Treasures under $10: The Thrifting Challenge Results

So a few weeks ago, I thought it would be fun to see what kind of outfit it would be possible to thrift for $10-- and indicated if anyone wanted to join in and share their discoveries, we’d all report back here for an unveiling.

Well, today’s the day-- and one heckuva challenge it was.

First off, I would like to take a moment to thank my fellow challenge participants and bestow upon these fine folk a little-known Victorian turn-of-phrase:

You guys rock.

I’m serious. Those I spoke with were genuinely in the spirit of the challenge, and were so conscientious about trying to follow the guidelines, you helped make this whole thing so much more fun. So thank you!!

And in recognition for your fine thrifting skillz, each of you will receive the very exclusive, and very virtual “Thrift Shop Romantic Bright Bulb Thrifter” award...

Which is actually a JPEG you can, um, print out and, well, decoupage on something. Or put on your web site and pretend it’s a Webby. Or just have a nifty story for your family and friends and tell them, “Look, some weird chick with a blog gave me a JPEG.”

So let’s hear it for all our Bright Bulb Thrifters! And proud we are of all of them.

Secondly, this challenge was rough for a number of reasons, and interestingly, few of them were related to the quality of items at the thrift stores. In retrospect, I would say my setting the bar at $10 was a little on the low side. An amazing designer-brand outfit could be thrifted easily for $20, or even $15-- but $10, while doable under the right circumstances, was difficult. Thrifting, we all know, relies a lot on the luck of the draw. So when you start adding up the total cost of multiple, coordinating items, along WITH the right match of size, style and taste, it lowers the odds considerably. So that was a real learning experience.

With that said, however, let’s get on to the goodies! Here we have case-and-point that you can purchase some well-made items-- and an amazing array of pieces at a time-- for just a hair’s breadth over $10.

Frugal femme “Ms. A” of indicated her main goal for the challenge-- and in thrifting in general-- was to get real quality for as little as possible.

She tells us: “Today was half price on all but blue at the Army. So here is my loot:
  1. 1 pair leather pumps with stacked heel, some wear, made in Spain (love those Spanish and Italian shoes, can't help it!): Regularly $5.99, at half, $2.98.
  2. 1 Aigner tote -- quite large, in very, very good condition -- full price at $3.99 (but who could resist it?)
  3. 1 3/4 sleeve NY & Co. shirt, regularly $1.99, but $.99 at half
  4. 1 Pair Guess jeans, regularly $4.99, but $2.49 at half off.”

Ms. A found shoes, jeans, a shirt AND a bag? All at a total of $10.45! Ms. A sure has earned an A+ for her budgeting brand-savvy.

Next we hear from "Amy,” a friend of mine who totally surprised me by not only covertly participating in the Thrifting Challenge, but showed up wearing her thrifted outfit! Her technique on this was a little different than a few of the rest of us, in that she decided to meet the challenge all in one shot, in one store.

She indicates, “All pieces are in excellent condition and were all from Goodwill. The jeans I found first. They cost $3.00. The shirt was more challenging. I ended up with a pink top from Express. It was $2.50. The shoes were a little difficult to find as well - only because of the size. There were quite a few really cute shoes to pick from, but I ended up with a pair that are super-comfy, but a half-size too small. In the end, the shoes were what broke the bank. They cost a total of $6.99.

“So, overall I ended up spending $12.47; $2.47 over budget. :( But that's okay! It was a fun first experience!)”

And the great thing about this submission is that this outfit is genuinely something Amy would wear; until she told me it was her Thrifting Challenge submission, I had NO idea this wasn’t just something new she’d gotten.

Now, the “Secondhand Sophisticate,” she is the only one of us-- myself included-- that fully managed to not only make the $10 budget, but ended up UNDER-BUDGET. Way to go!

Here, she tells us how she managed it:

“Well, Bellas: Here is my challenge! Two weeks ago, at the Goodwill, I found the burgundy ‘python’ clutch handbag for $2.99 and the ‘gold’ necklace for $1.99 both for, including tax, $5.28. Last Friday, at one of my favorite charity thrifts, I struck paydirt by finding the FABULOUS leather vintage square-toe lace-up boots for 2 bucks; the very French school-girl top for 2 bucks, and the vintage 70s skirt with belt on the 50 cent rack! bringing my total there to $4.50. So...$5.28 and $4.50 comes to a total of $9.78! Yowzah, yowzah, yowzah! The beret is mine, and is almost 25 years old; the watch is over 15 years old (both purchased new) and my other "gold" necklace was purchased at a charity thrift earlier in the year for 40 cents. The glasses were a gift for Christmas. The outfit could have stood on its own perfectly, but, taking a page from the classic of thrift and vintage fashion, CHEAP CHIC, I ALWAYS accessorize UP! Ciao, Bellas! --SeSo”

Thanks, “SeSo” for your fine contribution-- and for the fun little modeling job there! You get points for thrift, style AND bravery.

And my submission? Well, throughout my quest to fulfill this challenge, I must say had a GREAT time finding things, and discovered a number of items outside of the Challenge that I wouldn’t trade along the way-- like a cashmere sweater for $4.99, a couple of great vintage purses, and a pair of embroidered jeans... But as for an outfit that totted up to $10? It really was a serious task. I ran into the same footwear issue Amy did. Both of us are tall and thrifted shoes don’t often happen for a buck. So I began to think my feet either must be giant size 8.5 snowboards in an apparently dainty size 6 world, or are the same size feet as everyone else and the thrifted shoe market is just really competitive in my area. Never did decide which.

That said, here below, you see my own entry.

It includes:

  1. This excellent retro-patterned A-line skirt in turquoise and brown- $1.50 at St. Vincent de Paul
  2. Brown lightweight Merano sweater, tags still on-- $4.99
  3. Etienne Aigner brown leather shoes-- full price, $3.99 at Salvation Army, but was half off on yellow tags, so total cost was $2.00
  4. Turquoise White Stag tee shirt, $1.99 at the Salvation Army.

Total cost? $10.48!, I guess I’d be under-budget if I chose to wear just the t-shirt, or just the sweater buttoned up, but since my own dag-blasted guidelines said it had to be something I would actually wear, this would be my choice. (Honesty is the best policy here at the Thrift Shop Romantic. :-) )

The necklace you see here was not really thrifted for this Challenge-- it was a necklace from the Red White and Blue and I paid about a buck or less for it about two years ago. Amusingly, I actually use it as a curtain tie-back for my Shabby Chic styled guest room. But the outfit needed a little something, so there ya go. (If Scarlett O’Hara can wear her curtains, I can wear my curtain tie backs.)

Well, I hope everybody had fun with the $10 Thrifting Challenge. If anyone had tried the Challenge and didn’t get a chance to share their finds in time, or just had some stories they wanted to tell about it, email me, and if I have enough of them, I can always post a follow-up.

And in terms of Lessons Learned? I leave you with this:

Being forced to look-- really look-- at where I could get the best deal in thrifted items, I discovered that the Goodwill in my area is about $2-3 MORE per non-sale item than the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul.

For example, Goodwill jeans are $5.99. Salvation Army jeans were about $3.99. Same with sweaters. I got some nice quality things at all stores, and enjoyed the shopping experience at each overall. But when money is truly tight, it becomes so important to realize just how much the thrift stores can vary. And I cannot stress enough that it makes you very appreciative for what you’ve got.

Next week: for you folks I’ve been chatting about regarding my plans for, um, crafting with Marshmallow Peeps... I have the outcome.