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.
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.
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, its 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. The store 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.
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 that 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 recommend becoming a Savers-card holder. As a member, you’ll gain 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 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:
- When you get paid
- When you surrender item ownership
- 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.
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.
Classifieds – People love classifieds because fees are lower than other shops.
This is a way to advertise your items by listing them in a 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.
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 it’s for a good cause. Non-profit thrift store giants are Goodwill, Savers and Salvation Army.
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!
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!