The Best $6 We Ever Spent

Last weekend we journeyed two hours north to Arlington, Virginia so Clara could have some quality time with her cousin Elsa (and apparently so my cousin Travis and I could rock some daddy-plaid, shorts, flip flops, and matching Kettler bikes together (the latter of which were both his, found for a huge deal on craigslist).

While there, Elsa’s mom, Cat (who is Sherry’s BFF that we introduced to my cousin back in 2007 – and now they’re married with two kids) took us to this cool shop in Old Town, Alexandra called Red Barn Mercantile. It had tons of beautiful stuff, but what caught our eye most was this bowl of vintage printing press letters.

Six bucks later we snagged a “C” so that Clara can be now represented amongst our original collection of letters and numbers (7, J, S, L, O, V, E). The first three were purchased at a NYC flea market just weeks after we started dating on 7/7/05 (which explains our love of the number 7) and the last four came from a flea market in DC a few years later. We also looked for a “B” for Burger, but they only had lowercase ones (which just look like a “d” instead, since they’re backwards). Sorry Burgs! The search for an uppercase B continues…

But that’s admittedly not that amazing as $6 purchases go. It was actually our other $6 find on that trip that we’re still pinching ourselves about. You ready for this jelly?

Six dollars got us more than just this cabinet hardware…

…it even got us more than this whole cabinet…

…it actually got us SIX CABINETS. All for just six measly dollars. Not each. Total.

If you’re in as much disbelief as I was when Sherry first told me about her find (Clara was napping in the car, so I stayed outside with her and Sherry went in and called me with the details), here’s some proof:

We found them at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Alexandria (sooooo glad we decided to swing by there while visiting the area) and they truly were just selling them for a dollar each. Apparently they were once nightstands at a hotel. The hotel donated a truckload of them and the ReStore had finally gotten rid of them all (priced at $15 each)… until some overzealous purchaser brought back a bunch that he had leftover. So the ReStore guy told us they priced them at just $1 to get rid of them quickly (they already made their money we assume, since they have a No Refund policy).

Oh and for anyone worried about bedbugs, I’m an obsessed checker-outer due to a life-changing encounter with them back in NYC, so I frantically looked over every inch of them like a paranoid weirdo before taking them home (and then did another thorough check once at home, just to be sure). You can read about that harrowing NY experience here. When it comes to what I look for, I’ve learned that bed bugs are visible to the naked eye, so you should be able to see them and their droppings if you look everything over and check cracks & crevices. They also don’t like slick surfaces like glossy cabinets or plastic bags and prefer softer things like mattresses and upholstery where they can more easily walk, along with dark crevices where they can lurk/hide/ruin your life. So when buying something with more places to hide than cabinets (like an upholstered armchair) you’ll want to be extra careful – but you should still see some evidence of them in the form of small little stains on the upholstery, usually along the seams – which are (shudder) their droppings. You can also leave things in a holding area like a garage or sunroom for a day or two and recheck them again before bringing them inside.

And speaking of getting them home, miraculously we could fit two into our Altima – even with all of our travel gear like a pack & play, a dog crate, a baby in a big ol’ carseat, a husband, a wife, etc (one cabinet fit in the trunk and the other sat in the front seat while Sherry rode in the back with the Burger, the bean, the pack & play, and the folded up dog crate). The ReStore held the others since my dad was serendipitously going to be in the same area for a meeting (he drives a Honda Pilot so the remaining four fit nicely inside). We’re usually the suckers without any means to get big things anywhere (especially when we’re so far away from home), so it was a nice change of pace. I guess these $6 cabinets were just meant to be ours…

Well, as evidenced above, they actually cost us $6.30 with tax. So I guess it was the best six dollars and thirty cents that we ever spent.

They certainly don’t feel like shoddy $1 cabinets. I mean, just check out the interior fittings on them. Hellooooo slide-out shelves!

If you didn’t already connect the dots, they’re meant for our built-in office workstation that we talked about in this post and we hope to set them up like this: two cabinets against the left wall, open space for a chair, two cabinets in the middle, open space for a chair, two cabinets against the right wall to create built-ins that we discussed right here in this floor planning post…

With that arrangement we’ll have exactly 30″ for each of our chair openings, which is perfect since our chairs are 24″ wide (and six inches of wiggle room is a lot more than we have in our current small-homemade-desk-made-from-a-door situation). Of course our new cabinet friends do need a bit of work before they’re ready to move in permanently. For starters, they need a coat of primer and some glossy white paint (they appear to be 100% solid wood, so they should be great when it comes to adhesion and durability like traditional painted cabinets). Oh but we’re not going to paint the inside of them (lots of white built-ins actually have wood interiors – which hide marks and smudges a little more, too). All of the new white KraftMaid drawers from our first kitchen were wood on the inside, and we really loved it. But don’t worry, we’ll share all the painting details as we go.

We also need to do something about their height, because they’re only about 26″ tall and our chairs are 27″ (so the arms wouldn’t even slide under them if we added a countertop at this point).

Ideally we’d like our desk to be about 30″ tall, so I’m thinking I’ll build just a simple box on top of each cabinet pairing that I can paint along with the cabinets so they look seamless. Haven’t decided if it’s worth building it as a little open shelf up there or just fronting it with a solid piece of wood (kinda like those dummy drawers in front of kitchen sinks). Or we could build them up from the bottom. Not sure yet, but we’ll definitely keep you posted.

It was not only amazing to find $1 cabinets, but to realize that they weren’t too tall like 99.9% of the base cabinets out there (which are 35″ and hard to cut down since they’re one solid piece that includes the kickstep) was such a relief. Plus they were still deep enough for a desk (upper cabinets were the right height but only 12″ deep, which would make for a very very skinny desk or all need to be built out from the back with a lot more lumber than building these up a few inches). So yeah, we’re psyched. After some pretty thorough searching, the cabinet gods were good to us. Which was especially nice after the file cabinet gods weren’t as sweet (we searched for eight months for secondhand file cabinets for the office and ended up giving up and spending $150 on this system from Ikea). You win some, you lose some I guess.

Anyway, since not everyone can stumble upon the cabinet equivalent of The Dollar Store, we thought you might appreciate hearing the other places that we looked and the other solutions that we considered (of which there were maaaany). So we’ll be back to fill you in on all of that research / legwork / consideration in a few hours. Hopefully sharing a few other options that we considered may help someone else who can’t find secondhand cabinets that work for their project. In the meantime, what’s the best under-ten-dollar purchase that you’ve made? Was it clothing? House related? Did you buy a movie ticket and meet the man of your dreams there? Someone out there has to have one of those should-be-made-into-a-movie stories.


  1. says

    Talk about a great purchase! Great timing! My ReStore is kind of on the scary side and in a not-so-good neighborhood, but I always think about checking it out every once in awhile. Last time I was there, they had 40 tables and booths that came from a seafood restaurant, so the upholstery pattern was of lobsters and smelled nice and fishy too!

    I think my best cheapo score was a set of two drawer knobs from Hobby Lobby a couple weeks ago. They were on clearance, so I got two for $2. They were originally $5 each! Not very exciting I know….

  2. says

    what a find! i can’t wait to see what you do with them. i had a great experience over the weekend as well. i scored two of these … … for $1.99 each. they were marked down from $45 each to $15.99, and when i got to the counter i learned they were an additional 90% off. yay!

    ps—i love that clara matches her bike and elsa matches hers, too. planned??

  3. Caity says

    Score! That’s amazeballs.

    Side note: Last night, I watched your Dallas Roatrip video and laughed for about 4 minutes when you said “I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly.” And then you said it again today. Oh the fantastically hilarious $herdog irony!

  4. Shary says

    What a great find! For the box you build for the top, instead of a dummy front could you hinge it so it will fold down? That way you have usable space but still hides what’s in there.

  5. Keri says

    What a score! I’m so jealous! You guys have really inspired me to makeover craigslist and thrift store finds. It’s satisfying and guilt free like frozen yogurt. Thank you.

    I think my best find ever was a brand new, in the box, 7 feet tall, 5 feet wide, artificial Spruce. It was ….$4! Prior to Christmas, that tree was selling for $120.

    I wish I could score something I “need” like kitchen cabinets or new flooring. :)

  6. julianna says

    You could add tilt-out trays at the top (like would be on a sink) to hold pens and pencils. Or you could buy Ikea kitchen cabinet drawers — the kitchen cabinets are all modular, so you can buy just the drawer slides and the actual drawer, not the front (and then make your own front). Their shallow drawers are 4″ tall and either 9″ deep or 20-ish” deep and come in a variety of widths. Open storage would be nice, too, of course — personally, I’d do a mix of open and closed (open would be the perfect spot for Clara’s drawing paper/coloring books/crayons).

  7. Barb says

    I bought a $20 loveseat. It was a quality lazyboy from the 80s. It had a pullout bed too that wasn’t too uncomfortable. It was an super ugly yellow and brown pattern, nothing a slipcover couldn’t handle. It last through college and my first apartment. Finally gave it away last summer for free on craigslist. No one else wanted to pay money for it so I didn’t make my money back but still got plenty of use. Best deal ever!

  8. Lauren says

    I just realized from following the link to your bed bug story that that’s the first post I ever read of ya’ll’s! Wow! I always thought I just picked up on your blog from Apartment Therapy… Now I remember reading a long forums post about bed bugs and someone linking to this post, and I was hooked from there.

    I tip my hat to you, bed bugs!

  9. Dawn K. says

    SO JEALOUS! We’re attempting to DIY a 130″ desk for our office space. We’ve finally settled on a top similar to the desk you pinned the other day (with the walnut stain and Besta cabinets) due to the length, but we’re having trouble with cabinets. We have some contenders on IKEA, but the nearest store is 9 hours away so I hate to pull the trigger without seeing them. I’m super excited for your later post. I’m hoping you can solve all our problems! :)

  10. Sarah B says

    I’m a little sick to my stomach I’m so jealous. You guys are like the Bounty Hunters of good deals. Not only do you have the whole family involved, much like “Dog” the Bounty Hunter but you literally had your dog with! OK, that was a stretch. But still jealous.

    • says

      Haha, we don’t always get the best deals! Sometimes we end up spending $150 on a double filing cabinet like the one we just got from Ikea and then tons of folks comment that they got the same-ish thing for $7! Haha. You win some and you lose some I think, but hitting up a bunch of places all weekend long doesn’t hurt!


  11. says

    Amazing find! When you find something that good, the joy sticks with you a long time. When I was in high school (in Virginia!), I bought an incredible vintage shawl to wear to my homecoming dance. Calling it a shawl makes it sound very granny–it is a massive 12-yard length of glorious, hot pink silk satin that you can wrap around you and swag over one arm. We’re talking movie star fabulous, way better than than any high school girl in a podunk town should have. It cost $7.50! I have made a grand entrance in that thing many times and still love it dearly.

    May you enjoy your cabinets well into the future!

  12. Kim S says

    What a find! I actually just bought some wall-hanging cabinets off Craiglist so that we can replace the ugly wire shelving above our washer and dryer with some concealed storage. Our laundry room is right off our carport, and that’s the door that we (along with all our friends and family) always come in, so I think this little project is actually going to have a huge impact since it’s the first thing everyone sees when they walk through the door! I started priming and painting this weekend, but we picked a really dark color and I think it’s going to take at least another coat…or two (hopefully not!). Anyway, good luck with your cabinet remodeling, and congrats on that good deal!

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