Transform your home or meal with thrifty ways and low-cost ideas. Make garage sales and thrift or dollar stores part of your errand ritual.

Do you ever go to a dinner party and sit down at a beautifully-set table and you immediately feel intimidated? Maybe you don’t have the resources or means to put such a table together, or you don’t feel like you are creative enough to take what you have and bring it all together. Maybe you have the failure to see your strengths and make something happen (in this case, stepping out and inviting people over and using what you have to practice hospitality!); or maybe you have an overemphasis on tradition, seeing what others do or what your family used to do, and with your resources now, you can’t measure up. Or maybe you are overall just over certain, as in rigid. You can’t see “out of the box,” and if you can’t do entertaining a certain way, you won’t do it at all.

I have learned through the years to take what I have and make something happen! I have learned the value of being hospitable is not about what I have, but what I give. I guess you’d say I am a thrifty, or frugal person in many ways. I’ve learned to be good at taking food in my fridge, or leftovers, and to make a creative meal. I’ve also learned to be, in many ways, a prudent or sparing shopper.

This is why I love garage sales or thrift shops. My favorite “find” is my Duncan Phyfe dining room table that I found about 12 years ago. I couldn’t even begin to count the meals that we have eaten around this $200 garage sale find. I love the fact that something so reasonable has ended up being one of my prized pieces of furniture.

Of course our friends still laugh about the Coughlin’s finding their Volvo at a garage sale. We pulled up to this sale at the exact moment the owners were putting a sign on the windshield, “FOR SALE.” This car was so good to us as we drove it to the ground, right up until a couple of years ago when we finally sold it.

I often hit the Dollar Store or Goodwill. You have to be diligent and always keep an eye open for a bargain, and for the right thing to jump out at you. I’ve learned that it’s best to go with a list of what I need, rather than going to just buy “anything” and end up with a bunch of “stuff.” Or, my rule of thumb is that if I come home with something, then I must get rid of something!

When it comes to entertaining, some of my finds have been: tablecloths, 24 matching glass-etched dishes (I use for larger parties), cloth napkins, candle holders, glasses of all sorts, many kinds of white dishes (which I collect), pitchers, platters, candles, patio furniture, large umbrella & stand, gardening pieces, and much more, all in their unique form!

I love the uniqueness that comes with finding a bargain or something different. You spend very little money on something that you find that’s unique to whatever style it is that you have! Remember, someone else’s garbage is another person’s diamond.

I recently garage-saled with my friend Hoppi. Here is a picture of what I found, all for $6.

A beautiful brand new shower curtain (which I will use as a side serving table tablecloth): $1. A fun bronzed pot: $1. A clock, now hanging in my dining room: $1. Bonsai tree with stand: $3.

I also lucked out that day and found a Vent Du Sud table cloth at Goodwill for $5. If you go on-line, you will find that this brand is not cheap.

Last summer my boys both needed dressers for their rooms. I’m talking tall dressers with drawers that slide smoothly, and that are nice looking. I had to wait for the right ones, but by within 2 months I found each boy a dresser that matched their room, for $40 each. I saved a couple hundred dollars each, in the process. And speaking of kids: we have purchased bargain after bargain of kids’ clothing, ski gear, toys and you name it!

I know garage-saling or Goodwill shopping is not for everyone. That is where the Dollar Stores come in. You have to frequent them often, but occasionally you will find something fun and very reasonable for entertaining. I’ve bought plates, glasses, and holiday decorations and many of my Balcony Girls prizes!

Remember, putting a table together does not have to take a lot of money. Grab a friend and a few dollars and try something new! You’ll be surprised at what you can find, and with very little money, turn around and bless another family.

I’d love to hear what some of your bargains have been?

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