They say we Mainers are a thrifty lot, and boy are they right. Even the Mainers that have serious money don’t look like they do. We drive our cars into the ground (I have a 17 year old Volvo), wear 20 year old Bean boots and as a whole, can pinch a penny until it screams. I personally was raised in part by my grandmother and her sister who grew up during World War I, the Great Depression, and then WWII. These two little old Aroostook County ladies knew how to reuse and recycle way before it was cool…decades and decades before. As a kid, my sister and I learned to knit our own scarves and mittens, make our own handkerchiefs bake and sew. While we had the money to buy what we needed, they let very little go to waste. My great aunt, who we called HoHo, would occasionally drive us by the old poorhouse up in the County and tell us that it because our family was thrifty and knew how to save that we would never end up in such a place. It had been closed for years and years at that point, but those trips served their purpose. I had nightmares for years about ending up in a poorhouse..thanks, HoHo. I did NOT want to live in a poorhouse and have people feel sorry for me. I would be the thriftiest ten year old in Northern Maine. These illusions of grandeur usually lasted as long as it took for me to get permission to walk up to High Street Market with the quarter Grammie or HoHo had given me. Mind you, this was the stone-age when there was still such a thing as penny candy and a quarter was a big deal.
Fast forward a few decades and now the choice to be thrifty wasn’t a choice anymore. I was a single mom with two very young girls, one of whom had pretty severe special needs. Between her meetings at school, appointments with doctors, specialists, therapists and plain old sick days for two kids, working full-time would have been impossible for me. As it was I was lucky if I could get in a 5 day work week just working part-time. So saving money got really serious, really fast. There wasn’t a lot of money for retail most of the time, so second hand shops became my haunts. Goodwill. Salvation Army. Yard sales, eBay. When the girls were small and brand name clothing wasn’t an issue, it was easier. But as ages increased, so did the dollar amount on the clothing. Good grief, you guys! The money they want for clothes in some of these mall stores! I’d have to sell a kidney. And maybe an eyeball, and I’m very fond of my organs. That being said, there are great clearance racks in a lot of retail stores, and if the discount is deep enough or I have coupons, I’ll hit them too, on occasion.
Luckily, and I mean down-on-my-knees-thanking-God, we aren’t in that situation any more, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not still the self-entitled Queen City Thrift Queen. I shop weekly for two kids who grow out of clothes faster than I can cut the tags off. My girls wear the “cool” (read, expensive) brands, Aero, Hollister, AE, etc. But I don’t pay retail. Not even half off retail. I pay about $3-$5 max for any piece of clothing, lots of times less than a dollar. Steve Madden, Land’s End, LL Bean, Gymboree, Justice, we have them all, and none of them cost more than a few dollars. This goes for lots of things in our lives, not just clothing. Furniture, bedding, kitchen, baths, you name it. Raising kids isn’t cheap, and raising a child with special needs puts a financial strain on any family. In my new blog here on BDN, I’ll share my steals and deals with you, let you know what’s on sale where and compare what I get at thrift shops, yard sales, couponing and online stores with the manufacturer’s suggested retail prices. I hope we can help each other out here, put a few bucks back in our pockets, learn a few things and have a few laughs along the way. I love hearing from folks telling me about the deals they got and I hope you’ll share yours with me, too. I look forward to getting to know you fine, thrifty folks, I think we’re in for a wicked good time together, Deah.