Reader Question — Garage Sale Earrings

by Katy on June 21, 2012 · 18 comments

This question came in from Linda over at the Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group:

Back to garage sales, is something still a deal if you have to “do something” to it? For a cheap example, I bought a pair of smokey quartz earrings at a garage sale for 50 cents. I got home and realized that one ear wire was gold and the other was silver. Looked weird. (Did not notice in the sun before purchasing.) So, then had to drive to the craft store and buy replacement ear wires adding time and gas to the purchase and the time with the pliers to fix the earrings. Even using a coupon, total cost of earrings was now $2.61. Still a good deal, but more than what I thought I was getting for 50 cents. If I had seen them on the garage sale table for $2.61, I would have passed. On larger purchases in the past, I have spent way more time in repairing something, purchasing paint, etc. than I did on the actual item. Sometimes, I feel like it was worth it (such as the savings I got from repairing old furniture rather than buying new) and sometimes I feel like I spent too much having to repair something frivolous (like the earrings that I didn’t really need in the first place). Maybe that is it- If the item is a need, it is worth the time and additional $ outlay, and if it is a want, maybe not so much. Discuss?

I think this is a very interesting question, as a bargain that requires us spend to money is far from a bargain. My take was I actually like to fix things up, but would have looked to my current earrings stash to find the missing parts rather than buying new.

How about you?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen | The Frugal Girl June 22, 2012 at 4:30 am

I think it depends how much money and time is required, how much you paid for the item, and how much it’s worth.

I bought Zoe’s bed for $50, and then put about $10-$15 of supplies and 8 hours of work into it. This would be crazy for a pair of earrings, but not for a bed that would cost hundreds of dollars if I bought it new.

And I do think you have to take into account how much you like or don’t like the tasks required to fix up the item in question. I kind of enjoy painting furniture, so this wasn’t a big deal to me.


Kate June 22, 2012 at 4:55 am

I second everything Kristen said and would add – are you really going to complete the project? My mother has a house full of “Oh, I’m just going to do ____ to it and then it will be ready to use!” items purchased at yard sales. These projects will never happen, thus the money was a waste and the stuff just sits there.


Kristen | The Frugal Girl June 22, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Oh yes, that’s a good point too. If you start to have these kind of projects pile up, then it’s probably wise to halt the buying until you get around to the fixing up.


Dogs or Dollars June 22, 2012 at 5:19 am

I often look for things I’m going to fix up or make part of a larger project actually. I bought a $3 wall hanging last night. Brass and black flowers, ewwww. But it’ll be super cute with a coat of spray paint. I’m currently debating if the stash of paint I have in my garage has sufficient options for this mini-project.

Earrings though? Although I’d be unlikely to rake myself over to coals too much for $1.50 or so.


Pollyanna June 22, 2012 at 6:09 am

Just a few thoughts to add: Once they were in your ears, would anyone have noticed that they were different colors (I am not sure how much the earring dangles and shows the metal). Second thought, if they caught your eye and you liked them, won’t you get $2.61 worth of enjoyment out of them? Third, if you really don’t see the value in them for yourself, why not clean them up and put them in a pretty little box or gauze bag and give as a gift? A lovely pair of earrings as a gift for <$3 is a deal good enough for any frugalista, right?


AnnW June 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Yep, Pollyanna, you are just like your name. Life is too short to worry about little things. The letter writer could have replaced the wires on an errand, and not worried about the extra gas. You have to have fun, once in a while. Ann


Lily June 23, 2012 at 4:19 am

This. Are we really debating about spending $3 for earrings? Come on, still a steal 🙂


Lili@creativesavv June 22, 2012 at 6:26 am

I often look for crafting supplies at garage sales. I see the item’s potential not in what it currently is, but in what I can make from it. Fixing up a pair of earrings to make them exactly how you want them is not a waste, in my opinion.

Often in retail establishments we can’t find exactly what we want, either, and I know that I may get home and have to tweak something that’s brand new, to make it just right for me. Take pants for example, women’s slacks almost always need the hem adjusted, yet we don’t flinch at the idea of doing that. It’s what we’ve come to expect.

If the earrings are now exactly how you’d like them to be, then I don’t think that you spent too much fixing the earrings.


Linda H. June 22, 2012 at 6:48 am

Hi! This was my question on FB. I agree with what everyone has said. It definitely depends on the item, whether you are actually going to take the time to fix something after you buy it (not a problem for me) and if you really like it. The earrings were just a stand-in to pose the question. I’m definitely not losing sleep over $2.00. 🙂 I guess it just made me think about the whole concept of a bargain in general and made me think about wants vs. needs. I would much rather have found some old earring parts, but sadly didn’t have any and didn’t want to wait to thrift any in this instance. The gold and silver difference was noticeable when they were on and one was kind of bent and needed tweaking anyways. BUT, I have worn them, do love them and they ended up being well worth the money and the time to fix them. I’ve purchased other used, not-quite-right items though in the past and even after time and $, it did not work out so well, the project would have ended up being too expensive or it didn’t come out like I thought.


Pollyanna June 22, 2012 at 7:54 am

Sometimes you know a fix is needed for a “find” to make it work for you, then you have to assess the extent of the fix in terms of time and money, and is it all worthwhile. Other times, it is an unforeseen fix, like your earrings — then it’s either modify/repair to meet your needs OR a big oops, I didn’t intend to invest more money and don’t want to throw good money after bad. In these cases, I’d try to salvage it – either sell it for what I paid, or spend the $ to fix and resell it or gift it.


Kathleen Harris June 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm

If they are real Smokey Quartz, it a steal! 🙂


Barb June 22, 2012 at 5:19 pm

I occasionally buy clothing at Goodwill knowing I will need to alter and I am okay with that as I have the skills and lots of thread in many colors. I recently found a high quality skirt in a brand I like but it had a ruffle at the bottom which made it feel a bit like, “little house on the prairie. It took only an hour or so to remove the ruffle and rehem and I love the skirt now. I also bought a cardigan a few months ago that had beautiful silk ribbon embroidery on it but it was coming loose in a couple of areas. I had all the supplies and I repaired the embroidery and have gotten so many complements on it. I second what several here have said in that it makes sense to buy things that need work only if you have the time and interest to make the repairs. It makes me happy to rework stuff so I will continue to look for stuff I can tweak a bit.


AFS June 22, 2012 at 8:28 pm

I sometimes get stung like that but I feel the really good deals out number the few bad one by a huge margin. I think my most expensive example is a lamp I purchased at a low price but by the time I rewired, painted and purchased a new shade it was no longer a bargin. BUT I now have a lamp that is exactly what I want. I would have never found one like it shopping retail.


lisa June 23, 2012 at 10:21 am

This may be waaaaaaaaay TMI, but the thing that has saved me the most money in this particular arena was finally getting a correct diagnosis of a mental disorder that had resulted in periods of mania and hypomania. Fortunately, I never descended into the type of craziness that propels people to financially ruin themselves with airline tickets to Dubai. Still, during those periods, I would buy things at thrift stores and garage sales I just knew would be FANTASTIC with a little TLC. I never, ever, ever made it through more than half a project before abandoning it, inevitably in favor of buying more, more, more. Now that I am stabilized, I can’t belive the sheer amount of crap I accumulated. I’m faced with (among many other things) sorting through both the crap and the fact that the money is gone.

I can only speak for my own experience, and I by no means thing the behavior of the original questioner or the commenters is the same kind of pathology that befell me. However, if you do find yourself in this type of spending pattern, it may be worthwhile to speak to a doctor.


Katy June 23, 2012 at 11:09 am


Thank you for sharing. Buying, buying, buying can certainly be part of the manic phase of a mood disorder.

Love you.



Elaine in Ark June 28, 2012 at 10:17 am

Lisa, thank you for talking about this problem. I’m glad to hear that you are now stable. Get rid of the junk and dump the guilt about spending so much money (water under the bridge, now).


lisa June 23, 2012 at 11:47 am

Me too! 🙂

I still thrift/garage sale of course. But now I am far, far less inclined to buy. I did get an amazing deal on a purse that I had coveted new, but when I bypassed a set of crystal champagne glasses for 59 cents apiece, the friend I was with (who knew the score) said, “Who ARE you?”

Of course, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, but I often find myself wondering exactly how much of our compulsive acquisition springs from some sort of Problem…


Valerie Heck Esmont June 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I buy things, normally furniture, with the intent of repairing, painting it and adding new drawer pulls. All of my furniture is made of solid wood or metal. No compressed board ikea-like furniture. I love the look of Ikea but that stuff just falls apart.
I’m very lucky in that my husband and I are both the oldest and first married in our families so we are given all kinds of old family furniture, extra sheets, lots of stuff. I don’t take it all, only what we can use. And I work hard to fix things up and repaint as needed!
This year my mom gave me very fun Halloween decorations. I don’t spend much or any money on holiday decorations so this was a real treat!


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