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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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.

Thrifting no-no’s

A thrift store’s stock includes nearly everything: clothing, accessories, jewelry, purses, toys, books, movies, electronics, furniture, household items, etc. Most of the time, the items you buy are in relatively good condition, which indicates that the item is durable because it survived the first or second user and passed the thrift store’s standard for selling. However, even though an item passed the store’s standards does not mean you should spend money on it and become its next user.

According to common sense, a Buzzfeed article and my own experience, there are several specific items and categories that you should steer clear of when you’re browsing. Most of these items have been intimately or intensely handled by their previous owners, and they are therefore items that you should not shell out money to own.

Item #1: Bowling shoesnot-to-buy-at-thrift-store-stuffed-animals

Item #2: Cosmetics

Item #3: Stuffed animals

Item #4: Wigs, hats

Item #5: Electronics: phones, televisions, VCRs, computers, etc. 

Item #6: Underwear, bras, socks

Item #7: Bed sheets, mattresses, pillows