Hunting the S-A-L-E


SALE is my favorite four letter word.  My parents were raised during the Great Depression and teenagers during World War 2 so I often heard about rationing and how people made due with what they had.  They rarely bought something new, so my parents raised us with that mindset as well.  If it’s broken then you fix it…you don’t throw it away and buy a new one.  We were up-cycling before up-cycling became trendy!

I learned from a young age that yard sales, garage sales and estate sales were places to find incredible deals.  Antiques were the main objective for my mom, so I looked for things with markings like Made in Occupied Japan,  Limoges, 925 (the silver stamp), and other unusual symbols which could be worth more than the 25 cent sticker on them.  I remember my mom found a small table cart with sides that folded down.  It looked just like a mini version of our dining room table so mom bargained it down to $15.  When we got it home, I noticed a small drawer in the back of the cart and opened it to find 6 beautiful dipping bowls detailed with gold leaf and marked Made in Occupied Japan.  Jackpot!

My sister Caroline has been the most successful in finding amazing pieces.  She bought the most hideous $10 lamps I’ve ever seen, and found out later they were worth $150!  When I was moving into my first college apartment, Caroline gave me a box of glassware she picked up at a garage sale for $5 and a rug she found on the side of the road for free.  Later when I moved out of that apartment I sold the glassware for $15 and the free rug for $20.  A few years ago I bought an antique breakfront from a friend for $400.  When I moved and realized it was out of place in my new apartment I sold it on Craigslist for $600!

My friend Betsy likes to say that I’m thrifty, but I really hate that word.  It sounds like I’m cheap, which I’m not.  I just love finding a deal.  It’s like a game figuring out how much can be saved.  I learned early on that many things can be negotiated, and not just at yard sales.

Many stores markup items three or many more times from their wholesale prices.  So when you see a sale item, the store is still making a huge margin.  Did you know that mattresses are marked up almost 45% (Tempurpedic is the highest with a 60-70% markup!).  And furniture generally has an 80% markup?!  Seriously negotiate when buying these things!

My cable TV, telephone, internet and home security system are all bundled together.  A few months ago the bill had creeped up to $270 a month!  So I called the cable company and asked for their RETENTION DEPARTMENT — they are the people who want to keep their customers, and keep them happy.  I told the nice lady that I received an offer from one of their competitors for about $100 less a month (I really wasn’t planning on switching since it’s such a pain in the ass).  Within a few minutes of negotiating and looking into what I no longer needed, my bill had dropped to $212.  A few weeks later the cable company had merged to become another company, I contacted them again and found out my new pricing was now $187!  They’re still making money since cable TV programming is marked up about 600%.

The great thing about the internet is the transparency it provides in finding all of this stuff out.  Here are just a few items I found and their astronomical mark ups:

  • Airline Tickets 388%
  • Designer Jeans 260%
  • College Textbooks 200%
  • Eyeglass Frames 500-1000%
  • Restaurant Wine 400%
  • Text Messages 6000% (yes, six thousand percent!)
  • Printer Ink 300%
  • Movie Popcorn 900%
  • Bottled Water 2000%

They even get you when you’re dead.  Caskets are marked up a whopping 350% which could make anyone flatline!

I understand the need to markup items — rent, labor, utilities and other costs must be paid in order to cover your expenses.  But 6000% for text messages is truly fleecing the consumer.

Now when I shop, I truly see the high costs in everything.  This is why I LOVE shopping at The Dollar Tree and 99 Cent Only stores.  Yeah, I know, you’re thinking ‘oh it’s just leftover crap’…but it’s not.  Here’s what I buy at these stores:

  • Gift Bags — in a card store or Target they run from $3 and up. Sometimes the Dollar Tree Store even has 3 for $1 packaged together.  Great for the holidays!  And you can get a package of tissue paper for $1 to stuff into the bags. A package…not 2 sheets!
  • Paper Toweling – just bought a 6 pack for $2.99, that’s 50 cents a roll and it works just like the more expensive brands, cause it’s made of the same thing — uh, paper.
  • Holiday Decorations — seriously so cheap…and you’re using them only once a year…
  • Batteries — they’re not the best brands, but hey they work!
  • Baking goods — baking soda (usually 2 for $1), baking powder, graham cracker crust, etc…
  • Spices and Herbs — how many times have you gone out to buy an ingredient for a special meal you were cooking only to find that one spice cost $6 at the grocery store and you only used it once?
  • Envelopes — mailing and even padded ones…yeah $1…
  • Cards — not the greatest, but when you need a sympathy or get well card this is your store.
  • Cleaning Products — it may not be called Windex, but the Glassex works exactly the same and it’s made of water, alcohol and a few other chemicals that I can’t spell…

Finding bargains, sales and deals isn’t difficult, you just have to look for them.  When I was a kid my mom would say to look for the big S-A-L-E sign as soon as you walk into a store.  I do this everywhere I go…and it has saved me tons of money.  Once you do it enough, it becomes a habit.  You become the hunter and no longer are the prey.



One thought on “Hunting the S-A-L-E

  1. Alison!!!!!!!

    This entry is fantastic in every way — the writing is BUTTAH – the info – a BARGAIN! And the anecdotal stuff — amazeballs! I LOVE IT! Can’t wait to see you Saturday – DON’T FORGET: Saturday’s the TEA PARTY!!!! I was sooooo sick until today – I’m soooo behind in everything b/c I had to spend 3 days sick as a dog. My NOSE is bright red & raw from sneezing & blowing it (pretty girl). But Thank God for my time mgmt skills – I delivered my BBC script 2 days early – I guess, so I’d have time to be sick.

    Jake brought the (real) tree last Sat at noon — still naked. But it’ll all get done – like the line in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE — somehow, it all comes together at the end. But my nose is Bozo on a LOT of coke. Oy vey.

    Congrats on a BRILLIANT episode of MyGapYearAt47!!!! YAY!!!!!




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