When I Spend a Bunch of Money I Want Quality

by Katy on June 25, 2012 · 17 comments

My sixteen-year-old  son is leaving this Thursday for trip month-long trip to Japan. And until a couple of days ago I had a huge to-do list looming over my head. Luckily, a day off from work on Saturday provided me the opportunity to go from woefully-behind to comfortably-on-top-of-details. 

You may think that having just completed a trip to Japan would mean that this process would be a no brainer, but the packing lists differ enough to feel like I’m starting from square one.

And because I follow The Compact and try my best to only buy used, buying specific items takes a bit more time and dumb luck.

Here’s what my to-do/to buy list looked like going into the weekend:

  • Khaki slacks
  • Athletic shoes to wear for Japanese P.E. class. (These need to have never been worn outdoors.)
  • Slippers
  • Large rolling suitcase
  • Watch
  • Dress shirt
  • Convert dollars to yen.
  • Gifts for Sapporo and Tokyo host families.

However, on Saturday the four of us all piled into the minivan and ran errands. (It was a rare weekend day when neither me nor my husband worked.)  First up was to the Adidas employee store, where we had a pass and were thusly able to enjoy their 50%-off prices. I picked up two T-shirts for gifts that have the Adidas logo and “Portland” on them. My son chose a pair of athletic shoes and some “slides” that he’ll also be able to wear for lifeguarding. (I do not buy used host family gifts, so that is very much under my exception list.)

We then stopped at Marshall’s, as I figured they would be a good source for quality, inexpensive luggage. Wrong! Not only was their luggage still expensive, but the quality was awful! Each suitcase looked like it would be unlikely to survive the trip, let alone be something we could use for years to come. This pissed me off, as I’ve been keeping an eye out for luggage for the last month, which means I have probably looked at 15 different thrift stores and struck out.

When I break down and spend a bunch of money, I want to buy quality, not crap!

Needless to say, I walked out empty handed.

I had my husband drop my son and I off on a busy shopping street near our house where we found a nice pair of second-hand khakis as well as some host family gifts. (Tazo chai tea, boxes of smoked salmon, and Oregon vintage-look tea towels.)

And then yesterday on my way home from work I stopped at Goodwill and bought a new-in-box Victorinox Swiss Army watch for $15 and a nice dress shirt.

Here’s what my to-do/to-buy list looks like now:

  • Large suitcase
  • Last few gifts for Sapporo/Tokyo host families.
  • Convert dollars to yen.

Today my sons and I are going to run through all the thrift stores on S.E. 82nd avenue for a suitcase, and then buy one at JCPenney if need be. I’ll also stop at See’s for lollipops and Bob’s Red Mill to buy some local food gifts to fill in the gaps for host family gifts.

Then I’ll be done shopping, and I can start to focus on how much I’ll miss my son this summer.


Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen June 25, 2012 at 10:15 am

Not sure if this will help but Costco has some really nice rolling duffle bags. My parents just got one for my niece for camp. I know that wouldn’t quite fit your rules, but in case of emergency.
I’d totally give you one if you were closer!


Katy June 25, 2012 at 10:18 am

Thanks! But my first choice is JCPenney since I have a $100 gift card to spend.

Normally I would look to borrow, but I’m worried that my son will scratch and dent any suitcase, and I’d hate to do that to someone else’s property.



Carolyn June 25, 2012 at 10:26 am

It might be worth putting a shout out for the suitcase. As an organizer, I see folks with tons of suitcases in their basements, many rarely used. Maybe a friend would be willing to unload one….heck if you were in Michigan, I’d lend you one from our basement.


Diane C June 25, 2012 at 10:45 am

Heck, I’d lend you one of my Costco suitcases if I lived near you. Despite your gift card, I would strongly second the Costco recommendation. The quality you get for the dollar spent can’t be beat. (See today’s headline.) Their suitcases are awesome and I’m sure that JCP gift card has no expiration date.


b. June 25, 2012 at 11:21 am

I agree that it’s worth asking around about borrowing a suitcase. I think most folks understand that a suitcase is going to take some wear and tear.

I spent a year abroad in college and had one of those ginormous rolling suitcases–the biggest you can get on a plane–and of course it’s too big for any other use. So, it went to England with a friend and then to Ireland with another. Because it IS such good quality, it’s lasted 15+ years and is just fine despite much rough treatment. And I’m delighted to send it around the world with anyone who asks. 🙂


Linda in Indiana June 25, 2012 at 11:43 am

What about Freecycle or Craigslist? I understand not wanting to borrow for you son and send it around the world. But, some of your nearby readers may want to clear out somethings–just get rid of and declutter– and it would help them and you. I thought you selected neat gifts and was impressed with the things you were are able to thrift. You are one smart cookie!


Yvette June 25, 2012 at 3:08 pm

If you see this before you buy a suitcase you can have one of mine. We have three large rolling suitcases that have survived over 10,000 miles of travel and are still going strong. I no longer need all three as my youngest has left the nest and we are traveling much lighter these days. Email me.


Katy June 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Thank you so much, but I ended up finding an awesome tall rolling suitcase at Goodwill today.

Totes made my day. 😉



angela June 25, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Check at Ross. Do you have one in Portland? I bought a carry-on sized suitcase for $30 there that has traveled everywhere with me, including all over Australia.


elizabeth June 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Hi Katy,
I was just at the bins today and they had so many suitcases, some of them looked really good.
Good luck getting him ready.


Katy June 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Thanks for the tip, but I found an awesome “Kiva” suitcase for $14.24 today and it’s perfect!



Elaine June 26, 2012 at 8:21 pm

We have been enjoying the limited time flavor, Root Beer lollipops from Sees. They are amazing. Almost as amazing as the cinnamon ones were! My son is in Kansas City this week with Skills USA. I was in the same boat as you in regards to suitcases. And, like you, I lucked out on my last trip to St. Vincents. Yeah for thrift stores. Two weeks ago my mom and I went to Seattle for a long weekend. We stopped in a Goodwill we happened to see and I scored with a pair of Talbots jeans and a Liz Claiborne top. When I go to England my favorite stops are at “charity shops”. The only problem is bringing it all home!!


Katy June 27, 2012 at 9:01 am

You sound like my kind of gal!



anexactinglife June 27, 2012 at 2:40 am

Re: the host gifts – can you really import food into Japan? Just curious if you have been able to do this before.


Katy June 27, 2012 at 9:00 am

As long as it’s not fresh fruit, it’s all good!



Amy June 27, 2012 at 3:38 am

Love your magnificent hunting skills. Try to think of your son’s trip as a warm up to sending him off to college, which is exponentially more difficult than sending him on a trip.


Katy June 27, 2012 at 8:59 am

At least when he goes to college, he’ll be able to buy American goods if there’s something we forgot to buy at home.



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