap.

Blistex & Carmex: Because I want my lips to smell like my mom’s did in 1989. And b/c I’m all out of chap stick and it’s getting really dry outside. Cracked lips, be warned.

Vitamin C drops: Because I have a real citrus candy problem. And didn’t I already mention that I’m a hypochondriac?

Splatter guard: Because although we rarely fry anything at our house, whenever we do it gets everywhere and then The Beard insists that we need to drop $10 for a splatter guard and I argue that it’s not worth it when we’ll hardly ever use it and so here I’ve paid $1 to appease The Beard whilst proving my point – I suspect we’ll only have the need for it once in the next year.

I had a fun little curious adventure at the dollar store and guess how much my loot cost me?! $9.77

I’m well aware that Dollar Stores can be terrible “value scam” places at times. (Case in point, right beside the 30 pack of generic Vitamin C drops was a 14 pack of Halls brand drops, also for $1. That’s like 7 cents per cough drop! You can get a 120 pack at Target for less than $6, bringing it out to a little less than 5 cents per drop which is clearly the better deal if you have an undying devotion to Halls brand drops!)

However, the same exact shopping trip would have cost much more at Target…I think. I’m going to test out this theory tomorrow.

Day 1 of Dollar Store Challenge: First Failure is Out of the Way

Awoke this morning to The Beard hurling his poor little guts up. Poor guy has the flu.

Being slightly hypochondriac and a definite catastrophic thinker, I quickly took his temperature with my 6 year old $5 Hy-Vee brand digital thermometer: 100.6 degrees.

Then I dropped the thermometer in the sink and it broke. True story.

In an effort to monitor his temperature (and my own!) I whisked off to Walgreens and bought one of their thermometers to replace mine.

I spent a whopping $4 and thought little of it until I left the store and remembered the Dollar Store Challenge.

I thought about returning it to remedy the situation, but health anxiety got the better of me. How can I just NOT have a thermometer for the next three weeks while my poor husband has the flu?!

And so it goes. My first failure with this challenge is out of the way. Hopefully it will be the last!

Dollar Store Challenge and Blogging More!

Okay….I’m a bad blogger. I’m really good at coming up with articles to blog about and even drafting them out — but I’m terrible about starting and finishing and publishing blog posts. I get too self critical and give up. The last few months have been particularly tough to blog through – I’ve taken vacation, started a new job, got wrapped up in home renovations…

But I’m committed to blogging more! And I think what will help me the most is….*drum rollllll*….a new MONEY CHALLENGE!

This is one that I’ve been thinking about for a while now – at least a year.

When I was a case manager for homeless women, there were countless times that clients would come in to strategize a budget. In creating budgets with impoverished folks, you learn a few “frugal life hack” things pretty quickly:

1. Wash your clothes with powder instead of liquid.

2. “Mend and make do” when something rips or breaks as opposed to quickly replacing it.

3. You can get A LOT of your daily needs met at your local dollar store.

Of course, I also learned a lot of valuable “don’t ever do what they did” lessons from impoverished folks.

But I must say, working with a vulnerable population encouraged me to visit my first Dollar Tree and the first time I set foot in a Dollar Tree I felt like I’d been short changed all of my life. Who knew that the same glass vases at Pier One for 4.99 could be had for only $1?! Who knew that cleaning supplies with the same ingredients as pricier brands could be achieved for only $1?! And who knew that even some of the same foods I bought at grocery stores were elsewhere sold for only $1?!

Perusing my local dollar store, I was amazed at both how cheap things could be and also how people could be duped into believing that they were getting a deal by purchasing something at a dollar store. It’s something of a paradox. Yes, it’s cheap to get a 2 pack of party streamers for $1. But it’s also a sham to pay $1 per apple when you can get a 5lb bag for $3 at the grocery shop.

Furthermore, I’ve been exhausted with figuring out how to get X-mas presents for everyone in my family while living on a budget. ‘Tis the season…

And so…I’ve decided to embark on a new money challenge:

THREE WEEKS OF NOTHING BUT DOLLAR VALUES

That’s right. If it’s more than a dollar, then I can’t have it. Whether it’s Dollar Tree, Dollar General, The Spot at Target, The “Everything’s a Dollar” lane at Price Chopper, or the less than a dollar produce at Aldi, there are dollar deals to be had. And I intend to have only them for the next three long weeks.

Some things that I can buy at prices above a dollar:

1. Gas for the car (although, as usual, I’ll try to limit my car use)

2. Mortgage and utility bills

3. Up to THREE nights at Bier Station – our favorite beer bar.

That’s all I can come up with. Everything else is fair game.

Tomorrow will be Day One of this challenge. The Beard is biting his nails over it right now. I happen to think it’s going to be way easier than we imagine, save for the whole coming up with X-mas presents bit…but I’m sure we’ll manage and it will work out just fine.

And so…LET THE CHALLENGE BEGIN!

Psst! People still buy VHS tapes?!

It’s obvious that I enjoy little more than buying stuff for next to nothing and selling it to a broader audience for some nice pocket change.

One of my new favorite blogs that I stumbled across last week is written by a guy who sells his thrift store treasures on eBay to help fund his Roth IRA: Flipping a Dollar

While perusing his blog, it got me thinking about stuff that I usually pass on looking at when I’m in a thrift store because I assume it won’t sell and, therefore, isn’t worth my time. Like that super soaker he made $65 on?! I would have walked past that without a second look.

So last week, during a thrift store adventure, I decided to stop by the VHS tapes. Yes – VHS. There are always loads upon loads of VHS tapes at thrift stores. And for good reason! NOBODY watches VHS tapes anymore, right? RIGHT!

However…having been to film school, I know that there are tens of thousands of features which never made it to DVD distribution and can only be found on VHS. Most of these features have no business being on DVD anyway as nobody would watch them. But there are gems – insanely bad horror movies, 70s kung fu movies, low budget action movies, and quirky melodramas – that have a cult following small enough to prevent DVD distribution but large enough to return a nice eBay profit!

A quick online search leads to film geek forums and obscure media uploads that prove that a quick buck may be had for plenty of VHS tapes.

The great thing about VHS tapes is that they are dirt cheap – typically 50 cents. Also, you can typically judge the condition of the tape by looking at its cover. If the cover is all beat up and torn, the cassette probably won’t play so great.  (Just make sure you check that your VHS cassette matches its cover!)

Anyway, I decided to stop by the VHS selection – several hundred – at a local thrift store. About two dozen VHS caught my eye as being in fair condition and sounding just weird or nostalgic or rare enough that they may be profitable. So I stood there on my phone, scouring eBay for search results – turns out most of them weren’t so rare and didn’t sell for more than a few dollars. Until I saw this little nugget of peculiarity:

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That’s right – it’s a bowhunting deer video with a bit of twang. It’s marked EXPLICIT and entitled “They’re Goin’ Down”. A quick glance at the back of it revealed that it was independently produced by the guy who stars in the video, distributed by some small town in Michigan. Even better, it looks to be in great condition!

IMG_1405 Did you read that?! That is cult following GOLD, my friend! I

So I paid 89 cents for it and immediately listed it on eBay for a short auction. I kept the starting bid low – 99 cents.

Within a day, 4 people were watching it and 2 people had sent me questions about it. One guy wanted to know if I had any other hunting videos as he already owned this one….

By the final third day of auction, 8 people were watching it and there was an all out bidding war which climbed the price to $27 + $2.76 shipping/handling.

Price I paid: – $0.89

Sold on eBay: + $29.76

Fees & shipping: – $4.45 shipping; -$2.98 eBay; -$1.16 PayPal

Profit/Loss: + $20.28

Normally, that’s not a profit to hoot & holler over. But let’s remember that this was a VHS TAPE!!! Also, I’m very aware that I have stolen the other blogger’s outcome tracking idea with my little red and green profit/loss summary, but it just works so well.

So there you have it, I’ll be glancing at the VHS tapes a little more carefully the next time I’m in a thrift store.