I was raised to believe money shouldn’t be splurged on unnecessary crap. Saving is the name of the game in my house. My mom is a huge influence because she spends time shopping at thrift stores, sniffing out clearance racks and snipping coupons. Recently I sat down with my mom to find out the reason for her bargain-hunting, coupon-snipping lifestyle.
Q: What life experiences did you have that led you to want 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%, I purchased clothing at reasonable prices. This made me never want to pay full price again. I grew up in a house with four sisters. Once we got jobs at 16, our parents expected us to buy our own clothes, so finding 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, especially when they’re having a 50% off sale. I’m constantly pulling coupons from ads for items I know I’ll need: clothing stores like Kohl’s or grocery stores like Price Chopper or Hy-Vee. When I’m driving, I keep an eye out for neighborhood garage sales and estate sales.”
Q: What’s your best find at a thrift store?
A: “I was at Savers, and I saw the exact model of a yellow vacuum cleaner I’d purchased from Kohl’s and owned for five years before it broke. This thrift store vacuum cleaner was only $15 plus an additional 30% off (coupon). I’ve owned the Savers-edition vacuum for a couple years and it’s still going!”
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 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 say 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. With as much luck as I’ve had inside these secondhand stores, I’d encourage everyone to give it a shot!”
You’ve read my words on a screen, but now you have the chance to listen to my voice as I list my top ten pointers when it comes to secondhand shopping. After browsing racks and shelves of different thrift stores for over six years, I’ve condensed by endless advice into three minutes.
Click to listen: Download this episode (right click and save)
By listening to this podcast, you will be ready to embrace the thrifting lifestyle and get the most out of your visits.
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.
- Bowling shoes
- Stuffed animals
- Wigs and hats
- Electronics: phones, TVs, VCRs, computers, etc.
- Underwear, bras and socks
- Bed sheets, comforters, mattresses and pillows
You reap multiple benefits when you thrift: you spend less and develop a unique style. Did you ever think about the benefits that go beyond you? By choosing to buy reused clothing you’re helping the environment. Yay for you!
By wearing pre-worn clothes, you’re decreasing the amount of pollution and waste in the environment. If more people shopped at secondhand stores, there’d be fewer newly-produced items. This would drastically reduce the amount of energy, toxic chemicals and petroleum released into the environment and atmosphere.
“Ninety-eight percent of the clothing that is bought in the United States is from foreign countries (ABC News). This means that brand new items travel a HUGE distance to reach the racks of the department stores. When you purchase a reused piece of clothing you are eliminating the travel time/transportation pollution that a newly produced item would need after being manufactured.”
Items sold in thrift stores are durable. They’re durable because they lasted through their first user in good enough condition to be accepted by a thrift store. Instead of rotting in a landfill, they’re hanging on a rack waiting for their next owner. Another great thing is thrift store items lack packaging. These items include no kind of plastic wrapping or cardboard boxes because they’ve already been used. However new items are suffocated with plastic, cardboard, tissues or tags that all end up in the trash.
So you see? Now when you choose pre-worn over new, you’ll be proud of:
- Saving a buttload of money
- Sporting a style all your own
- Helping preserve the environment – in your own way!
Ten reasons why thrift stores are awesome, written by Katherine Martinko, discusses advantages of secondhand shopping. A few of these advantages weren’t on my radar until I read this article – shocking I know.
- Thrift store items are typically higher quality simply by virtue of being there.
I’ve purchased items that look brand new. People picture thrift stores as grungy, dirty places, but they hardly ever are. By being on the racks, these clothes are notably durable because they’ve lasted through multiple owners. I’ve received dozens of compliments on my clothes. It’s funny when I see the look on people’s faces after revealing what I spent.
- Thrift stores are an opportunity to develop your own unique sense of style.
You open yourself up to various styles when you’re secondhand shopping. Regular stores specialize in select styles and advertise to target markets. For example, Hot Topic is geared toward punk crowds, whereas Victoria Secret serves females. This is why thrift stores are special. They incorporate every kind of style into one place, which broadens their target market.
- There are really fabulous finds on all the racks at a thrift store.
It takes a lot of patience to shop in thrift stores. This is because of the amount of donations crammed onto the racks and shelves. However, if you possess the virtue of patience and a good eye for style then you’ll discover some awesome treasures.
- There are no hovering salespeople waiting to make a commission off your purchase.
One thing I dislike about department stores is being approached by salespeople. I know it’s their job, and they make commission off our purchases, but they tend to be annoying and abrasive. Shopping at a thrift store eliminates the nagging and let’s you shop on your own without feeling like you’re being watched.
Within the past couple years, thrift stores and vintage clothing are becoming a more popular option for the general public. When the smash hit Thrift Shop was released by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis in 2012, I knew thrift stores were returning to the mainstream. The song’s lyrics resonate the benefits and truths behind secondhand shopping. After some digging, I discovered Macklemore and I share a mutual interest in saving money and a mutual disdain for designer labels.
“I’m gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pocket.”
This song is an accurate portrayal of how much money you can save on the same clothing you’d normally splurge on somewhere else. Thrift stores have unique items that allow the buyer to build their own style from scratch. You no longer have to worry if you’ll bump into someone wearing the same shirt as you.
“I wear your granddad’s clothes, I look incredible. I’m in that big ass coat from that thrift shop down the road.”
“They be like, Oh, that Gucci. That’s hella tight. I’m like, Yo that’s fifty dollars for a T-shirt. Limited edition, let’s do some simple addition. Fifty dollars for a T-shirt, that’s just some ignorant b***s***. I call that getting swindled and pimped. I call that getting tricked by a business. That shirt’s hella dope and having the same one as six other people in this club is a hella don’t.”
So take Macklemore’s advice and pop some thrift store tags – even if it’s only $20 that’s burning a hole in your pocket.
To some, thrift stores are a place to find the cheapest crap. They’re unsanitary and disorganized. The only people who shop there are stringy, tacky or poor. While thrift stores are not the equivalent to a five-star hotel, they’re still relatively clean and organized. In my eyes, the one that wins the award for most stylish, contemporary items is Plato’s Closet.
Plato’s Closet targets high school students. They understand the need for students to save money while still sporting the latest trends. Their items fit every style whether goth, preppy, chic, sporty, vintage or hipster. The strategy for updating their selection is by purchasing items from their customers. All you have to do is bring in current name brand attire, and you’ll receive cash on the spot.
In addition to receiving money for name brand clothing and accessories, you’ll enjoy Plato’s relaxing environment. From alternative music to comfy seating, you’ll shop comfortably for hours. You’ll browse endless attractive choices. I have been to Plato’s Closet dozens of times, but my greatest purchase was a $10 leather jacket. If you’re young and want to be hip, I’d recommend taking some time to check out Plato’s Closet and save some green.