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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

All About Road Tripping

Anonymous wrote: I would love to here more about where you shop on your planned trips. (We only have Goodwill where I live.) 

I only have one Goodwill too. I've mentioned several times before that I periodically take buying trips. These trips really are one of the highlights of my business. I love them! I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of 4. I don't get a lot of All By Myself time. I love my family madly, but sometimes a girl just needs to get out and do her own thing for a day.

I am very lucky in that I have willing babysitters near where I do my road trips. The kids and I pile in the van early in the morning, run through the McDonald's drive through for a bagel and orange juice, and head off. I drop the kids off as soon as we get there, and then I head out the rest of the day, not coming back until the stores have all closed.

I have 2 routes that I do regularly: one in Harrisburg (day trip) and one near Philadelphia (weekend trip). I go to Philly twice a year and Harrisburg as often as I can fit it in the rest of the year (usually every 2 or 3 months). When I originally planned my routes, I enlisted the help of family and friends that live in those areas. They helped me make a list of all the resale shops they knew of. I printed out the addresses, grabbed my GPS, and off I went. I have tweaked my list over the months, because there were some that were no longer in business and others that I stumbled on that weren't on my list.

I hit Goodwills, Salvation Armies, Community Aids ... I generally stay away from the hole-in-the-wall local consignment stores, because their prices are higher than thrift stores, simply due to the nature of their business. I don't hold that against them - consignment stores are an entirely different business model.

Before my trip, I save up as much money as I possibly can (leaving it in my Paypal account - gotta get that 1% cash back!). When I'm road tripping, I don't want to have to leave any great finds behind just because I ran out of money. I usually head out with at least $300 for the day trips and $500 for the weekend trips. I know more or less what I'm willing to spend on any given item, so it's really nice to have the ability to just toss items into my cart as I go, without having to stop and think and research to see if the price is right. I know I've got the money, I know it's within the price range I'm comfortable with, so I just toss stuff in my cart and keep on rolling.

I've done both routes often enough that I know basically what to expect in each store when I get there. I have figured out which stores overprice (so I know to only watch for the half-off color in that store). I have figured out which stores have better inventory (based on the neighborhood). I have figured out the best routes to get where I want to go. I have figured out at what point I need to stop to eat because I know the next several stores aren't anywhere near a restaurant.

The one thing I haven't figured out is how to get all my inventory AND all my kids to fit in the van to come home. I usually pack the van full of inventory while I'm shopping, and then I remember I have to put the kids in there somewhere. It takes some creative rearranging, but I haven't had to leave one behind yet ;-)

It really is a dream day! I shop where I want to. I go to the bathroom when I want to, and I don't have to make sure the kids go at every bathroom we find so there are no accidents. But you know the best part?? I get to EAT wherever I want to! No McDonalds! And when I get my food, I get to eat my food. I don't have to cut up other people's food, clean up other people's spills. It's an entire day all about me!  Yes, I know that sounds terribly selfish, but it doesn't happen all that often, so I soak it up when I can :)

Just a few quick tips before I wrap this up:
  • Save your receipts. Obviously you want to save your shopping receipts, but also save your meal and snack receipts.
  • Track your mileage. This is an easy one. Just reset your trip odometer to zero before you leave your house, and write down the total when you get home. We get to deduct somewhere around 50 cents per mile on our taxes. This can add up very quickly. My Harrisburg road trips are around 250 miles round trip. That's $125 I get to deduct for each trip!
  • Keep track of your purchases. This is the hardest part of the trip for me. When I get home, it's really hard to match up which receipt went with which bag(s) of stuff. I keep track of how much I spend per item so I know what offers I'm willing to accept. You'll also need to remember to cross any personal purchases off your receipts. I take a tablet and pen with me and, after each store, I sit in the car for a minute and jot down everything I bought there. You should be able to just write on the back of the receipt too.
  • Take lots of water/caffeine. I have a small cooler I take with me. I put 3 or 4 bottles of water, 3 or 4 cans of Diet Pepsi, and some ice packs in there. The caffeine is especially helpful on the long drive home after an exhausting day.
  • Have fun! This is your excuse to go shopping ... guilt-free! Enjoy it! It's your JOB!


  1. Do you find that there is a better day of the week to do your road trips? I tried stopping at a couple of Goodwills on a roadtrip that I already had planned for other reasons on a Sunday but they seemed really picked over. Not sure if was because of the location or if it was the timing. Thanks!

  2. I haven't discovered the very BEST day yet, but I've discovered the very WORST day. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to go on half-price day. Hahahahaha. Me and everyone else in the city. Everything was very picked over by the end of the day, so I won't do that again.

    I also won't go the day AFTER half price day.

    I'm thinking the best day would be the day BEFORE half price day. Full selection, and probably not much store traffic, because everyone will probably be waiting to shop on the following day.

  3. If you purchase items at a yard sale, do you write down the address for tax purposes or how do you work that out? How do you prove where you did the purchase?

  4. I just keep a separate spreadsheet for yard sale purchases (and mileage). That's all I use for a receipt.

  5. Thank you :-) I just wanted to let you know I love your site keep it up.

  6. This post makes me smile. It's so nice to know their are others in the world that are like me! To me, this day sounds absolutely dreamy... all my real life friends would laugh out loud to hear me say that. :)