Saving for what you want

Since I started my full-time job two months ago, I’ve been watching what I spend on non-essential items and activities like clothes, accessories and eating out. This has cut down on my thrift store visits. It’s been really hard to ignore the 50% sale emails I get from Savers and City Thrift. Being a hardcore thrifty fashionista comes with responsibility and a need for strong discipline. It’s difficult to keep myself in check when cute $4 tops and $6 jeans surround me in every aisle of my favorite stores, so it’s better not to go at all.

“Do not save what you have left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” – Warren Buffet

However, saving is worth it when I know what I’m saving for: my dream apartment. After sealing the deal last night, I’m now in waiting mode until October 7 when I pick up my keys at 10 a.m. and start moving in. Even though waiting for two months is tough, I’m glad I have extra time. I’ll have the chance to figure out how I want to furnish and decorate. Right now, I’m sleeping on a pullout couch in my parents’ basement. I have some kitchenware saved from my last apartment, but am lacking in the furniture department.

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Since my grandma passed away back in March, my grandpa has been living in their house by himself. There is more stuff than you could imagine. I’ve already talked to him about taking one of the guest bedroom beds off his hands. Best part, it’s FREE. Hopefully he will have more furniture pieces he’s ready to part with, so I can avoid spending more than I need to transform this 618-sq./ft. apartment into my home.

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After accepting donations from family and friends, I will be turning to thrift stores – one in particular: Blessings Abound. This Christian, volunteer-run store is mainly comprised of furniture, which is why I haven’t bought very much from them. Normally, I wouldn’t trust buying a used-couch, but my mom said she’s seen items that look brand new, so who knows what I’ll find. The most important thing is to use thrift stores as a last resort. First I need to see what all I can gather together that doesn’t cost me a dime.

Searching, searching… found

Have you ever needed something, and after searching multiple stores, you’re left empty-handed? You know exactly what you’re looking for. The picture in your head captures every 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 it appear in your eager hands.

My item of desire was a large, professional black bag. While job-hunting I was trying to find one to bring to interviews. Of course, I wasn’t going to immediately cave and spend 50+ dollars. I could’ve walked into a department store and found what I wanted in a heartbeat, but a true thrifty fashionista doesn’t give up. I’d already looked through the purse racks at several thrift stores with no success. I was forced me to attend my interviews bag-less.

Once I landed a job, I had two weeks before my start date. I’d lost hope in finding my dream bag. Then a week before I started, I wanted to buy new khakis. I chose a thrift store I hadn’t visited in a while, City Thrift on Antioch and College Blvd. After adding a couple pairs to my cart, I decided to visit the purse rack.

In less than a minute, I stumbled upon not ONE, but TWO bags. I couldn’t believe it. 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 lunch box. The inscription read “COVERGIRL” – a fantastic brand! The second bag wasn’t black, but it was one of my favorite colors – purple. The straps were attached with silver hoops. I couldn’t let this bag go to someone else. By getting both I’d have a color-coordinating opportunity.

For a thrift store, these bags were a tad pricy. Each one was around $9, but when you compare that to a department store, I lucked out! I left the store with two pairs of khakis and two bags – for only $37. When it came down to the wire, a thrift store had my back. I walked in on my first day with my dream bag slung over my shoulder. Thanks City Thrift!

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Thrifting isn’t always the answer

I shop at secondhand stores for several reasons.

  1. Less expensive
  2. Unique clothing options
  3. Helps the environment

Thrift stores normally fulfill my clothing, sometimes they can’t. Thrift shopping is the equivalent of a treasure hunt. The analogy is two-fold: you find amazing treasures, but you can also come up empty. Several weeks ago I received a call about a high-level job interview. The position was for the judicial branch in Topeka, KS. I knew my regular interview outfit wouldn’t cut it. I needed a new skirt, blouse and blazer FAST!

My game plan was visiting thrift stores, but I realized I wasn’t going to make the best impression with pre-worn clothing. I knew I needed to spend more to help me land the job. I visited Kohl’s, JcPenney’s, Macy’s, Stein Mart and Dress Barn. The downside about being a hardcore thrifter is every time I look at a department store price tag, I gag. This is why the first rack I browse is always clearance.

Stein Mart had a black blazer for $39.99; Macy’s had a black pencil skirt for $29.99; and JcPenney’s had a white blouse for $19.99 – I assembled my entire outfit for less than $100. This experience demonstrated that while thrifting is wonderful, 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 for a fair price, no matter where it comes from.

 

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Finding style at TurnStyles

One of my friends recently got married. To celebrate her return from her honeymoon, we spent the day thrift shopping. Since she was new to OP, she’d been finding new places to shop. Our first stop was a place called TurnStyles. TurnStyles is run through Catholic Charities.

As a self-identified thrift store expert and fashionista, I couldn’t believe I’d never visited TurnStyles – mostly because I’m Catholic! I give it two 👍🏼👍🏼. It’s now my new favorite store because of its lower prices, clean environment and organization.  

I was impressed with its organization. Everything had its place: women’s, men’s , children’s, furniture, books/movies, household items and shoes. WE spent most of our time sifting through the women’s racks. After one dressing room trip, we found some winners. For me, it was a blue-checkered flannel, a purple polka-dot sweater and a cream tank. My total was $9.65.

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The reason it’s less expensive than other thrift stores is because each rack has one price. For example, items on the women’s racks were $3. This made it easy to calculate my total before getting to the register. Even though it’s smaller than Savers and City Thrift, it’s got a trendy vibe and a cleaner feel and smell. Normally my allergies start flaring up from the collection of dust, but that didn’t happen. It was a nice change!

‘Gift’ in the gift card

It’s no surprise that most thrift stores sell gift cards.

Most people, especially my family, know about my obsession for “the hunt.” The happiness I feel when perusing racks, article by article, not knowing when my eyes are going to land on a treasure. The satisfaction I feel when I step up to the register to pay for the exact items I needed. There’s a reason I call thrifting a lifestyle, and that is because it’s more of a routine for me than for most people.

I admit to going thrifting at least 2 times a month depending on the advertised sales. The holidays are a big time for thrifting, which is why my brother’s Christmas gift to me was appropriate. He knows how often I’m running out to skim thrift store inventory. He knows how much I love saving money while looking good. So he gave me a $20 Savers gift card for Christmas.

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.

You may look at a $20 gift card and think, “That isn’t going to go very far,” but you’d be wrong. Twenty dollars in a department store is a joke, but in a thrift store it’s a different story. So far I’ve used the gift card to buy two items I needed for a wedding: a dress and a sweater. The dress was a surprise. I was browsing formal dress-wear when I pulled out a cute little number to get a closer look. It was a navy blue, laced dress. It fit well and was only $7.49 (hardly worn). To make matters better, I had a 30% coupon – I only spent $5.25.

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A few days later I got 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 find a sweater to go with my dress. I chose a knitted brown/tan sweater – only $3.99 after 50% off. These two fashion-forward items claimed only half my gift card. In a department store, I would’ve spent more than five times that amount to find what I needed.

Here’s my advice: gift giving shouldn’t cause stress. It should be a time of joy and appreciation for loved ones. In addition to telling them how much they’re loved, show them with the gift of saving money and buying whatever they want.

Saving at Savers

I’ve shopped at different types of thrift stores, including a couple chains. In my first post, you read about my thoughts on Plato’s Closet, a youth-oriented store with several locations in Kansas. While Plato’s Closet does an excellent job serving its target, it’s atmosphere is too specific. After relying on Plato’s Closet for high school, I needed a new thrift store, and that led me to Savers.

Savers has three locations in Kansas. I visit two on a semi-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 layout that allows them effectively categorize items. Savers also carries everything from clothes to home decor to electronics to toys. Savers has lower prices than Plato’s Closet because they’re not restricted to name-brand items.

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Savers is my go-to thrift store because I always find exactly what I’m looking for – even if I have to hit both locations. The reason is because Savers accepts donations on a daily basis, so the inventory is always changing. They celebrate holidays with huge sales that are tough to miss: 50% off everything around Christmas or 40% off dresses, purses and shoes just because. I’m subscribed to their emails, so I’m always in the loop.

If you’re like me and enjoy sales, I’d become a Savers card holder. Then you’ll have access to exclusive member-only sales. 

Plato’s Closet has excellent merchandise, but I’m too old to shop there now. If you’re post-high school, I’d suggest Savers. If lower prices, endless inventory and constant sales aren’t enough for you, I don’t know what is.

Thrift stores aren’t alone

Thrift stores aren’t the only option for bargain hunters. There are also consignment, classified and pawn. These are places where you can save money and still get stellar deals. Differences between these four options are:

  1. When you get paid
  2. When you surrender item ownership
  3. Whether someone else helps you sell your items

Consignment Shops – Loved more by buyers than sellers.

These shops sell an owner’s goods, and the owner will retain ownership until they’re sold. If you cosigned a stereo for $30, the shop would take 50% and you’d receive the remainder of the money. Items are in place for 30, 60 or 90-day cycles. If the item fails to sell, it will be discounted. The Elephant Tree and Boomerang are two examples in the Kansas City area.

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

The pawn shop will determine the worth of your items and pay you that amount. At this point the items are no longer yours. Plato’s Closet and Half Price Books are both pawn-shop examples. You keep your money even if the store can’t sell your items – they’re the one taking the risk.

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

This is a way to advertise your items by listing them in an newspaper or online ad. Classified ads are popular because required fees are less than fees charged by pawn and consignment shops. Craigslist is the most popular option because it’s free and gives more control to sellers. E-Bay and Amazon are also examples.

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

Most thrift stores are run by non-profits and survive on community donations. Donators receive a tax-deductible receipt for the estimated cost of items they drop off at the store. Most people enjoy donating their items because they know its for a good cause. Non-profit thrift store giants are Goodwill, Savers and Salvation Army.

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