The Sweetest Thing.

" I feel there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people" ~Van Gogh

Living Well On Less- Thrift Shopping Tips. June 12, 2015

Last week, I talked about some tips for finding brand new clothes at cheap prices. This week, I am talking about my true shopping love- thrift stores! I have been thrift shopping since long before it was “cool”. Some people are still resistant to it, but I am telling you it is the best place to find a great wardrobe at an affordable price. People are often shocked to know that so much of my clothing comes from thrift stores, but I know I donate plenty of perfectly nice clothing to thrift stores and others do the same.  I love thrift stores because you really just never know what you are going to find. I walk out of thrift stores with so much brand new clothing with the tags still attached and even more items that may have been worn a few times but still look brand new. I love the variety and inspiration that comes when digging through the racks of your favorite thrift shop. I love scoring “high end” items for a few bucks and my favorite brands for about 90% cheaper than they were in the store. I have done a lot of thrifting in my life, so here are a few of my best tips-


  1. Don’t expect to find classic, staple pieces at thrift stores. I do occasionally score a pair of great black dress pants but staple pieces (think white shirts, black shoes etc) often get pretty well worn before getting donated. I usually buy staples at regular stores and use thrift shops to add fun novelty items to my wardrobe.
  1. Get to know your thrift stores. Some stores put out new items every day, some have designated days each week. Many thrift stores have a 50% off or bag sale day weekly or monthly. Since thrift shopping is usually not for anything I really need, I make it a point to only go on these sale days and I save even more than I do at the regular discounted prices.
  1. Check items out thoroughly. Most items I find at thrift stores are 100% fine, but some items are donated due to small holes, stains etc. Some things can be fixed- a missing button or a falling hem but it is still important to make sure it is something you will actually fix instead of sending to the mending pile to sit forever.
  1. Know how the store is organized. It seems every thrift store I am in has a different system of organization. Some are done by size, others by style and some even by color. There is usually at least some distinction between men’s and women’s but that is about the only guarantee. I wear an XL and I usually check out the XL section and the plus size section because some XL items inevitably get put in there. I do find the more organized a thrift store is, the more expensive it is, so I try not to get too frustrated with the chaos. Having some idea how it is organized helps.
  1. Give yourself plenty of time. I will certainly pop in to one of my favorite thrift stores with 15 minutes to spare, but I don’t recommend it. Thrifting takes time. There are racks to dig through, items to inspect, lines to wait in and decisions to make.
  1. Give yourself a budget and stick to it! It is easy to get carried away at a thrift store. Things are so cheap and you just keep finding one more thing. All of those $1-$5 items add up though and you can easily blow your budget. Know what you can really afford to spend beforehand.
  1. Thrift stores are great for accessories too! I find a lot of purses this way. Shoes are kind of hit and miss. Most shoes that I do find in good shape are not the most practical but I have definitely found some great special occasion shoes.
  1. Check how the tags are attached!!!! This is my thrifting pet peeve and something many people do not think about. Some stores will attach price tags right to the garment with staples (I am talking to you Salvation Army) and it is impossible to remove the tag without damaging the item. Be sure price tags are attached to the inside tags of shirts or with the little plastic things that can just be easily cut.
  1. Bring Cash. It is not uncommon for a thrift store to not be able to accept payment cards. Those machines cost money and there is a fee for business to take cards and most thrift stores have very limited budgets.
  1. Once you get your items home- Wash Them! Better safe than sorry is my theory here. Clothes get washed and dried or dry cleaned. Shoes get sprayed with antibacterial cleaner inside and out and wiped down.
  1. Donate to your favorite thrift shops when you are getting rid of things. Most thrift shops are through charitable organizations and the money you spend goes to help others. Once you are done with an item, give back. It is the best way to keep the cycle going.


Do you thrift shop?


Living Well On Less- New Clothes. June 5, 2015

Filed under: living well on less — Jessica @ 7:00 am
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Confession- I really love clothes. I have way too many of them and no real intention to stop buying more. I find fashion to be one of the easiest forms of self- expression because you have to get dressed everyday anyways. Why not wear something that makes you look and feel great? While I will “splurge” on essentials like jeans, camis or a specific item I need, 95% of my clothes are bought super cheap. I do shop at thrift stores quite often and I will cover that in another Living Well On Less post, but today I am going to share some of my tips for getting brand new clothes at deeply discounted prices.

  1. Always shop out of season- I am quite often buying winter coats in the Spring and Summer Dresses in the Fall. If I don’t need an item right now, I usually wait until after it goes out of season to buy it. Summer dresses can easily be converted into fall outfits with tights, boots and a cardigan or just save them for the appropriate season and it is like getting new clothes all over again!
  2. Head to the clearance racks immediately- If I am just doing some recreational shopping, I rarely even look at the full price section of the store. I walk in and immediately head to the clearance area (usually located in the back). I avoid the temptation of full priced items and still find plenty to buy. Stores put items out very early in the season and you can usually find many of the early season items when it is still appropriate weather for wearing them.
  3. Sign up for your favorite stores mailing lists- I save so much money doing this. If you sign up to get emails, you know when there are sales going on and quite often get sent promotional codes. I have done a bunch of Old Navy and GAP shopping online recently with 40% off codes. This is a great way to get in season clothes that you need without paying full prices. I just bought shorts from GAP at really reasonable prices.
  4. Know what you have- Despite having a lot of items in my closet, I am pretty aware of what I have in there. It helps me avoid buying items that are very similar to what I already have as well as helping me keep a well-rounded wardrobe. I also know what I am looking for if I have items that I can’t quite make work yet. This assures that I am not using up my shopping budget on items I already have and don’t need. I clean out and rotate my closet seasonally so this happens without much extra effort.
  5. Take advantage of special offers- Many stores have survey links at the bottom of your receipts where you can save a certain percentage just for taking 5 minutes to fill it out. If it is a store you shop at frequently- be sure you do it! Using a store credit card will often get you special offers. Just be sure to stick to your budget and pay it off in full-you get the special prices and you aren’t racking up debt! If you get coupons with your purchase, save your next shopping trip for when you can use the coupon.
  6. Know the sale cycles of your favorite stores. Most stores host the same basic sales each year. Knowing when In season items are likely to go on sale will allow you to get the best possible prices.
  7. Establish some price guidelines for yourself and stick with them- set a top limit on what you are willing to pay for something that is just a want- and don’t go over it. I never spend more than $20 on a dress, $10 on a shirt or $15 on a sweater. Knowing the top limit of what I am willing to spend on an item helps me stick to my budget.

What is your favorite store for great deals on new clothes? Old Navy is mine!


Living Well On Less- Summer Entertainment. May 22, 2015

Last Friday, I introduced my intention of starting a “Living Well on Less” series to the blog. With the warm weather sticking around these days, I thought covering some free or almost free summer entertainment options would be a good place to start. One important thing to note is that I consider bringing your own food along to an otherwise free event, to be a free activity. You are going to be eating your food from home regardless, so I do not see it as an extra expense.


Summer is really the best time to try to save some money in the entertainment department. I work much less in the summer and I have to be very careful with our finances. I budget very little for entertainment purposes because it is just not necessary. Doing most anything outside makes it seem like more of an occasion. On top of that, there is just so much going on!


Most towns host a variety of summer festivals and concerts that are free to the public. Some of my favorite local events are the Yassou festival at the Greek Church. Motor Mayhem/old car show, Fitness in the park, The Chalk Walk and Third Thursday concerts downtown. The Yassou festival costs a couple of dollars to get in and you will definitely want to buy some food but the rest of the events are totally free. Beyond events, there are parks, beaches, backyard cookouts and garage sales to keep you busy. Here is my “summer adventure” list for this year.


Free Summer Entertainment-

  1. Make Homemade Ice Cream
  2. Go Camping
  3. Go Kayaking
  4. Go out on a Boat (if you have a friend who owns one)
  5. Invite friends over for a fire in the backyard firepit. Have everyone bring a s’mores ingredient
  6. Have a cookout for your family & one for your friends (Keep the menu simple)
  7. Go Hiking
  8. Go to the Beach
  9. Take a book and a blanket and find someplace beautiful to spend the day reading (& napping)
  10. Have a blanket picnic at a local park
  11. Fly Kites (the beach is a great place for this)
  12. Attend local festivals and outdoor concerts
  13. Go for a long bike ride
  14. Have a water balloon fight (be sure to pick up after yourself as balloon pieces can be dangerous to children and animals)
  15. Spend time in my friend’s hot tub on the lake
  16. Go for a country drive and enjoy nature in all its splendor
  17. Take children to the park and actually play with them
  18. Go fishing
  19. Go on a long walk with your family after dinner


Almost Free-

  1. Start a Garden, even a small herb garden. Seeds are cheap. Dirt is cheap. Growing things is awesome.
  2. Make Boozy Popsicles (alcohol isn’t the cheapest but you don’t need a lot and boozy popsicles are fun)
  3. Go to a Farmer’s Market- go to all of the different ones in your area. It is totally possible and worth it to just go and look at all of the beautiful offerings at your local market but I am personally incapable of leaving the market without some small treasure. I just consider part of the grocery budget if it is food. Supporting local farmers and artisans is important to me.
  4. Berry Picking/Jam making. Berries can be kind of expensive, even when you pick them yourself. If you consider this part of the grocery budget and take care to preserve them, it is definitely worth putting out a little money for. I pick gallons and gallons of blueberries each summer. I will usually spend $30 doing so but I stick them in the freezer and add them to smoothies, oatmeal and desserts for the rest of the year. It is a money saver overall. I also pick strawberries every summer. I love to make Jam. Again, it requires a little investment now but saves money in the long run.
  5. Yard Sales- Give yourself a small budget ($5-$10) and see what treasures you can find. This also works well at thrift stores and rummage sales.
  6. Go to the County Fair. This can be pretty cheap. It is less than $15 to get an all day pass to rides and special events. If you pack your own food and don’t really care about games, that is a great deal for a day of fun!
  7. Host an outdoor potluck dinner party. Keep things simple and have everyone contribute and this is a cheap way to entertain. (more on entertaining on a budget in another post)
  8. Check out the local wine trail. You can sample wines for free at many wineries and it is only a couple of dollars for several tastes at the rest.
  9. Go out for ice cream at your favorite local spot.


Hope this gave you a few ideas to add to your own summer adventure list! Please share your favorite free or cheap way to enjoy the summer in the comments section.


Living Well On Less. May 15, 2015

Filed under: living well on less — Jessica @ 8:00 am
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Living well is something I am really committed to. A beautiful home, nights at the theater, good food, cocktails with my friends, travel, clothes that make me feel beautiful and hobbies are all important to me. These things can all get quite expensive but they don’t have to be. Learning to live well on less was a necessity in my 20’s when I only really had enough money for bills and the things I really needed. There was rarely extra money for fun things and when there was I wanted to make it go as far as possible. Luckily, I have a little  more money now but the habit of making it go as far as possible stuck.


Over the years of practicing living well on less, I have become quite good at it. I have learned that it is about having priorities- cutting back where you can so you can indulge when it matters or even just when you really want to. I use these guidelines in pretty much every area of my life and I will be sharing some of my tips, tricks and strategies with all of you in a new blog post series. Every Friday I will be sharing ideas on how to save money and still live a good life. I will cover a variety of topics- clothing, home decor, household and cleaning products, entertainment,entertaining, community events, online shopping etc. If there are any topics that you would like me to cover, please let me know in the comments.

I already wrote a post about eating healthy on a budget if you are interested in some tips before the posts start next week!