There’s the thrill of the hunt; the unexpected surprise and the admiration I receive from friends and family members for spying out such great bargains. I know that I shouldn’t desire accolades from fellow, fallen humans, but it feels good to be good at SOMETHING and to be commended for it. I feel like there are only three things I am good at and, shame on me, I like being recognized for doing them: mothering, finding bargains and reading. What felt especially good after my bargain-hunting this week for my lo’s spring/summer clothes, was my husband asking me to make a list for his friend (and his friend’s wife) of where I find bargains so that they could stop spending so much money on baby clothes. (We have sent several bags of La-La’s outgrown clothing over there, but they did not save any baby items from their older two children, had to start from scratch all over again and did not budget appropriately. As such, my husband came to me frantic when they needed a winter coat or snow suit in which to bring the newborn home from the hospital).
Mind you, I am not sending all of La-La’s outgrown baby items, as my husband wants to save them in case we get pregnant again. Some of them I will sell to a consignment site or brick-and-mortar consignment store (although, the closest one is an hour away by bus). I am really of the mind to get rid of all of it NOW, but my husband and therapist have overruled me on this one. You see, when the urge strikes me to get rid of stuff, I have learned it is best to act immediately on that instinct. Also, I don’t want my husband to have to move extra, unnecessary stuff to our new place.
Here are my top reasons why I love thrift shopping:
- It’s like a scavenger hunt: different color tags go on sale at different times, so you could go into a thrift store and hunt for only the green tags on the day that green tags are 50% off, (there is usually a sign at the front of the store detailing what color tags are on sale [I don’t have the laser focus it takes to shop just for one color tag, but I do separate them at checkout]). Just pay attention at checkout to make sure that you receive your discount. Computers and staff make mistakes. I like to separate my finds into sale and non-sale piles. (Even a non-sale item at a secondhand shop can be a great deal, but it pays to know your price points for the items you are planning to buy; For instance, Swap.com recently had a listing for a The Children’s Place romper for La-La for summertime for ten dollars [used] but I found a new one on The Children’s Place website for $7.47 [new] and I added to my savings with some other methods that are an entirely different post). Can you hazard a guess as to which one I purchased for her? That’s right, the new one!
- You are donating to charity: Most thrift stores are run by nonprofits who use the proceeds to fund their programming. It helps if you shop a store whose nonprofit you would otherwise support and whose cause you believe to be valuable.
- You are assembling a puzzle: Say that I find a PJ top at thrift store ‘A’ for twenty-five cents (true story) but the bottoms are nowhere to be found; I will go to thrift store ‘B’ and probably locate a pair of bottoms that match for fifty cents. So, for the entire PJ set, I have paid $0.75 instead of $4.98 new at BJ’s or $7.98 new at Wal-Mart (whose clothing quality is not always so great). Granted, I invested my time and travel expenses, but, as I told you in my very first post, if you want to save money, you will have to invest time. Everything is a trade-off.
- Sharing my finds with my family (and others) is exciting: My husband wants everyone to think that the $75 (retail) pair of jeans he wears actually cost me $75. Realistically, I have never paid that much for jeans, nor do I intend to start now. (Albeit, I am not a denim gal). I probably paid $7.50 for them. When someone compliments him on an outfit, I love to share how little I paid for it; he thinks I shouldn’t do that. I love showing off what I found when I return home from a thrift store trip, which I take on an annual basis in the spring/summer, except for Savers/Value Village, which I visit on federal holidays when they have a 50% off clothing sale. My family member’s eyes grow wide when I tell them how little I paid for my finds and they appreciate that they are often the direct beneficiaries of my discoveries, getting to wear some pretty snazzy duds.
- There’s laundry to do after the shopping is done: Most of you will not agree, but I find doing laundry to be therapeutic. Measuring, combining, pre-treating, timing and handling are all part of a magnificent process whereby you take something your husband or child has worn and made disgusting and you make it ‘new’ again. I like puzzles and this is one: what will work to remove that stain? How best to treat ring-around-the-collar? Hang it up or lay it flat to dry? Oh, breathe in the mystery of each load! Relaxing!
I will caution you that spending the time and travel to go visit a thrift store is more cost-efficient than shopping secondhand online (although I do this too, with some positive results). You can try things on before purchasing, or at least hold them up to get an idea on the item’s sizing. Even with measurements given on websites, it is sometimes hard to tell how an item will fit (or even if the measurements someone has typed in on the website are correct). You also can see the color in-person when you visit a secondhand shop (instead of on a screen, where it can look different and the color description is apt to be incorrect). Even with guaranteed, free returns on some secondhand websites, you have to consider that you will have to print a return label, assemble the package and take it to be shipped (often waiting in line – isn’t that what you were trying to avoid by shopping online in the first place?) or you could get stuck with an unusable item, adding to your stress and clutter.
A few pointers: Bring your own bags if you must have a bag. Some charities do not purchase bags for their thrift shops (probably a cost-saving measure) and will pack your purchases in large garbage bags or whatever bags they happen to have on hand or receive with donations. Check if they take only cash before you shop. Find out how often and what days they put new merchandise out on the floor. This way, you can plan your next trip when there will be something new for you to examine. The size printed on the tag will not always be accurate. Whether or not the size is accurate will depend on how the previous owner washed and dried the garment. Garments not dried according to manufacturer’s instructions or in a laundromat setting can lose up to fifty percent of their mass through over-drying. Lastly, always check the pockets of whatever you purchase. You would think that people would check before donating, but that is not always the case. We have found candy and cash in clothing we bought secondhand.