Save 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.

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Thrift stores have limitations

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’m not against department stores. I like to wear whatever looks good on me for a fair price, no matter where it comes from. “

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‘Gift’ in 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, lace 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.

7 BIG don’ts in thrifting

A thrift store’s inventory includes nearly everything: clothing, accessories, jewelry, purses, toys, books, movies, electronics, furniture and household items. Most times, the items you buy are in relatively good condition. This indicates the item was durable enough to survive its first/second user and passed the store’s standard for selling. However, even though an item passed the standards doesn’t mean you should spend money on it and become its new owner.

“Saving money at thrift stores is a wonderful thing, but so is being careful in what used products you’re purchasing.”

According to common sense, a Buzzfeed article and my own experience, there are several categories you should avoid when browsing. Most items have been intimately or intensely handled by previous owners. So do yourself a favor and leave them out of your cart.

  1. Bowling shoes
  2. Cosmetics
  3. Stuffed animals
  4. Wigs and hats
  5. Electronics: phones, TVs, VCRs, computers, etc.
  6. Underwear, bras, and socks
  7. Bed sheets, comforters, mattresses, and pillows