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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TurnStyles review

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 that 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 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.

Savers review

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.

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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 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 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 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.

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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 it’s for a good cause. Non-profit thrift store giants are Goodwill, Savers and Salvation Army.

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Like mother like daughter

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!”

Professional’s advice

fdc0bb5131f4a2cad3f10358d9b4be67You’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.