If You Shop Anywhere Else You’re a Big Stupid Idiot Who Wears Floods

If you’re read anything on this blog you’ve ascertained that I’m frugal.  Mostly out of necessity.  I make my money in batches, so when I have some in the bank I like to keep it there as long as possible in case I don’t work again for another 6 months.  Plus, I just come by being cheap naturally.

However, in a tragic twist of fate, I also like really expensive things.  Whenever I look through a magazine (be it fashion, decorating or even a Sears catalogue) my eyes always laser in on the most expensive thing.  I once looked through a Cat Fancy magazine and decided I wanted something called a Bengal cat.  Turns out they’re a rare exotic, partly wild breed made mostly of plutonium judging by their price.

So to satisfy both my cheapness and my secret desire to be a Vanderbilt, I mix and I match.  I buy a variety of expensive things and throw in some cheaper stuff to balance it out.   For instance, instead of buying a Bengal cat I painted leopard spots on my Siamese and  taught her to growl.  Buy whatever expensive thing you love and know you’ll never find anywhere else and find the rest at these stores:


My home is finally filled with things I love.  And things that I didn’t find at the side of the road covered in dirt.  I have to admit; the things I love most are the things I got for cheap.  Homesense is filled with a bunch of really great and really ugly stuff.  Just buy the really great stuff and you’ll be fine.

As mentioned in another blog, a year ago I painted my whole house white and sold everything in it.  I kept a couple of antiques and my cats and that’s about it.  Oh and the big lug.   It’s entirely possible it was the result of a minor breakdown, but regardless … the house looks great now.  Over the next year I filled my home up again with a couple of custom made pieces, a few expensive items, and a whole lotta stuff from Homesense.

Fake Panton Chairs from Homesense

I got a white Jonathan Adler sofa table clearance priced for $120 with a compare at price of $700.  White Panton S chairs (replica) for $90 each.  A beautiful round stainless steel centre hall table for $260 with a compare at price of $600. An end table, made with sticks that’s a reproduction of an insanely expensive French designer table, $99.

If you’re thinking … Wow, that Karen is smart … she remembers the prices of everything she buys … think again.  One of my idiosyncrasies is the fact that I stick the price tag of everything I buy on the underside of it.  I have no idea why.  But it sure came in handy for this blog.   I also have a bunch of accessories and tchotchkes from Homesense that were so cheap I can bury them in the basement when I get sick of them.  I do that with the big lug sometimes too.


I LOVE Dollarama.  For one thing every single thing in there is a dollar.  Or at least it used to be.  And they often only take cash, which makes overspending difficult.  Unless you have the keen foresight to go to the bank

you could buy everything in this whole aisle for the price of a lame (but cute) donkey.

machine PRIOR to going to the Dollar Store and withdraw at least $50.  Maybe $100 if it’s the holiday season.    I’m getting a bit off track.

The discussion of grossly underpriced toilet brushes and stackable boxes does that to me.   Swear to you.  Go to Dollarama with an open mind.  My bathroom bins for hiding toilet paper etc. came from Dollarama as did my most beautiful, white, rectangular kitchen dinner plates.  And most of the bowls in my house.  Dollarama is GREAT for housewares.  I am familiar with most Dollaramas in Southern Ontario and in fact lined up early in the morning to go to the grand opening of one.  I got a gift of a Dollarama coffee mug.  It is not something I would have purchased, but for free … I wasn’t about to give it back or anything. Although a LOT of people in line did just that.

Old Navy

Yeah it’s cheap, yeah it’ll probably only last one season but it’s where you want to spend your money on T-shirts and comfortable pants.  For the best results, mix your Old Navy stuff with your not Old Navy stuff.


Right up there with Homesense.  And kind of like clothing from Old Navy, you have to mix the Ikea stuff with non-Ikea stuff.  There’s only one place a room filled entirely with Ikea stuff looks good and that’s in the Ikea catalogue.

OH MY GOD!  AND YOU HAVE TO GET A HOTDOG BEFORE YOU LEAVE!!!!  Because I’m a bit obsessive compulsive (self-diagnosed) I have to figure everything out.  So, if you TOO love the Ikea hotdog I can tell you exactly how to make one.  I looked in their garbage cans and behind the counters for the answers to this question.  Check out my post on the Ikea Hot Dog right now!

Home Depot/Rona

If you’re gonna be a fix it yourself kinda person you have to get familiar with these hardware stores.  Your local hardware stores are great too.  This is where you’re going to get your dimmer switches, power tools, and bizarro doo dads for fixing broke stuff.  Like drywall, ceramic tiles and drippy taps.   When you’re there remember you don’t have to use things for what they’re meant for.  I needed to raise up my dining room chairs by an inch and noticed some white plastic pipe for plumbing there.  Using my handy hacksaw I cut the pipe into 1” lengths and glued them onto the bottom of my chairs to raise them up to the right height.  If you were to get really creative you could create lamps or end tables or just about anything out of them.  So to reiterate, look at everything as something other than what it is.  That’s where the best things come from.  If Andy Warhol make a masterpiece by peeing on a painting, you can find another use for a piece of copper electrical wire.


There are exactly 2 ways to prove you are a grown up.  If you get all tingly inside when you make a completely invisible seal with Saran Wrap, you are a grown up.  If you own a Costco card, you are a grown up.  Simple as that. You can get stuff cheap here, but you also get a lot of it so try and control yourself.  You are a grown up after all.

Years ago I brought my friend Robby as a guest to Costco.  The minute we walked in the door he broke into a sweat and started grinning like a psychopath.  In an absolute Costco induced frenzy he bought a restaurant sized jar of olives.  I’m fairly certain this resulted in him becoming a raging alcoholic.  Only 7,238 martinis to go Robby … you can do it!  Cirrhosis be damned.

And not EVERYTHING is cheaper at Costco so know your prices.  Pop usually isn’t cheaper unless it’s on sale.  Magazines and books are ALWAYS cheaper, but not always cheaper than you can get them at Chapters.com or Amazon.ca.

The main reason you want to become a member of Costco is because it’s a great place to pick up a variety store owner.  And to buy meat.  If you read anything about meat grading they’ll tell you the quality of meat at Costco is excellent. And it is.  I buy all my chicken, ground beef, and roasts at Costco and then Foodsaver them.  For ribs, you’re probably better off at a butcher shop.  And Costco’s pork chops are large enough to be suspicious.  But my mom likes ’em.  My mom also likes the Mandarin restaurant.

Auctions, Garage Sales and yes … the side of the road

You know that feeling my friend Robby got when I brought him into Costco for the first time?  That’s the feeling I get every time I drive past a big pile of garbage at the side of the road.   If it’s a big pile of chairs I get especially lightheaded on the off chance that one of those chairs in there is an Eames.  It could happen.  It hasn’t … but it could.  Let me know if it’s happened to you!  I’d hate to believe that it really isn’t possible and I’m basically believing in the Eames fairy.

Eames chair aside, I have found a lot of great stuff at the side of the road.  A huge wood sideboard from the mid 1800’s, antique cups and saucers, fantastic plastic retro chairs, mid-century chairs, antique wood chairs and countless other things.  I get disproportionately agitated when there’s only garbage in the garbage.

Like I’ve said, for the first 10 years my house was furnished with stuff I got from auctions, garage sales and the garbage.  It served me well until one morning when I woke up and hated everything.  I’ve kept a few things but now I try to adhere to the 80/20 rule of decorating.  80% new stuff, 20% antiques.  No exceptions.  Unless I happen across a particularly good pile of junk.  Or a well stocked crackhead.  (see post on the top 10 kitchen tools)


  1. JOAN says:

    We bought a package of Rhubarb seeds and all 28 seedlings grew so fast and sturdy that I could have harvested the very first year! The fruit we grew on the farm in Saskatchewan was limited and very seasonal so we were always thrilled when we started seeing rhubarb treats on the table. Rhubarb sauce (a loose rhubarb/water/sugar cooked mixture) and rhubarb crisp. Mom would also process it in canning jars for winter use. I still have her recipe for rhubarb crisp and though I loved it as a child I now find it on the dry side. Your recipe is perfect. Crispy layer on top and creamy thick rhubarb sauce on the bottom. I did have to cook mine 10 minutes longer as mine went in the oven ice cold. I reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup but next time I will follow your recipe to the T. Thank you.

  2. Diane Stairs says:

    I loved this blog…they are all my favorite shops and the side of the road is the best but you forgot Value Village, great for some housewares, books and occasionally a rare antique find like the stone crock I got for $12

  3. A funny thing happened to me at Costco years ago when we were feeding our family of 7. We did our big meat shopping at Costco, came home and I found our flat of delicious pork chops were…greenish! Eek! Never before and never since has that happened. I went back to the Costco that day with the chops and tried to exchange at the desk. The girl whisked them out of my hands and said “Wait here”. She came back with a comparably sized flat and handed it to me. I turned to go after thanking her and she said “Wait” again…they also gave me my money back and stated that Kirkland stands behind their meat products. I was blown away…new meat and my money back! Woohoo!

  4. carlito sway says:

    my mate and i once found a knock off eames lounge out for trash. how did we know it was knock off? it was upholstered in orange corduroy. immediately my mate goes “yeah, but its a knock off.” (his prized life possession is an aluminum group eames.) and im like, “uh, yeah – a knock off of one of the classiest designs ever?” at which point we was convinced to reclaim it, and i think he still has it.

    there is a fairy, be they sometimes unable to distinguish betwixt knock off and real, there is a fairy.

  5. Ha Do says:

    I loveeeeee you. Please enslave me.

  6. Dana Lu says:

    Wanna be my new bff? I figured you’ve already had many marriage proposals so I’m asking for bff status. I came across your site from a post on Apartment Therapy about your DYI fire pit for $25. And to quote the email I just sent my decorating friend after reading that DYI “holy shoot this is one of the most amazing and totally realistically doable things i’ve ever seen!!!” and it really is. To keep this love note short, I have an important meeting tomorrow at 10am, but it’s 1230am and I’m still exploring your site. You make me literally LOL and I will be back. Often.

    ps. I also have a weakness for free furniture on lawns and anything glass at the Salvation Army.

  7. Kit says:

    Sign me up

  8. Maven Koesler says:

    My husband and I are dedicated trash pickers! I have enough crock pots and cast iron cookware to cater a banquet. You never know what you’ll find. Recently he came home with a 2ft tiki!

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