When Buying Used Isn’t Frugal: A Personal Finance Blogger Fail

About the Blog / Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Last week I attended the Financial Blogger Conference in Chicago (or Schaumburg to be more specific).

After it was over, I gifted myself an extra day and a half in the Windy City, because I love that place.

On Sunday afternoon I hit up IKEA, and then took a Sunday drive down by Wrigley Field and onto Lake Shore Drive.

It was a beautiful fall day and people were out walking dogs and pushing babies in strollers. I drove with the windows down. It was perfect.

I fell in love with this house in Naperville.
And this one.
And especially this one.
And especially this one.

On Monday, I went to see a part of the Chicago area I had never been to before, Naperville, IL.

Have you ever been to Naperville?

It’s adorable. Charm times 100. Money magazine has put it on its best places to live list more than once.

I had been in town about ten minutes when I sent my husband this text: “Can we move to Naperville?”  (He loves it when I interrupt his work day with pressing questions like that.)

I shopped the tree-lined streets of the downtown area, drove the historic neighborhoods that surround it, and had a Chicago deep dish pizza lunch at Giordanos’s.

While shopping I happened upon the Serendipity Resale Shop, which is just as charming as it sounds. It benefits Little Friends, an organization serving children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

I was only a foot inside the door when I spotted one of my weaknesses: a table full of dishes. In fact, there were twelve plates in a pattern I love. Four each of three different sizes.

With the name of the store in mind I decided that this was indeed serendipitous, so I took the eight larger plates to the counter, with plans to buy them and carry them home on the plane.

She looks like an innocent shopper, but she’s really a ruthless upseller.

That’s when this nice lady – a fellow shopper – insisted that I couldn’t leave the four smaller plates behind. And the sweet ladies who run the shop agreed and told me I could have them for half price.

Well, come on, what was I going to do?

As they were wrapping up my plates for the journey, I spotted a small, framed picture that had been marked down to $30 and was half off of that.

I added it to my pile.

And I then refused to look any more, because that shop had some great stuff and I was still only a foot inside the door.

Once I had paid for my purchases and the cute ladies (who are volunteers and only work on Mondays) had wrapped them up, it became obvious to me that carrying them onto the plane was going to be inconvenient. And when I say inconvenient, I mean impossible.

They. Were. Heavy.

Plan B was to find someplace nearby where I could ship them home.

The rental car GPS directed me to the closest UPS store and I carried in my loot.

My first clue that this plan had problems was when the guy at the counter told me it would be $25-$30 just to pack up my stuff.

While he was doing that, I had time to reflect on the fact that the dishes were heavy. And with all the bubble wrap and peanuts they were going to need, they were going to be bulky.

Paying a shipping charge that is 132% of your purchase price is not smart shopping.

Heavy + bulky = expensive to ship.

The UPS bill came to $78.07. For $42.90 worth of dishes and a $16.09 picture.

Cost of purchases: $58.99
Cost to ship them home: $78.07

Now I went to business school, so I realized that this wasn’t a very good deal. But I was already too far in. I mean, who returns things to the Serendipity Resale Shop?

So I handed over my card and went to McDonald’s to get a Diet Coke, glad that UPS was now in charge of my purchases and I wouldn’t be dragging them through O’Hare security and wrestling them into an overhead bin.

I titled this post a personal finance blogger fail, but do I really consider it a fail?


It wasn’t a fail because I met some delightful ladies at the resale shop and my purchases benefited the Little Friends. Plus I had a memorable day.

Every time I look at the picture or set a table with the dishes, I’ll be reminded of the delightful afternoon I spent in charming Naperville. And why buying heavy stuff while on vacation isn’t a good idea.

35 Replies to “When Buying Used Isn’t Frugal: A Personal Finance Blogger Fail”

  1. The vacation stories that are always the most memorable are the ones where things go awry. They are nice plates. I have a weakness for oriental rugs myself. I have to keep myself from stepping into carpet stores.

    1. You’re smarter than I am, Jesse. Yes the dishes arrived today. I’ll take some pics and put them on The Family CEO’s Facebook page tomorrow.

  2. Okay, I love Naperville! How freakin’ cute are those homes. I love house hunting/staring/stalking.

    Experiences are worth a bit more. Well, I like to think so too.

  3. Not just heavy stuff- I once bought a hand made picnic basket while on vacation. Not heavy- but definitely not fitting in my luggage. It also had to get shipped home.
    The sad part is, we’ve never used it for a picnic. Right now, it’s storage for random things in the top of my closet.

  4. Haha. That sounds like something I would have done.

    It sounds like a lovely time in Naperville. Those houses are definitely worth interrupting your husband’s work day for. :)

  5. I’m glad I’m not the only one that will pay for something I want, and remember the lesson in it all (and not just the failure part). I wish I could have seen more of the city.

    I want to go back and shop around the nice neighborhoods like you did. The pictures your took are beautiful.

    It was so nice meeting you, and I hope we can get breakfast again in the future!

  6. Oh Julie, that is TOO funny! I know some of the girls at FINCON and I were chatting about how unfrugal we were being getting ready for the conference: “Well I need to look nice for the after party, and I need non-sneakers to wear for the days, right?!” haha.

    I am also jealous you got to go to Ikea, and totally agree that the houses in Chicago are gorgeous. I’ve been on several walks myself where I just have to stop and take a picture. Gorgeous stone houses, Victorian style with delightful gardens and inviting porch swings, gorgeous tree lined streets make walking so fun here!

    So glad I got to meet you in person, you are so friendly and I feel so lucky to have you as a blogger friend! Keep up the good work and I wish you continued success with your blog!

    1. Shannyn, Chicago has the most amazing architecture. How cool that you take pictures of the interesting places.

      I really enjoyed meeting you too. Congrats on your Plutus nomination.

  7. Great post, Julie. Early October is the perfect time to be in that Chicago area, I think. On my drive to pick up all the swag on Thursday I was able to see some of those nice neighborhood. Certainly picturesque. Puts you in a great mood, right!? Wait till you see the homes at next year’s location. ;)

    1. Christy, living within day trip distance to Chicago would be wonderful (and dangerous) for me. Glad to hear from another Giordano’s and dish loving homemaker!

  8. yep i’ve been there and done that. When we went to Orlando our first time and bought a bunch of souvenirs that ended up in the thrift store bin or packed away in a memory box. What can you do???

    I loved your blog on sending your child to college with no debt. Mine are young yet but i got a job teach as adjunct faculty at a school part time and the family can use the equivalent of the credit hours i teach to go to school free. Its a state university. If it all works out, they can start there and then move to the bigger school and get some credits.
    The only thing i am worried about is that these higher end schools are onto us and they are reducing credit transfers….so do the planning before hand and make sure that the school your kid may want to go is willing to accept the transfer credits.

  9. Even if the picture frame was $15 (half off $30), $15 is still to much for a “cute” picture frame. Walmart would have been cheaper. Or, how about this crazy idea: Why not buy this same picture frame for $1 to $2 at a yard sale while your driving around to yard sales buying your wares? Sure, the cost of gas might add a little to it. But, with all the running around yard sale shopping, the difference still won’t add up to $15 (Unless you drive a one-ton truck, you might want to consider a cheaper mode of transportation). I don’t think you would find Amy Dacyczyn, the frugal zealot, spending $15 for a small “cute” frame. Sorry guys, but this article had me rolling on the floor. Not very frugal…at all.

    1. Actually, Angel, it wasn’t a picture frame, but a framed picture (a numbered print). I admire Amy, but I in no way live the lifestyle she lives, and I don’t participate in the “I can out-frugal you” stuff that goes on on the internet. We all have different ideas of what constitutes frugal. And it’s good that the post had you rolling on the floor. It was meant to be a tongue in cheek look at buying used gone awry.

    2. Angel, may I point out one benefit of where she spent her money? She spent it not just at a resale shop, but at a shop which supports autism research.

      A WalMart purchase would benefit no one but the Walton family and a bunch of sweatshop owners in China. A yard sale purchase (assuming she could even find art at one that she liked) would still not have any kind of charitable benefit. Too, tt’s very likely that she may be able to deduct part of the purchase from her taxes.

      Every year in our household, we choose a charity to help. Last year, we supported an animal rescue group. I bargain hunted and kept an eye out at yard sales, and we were able to help support them with donations of food and other items they needed. They’re doing better this year, so this year, we’ve chosen a battered women’s shelter. I’ve already managed to use some freebie coupons to get them some packs of diapers and toiletries, plus collected extras for them from other moms I know. Frugality + social conscience is far better, in my book. Why be so self-centered as to help only *my* family with my work?

      And by the way, as the mother of a daughter with autism, let me thank you, Julie, for the purchase.

  10. Then, I guess we are in the same boat. I have a daughter with Downs syndrome, and I do not buy at Walmart. I do not believe in buying new as it wastes earth’s natural resources, and abuses children used as working slaves in other countries. My friends and the community barter online on Facebook with our wares and I give away a lot of freebies at no charge to less than fortunate people in my community. I gave away a microwave that we no longer needed at no charge to a nice lady on our local facebook classifieds website where I am one of three moderators. My husband volunteers at the local animal shelter every Sunday and we help set up their rummage sale they have once a month.

    Best Regards,

    Angel Thompson

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