22 April 2011

Avoid Discount Stores, Save Money

Most people I know like to keep a nice home, but are uncomfortable spending a lot of money to do it.  Furniture, lighting and accessory purchases can add up quickly, even if purchased from cheap places such as Pier OneIkea or (God forbid) Walmart.  Obviously a person saves a lot of money buying a $30 table from one of these stores; however, the down side to these places is the quality of the product, meaning that when a struggling grad student or single mom decides to sell the pieces at a garage sale or eBay, s/he is unlikely to get much, if anything, back.  Overall, purchasing this type of furniture or decor is a poor investment.

 Do not support the communists..

So what's a cost-conscious person to do?  Are we relegated to pizza-box couches?

Buy vintage.

Before you think you can't afford it, or wonder why on earth you'd want to, think about this example:  I bought a small solid wood used bookcase at a garage sale for $25.  I used it for a couple of years, until I moved across the country.  It was not cost-effect to pay to ship it, so I decided to sell it.  I put it at my own garage sale for $25, and took $20.  I essentially "rented" that bookcase for only $5 for a couple of years.  Another small bookcase I'd purchased from Walmart for $18 only sold for $3.  Paying $300 for an antique buffet may seem like a lot of money, but go to a nice furniture store and check the prices on new ones.  In addition, if you have to sell the antique, you are more likely to get your money back.  

 This lighted cabinet is currently on craigslist for $20. 

Most lamps I own are vintage.  I choose vintage over antique because the wiring is usually in working condition, and vintage lamps tend to be less expensive and delicate than antiques.  If I ever have to sell them, I'll probably recoup my losses, or even make money.  A 1950s cattail-inspired lamp I nabbed at auction in western New Jersey for $25 has sold on eBay for over $200.  I bought a grass-green 1960s adjustable lamp at the Salvation Army for $3, and I use it at work.  It looks great, is unique, and I doubt I would have found the same thing at Target at double the price.

 Check out this awesome hanging light I scored off eBay yesterday for less than $50.

Decor can be an even better bargain.  Eclectic blown-glass vases, vibrant pottery, figurines and fascinating wall art may all be bought on the secondary market, and for a fraction of the cost of original retail.  Check out your local antique gallery, thrift shop or eBay/Craigslist for great stuff to make-over your living space.  The best part of buying antique or vintage is that it is different.  Walmart churns out millions of the same little decorative thingy, so buying that $9 thingy to "personalize" your apartment is ridiculous.  You have the same thingy as millions of others, making you just as special as every single other schmuck who also bought it.

Mid-20th century West German vase.

Be stylish and unique.  Be eco-conscious. Buying pre-owned on eBay or at a garage sale is helping that young couple buy their first house, and keeping something from a landfill.  Buying bronze bookends from your local antique dealers supports small business.  Buying a ceder chest from the woman's shelter resale shop supports their cause.  

 Nothing starts a conversation quite like light-up grapes.

Bottom line - you've made an excellent addition to the aesthetic appeal of your home, as well as a great financial decision.  And you'll be living with a little bit of history. 


  1. Every home I've had as an adult, I have furnished with garbage. It's cheap and it's smelly, but it's got character.

  2. As you've pointed out, the cheapest-priced item ain't always the best value!

  3. I would like to invite everyone to click on the Walmart links. Because you should.

  4. I've long sold the idea to my girlfriend that a relationship with me is like owning vintage furniture; she'll have history, character, and the sort of quirky companionship one can't find from a cookie-cutter pretty boy. Thanks for a strong analogy to add to my argument base.

  5. [feebly attempts to click 'like' on Mark's comment]

  6. Shopping vintage also works great for gifts. I have found so many gifts that fit a person's unique personality/hobby/taste, etc., in a way that picking up some mass-produced present at a store couldn't do, much as you will find decorating your home with vintage will make it a unique reflection of you.
    Great write, Laura.

  7. Allison, if someone were so kind as to purchase a vintage/antique item for me, I'd feel pretty good. This person clearly spent time looking for something interesting and unique just for me. Even if the object only cost $5, I'd be extremely flattered, because I believe a person's time is valuable. I'm glad (and not surprised) to learn you are one of those special people who goes the 'extra mile' for your friends. ;) Thanks for posting.

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