It’s time to shake the blog dust off! I’ve been distracted teaching myself to illustrate my next book, a completely different topic than saving, about cats :). But the blog ideas haven’t gone astray, they’ve just been neglected, so here we go!

This past weekend, the boyfriend and I headed “to town”. When you live on the outskirts, going to Vancouver feels like an adventure where you never know what’s “in store”. 

We zoned in on the Granville strip between 16th and Broadway as there’s a great variety of stores to explore. I’ll just mention the ones that jumped out as memorable, some for good reasons, and some less so.

Household goods can be enjoyable to check out, even when we are far beyond “needing” anything, so a store like Williams-Sonoma can be rather enticing. But ridiculously expensive. I won’t even say what modest kitchen accoutrements go for. Let’s just zone in on small items that should be much more affordable. There were a few samples of this and that on the go and we were enticed to try a couple, including specially flavoured popcorn (small container of seasoning, 85 grams for $28, whoa). And spontaneously we figured we’d pick up some passionfruit vinaigrette, before we knew how much it was going for.

That was our saving lesson reminder right there, know before you buy. A very modest sized bottle, of acetic acid with some fruit flavour and colour, was going for $28 plus tax. Even $8 would be high enough. But we felt kind of committed, until we didn’t. Thankfully, a staff change over and a neglectful new cashier who seemed oblivious as we clearly stood at the counter with the ridiculously priced item, helped us ease on out of there.

It may be subliminal, but there can be an effect, or feeling of obligation, to make a purchase after tasting samples, or just being in a store for a fair while. If it’s something you actually want, need, will use, at a semi decent price, or you truly just feel like splurging, then fair enough. But I couldn’t imagine getting my value out of a $30 vinaigrette.

I was slightly enticed by the chocolate section but also couldn’t justify the price tag of $25 for a small bag of chocolate eggs. They looked just like the Cadbury Mini Eggs, chocolate in a crisp candy shell, that go for about $8 for 400 grams, or a third of the price for more than twice as much…  Or, I could have grabbed a small bag of marshmallows for $30. So enticing.

Wait a second… I’m noticing a lot of food items at WS in the high $20s. All completely decadent and overpriced, in my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about treats, but all of these prices were hard to justify. But if these businesses are successful, then some folk must have money to burn.

Let’s say fifteen years ago, if a product was fair at $5, and you could find it in a “normal” setting like a grocery store for that price (let’s say something like chocolate hedgehogs), but then at a somewhat special store, let’s say Purdy’s, it would be $10, but then at a place like WS it could have been $15. Then a few years passes and prices shifted respectively to $8, $15, $20. Let’s say, you are spending twice the price at the next step up like at Purdy’s and then three times the price at the next step up like WS, so the range for similar products at three different stores, or market levels, is currently $10, $20, $30. And let’s not forget, you could even do better than the $10 pricing if you bought the product at bulk bins where you aren’t paying for packaging.

So, the high $20’s, just slightly under $30, before tax, is looking like the new price level for the “top brand” edibles. The product isn’t likely much different than the $10 product you can get elsewhere. So what are you paying for? The name brand, the overhead in their expensive neighbourhood, the aesthetics, packaging, etc. When does it make sense to pay three or four times the price you would pay elsewhere?

Okay, let’s head to Pottery Barn. Or not. We walked in, I looked at one item, a plastic candle with its own battery powered flame, and thought I was misreading the price of $98. But I wasn’t. It was comparable with something you’d get for say $15 at Winners or $4 at a dollar store. Seriously. I don’t remember the exact measurements but let’s say it’s ten inches high by five diameter, give or take. When would I pay $100 for a candle? Well, never, but even then, maybe if it was as tall as Kareem Abdul-Jabar. And there was no electricity left in the world.

We booted it out of there so fast, oblivious, and dubious, that there were any good deals to be found in that Barn.

Where to next? Okay, there was the consignment furniture store, filled with the same pieces you’d find at a “regular” second hand store (and maybe a few slightly upper scale pieces but nothing too special). But the problem with consignment is that you are paying two parties vs. where a piece has been donated and just the store is the beneficiary. So, let’s say, in simple terms, a $25 piece is twice the price, or a $50 piece is a hundred…

Nothing we saw seemed worth the asking prices. And sure enough, they are going out of business. Maybe because the money in that neighbourhood that supports the other stores’ outrageous prices wasn’t inclined to do the same for used household items? Or because those items could be found on Craigslist or Varage for a quarter of the price (without their high Granville overhead)? I’m not sure.

Just because you call something a “curated collection of designer home goods” or “luxury resale” doesn’t mean the sofa (one that looked very much like an IKEA sofa) should go for half of the current new price. If five years ago that sofa was purchased for $1000 but now costs $1500 new, does that mean it’s fair to sell for $750 now? They also valued many second hand chairs at half the value of originally far too high prices. Trying to justify $800 or even $400 for fairly modest chairs doesn’t make sense to me. Or $300 for wall sconces. In checking through their website, I’m finding some prices are possibly close to justifiable, if they were all brand new items. Which they aren’t. But for consignment, you are trying to fill the pockets of two parties so “value” may be perceived differently. 

Speaking of value… well, I am a fan of bookstores for all they offer including much more than books. Indigo had endless things to check out, and we spent a long time there.

I always enjoy checking out the magazine racks, and while I still buy the odd one here and there, many of the prices have jumped to a zone that’s unjustifiable for me. Like a home magazine with a thicker cover that is going for $16 or $18. Because of the cover? The whole 98 pages? The 90 pages of ads?

But I don’t give up faith easily and will scour for something that feels worth it. There was a double pack of British decor magazines that caught my eye. The label “fantastic value” was somewhat enticing. But the magazines that were also available separately for $12.99 and $8.99, together went for $21.99. So there was absolutely no fantastic value in the combination. The original prices were too high and together, well, still too high.

Ultimately we left with a couple of smaller, adorable, completely unnecessary items. That we gladly paid for, but thank you undercover staff for keeping such a stealthy eye on us.

Of course we had to hit Purdy’s, or I did, for my chocolate peanut butter inclination. I also find it highly priced but can find a treat or two to justify, especially now in comparison to Williams-Sonoma’s similar but more costly treats. I was devastated that the boyfriend wasn’t inclined to share what I bought and I had to eat it all by myself :).

Other enjoyable elements were checking out West Elm’s contemporary designs (also not cheap but fun) and local coffee shops.

And the grand finale was hitting Bin 4. My new favourite restaurant. It’s stylish in decor and ambiance, and yet low key, welcoming to all, including me in my baseball cap. The service we had was top notch, friendly but not in our face. The physical lay out is so streamlined and smart, somehow you can feel like you are at a private table and yet close to it all too. Our burgers with their special sauces were crazy tasty, and portion sizes were great, with reasonable prices. The free chips before you even order anything are a charming touch. Along with the softest single use napkins I have ever met. Seriously. I could go on. It was the first restaurant in months that we were both fully impressed with and would definitely go back to.

A walk to Cambie skytrain to work off a fry or two and there you go! It was a great day that didn’t involve great expenditures or any money burning.

Ultimately, it’s all about making choices, whatever works for you, your wallet, your peace of mind, and the funds you are up for throwing out onto Granville Street, or elsewhere into the universe…

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