Look for an Alternative

One of the ways that our family chooses to be more intentional is with our money.

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We have chosen to have a one income family to be able to pursue some avenues that are important to our family – things like attachment parenting, and homeschooling.  And partly because we are on one income and partly because I am just thrifty by nature, we simply make different choices than some other families about how we are going to spend our money.  For example, we have one car that we own with no payments.  This meant buying used, and saving up to buy instead of making payments on a brand new car.  We lived with only one car when we lived in Missouri, and had access to a bus line that worked to take Papa to and from work each day.  But now that we have moved to Ohio, and Papa’s job necessitates a car, we bought him a car too.  We bought used, and kept the payments low, rather than purchase a shiny new car with higher payments.

But this is only the beginning.  We actually rarely buy anything new.  There are a few things that we have a standard and only buy new – food, toothbrushes, shoes, underwear, and most of Micah’s work clothes.  I would even say that about half of the kids’ toys are bought new, but only if it is something that we cannot make ourselves, and have not been able to find used or hand made.  Other than this, almost nothing in our lives is bought new.  I have a list on my Out of Milk app on my phone that is specifically for things I am looking for at garage sales or thrift stores.  I have inventories of what clothes we own and what we need to own for summer and winter, so that I know what to look for.  I decide what I need, and I go through many channels to get it, for as little money as possible.  And this means staying out of the big box stores where the price is low, most of the time.

So, how do I acquire so much of what we need through legal and moral means, but without breaking the bank?

1.  Use something you already have.  The first rule of thrift and mindful spending – use something you already have!  One of my best examples is fabric.  My husband is a little astounded by my fabric collection.  After all, what am I going to DO with this mountain of fabric with no specific plans?  But a few years ago when I made two winter coats for Sofi and Walter for a combined cost of $5, he was duly impressed.  In fact, he hasn’t even complained about moving all of that fabric from Missouri to Ohio!  Actually, I did downsize a LOT of my fabric for the move.  But, I was still able to dig through my stash and have enough to make a round of boxer shorts for my little man who has gone up a size and can no longer fit in what he already had.

2.  Ask around for it.  Don’t be afraid to let people know what you are looking for!  They may just have one that they are looking to get rid of.  This is my go to, especially in my extensive circle of mommy friends.  Whether it is newborn sized prefolds, a nightstand to turn into a piece of play furniture, someone to hang out with my kids while I go to the dentist, or a bunch of fabric scraps to stuff a sewing project, I ask my friends and family first.

3.  Try Freecycle.  Freecycle is one of my FAVORITE resources!  It is one of the first things I set up whenever we move to a new area.  Where else can you find someone looking for your broken vhs vcr and get a new to you living room set?!  In my humble opinion, Freecycle is one of the best ideas of the 21st century.  If you’re unfamiliar with Freecycle, it is a series of Yahoo! groups all over the world that allows people to post items that they no longer need, in order to keep these things out of landfills.  So, when I am downsizing my kitchen utensils, rather than driving them up to the thrift store, or tossing them out, I can post them.  Someone, perhaps a college student who is just starting out and can’t really afford to go to the thrift store and furnish an apartment, will come and get them and be oh so grateful to have picked up a good quality item for free!  It is a great arrangement.  I have saved hundreds of dollars, at least, by utilizing Freecycle for items we are looking for at home.

4.  Look at Craigslist.  Craigslist has a section specifically for free items.  If you can’t find what you are looking for there, you may be able to find it for sale at a great discount in the for sale forums.

5.  Keep your eyes open.  People will often set perfectly good items out with or near their garbage.  They do this knowing that someone who needs it will come and take it – not because they actually want it to be taken by the garbage truck and thrown in the dump.  This weekend alone, we found a Fisher Price Bounce & Spin Zebra for Elliott and a Rock, Roll and Ride Trike for the older kids just sitting by the side of the road.  Often, things found can be used in unexpected ways, as well, by making minor adjustments to them.  Furniture can get a face lift, or be turned into something else entirely.

6.  Garage Sales.  If all attempts to locate something for free fail, we hit up garage sales first.  Garage and yard sales are typically cheaper than thrift stores, and you can negotiate more.  The problem with garage sales is that it can be difficult to find exactly what you are looking for if you have something specific in mind.  This is when I hit the thrift stores.

7.  Thrift Stores.  When there is something specific I need quickly, or a child unexpectedly jumps sizes in the winter and there are no garage sales about, I hit up the thrift store.  There are so many thrift store options, and they often run sales.  One of my wonderful friends, Christina from The Natural Newborn, does an amazing job of buying off season clothing at thrift stores.  One of her favorite tips is that the DAV stores where she lives mark everything down every week that the items are there until the fifth week.  The fifth week, the clothing items are a quarter each.  So she buys all of her kids sweaters in the summer, when the racks are full of nice sweaters for 25 cents, and shorts in the winter when the racks are full of 25 cent shorts.

8.  Estate Sales.  Estate sales are so much fun!  And they are done differently by different people.  I’ve been to estate sales where it was simply run as a garage sale by the family members of the person liquidating an estate.  I’ve been to estate sales run as auctions.  I’ve been to estate sales run by companies that are specifically hired to liquidate the estate.  ALL are fun treasure troves!  The garage sale types are good for negotiations.  The auctions are good for picking up unexpected treasures at a low price, and the thrill of being the winning bidder.  Estate sale companies are good for having items set up in a manner that makes it easy to see everything, and they often have set sale days.  For example, a company we used to follow has half price Saturdays and 2/3 off Sundays.  One of the draws of estate sales is that items are likely to be in better condition than you might find at a garage sale or a thrift store, and some harder to find items can be located at them.

9.  The Internet.  If all attempts to find something locally fail, I will hit up the internet.  Sites like Ebay and Amazon are good for finding used items in good condition with a small price tag.  Just don’t forget to take shipping into account!

10.  Discount Stores.  If I have searched out all of the other options I have time for, my next step is to check out the local discount stores and buy new.  Stores like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Dollar General and Big Lots are great resources for getting items at a lower cost.  But I truly prefer to buy used, whenever possible, because of the lower environmental impact.

How do you keep costs lower on everyday items?


2 thoughts on “Look for an Alternative

  1. Great list for finding things used! I know my mother-in-law thinks I’m crazy for buying kids clothes at consignment but why pay full price when I can get perfectly good clothes that way! I also use Freecycle quite a bit to get rid of things. My last time using the site I was able to give away a bunch of party hats we made for my daughter’s birthday instead of just throwing them out. Julia at Natural Parents Network


  2. Thank you so much! Yes, it irks me to no end to pay a small fortune for kids’ clothing, knowing that it is going to be used for several months at most. And I feel so guilty every time I throw anything away when it is still perfectly good. I gave away a bunch of leftover party decorations on freecycle one year too! :DThanks for the comment!


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