Woman to go entire year only buying stuff at Goodwill

Woman to go entire year only buying stuff at Goodwill
ISSAQUAH, Wash. -- The concept is simple: one woman, one year, only Goodwill.

Beautiful Existence -- yes that’s her real name -- issued that challenge to herself for 2011. Outside of food and medicine, she will provide for her household all year long, by shopping only at Goodwill stores.

"This is really great that we have these options to be able to reduce the amount of waste and the amount of consumerism," Existence said.

A life-long thrift store shopper, Existence tells me she's not only challenging herself, but she's also contributing to the success of non-profits.

"To be able to give back to a community," she said. "It's really nice to see that in person, to see that this is really helping other people. And that what I'm doing is way outside of myself."

So far, Existence found everything her family needs from a mini food processor, to baby bottles toys and more.

"I've even gotten a brand new bottle at a Goodwill," she said. "If you're looking, you can really find a lot of stuff. I needed Super Glue. I found Super Glue, for like six packs for a $1.29 at the Burien store," she boasts.

And when she doesn't find what she's looking for -- a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff for a class she's taking -- she goes online to shopgoodwill.com. Those two items will arrive in the mail any day now.

And since her 9-month-old son keeps pulling her glasses off her face, Existence decided she should have a backup pair. Again, shopgoodwill.com came through for her.

"Shop Goodwill even has Ted Baker glasses," she says. Now she just needs to take the frames to her eye doctor for new lenses.

Another challenge is finding gifts for other people. But many people donate items that have never been used before. Existence was able to put together a great gift for a friend who's having a baby, finding all new items with original tags.

Existence’s older son will be 11 in a few weeks -- he's getting a Goodwill gift card.

"And so he's really excited to go and buy and see what he can find," she said.

And for her sister's birthday, she scored a handful of fun bracelets.

"It is the thrill of the hunt; the finding something," she says.

Existence says she grew up in the Olympia area and her family was very self-sustaining on a farm. She says they churned their own butter, grew their vegetables and raised their animals. She admits she rode the wave of her generation, getting hooked on consumerism in college, but then she found her way back to her roots.

"It's good to be frugal in a lot of ways and you can do it and you can look good and you can get things that you need," she said. "This challenge has been really neat because I've met all these different people through these Facebook pages or through touring the Goodwills."

When I asked her for her best purchase so far, she tells me she just found it hours earlier when she attended the opening the Shelton Goodwill: a darling red tricycle. She paid just $10 for it! A perfect gift for her son, who turns one in May. She looked it up later and figured it would cost $60-$70 in a traditional retail store.

So when you’re only shopping thrift stores, constantly finding bargains, is it tempting to buy more than you really need?

"I could go crazy. I could buy a ton of stuff, but I have lists and I try and honor those lists," she says.

Existence keeps a prioritized list on her phone.

She also keeps her receipts. So far, she bought 67 items for a grand total of $150.70. Adding up the median retail price on all those things, Existence says she would have spent $909.97.

Now that's what you call frugal.

She says the one thing she would not buy at Goodwill was underwear -- she stocked up before she began the challenge.

"But I went into the section and lo and behold, there are unmentionables. And I was like 'no way,' I didn't think I wasn't going to do this," she said.

But she did.

Existence is blogging about her yearlong challenge at http://livingthegoodwilllife.wordpress.com