Finding a Bargain

I saw the garage sale sign out of the corner of my eye. After a quick check on traffic, I stomped on the brakes; a bit too hard. The car stopped so suddenly that my eight and twelve year old daughters in the backseat rocked forward and protested in unison, “Mom!”

My theory at the time was to stop at every garage sale that I saw. Not every sale would have what I needed, but through the years I had noticed that on average one yard sale out of ten yielded huge bargains. That made me not want to miss even one sale. The one that I missed might have been the one where the best buys were to be found.

The next time I was in town Niki and Tammie started to giggle every time they saw a garage sale sign and made the sound of brake-locked tires skidding across pavement. “ErrrK! Errrk! I glanced around. Because I was paying attention to traffic, I hadn’t seen the garage sale sign two houses back. Pulling over to the curb, I turned and glared at my daughters. I figured that was the only way for me to make sure they would continue functioning as garage sale-spotting sirens.

Bargains at places like garage sales help families with children keep the cost of living down. I always thought of searching for bargains as a treasure hunt. I never knew what I would find. If I had a list of things that I wanted, I sometimes found higher quality items than I would have bought had I gone to my last resort, a big box store.

Years later after Niki had started her family, she said to me, “I have a new favorite department store!”

“Which one is that?” I asked, intrigued.

Niki gushed, “It’s Saint Vincent de Paul. I found so many good things there today! I especially liked the prices they charge.”

I nodded. I had become aware of the store when she and her sister were in grade school. Had I visited the store then, it would have been my favorite department store, too.

One of the biggest bargains that Niki and I have ever found is both money-saving and fun on so many levels that it is hard to describe. It is entering bakery, canning, garden produce and crafts at the Central Wisconsin State Fair in Marshfield.

We pay one entry fee whether we enter one item or hundreds of them. Since we want to have fun and not drive ourselves nuts, we do try to limit how many things we make though. The entry fee also pays for admittance to the fair each day. If our entries win ribbons, the fair board pays us a premium for each. The goal my daughter and I reach for is to earn enough money to return the entry fee money to our pockets. That makes going to the fair not only free, but also fun to attend. We want go there to not only see what everyone else has entered, but also to find out how our items rated.

I feel excited when I create something. Last week I attended a picnic. After I finished eating, I leaned back and visited with people as I did some embroidery on one of my fair projects. It was an enjoyable blue-ribbon-evening, even without taking the fair into consideration.

Early this summer I didn’t think that my daughter Niki, would be up to entering crafts at the fair this fall. To my delight, one day a few weeks ago, she said with a demure smile and a small twinkle in her eyes, “I stopped at the Hancock Fabric Store the other day. I bought tulle so that I can make a special wreath for the fair.”

Realizing that she was going to play, ‘find a bargain’ at the fair with me again this year, I felt like standing up and cheering.

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