Friday, October 31, 2008

A wall of built-in bookshelves for less than $200

So far I've focused more on the clothing side of savvy shopping. Today I will do a post on one of our recent savvy home improvement projects. Homeschooling means LOTS of books, combine that with the Superstars' need to keep all their leisure reading books on the floor of their bedrooms, in their bed, under their bed and in their closets (regardless of having had bookshelves in their respsective rooms) we figured we could kill two birds with one stone with a wall of built-ins in the bonus room.

With a few ready-made MDF bookshelves from Big Lots (2 for $50) we were able to built this bookshelf in one weekend...well, uh, two weekends if you count the trim work we still have to do to finish it off!

AS A NOTE: this project is great for both a homeowner seeking to improve their home's value or for someone who leases or rents and needs the storage but A) doesn't want to spend a lot and B) can't make permanent changes to the house. No carpet was ripped out, and besides a few holes in the wall for securing the shelves, it will be easy to take out when it's time to move on and made to look "normal" again with just a little spackle and paint. If you can't paint because of the renter rules, you can always use the backboard pieces that come with this kind of shelf. We opted not to because we felt it looked more "built-in" with paint.

This was the empty space at the back of our bonus room where we had put a little play area for the girls. The cabinet and the kitchen set were thrift store finds that I paid less than $20 for...for both! I'll do a segment on that on a later blog.

Usually $29.99 each, they were on sale 2 for $50. As a bonus, we got the 5th bookshelf for $25 too, which isn't always a gimme. Sometimes they will only give you the discount if you buy the amount specified.

I loaded all 5 bookshelves in my van and drove home. They were easy to assemble and I was able to finish it all off in about an hour. All it took was my mini battery powered screwdriver.

The bookshelf came unassembled in a long, heavy thin boxes (top left of picture). Don't pay extra to get them assembled. Besides the obvious pain of trying to get them all home, it's so easy to do that even my 3 year old was able to help.

The girls fought over the screwdriver were happy to help.

And in no time we had all five bookshelves propped up against the wall for show!

I painted the back wall with some white semi-gloss paint we had in the garage.

My husband fastened the bookshelves to the wall with L-brackets (so the girls couldn't pull them down should they decide to use the shelves as a ladder to get to books higher up).

And Viola...built-book shelves for a fraction of the cost of custom made. Now all we have to do is add the trim at the top and bottom to make them look more finished.


This was a relatively easy project that I probably could've done without my husband's help, but it made it go much faster with his help...and of course my Superstars' help.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Savvy Outfit of the Day - $75 (counting the Coach handbag for $43)

Today's outfit is brought to you by the thrift store, eBay and Target. Green Mossimo shirt ($15 on-sale Target), white tank top from Rave ($4), Old Navy stretch dark blue cords (thrift store $5), BCBG dark bronze ankle boots ($8 thrift store), Coach hobo ($43 eBay).

Today's outfit is more expensive by virtue of the handbag. Ebay and Plato's Closet are the two places outside of a thrift store where I have found Coach handbags at a price I am willing to pay. I love the brand because they are well made and last a long time. To be honest, purses are one of the few items that I will spend a little more on, but I always keep it under $50, and when I buy a new one I try to sell one on eBay to even out the cost.

Having said that, I have found Coach handbags at the thrift store. One of my best finds was a cute pink clip signature Coach bag. I'm not a very pink person, but at $10 I couldn't resist. And yes, I buy authentic because even the knock-offs run around $50-$75 and they are definitely not the same quality. Why pay for a fake when I can get a real one for the same price?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

At least they're reading, right?

So, if you didn't know, I homeschool my two Superstars. My 6-year-old (Superstar #1) is in first grade and in the throes of gaining proficiency in her reading skills, rather reluctantly I might add. It's not that she doesn't like books. She loves them! Well, she loves me reading them to her, and oh yeah, the pretty pictures.

The fact of the matter is that she actually does read well if she feels it isn't because she has to do it. You know, like it's her idea of something fun to do and not something boring and hard that her mom likes to torture her with, I mean, teach her to do. No, not everyday is like that when you homeschool, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't happen.

So, like a good mom who wants her children not to be moochers for the rest of their lives to succeed in life, I make books readily available. We visit the library once a week and we buy books at the thrift store all the time (savvy saving tip).

I also try to have Superstar #1 read to Superstar #2. It's a blatant play on the show-your-sister-what-a-big-girl-you-are need she has, but hey it works...most days. It sort of did today. At least they're reading right? I mean, laughing AND reading. Hey, at least they are laughing and not harassing each other.

On another note, I guess I should mention why I call them Superstars. It's not my way of subtly telling you all how great, fabulous and fantastic they are (of course you know I think they are), but because one day after sending the kids upstairs after breakfast to put on their clothes (yes, we do that AFTER breakfast so that their clothes might actually make it to the end of the day looking like they only rolled around in lunch, snack and dinner) the following scene took place.

The 6-year-old slides into the kitchen in socks ala Tom Cruise in Risky Business (only fully dressed) saying, "Presenting Superstar number one!"

The 3-year-old is nowhere to be seen.

The 6-year-old:

The 3-year-old is still nowhere to be seen, but now there's giggling around the corner.

The 6-year-old: AUDREY?!

A rosy-cheeked 3-year-old slides across the floor and into her sister, "Presenting Superstar number two!"

In unison: Ta-da!

I'm not exactly sure where they picked it up, but it sure was cute.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Savvy Outfit of the Day - $30 DKNY

A picture is worth a thousand words. As much as I could tell you about great deals, nothing is better than pictures.

The Breakdown.
Off-white American Eagle Cords ($5 thrift store), Mossimo mauve tank top ($4 on sale at Target), Richmond Denim jacket ($7 thrift store), Andrew Stevens blue suede shoes ($6 new at thrift store) and a chocolate brown suede & leather DKNY purse ($8 thrift store). Grand Total: $30

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Parenting Tip #1 - Look Before You Sit

I have heard from countless of moms-with-sons that their bathrooms will never be the same. I've listen in sympathy (and horror) to their tales of missed marks, sprinkles on the floor, peeing in the bushes, peeing off the deck, peeing off the whatever. And apparently it doesn't end with childhood as I also have friends who tell me how their husband's are still trying to master the art of hitting the target in the bathroom and peeing off decks...seriously. ANYWAY!

Not in my house. Men were outnumbered two to one in the house my husband grew up; he received "special training" in the art of putting the seat AND cover down on the toilet from his mom and three sisters. Now, I don't share this to make you all jealous, but to explain why a recent phenomenon in our house has been all the more shocking.

Imagine this. You have a free moment, you HAVE to go to the bathroom. Just a quickie. You run to the sanctuary of the bathroom for a private moment of peace. You lift up the seat cover, sit down and squish.

You, my friend, have just sat in a pee. EEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWW!

No one told me that having girls means that you have to LOOK before you sit. Had the toilet seat cover been up, I just might have seen the telltale signs of sprinkles and I may have avoided the aforementioned incident.

Well, you can bet your sweet bippy that I look before I sit now.

I thought about buying this clever little toilet paper but the main perpetrator can't read. Besides, we go through enough toilet paper between the girls need to be Sahara-desert-dry and me wiping the seat off before I sit that we would go broke buying anything but the industrial package at Costco.

Lord, I can't wait till they start their periods some day.

How I Became a Thrift Store Maven

I didn't start out wanting to be known as a thrift store maven by my friends. It just kind of happened.

I use to visit thrift stores regularly in and around Music City when I was single and in my twenties. The thrift store is where I went to find cool, one-of-a-kind clothes, usually vintage. I was in the music industry and I was on a budget.

Truth is, most young 20-somethings working in the music industry are on a budget. Working in the music industry doesn't really pay well. To be fair, in some ways it's like any other industry, the lower on the food chain you are, the less money you make.

The difference is that there is a certain allure to working in the entertainment industry that makes free music, free concerts and industry parties a reasonable alternative to great pay - at least it is in the mind of a 20-something-year-old. And if you're going to be at a cool industry event, you want cool clothes that no one else has.

Of course that all changes as you get older and realize that free music and free concerts don't pay the rent, pay the bills or put food on the table (even though some of the parties did help in the free food department).

I got out of the music industry, did some time in the restaurant industry while breaking into voice over work (picked up a husband while I was there), went back into the entertainment industry again, had two kids and slowly phased out of the industry.

During that time the thrift store was an on-again-off-again relationship mainly because what I wanted out of that relationship had changed. Cool one-of-a-kind vintage clothes made way for maternity-transition clothes (you know, "if I just buy a size bigger maybe I can hold out on wearing maternity clothes for another month AND I could wear them after the baby is born"). Thrift stores were a place where I knew I could save money but given that the nearest location was about 15 miles away and I had two kids, it just didn't seem practical.

As any mother will tell you, toting children to any store, let alone a thrift store, is one way to test a mom's mettle....or prove her mental instability. Understandably, my new shopping haven was the mall (only 5 miles away) where they had an indoor playground, $5 teriyaki chicken plates AND espressos!

True to my thrifty tendencies I still bought things when they were on sale (I clothed my children for two years on my purchases from the end of the season "take an additional 30%" sale at The Children's Place). At that time I was more apt to buy my children clothing while ignoring my own ratty clothes. I was a mother of two under 3 and spit up and exploding bowel movements were the bullets and bombs I spent most the day (and night) trying to dodge, and not always successfully I might add. Since I was not about to spend our hard earned money on clothing just for my children's target practice, I used the
Whatever is Clean and Fits method of clothing.

But all that was about to change when one day while small-talking with the cashier at our grocery Kroger, I found out the empty store front two doors down was going to be filled by a Goodwill store. Remembering with fondness my days of thrift store hunting in my twenties I went home and marked OPENING DAY on my calendar.

I was there when the doors opened.

I pawned the girls off on Daddy and I stood in line at a THRIFT STORE GRAND OPENING which I am sure has some of you thinking that I'm nuts. Rest assured, I am, but for a host of other things, thrift store line-standing NOT being one of them.

My dear friends, do you know what I got that morning? A Kitchenaid Pro-line Mixer in enamel gray, two bowls and three attachments. Do you know what it cost me? A whopping $9.81. That my friends, was including tax.

I can't remember what other treasures I found that day, but one thing is certain, my torrid love affair with thrift stores began again.

That morning it was a Kitchenaid, but in the following days, weeks, months and years I learned that there wasn't much I couldn't find at a thrift store: Gucci, Prada, Coach, Dooney & Bourke, Armani, Kate Spade, Versace, gold & silver jewelry, and so much more. I learned quickly that with a little patience and perseverance, I could find pretty much anything I wanted or needed.

What I needed (as my Beloved would gently share with me one day) was new clothes that fit me better. But THAT is a story for another time. Suffice to say, with the help of Stacie & Clinton from What Not To Wear and a season of thrift store shopping I was able to rebuild my wardrobe in a stylish, mom-conscious way without breaking the bank. So there you have it - the birth of a thrift store maven.

But alas, a thrift store maven does not a Savvy Suburban Supermom make. I still have to tell you about homegood shopping, purse and shoe shopping, my eBay and Craigslist adventures and so many more savvy saving places to look for great deals.

Y'all come back and see me soon, ya' hear?

I Just Want to Blog About...

Ever since stumbling upon Crazy Aunt Purl I have harbored the secret ambition to be a serial blogger. I laughed, I cried and I walked away feeling like maybe I wasn't the only "crazy" person out there. But as I am neither a newly divorced cat-lover nor particularly funny or clever, I couldn't imagine what I had to offer that would want to make people read my blog. Until I received a phone call from my friend, Jen.

Me: Hello?

Jen: Tifany?

Me: Yes?

Jen: Oh my gawd, I just had to call you!

Me: What? What's the matter? Are you okay?

Jen: Yes! I had a Tifany-moment today?

Me: A what?

Jen: A Tifany-moment.

Me: That's not like a senior-moment is it?

Jen: No, no, no! I was at this cute little store at The Factory and the dress I had been eye-ing for that upcoming benefit was an additional 30% off the sale price and then I went to Dillard's and found shoes that matched and they were 75% off!

Just so you know, I was hoping she might say something like "My house is completely clean, laundry is done, dinner's ready, my child has been polite and helpful ALL DAY LONG and I took a shower, did my hair and put make-up on!" as the source of her Tifany-moment, but alas, since Jen is my friend (she's lived next door for the last 5 years) and knows me all too well, the source of her excitement was that she had found an amazing bargain.

Then, just a couple days later I was talking to some of the neighbors while the kids were playing and one of them said, "Today I found the cutest Gymboree dress at Goodwill, NEW with the tags still on it and it was only $2.49! I totally felt like Tifany." And while admittedly jealous that I hadn't found the dress myself when I had visited there earlier that day, I was surprised she had attributed that feeling of "SCORE!" to me.

When I sat down and thought about it, I realized that in the past few years I really have made a name for myself among my friends with the bargains I have found during my savvy shopping adventures. From Prada shoes to seagrass home accessories, from a Kitchenaid mixer to a dining room table, I've done my best to make our household budget stretch without sacrificing style or quality.

I'm sure I am not the only one that has champagne tastes on a beer budget BUT I have one thing that many of you might not have. I have 5 great thrift stores within 10 miles of my home, and boy, do I have some stories for you!

But first, let me preface this all with why I've named this blog
Savvy Suburban Supermom. Besides the fact that I do live in suburbia and have been known to wear a red and blue spandex Superman...uh, Supermom costume from time to time I have come to realize that what some may think is bottom-of-the-barrel shopping can really be considered savvy if you do it right.

I mean, really, if you go out to a formal event and wear a pair of Prada shoes that you found for $5.99 how can that be anything BUT savvy shopping? Or, is the stigma of thrift store shopping so bad that it's better to wear a brand new $20 pair of Payless Shoes? Don't get me wrong 'cause I have bought Payless Shoes before but I've got to tell you, my Prada's rock!

I'm not a fashionista, I'm not a socialite, I'm just your average, middle-class stay at home mom with two kids who lives in suburbia who happens to like quality. I also like purses. I like nice clothes. I like decorating my home. I like cooking. I like being creative and I'm not afraid of a little work to get what I want.

What I DO NOT LIKE is sacrificing my household budget or my kid's college education on those things, but I don't think you have to.

So if you have the time and inclination, I'll share the secrets and scores as well as a few stories about my life as a Savvy Supermom.

And no, you don't have wear a blue and red spandex suit. I sure don't.