a quick post

Hey everyone, I know I've been missing you guys. I've been taking finals, getting a prom group together, and preparing for my AP exams, so I'm short on time for writing.

Recent Buys:

Vintage 1922 Elementary Spanish book. $1
Annotated by a school teacher from Chicago. It was in super crisp condition. Super cool. I gave it to my AP Spanish teacher. She adored it.

Vintage 1955 Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein $2
Hardbound. Crown publishers. Annotated, most heavily in the scientific contributions section. The back cover featured a handwritten index. I gave it to my boyfriend, who is a huge physics geek. He is fantastic and I love him. He's been reading it and finds it very interesting.

Vintage 1922  Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle $1
Hardbound. Collier Publishers. Excellent condition. Part of the complete Sherlock Holmes in six volumes. Stories in book are as follows: Silver Blaze, The Yellow Face, The Stock-Broker's Clerk, The Gloria Scott, The Musgrave Ritual, The Reigate Puzzle, The Crooked Man, The Resident Patient, The Greek Interpreter, The Naval Treaty, and The Final Problem.

Vintage 1917 His Last Bow: The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle $1
Hardbound. Collier Publishers. Excellent condition. Part of the complete Sherlock Holmes in six volumes.

Vintage 1944 The Beards' Basic History of the United States by Charles A. and Mary R. Beard $1
Hardbound. Garden City Publishing Co. Book is in great condition, and has original book jacket, in worn condition. Excellent example of how Pre-racial Americans viewed US History. Planning on giving it to my favorite US History Teacher from seventh grade.

Vintage 1927  Poe Complete Works by Edgar Allen Poe $1
Flexible Hard cover. Collier. Excellent Condition. Gold Embossed Spine. Ribbon page holder.
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To buy or not to buy?

While there are some things that should just be bought at thrift stores, there are also items to avoid-- and vice versa. First time buyers should be wary of certain items and be on the look-out for others.

To buy:
  • craft supplies. yarn, embroidery patterns, crayons, etc. can be found at any given thrift store for a few cents to a few dollars
  • home accessories. pillows, picture frames, bookends, etc. can all be great buys. They are very well priced and you can usually find a use for them at home, or gift them.
  • clothes. make sure they fit, are in good condition, and that you'll actually wear them.
  • formalwear. is easy to find at thrift stores and is typically in very good condition since those dresses can only be worn a few times. I've written an entire guide on thrifting evening wear for prom, mitzvahs, quinces, balls, etc.
  • books can be bought for amazing prices at thrift stores. they're great for all occasions, whether for your personal reading, for school, or as gifts.
  • gifts can be bought from thrift stores. If you hunt all year (since you know that christmases and birthdays are, in fact, going to happen again this year) you can find great gifts.  My friends have gotten me gifts so thoughtful and perfect, I didn't even care they were used or secondhand. I've done the same for my friends.
  • cards. From vintage to new, it's all there-- birthdays, sorry, i miss you, and even invitations.
  • office supplies. There are always and abundance of binders, staplers, stationery, and more.
  • cookware is often available at thrift stores. we're talking kitchenware, corningware, and pyrex. Make sure it's quality. No one wants a pot with a loose handle that spills spaghetti sauce all over the floor.
  • things that are rare. Sometimes, you've just got to take what the thrift gods have given you. For example, the complete, illustrated, vintage 1948, 10-volume set of children's stories I got for $10.
  • jewelry and other accessories. necklaces, belts, scarves, bracelets, pins, etc. are great buys. Of course, it's got to suit your style. I don't recommend buying piercings. see the list of Not to buy to see why.
  • special occasion things. you know how you always wish you had a cake pedestal for those birthday parties? Yeah. You can also get large serving dishes, pitchers, tablecloths, invitations, and decorations.
  • consistently lost stuff. certain things always get lost or broken. Like sunglasses.
Not to buy:
  • things you don't need/want/see yourself using. Pretty simple.
  • things needing dry-cleaning. Let me just say I learned this the hard way. Make exceptions for formalwear and other special occasion items. Skip the dry-clean only sweaters.
  • underwear, bras, and bathingsuits. You just don't know where other people have been.
  • earrings, belly piercings, etc. While I usually stand by thrift store jewelry buying, I don't think getting anything put inside anyone else's body should be bought by other people. Some people's piercings fully develop skin on the inside-- others... not so much.
  • damaged items. things with chips, tears, stains, holes, etc. While many of these items can be repaired, think about if it is really worth the time and effort. Will you ACTUALLY find a suitable patch for that? Do you really think you'll find time to repair that? Probably not. unless it's REALLY worthwhile, ditch it and on to the next.
  • fakes. they're just not worth it. why buy a fake when you can find real designer items?
  • the unsafe. Things like baby furniture can be very dangerous since specifications have changed. Also, don't buy anything that will be consumed. I would not trust a thriftstore tube of toothpaste.
  • Things you want to buy for the wrong reasons. Wrong reasons include: because it looks new, it's in the box, impulse buying, etc.
 I hope that clears some stuff up for all of you-- whether you are practically pro or new convert to the world of thrift.

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Reasons To Thrift: For Charity

Thrifting is a great way to help out a local charity. The reason why thrift stores can sell products for so cheap is really about their business model.

Thrift stores have one goal: to raise money for charity. Since their stock comes in for free, their main objective is to move items quickly so that they can put more items out. They do have to pay their lease every month, so the more items they sell in a month, the more money can be put towards a charity.

That is why prices never hike up to retail. They know they sell more at bargains and since they don't have to pay for incoming stock consumers get bargains.

Since Thrift stores are open for the sake of charities like the salvation army, or your local children's hospital, we never feel guilty about purchasing something silly we don't entirely need.

My friend Nikki introduced me to the term Jewish guilt-- the guilt that the Jewish part of her (she's about a quarter Jewish I think) feels for spending money on anything-- anything!-- knowing that somewhere there might have been something more worthwhile. Well, to those of you who feel Jewish-- or Korean, Hungarian, Indian, or Italian-- guilt, feel comforted in that although you may have spent five hard-earned dollars on a collection of Queen CDs, at least that money went to a charity.

Many of us feel guilty for forgetting to give, or not having enough to give a significant amount, but with Thrift stores, there's no pressure to give some big ticket amount. In addition we are not hurting our families' budget or causing damage to the environment by buying new items. Over a year we could help a lot of people by either buying from a thrift store or contributing stock.

That being said, it is a good idea to see what your local thrift store supports. They may be sending money to something you don't support. Although I fully support the thrift industry, the money is a donation to one organization or another, and it's nice to know where your money is going.

I hope you all are delighted to see that when you thrift, you also contribute to a charity like your local humane society. They say that it is better to give than to receive-- At thrift stores, you can do both!

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How to host a swap party

Many people have never heard of a swap party, but the concept is fairly simple. A group of people get together and trade items they don't wear anymore. You may remember doing pretty much the same thing in your childhood with marbles, lunches, or pokemon cards.

The benefit of swap parties is that everyone comes out a winner. You bring in items you don't use anymore and trade them for items you will! Swap parties are also great in that you don't feel like you're spending any money, although some hosters will ask for a small financial donation to cover costs of food or rented space. You're also going green by not buying new items and instead, reusing clothes. Although this post is specifically dedicates to closet swaps, you can also swap books, cookware, board games, and anything else you can think of.

Since I'm going to college soon, I plan on hosting one of these so I can freshen up my wardrobe and clear out my closet!

Start by picking a date, time, and location. Make sure that the time is long enough that everyone will have a chance to look around, try on potential "buys," chat, restyle, and make deals. As far as location, make sure that you pick and area that is large enough to accommodate everyone's items and dressing room needs. This means tables or clothes racks for items, and a bathroom or changing screen for trying items on. I also recommend having a food-and-drink area. You may decide to make the event larger and rent out a picnic area in a park or host one at your local church. Also think about whether or not you want to make your party a DIY swap party where guests will get a chance to bedazzle, hem, cut, or otherwise alter their new clothes as this will take extra time and more materials.

Plan a guest list. Try to get a diverse group of people, but not too diverse. You want to avoid getting everyone of the same body type, but you don't want everyone to have drastically varying bodies either. I'd recommend 8-15 people for a party at home.

Plan out your system. Your party's swap system should be fair and have some sense of order about it. What's the fun if not everyone has a fair shot? Whatever system you choose, everyone must get a chance to swap, everyone must have the opportunity to take newly swapped items "off the market" or decline a swap, and no one should have to leave empty-handed.
  • Some parties will have every guest hang up their items, then draw numbers. The first hour is devoted to all attendees browsing racks. After that, everyone snacks and chats as number one gets a chance to swap for a maximum of two items with the permission of the previous owners of course. each number takes his or her appropriate turn in rotation until everyone is satisfied.
  • Other parties will have guests simply swap with the use of name tags and designated swapper's areas. For example, Sheila's items will be ondisplay at a table or rack marked with her name. Sheila will also have a name tag on since some people don't know her already. If someone wants to trade with Sheila for an item they like, they find Sheila and make her an offer.
  • Some parties will use a token method. A token is given to each person for each item they've brought in. For every item they "take off the market," they put a token in the "take home" jar. This ensures everyone goes home with the same amount of items as they came with.
You should also decide what to do with leftover clothes. Consider sending them to a charity like the salvation army, goodwill, etc.

Send out invitations or publicize the event. Make sure everyone knows when and where the event is occurring and also that they know what is acceptable to bring and what isn't. Let people know that it is in their best interest to bring an item they can get something great for. Someone may want the dress or jeans someone has grown out of and will swap something else just as nice for it. No one will make and offer for ratty gym shorts or an old bra. In swapping you get what you give, so remind everyone to keep their swap stock nice. In addition, outline how many items can be brought. Are accessories like scarves, bags, and jewelry allowed? Finally let them know about anything else they need to bring. Everyone should bring a canvas bag to bring their new-to-you items. You may also request that they bring snacks, a cover charge for expenses incurred from hosting, a full-length mirror to share for the night, items for redesign like puffy paint and buttons, or hangers to display their clothes. Tell everyone to wear modest underwear just in case, and consider setting up a minimum and/or maximum on how many items can be brought to make clean up easier.

Prepare the party area. Set up the table or racks, clear space, and prepare the tokens, cards, or whatever. You may want to dress up your party area so that is has that chic boutique feel. Like check out this Swap party feature on the Creative Party Place. Make sure you have a mirror or two!

Prepare the food. Go for finger foods. Stay away from foods that dirty fingers like cheetos and wings. Consider having a snack area so there aren't any dip and salsa incidents. Try these great foods!

When guests arrive make sure you help everyone set up, get organized, and when everyone is present, explain the rules. It's also a great idea to talk to everybody about why what they're doing is so great! Tell other swappers to make sure they don't make rude comments about other people's clothes since their past owners are present and to be mindful of how much mirror time they take up. Consider having a swapped fashion show where guests runway model their new clothes!

Clean up. Ask guests to help in order to ensure that they don't leave anything behind and to make the process go by quicker. The best way to ensure quick and easy clean up is to be organized in your preparations, so consider that before you try to leave all the prep to the last minute.

Can't host a party or find one to go to? Check out swapstyle.com, an online swap meet!

I hope this was informative. If you have hosted a swap party, please write a post about it for your blog and comment right here. Your party could be featured on Harper's Thrifty Guides and Adventures!

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Thrift your prom! (Or any other event!)

“How much did you get your prom dress for?” people often asked me last year when prom dress season was in full swing.

“Oh, I bought it for $12.”

TWELVE DOLLARS?? Yes, I bought my purple, fit-like-a-glove prom dress for twelve dollars. How did I do it? Well it all comes down to the glorious philosophy of thrift.

There are so many great reasons to shop at thrift stores and consignment shops. The reuse of old things prevents waste caused by the retail industry, from the dying of fabrics, to the transportation of materials, to the packaging of the new goods. It keeps you from buying those silly new trends that you will look back on and regret (like Crocs…) because you are buying things that are a bit older—it’s a no-brainer to find the styles that last. It’s easier on your wallet and what you do spend typically goes to hospitals of animal shelters. Plus, you find tons of cool stuff you’d never find anywhere else. Think about how much people pay to buy vintage items—you can find the same stuff on lucky days at the local thrift for $5.

In addition to all those great thrifting bonuses, there are special benefits for beginning thrifters when looking for formalwear.
  • Everything isn’t worn-down. Most people wear an evening dress once, and then essentially can’t wear it for a very long time. This period of un-wearability turns from a few years to eternity when someone gains or loses weight, or when the wearer attends many events with the same people, or when someone simply knows that her facebook pictures will show her dress-repeating. That’s when a once worn quinceƱera dress hits the thrift store. The likelihood of your dress being worn more than a few times is very slim.
  • Whatever requires breaking in has already been broken in. No guessing about whether or not something will shrink or shift in the wash, no wondering if the neckline of a dress will loosen with all your dancing at prom—especially advantageous if you are wearing a strapless dress.
  • You will not have to worry about anyone having the same dress as you.
  • If you plan it out right, you will not end up one of those girls who has to scrounge the racks for something that will fit. You’ll have plenty of time.
  • The less money you spend on a dress the more likely your parents will let you splurge on something else. Put the money you save towards a new computer, college, matching jewelry, or maybe a limo.
So now that you know that you need to at least give this a shot, let’s look at your battle strategy.

Plan in advance. Whether you’re shopping for prom, a bat mitzvah, or another big event, it’s always best to plan in advance. If you know something is coming up, for example, your sweet sixteen or your cousin’s wedding, you have tons of time to prepare. Unless you’re unsure of whether you’re done growing or have serious plans to lose weight, you can probably do some good estimating. I bought last year’s prom dress in October. I was adamant about going since I helped plan mine, so I wasted no time scouting—lo and behold, an awesome find.

Make it a routine. Every so often a thrifter will come upon a gift from the reuse gods—but you can’t expect to waltz in to a thrift store and find exactly what you need. I will admit, beginner’s luck isn’t a complete myth, but statistically, going more often ups your chances of finding that perfect dress. Thrift stores work to maximize turn over. They get their abundant inventory for free so their main goal is to move things quickly to maximize profit. That means if you don’t go for a month, you’ve missed out on around four re-stockings.

Try things on. This one seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people overlook this. Whether you’re thrifting or hitting the retail sometimes a dress looks hideous until you throw it on. The shapeless ones turn out to be the ones that complement your figure the best—they needed you to give it shape. The ones with the beading you thought would be crazy turned out to look fantastic on you thanks to your skin tone. Some stuff looks absolutely ridiculous but if there’s something about it you like, it doesn’t hurt to try it on. If nothing on, they've proven that getting in and out of clothes at stores burns calories-- so maybe it's your mini workout. Don’t be afraid to venture outside of what you think is expected. Bridesmaid dresses and such can prove to be excellent homecoming or Prom dresses depending on the occasion.

Be creative. One of the great things about buying via thrift is that you don’t feel bad messing with a $10 dress as compared to the $185 version. Have you ever seen a dress you liked and said, “if only it didn’t have that bow…” this is your chance. With thrifted clothes you have license to slash off sleeves, bedazzle, un-dazzle, dye, and play with what you buy since you haven’t sold your arm for it. To see a great thrifty redesigner check out the Marissa Lynch on her blog New Dress A Day. When she lost a job, she decided on a mission: 365 new dresses (or tops) out of 365 old dresses for 365 dollars. She shows you the before, the after, and what she did in between.

Think practically. You may or may not do this the moment you fall in love with a dress, but you’ve got to think about what it is you’ll be doing. Every girl has had that major feeling of buyer’s remorse when she bought a dress that looked great on her, but the neckline shifted too much or it was too short when she sat down. “YES! I fit!” should be replaced by “okay, now, will I be able to sit in this? Eat? Dance?” There are a lot of things happening at prom, and only one of them is you looking hot. So when you try it on, try bending over, sitting, jumping, and doing a few signature dance moves. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out. If you plan ahead and know where to look, you’ll find another one. Plus, no one will care how hot you look if you bust a panel during the Cha-Cha Slide.

Bring a friend. Preferably someone a different dress size or shape than you so that you don’t have a death match over the BCBG Grecian you’ve spotted. You guys will be able to help each other hunt for dresses and give an honest opinion. Sometimes, it just takes an outside eye to say, “Honey, you’re wasting your time with the plunging Vs,” or, “I think you’d be better in an orange than a red.” She’ll also help you with the next step.

Check for a reason. There is always a reason someone sends an item off to thrift. Many times they fall out of love with something, they out grow it, they don’t have the occasion to wear it, they move and need to downsize, or they’re just cleaning out. But sometimes you’ll find an unsuspecting hole or a mustard stain on the edge of the bust. A malfunctioning zipper or a few lost buttons—they happen. Although a handy DIYer, seamstress, or dry cleaner may be able to solve your dilemma, it might take more time and often money to fix it. Are you into that kind of commitment? If not, let it go, and on to the next.

There it is girls, your guide to finding a prom dress on the cheap and lightening your personal burden on the planet. Check out your local thrift stores, consignment stores, and online reuse venues like formalxchange and ebay. Also try trading with friends who may have something in their closet you like. Have fun and get thrifty!

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Thriftiquette: Thrift Store Etiquette Primer

It is important to remember that although we are on the hunt, we are not savages. There are some basic rules of etiquette to follow when thrifting. Why follow these rules? Well, because there is such a thing as consumer karma, and indeed thrifting karma. If you want the Thrifting Gods to smile down upon you with that first edition classic or perfect dress you've been looking for, you absolutely must play by the rules and respect your fellow thrifters.

Grab a basket or cart. Although it may seem cumbersome, you're not doing anyone and favors dropping items on the floor that you may end up walking away from and getting in other shoppers' way because you're fumbling with your items. If you don't end up grabbing much or walking out with it, it's not a big deal.

Don't haggle. Some places it may be okay like flea markets or certain antique stores, but don't do it in a thrift store. Keep in mind that most thrift stores benefit a charity. Do you really want to be that guy who says, "hey, I know that the $2 I'm paying for this will go to helping a kid fighting cancer, but instead of two, could we make it a buck-fifty?"

Don't hide things. Don't hide your items in random racks so that you can come back and find it later. It's not in the spirit of the hunt. If you need a cart, grab a cart, but don't abandon items and hide them from the view of a potential new home. If you really cared that much, you'd either take the item home or place it on hold, if the store will allow you to do so. Otherwise just put it back and hope it's there later. That is how you respect the thrift gods.

Don't snatch from other people's unattended carts. It's mean, unsportsmanlike, and low. It's stealing the food on someone else's plate.

Don't go Commando. There is a fair chance you will be trying things on. Do not go without sufficient underthings, if not for everyone else's sake then for your own. That means no thongs. Go for the granny panties.

Don't eat in the store. You don't want to soil anything in there with your french-fry-oiled hands. Eat before or after and always wash your hands. As far as drinking I'd stick to water, maybe a lemonade or juice, but soda and coffees are typically not okay. If you bring a drink in, make sure it's resealable. Stores themselves typically have a policy on this as well.

Doesn't matter when you saw it. First person to grab an item gets it. You may respectfully attempt to negotiate with whom ever has gotten the item first, but don't hassle them.
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