Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Interview With an Expert: Abundance on a Dime, Part II

Today we'll be getting more tips the seasoned nutritionist, wife, and mother of two boys;Karen of Abundance on a Dime! This is is part two of my interview with Karen. You can visit this post to read her WONDERFUL tips and advice about saving money on food! We'll let Karen introduce herself again for those who are new here!

Tell us a little about yourself and your blog:

I’m the mom of two tween boys who eat like it’s going out of style! My husband and I home school the kids, and at this point I’m the stay-at-home parent (over the years my husband and I have taken turns being the income provider and the stay-at-home parent).

I started my blog, Abundance on a Dime, because after living on one income for so many years, and often a much-lower-than-average income, I realized I had a lot of knowledge to share with other families that needed to find ways to make their financial resources stretch as far as possible. I believe that a family can have an extremely high quality of life, even on a very modest income, if they know how to make the most of the money they do have. Even though our income is modest, our life is incredibly rich and blessed in so many ways. We usually manage to go well beyond meeting our bare-bones needs and find creative ways to achieve many of our “wants” while spending little or no money. We’re currently living in a nearly 100 year old fixer-upper that we dream of running a bed and breakfast out of once our kids are grown. Thankfully my husband is VERY handy (and yes, he’s handsome, too!!)

1. What is your strategy for bargain shopping for clothes?

My strategy for saving money on clothes starts even before I begin to think about shopping! First, I think it’s important to have a really good plan for your wardrobe. Know your lifestyle and your clothing “personality” and what items you really need to have in your closet in order to have a functional wardrobe. For example, I know I have a very sporty/casual style, and that when I need something a little more dressy, I lean towards a soft/romantic look. I don’t need “formal” work clothes at this point in my life. So when I’m looking for clothes for myself, I look for the items that fit my specific personality and lifestyle needs.

I also think it’s important to build a mix-and-match wardrobe, as you end up needing far fewer clothes this way. I buy clothing in a few basic solid colours that look good on me and all work together. Skirts and dresses tend to be where I might go for a pattern or print to jazz things up a bit. You can also add interest with accessories.

So, before I even consider buying any clothes, I have a really good idea EXACTLY what pieces of clothing each member of my family needs to fill in any “gaps” in their wardrobe.

Once I know what we need, I start out with potential free sources of clothing. I sometimes request the specific items I’m looking for on Freecycle (I donate lots of items here so people are usually happy to offer me what they have available). I’ve gotten like-new winter boots for my son and gorgeous, high-quality dress shirts for my husband through Freecycle! I’ve also ALWAYS said yes whenever a friend or family member offers me hand-me-down clothing for my kids or myself. I find if you start saying no, people will stop offering. And I definitely don’t want to discourage offers of freebies! Surplus clothing is pretty easy to pass on to someone else if it ends up not suiting you. All four members of my family have been the recipients of some very nice hand-me-down clothing.

Another free source of clothing is to reuse what you already have. When my husband wears the cuffs of his pants out, I cut them off and turn them into shorts. The same thing goes for the pants that my boys rip the knees out of. When my younger son needed a few new pairs of shorts, I ended up finding enough pairs of pants with wrecked legs in our surplus clothing to make him several new pairs without spending a cent!

Once you’re ready to buy an article of clothing, yard sales and church rummage sales are excellent sources. I try to buy as many of our clothes as I can through these sales, which generally run from late spring to early fall in our area. The prices are MUCH lower than at thrift stores (at rummage sales clothes are often $1 an item or $5 for a grocery bag full). You do have to dig through a big pile of clothes (many of them decidedly out of style), but if you know what you’re looking for it doesn’t take that much time. There IS good stuff to be found in that pile, trust me! Those that are willing to dig will be rewarded.

I’ll fill in any remaining gaps in our wardrobe by making a trip to the thrift store about 2 or 3 times per year (usually our biggest trip will be in the fall, once we’ve exhausted all other potential sources for low-cost clothing and know what we still need to find to meet our clothing needs until the next spring). And in case you’re wondering, we do buy our undergarments new :) I wait for a good sale and stock up.

For kids’ stuff, I’m always thinking a couple years ahead, too. If I see items that they’ll grow into within that time frame at super-low yard sale and rummage sale prices, I’ll scoop them up and store them for future use. If you have several children, it’s a good idea to keep an inventory of what you’ve got stashed away, so you don’t end up with two dozen size 10 shirts and no pants!

2. What tips would you give a new bargain shopper?

Look for well made, classic clothing that never goes out of style. These items will last you several years or more if properly cared for. Avoid trendy clothing, as you’ll generally only get one season out of it. Also, thoroughly inspect items to make sure there are no rips, stains, worn areas, missing buttons, etc (some minor stains can be easily removed by thorough laundering; you’ll develop a sense of what’ll come out easily over time). On kids’ pants, look closely at the knees and butt, as these tend to wear out first.

DO NOT buy anything just because it’s a great deal. If it’s too big or too small, or you don’t totally love it, just leave it. You won’t wear it, and that’s money wasted, even if it is only a buck.

Think quality rather than quantity. A few great pieces of clothing can make a very versatile, flattering wardrobe. Most people only wear 20% of their clothing 80% of the time. Focus on the 20% of wardrobe staples that you really need and will get good use out of.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Our family of four spends about $200-$250 annually on clothing. You really don’t have to spend a lot of money to look good! This past weekend I attended two social events (both casual summer backyard barbecue types of things), and at both events I got told by at least one person how great I looked. On the first occasion (first image below) I was wearing a thrift-store skirt ($4.99), a yard-sale tank top ($1) and a pair of earrings I bought at a church rummage sale for 25 cents. At the second event (second photo below), I was wearing a thrift-store black camisole top (I think I paid $3.99 for it a couple years back), a skirt I knitted myself 3-4 years ago, and a pair of yard-sale earrings I got for $1.

I don't know about you, but I'm totally inspired by this. I feel so motivated to get out to those yard sales and thrift stores. I always have been interested in doing that more, but just not motivated enough to take the time. Until now. My wardrobe needs a makeover and I am DETERMINED to do it "on a dime!"
I love the advice of having a plan. I'm going to start really thinking ahead the kinds of things that REALLY work for me and that will truly stretch my wardrobe.
Thank you SO much for sharing Karen!!!

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