Searching, searching… found!

Have you ever needed something? And after searching through multiple stores, you’re left empty-handed? You know exactly what it is you’re looking for. The picture in your head captures every miniscule detail, from color to size, but everywhere you look you can’t find the real thing. It’s agonizing, isn’t it? All you want to do is summon all the magic in the universe and snap your fingers and have what you need appear in your eager hands.

My item of desire was a large, professional black bag. During my job hunt, I was trying to find one to bring along to interviews. A black bag would’ve accompanied my interview attire swimmingly. Of course, I wasn’t going to immediately cave and spend $50+ on one. Sure, I could’ve walked into a department store and found what I wanted in a heartbeat, but true thrifty fashionistas don’t give up in the face of difficulty. It’s true, I’d looked through the purse rack at several thrift stores with no success. This lack of success forced me to attend my job interviews bag-less.

Once I landed a job, I had two weeks before my start date. At this point, the absence of my ideal bag was causing me to lose hope. Then, the week before I started, I wanted to go look for some new khakis to wear in the business-casual atmosphere of my new job. I chose a thrift store I hadn’t visited in a while, City Thrift on Antioch and College Blvd. After adding a couple pairs of pants to my cart, I decided just for giggles to visit the purse rack, which had been moved.

In less than a minute, I stumbled on not ONE, but TWO bags that fit my description to the letter. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The first bag was black, medium-sized with a strap that fit over my shoulder. It featured a spacious interior that would fit my wallet, keys, phone and even my lunch box. The inscription on the bottom-left read “COVERGIRL” – a fantastic brand! The second bag wasn’t black, but it was one of my favorite colors – a pretty purple. The straps were attached with big, gorgeous silver hoops. The bag was a huge fashion statement, and I couldn’t let it go to someone else. This way I would have a choice every morning and the ability to color-coordinate with my outfit.

By a thrift store standard, both these bags were a little pricy. Each one was around nine dollars. However, when you compare that to a department store’s price, I lucked out! At the end of the trip I left with two new pairs of sassy khaki capris and two fashionable bags – all for only $37. When it came down to the wire, thrift stores had my back. I walked in on my first day with my dream black bag hanging off my shoulder, giving me a confident and stylish look. Thanks City Thrift!


Thrifting doesn’t fill every need

I shop at secondhand stores for several reasons. #1: Less expensive; #2: Uniqueness; and #3 Environmentally-conscious. While thrift stores normally fulfill my fashion needs, sometimes they can’t. I’ve mentioned that thrift shopping is the equivalent of a treasure hunt. This analogy is two-fold: you can find amazing treasures, but you can also come up empty. Several weeks ago I received a call about an high-level job interview. The position was for the judicial branch in Topeka. I knew immediately that my regular interview outfit wouldn’t cut it. I needed a new skirt, blouse and blazer — And FAST!

My go-to move was checking out thrift stores, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to make the necessary first impression by wearing pre-worn clothing. At this point, I conceded to spending a great deal more on an outfit that would help me land a good job. I visited several department stores: Kohl’s, JcPenney’s, Macy’s, Stein Mart and Dress Barn. The only downside about being a hardcore thrifter is every time I look at a department store price tag, I have to restrain my gag reflex. Luckily, I transferred some of my thrifting skills in the form of only sifting through the department store’s clearance racks.

After a couple hours of searching, I found a stylish, black blazer for $39.99 at Stein Mart, which is a store specializing in semi-formal attire. My ideal black business skirt was found on a Macy’s clearance rack for $29.99. I went with a white dressy blouse to finish off the outfit, and it was found on a rack at JcPenney’s for $19.99. I was fortunate to assemble an entire outfit for less than $100. This experience showed me that while thrifting is a wonderful way to save money, it doesn’t hurt to spend a little extra every once in a while, especially when you need to look your absolute best.

I want to wear whatever looks good on me, no matter where it comes from.

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Finding style at TurnStyles

turnstylesOne of my best friends recently got married and to celebrate her return from her week-long Chicago honeymoon, we spent the day venturing from thrift shop to thrift shop in the Overland Park area. Being new to the area, she was still becoming familiar with her shopping options. I decided our first stop should be to a store called TurnStyles. TurnStyles is powered through Catholic Charities that takes in community donations. As luck would have it, my friend had several boxes of items from her wedding that she was looking to donate. So it was a win-win situation for us and the store.

As a self-identified thrift store expert and fashionista, I couldn’t believe I’d never visited TurnStyles, and I’m even Catholic to boot! I’d give it two thumbs up. It is now my new favorite thrift store because of the lower prices, clean environment and organization.  

When we entered, I was impressed at the organization. Everything had its place: women’s clothing, men’s clothing, children’s clothes, furniture, books/movies, household items and shoes. Since we both had the same objective, it was easy for us to chat while sifting through the women’s clothing racks. After one trip to the dressing room we both successfully announced that we’d found a couple winners. For me, it was a blue-checkered flannel, a purple polka-dot sweater and a tan dressy tank. The grand total including tax was approximately $9.65.

The reason it was more inexpensive than most thrift stores was because each rack had one listed price. For example, the items on the women’s clothing racks were each three dollars. This made it easier to know ahead of time how much I would be paying. There was no longer the need to pull out my phone to calculate the total from several price tags. Even though it was a smaller store than Savers or City Thrift, it had a trendy vibe and a cleaner feel and smell. Normally my allergies start flaring up from the collection of dust on the clothes, but that wasn’t the case in TurnStyles. It was a nice change!

The ‘gift’ behind the card

It’s no surprise to find out that most thrift stores offer gift cards. This concept is present in both department and secondhand outlets, which both fall within the parameters of the retail industry.

When bargain hunting transformed from a simple hobby into an active lifestyle, it became one of the few things that defined me. Most people who know me, especially my family, are aware of my obsession for “the hunt.” The sense of adrenaline I feel when filtering through the racks, article by article, not knowing when my eyes are going to land on a reasonably-priced treasure. The satisfaction I feel when I step up to the register to pay for the exact items I needed when I came into the store. There is a reason I call thrifting a lifestyle, and that is because it’s more of a routine for me than most people.

To be honest, I admit to going thrifting at least 2-3 times a month depending on the advertised in-store sales. Obviously, during the holidays my visits increase due to the sales on holiday and non-holiday merchandise. This typical holiday shopping binge is the reason why my brother’s Christmas gift was so appropriate. My 17-year-old brother knows how often I’m running out to skim thrift store inventory. He knows how much saving money while still having a trendy style is important to me. For that reason, he purchased a $20 Savers gift card for me for Christmas 2016.

The best thing about receiving gift cards is you can buy what you want and in return, you don’t have to worry about returns or exchanges. It’s a win-win.

10Some of you may look at a $20 gift card and think, “Wow, that isn’t going to go very far,” but you would be wrong. Twenty dollars in a department store would be a joke, but in a thrift store… let’s just say you can make it last. So far I have used the gift card to buy two items that I needed for a wedding: a dress and a sweater. The dress was an unexpected surprise. I was with a friend going through the formal dress rack when I pulled a cute little number out to get a closer look. It was a knee-length, navy blue, fully-laced conservative dress. It fit well, and when I looked at its tag I was shocked it was only $7.49 (hardly worn). To make matters better, I had a 30% coupon that meant I only needed to spend $5.25.

Several days passed and I saw an email about a 50% off everything sale. Not wanting to miss out, I dragged my tired butt to Savers at 7 p.m. to try to find a sweater to go with my navy blue dress. After trying on a few color options, I decided on a knitted brownish tan sweater (originally $7.99 x .50 = $3.99). These two fashion-forward items only claimed half of my gift card. In a department store, I would have spent nearly five times that amount to find what I was looking for.

So here is my advice, gift giving should never be a time of stress. It should be a time of joy and appreciation for loved ones. So in addition to telling them how much they’re loved, show them with the gift of buying whatever they want and saving money in the process.

Saving at Savers

savers_logoI have visited and shopped at many different types of thrift stores, including a couple chains. In Save Cash, Look Smash’s first post, you read about my thoughts on Plato’s Closet, which is a contemporary youth-targeted store with several locations in the Kansas area. While Plato’s Closet does an excellent job serving its target shoppers, it’s atmosphere is far too specific to serve a broader group. After relying on Plato’s Closet for my starting years in high school, I needed a new thrift store, which led me to Savers.

Savers is a thrift store chain with three locations in Kansas. I, however, have only visited two on a regular basis. The first time I visited Savers, I was blown away by the spacious design and amount of merchandise. Unlike Plato’s Closet, Savers has a bigger store layout which allows them to categorize their items more effectively. Savers also carries nearly everything from clothes to accessories to home decor to electronics to kids’ toys. Savers has lower prices than Plato’s Closet because they are not restricted to name brand items, but there’s still a chance that you may come across an item with the original sales tag!

Savers is hands down my go-to thrift store because I always seem to find exactly what I’m looking for – even if I have to hit both locations to find it. The reason for this is because Savers accepts ALL donations on a daily basis so the inventory is different every time I’m there. This chain also celebrates their holidays with sales on select merchandise. An example would be having 50% off everything around Christmastime or having 40% off dresses, purses and shoes just because. Luckily, I’m subscribed to their emails so I’m updated ahead of them when a sale is approaching. So if you’re like me and you enjoy sales, I’d become a Savers Card Holder so you get in on the exclusive member-only sales.

Overall, Plato’s Closet is a cool store with excellent merchandise, but as a post grad, it’s just not my ideal place to shop anymore. So unless you’re in middle school or high school looking to stay on the A list for name brands, I would suggest looking into the Savers chain. If the lower prices, endless inventory and constant sales aren’t enough to get you committed then I don’t know what will.

Thrift stores aren’t alone

As a bargain shopper I’ve always stuck to surfing the thrift store racks. However, there are three other types of secondhand stores: consignment, classified and pawn. These are all places where you can save money while still getting stellar deals! The main difference between these four shops is 1.) when you surrender ownership of your items, 2.) when you get paid and 3.) whether someone else helps you sell your items.

1. Consignment Shops – Loved more by the buyers than the sellers

These shops sell goods for an owner; the owner will retain ownership until the goods are sold. An example: if you cosigned a stereo for $30, then the shop would take 50 percent and you, as the owner, would receive the remainder of the money. Items are usually in place for 30, 60 to 90-day cycles. If the item fails to sell then it’ll be discounted.

2. Pawn Shops – You get paid, even if the store doesn’t sell your items

Most people wouldn’t believe that pawn shops are considered secondhand, but they do meet the qualifications. As a seller you surrender ownership of your items immediately when you receive payment for their worth. Two well-known chains that use pawn shop standards would be Plato’s Closet and Half Price Books. The payment you receive from the store won’t be affected if the store can’t sell your items; all the risk is on the store itself.

3. Classifieds – People love classifieds because the fees are lower than other shops

This is a way to advertise for your goods by placing an ad in a newspaper or online source. Classified ads are popular because the fees that are required are significantly less than the ones charged by pawn and consignment shops. Craigslist is, hands down, the most popular option because it’s free and gives the sellers more control. E-Bay and Amazon are also examples of classifieds.

4. Thrift Shops – People donate because they know it’s for a good cause

Most of these stores are run by non-profit organizations and are based on the donations they receive. The donator will receive a tax-deductible receipt for the estimated cost of the items they give the shop. Most people enjoy donating their items because they know its for a good cause. The thrift store giants are Goodwill, Savers and the Salvation Army.

Like mother like daughter

If you’ve read my profile, you know I took up the thrifting lifestyle when I started high school. I was raised to believe that money shouldn’t be splurged on material goods. Saving was the name of the game in my house growing up. My mother was my biggest influence because she spent most of her time shopping at thrift stores, sniffing out clearance racks and snipping coupons. Recently I decided to sit down with my mom and find out the reason behind her bargain-hunting, coupon-snipping lifestyle.

Q: What life experiences did you have that led you to wanting to save money on items like clothing?

A: “I worked at a department store (Jones Store) in high school and part of college. While I worked there I noticed how quickly items were marked down from their original price. Having an employee discount of 25 percent I was able to purchase clothing at very reasonable prices. This caused me to never want to pay full price for anything ever again. I also grew up in a house with four sisters. Once we got jobs at the age of sixteen it was an expectation from our parents that we buy our own clothes, so locating the inexpensive options was essential.”

Q: What are your favorite methods for stretching your dollar?

A: “I like to go to thrift stores to check out what’s available first especially when they’re having a 50 percent off special. I am constantly pulling relevant coupons from advertisements that are for items I know I’ll need whether it’s for clothing stores like Kohl’s or grocery stores like Price Chopper or Hy-Vee. I keep an eye out when I’m driving for neighborhood garage sales or estate sales in the area.”

Q: What’s the best find you’ve ever had at a thrift store?

A: “I was shopping in a thrift store called Savers and I saw the exact model of a yellow vacuum cleaner that I had purchased from Kohl’s and owned for five years before it broke. This thrift store vacuum cleaner was only 15 dollars plus an additional 30 percent off coupon I had. I’ve now owned the Savers edition of this vacuum cleaner for a couple years and it’s still going strong!”

Q: If you had to choose, what is your favorite thrift store?

A: “My favorite thrift store is Savers. I enjoy the organization and layout of the store as well as the variety of items including clothing, shoes, books, household goods and other miscellaneous accessories. This thrift store also constantly hosts sales and discounts on their already inexpensive merchandise.”

Q: If you could give people advice about thrift shopping what would you say?

A: “I would save to give it a try and treat it like a huge garage sale. You may strike gold and find an item with its original tag that has never been used or worn. With as much luck as I’ve had inside these secondhand stores I would definitely encourage everyone to at least give it a shot!”