When my friend and co-worker, Lisa, and I were assigned to write stories about the in’s and out’s of yard sales, flea markets, and discount stores, we knew we’d have fun sharing our thoughts with our readers.

What we didn’t know was that preparing to write the stories would reveal how much we had in common — and how much we don’t have in common!

Lisa and I both get excited about saving money. We just go about saving it in different ways.

Lisa buys discounted craft supplies so she can create beautiful things like quilts and pillows. I get excited when I find a ready-made quilt or pillow at a ridiculously low price.

Lisa buys some of her grocery items at outlet stores. Food in her home is made from scratch. I would starve to death in her home. I avoid grocery stores of any kind as much as possible, and my idea of frugal grocery shopping is using a coupon to get $1 off my favorite frozen dinner.

Lisa cringes at the thought of rummaging through boxes at yard sales. I can’t wait to see what treasure might be hiding in someone else’s jumbled box of unwanted stuff.

Lisa gives me a blank stare while I babble about the bargains that can be found on ebay. I am equally as aloof about her latest trek to the liquidation store.

But in spite of our differences, we always find ourselves on common ground when it comes to saving a few bucks.

Like Lisa, I avoid paying full price for anything from toothpaste to furniture. I love the thrill of getting a steal. I cringe at the thought of buying brand new clothes for children who are growing by leaps and bounds with each passing season. I want to have nice things for my home, for myself, and for my family — but, to me, nice doesn’t have to mean expensive. In fact, I would rather brag about what a great deal I got for something than to be embarrassed to admit how much I paid for it.

If you found Lisa’s “bargain hunting” article to be helpful, I hope you’ll take the time to read my thoughts on the same topic. You might find a little of yourself in both of us.

Yard sales — not for the faint of heart

If I had my way, nearly every warm, sunny Saturday morning would be spent cruising from yard sale to yard sale with a pocket full of dollar bills and a car trunk waiting to be filled with found treasures.

But not every weekend can be spent that way. There are days when the weather doesn’t cooperate, and there are perfectly beautiful mornings when find myself at my son’s and stepson’s ball games. And then there are mornings when piles of laundry are beckoning, and I just can’t find the time to tear myself away to go bargain hunting.

Oh, but when I do get the

chance to go...

Here are just some of the things I’ve found: Countless unique, vintage kitchen items (from potholders to old soda bottles to metal chairs) which go great in my vintage kitchen. A pair of tennis shoes in my size with the tags still attached for $2. An old stereo console (which, when covered with a nice piece of fabric, became a perfect foyer table) for $1. Nearly new clothes for my rapidly-growing son for pennies on the dollar. Three antique iron light fixtures (which I later learned were quite valuable) for FREE. Stainless kitchen utensils (for days when I have more guests than forks) for a few cents a piece.

If you enjoy browsing, rummaging, and sometimes haggling — yard sale-ing may be right up your alley. But there are downsides, and it isn’t for everyone.

Be prepared to do quite a bit of walking. Dress ready to start the day with cool weather and to end the day in sweltering heat. Know that, on occasion, you’ll spend all morning searching for anything that catches your eye only to come home empty-handed. You’ll probably have to weed through lots of just plain junk in the hopes of finding a gem.

But plenty of times, you’ll hit the jackpot — at an estate sale with endless stacks of beautiful old china, at the home of a divorcée who is selling her ex-husband’s designer shirts, in the garage of a downsizing couple getting rid of their gently used furniture, or at any place where clearing out the “stuff” is more important to the seller than making a profit.

If you decide to give yard sales a try, here are a few tips

• Take plenty of small bills and change. Sellers will usually not be able to break your $20 or $50 bill without running out of change for other shoppers.

• If you think an item is priced too high, ask the seller, “What’s the least you would take for this?” If the price is still too high, make a counter offer. But don’t insult the seller by trying to pay less for something that’s obviously worth what he or she is asking.

• Grab a newspaper and map out your yard sale route before you begin so you don’t waste time and gas wandering around town.

• If you haven’t found what you’re looking for at yard sales in the Somerset area, give surrounding areas a try. I have had better luck at yard sales in Danville, Lexington, and as far away as Indiana.

• If you decide that you’re a fan of yard sale-ing adventures, there are two you definitely shouldn’t miss: the “15 Mile Plus Yard Sale” which stretches more than 15 miles from Nancy all the way to Russell County every September on the weekend after Labor Day, and the “127 Corridor Sale” which stretches 450 miles from northern Kentucky to central Alabama each year on the first weekend in August. You don’t have to travel that far to see it, of course. Hwy. 127 comes as close to Pulaski County as Clinton and Russell Counties.

The ultimate online yard sale

For those who don’t wish to brave the weather or endure the haggling of yard sales, there is another option: ebay.com.

These days, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of ebay, but there is still a surprising number of people who haven’t experienced it for themselves.

Whether you love yard sales, antique shops, flea markets, or outlet stores — ebay is all of those things wrapped into one location on the Web. On ebay, you can find clothing, home décor, artwork, antiques, toys, gifts, jewelry, appliances, food — even vehicles and real estate — in just about any price range and condition.

To keep things from getting overwhelming, the folks at ebay have made shopping easy. You can specifically search for items that are new or used, long sleeve or short sleeve, pre-1950 or post-1990, under $1 or over $1,000, with just a few mouse clicks.

Ebay is an online auction site. That means you’ll be making purchases based on the most you would be willing to pay for an item rather than the least you can fork over.

A word of warning: ebay is highly addictive! Be prepared to spend long hours browsing around! But at least you’ll be sitting in the comfort of your own home.

Signing up to shop on ebay is completely free. (Of course, when you do decide to buy something, you’ll have to pay the seller.)

If you decide to visit ebay,

here are a few tips

• Unless you are truly just browsing around, be very specific when you are searching for an item to buy. Instead of conducting a search for “curtains,” type in “new white curtain sheers 84 inches” and click on “search title and description.” This will significantly narrow down your options and will keep you from scrolling past the hundreds of used beige 60-inch drapes before you get to something you like.

• Take time to familiarize yourself with ebay sellers’ lingo. NWT means “new with tags.” OOB means “out of box.”

• Don’t forget that most sellers require that you pay for the cost of shipping the item on top of the amount you pay for the item itself. Read the item description carefully, and include the seller’s shipping fees when you’re figuring how much you’re willing to pay for an item. For example, a new brand name shirt for $2 is a great price, even when you have to pay an extra $4 for shipping costs. But if the seller is charging you $15 for “shipping and handling,” it’s not such a bargain anymore.

• Check a seller’s reputation before you commit to buying an item. Sellers on ebay have feedback ratings which can be viewed by potential buyers. By taking a few seconds to check a seller’s feedback, you could learn whether he or she has been reliable in the past — and whether you can trust him or her with your money.

More ways to shop and save at home

As much as I love to find things that are dirt cheap, I don’t want everything I own to be secondhand. That’s where other forms of online shopping come in.

Let’s face it, in Pulaski County, there is a shortage of trendy places to shop. And it’s not always convenient or cost-effective to travel to other cities when the trendy places have sales.

Thankfully, many stores are developing presences online — so people like me can shop for bargains at any hour of the day or night from home. I don’t even have to worry about putting on makeup.

If you haven’t discovered this form of shopping yet, and if you are short on the time and patience needed to travel from store to store, run to the nearest computer and start searching for your favorite stores online. Many of these stores offer special values for Internet shoppers, and many can send you e-mails (at your request) to alert you to sales events.

Shopping online has saved me tons of money and time, especially around the holidays.

Just some of my favorite places to shop include: oldnavy.com, childrensplace.com, overstock.com, kbtoys.com, chadwicks.com, jcpenney.com, and lillianvernon.com.

Even if there is a store nearby, online locations often offer a greater selection of merchandise.

If you decide to try shopping online, here are a few tips

• Again, don’t forget that you will usually have to pay shipping costs for items you purchase online. When you are determining whether you are getting a bargain, add the cost of shipping onto your cost for the merchandise.

• Look out for special offers, where real bargains can be found. E-mailed offers often contain limited-time coupons for free shipping or for a percentage off purchases. Don’t ignore these offers.

• Most online stores have links to their “clearance” items or to their “outlet” store. Take time to check out those links. As with “real” stores, you can often find incredible bargains there.

• Take time to investigate Web sites such as mypoints.com and freestylerewards.com. These free sites allow you to earn points for purchases made at certain online stores — and to earn points for doing simple things such as reading e-mails. These points can be redeemed for gift certificates to other stores. With the points I earned for shopping through mypoints.com at Christmas-time, I received a gift certificate to WalMart. Receiving a bargain in exchange for shopping for bargains ... now there’s a dream come true for people like me. v

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