Thrifty and Thriving
Part of the thrill of thrift store shopping is the adventure. You can find anything there.
I have found party dresses, never-used out-of-stock Corning casserole dishes (that match the ones I got for my wedding), an old-fashioned bread box, sports coats for my husband, and lots of costumes.
My oldest son snagged a pair of black and white dress shoes that look exactly like the ones Elvis Presley wore in “Jailhouse Rock.” Imagine something Al Capone would wear. He wound up wearing them to his high school graduation, which made him really easy to pick out, even from the back of the auditorium. He was the only guy in the place wearing black and white shoes.
My great-aunt Clementine owned an antique store, which I thought was the most wonderful place in the world. From there, I advanced to outlets, factory seconds, and resale stores to find clothes for my three sons, who went through clothes faster than I could shop.
But thrift store shopping opened a whole new world for me. I usually go in looking for something, but usually, come out with something else. I do have the ability to come out with nothing at all.
And I have learned which stores are good for clothes and which are good for furniture. One spot has things that look like they just came out of a fancy furniture store and nice suits at a quarter of the price. At another, you wade through worn couches and second-hand bikinis to find a solid oak dining room set for $100, name-brand purses with the price tags still on them, or maybe nothing at all.
Before You Go Consider This:
- Dress to shop. If you’re looking for a nice dress, bring along the shoes you plan to wear with it. Some thrift stores don’t have dressing rooms, so you might be pulling a dress over your t-shirt and shorts. If you’re shopping for shoes, bring socks or nylon footies to protect your feet. Plan ahead.
- Get to know the thrift store employees. Ask when they restock the shelves (it’s probably in the middle of the week), so you know when the new stuff comes in. Be nice and they may watch for items they know you like, then give you a heads up.
- Know your labels. Some items are just made better, like my son’s nice dress shoes, and will last a long time. I know people who have found Kate Spade bags and Louis Vuitton suitcases at thrift stores. A lot of times the price for a Kmart special will be the same as a Lands End polo, but one is going to look a lot better and last a lot longer.
- Know your stores. Which are good for furniture, which is good for clothing? One store in a less-affluent neighborhood near mine is where all the pro football players donate their little-used furniture and clothing. Talk about some deals!
- Check the return policy. Some stores are final sales only, while others can give you a week or so to bring something back.
While you are these Consider This:
- Don’t go by the size. Older clothing runs smaller than the newer stuff.
- Be willing to haggle, especially if an item is worn or damaged.
- Look for stains, tears, pilling, or defects. Is the item dry clean only? Are you willing to dry clean it every time you want to wear it?
- Don’t buy damaged items unless you know you can – and will – fix them. Test electronics before you leave the store to be sure they work.
- Use your cell phone to check to see if an item has been recalled, especially baby items like car seats, cribs, and high chairs. Skip that deal!
- Buy items to repurpose. One summer we bought out our thrift store’s cute ceramic Christmas collection, washed them, and then filled them with candy for the neighbors.
- Shop for out-of-season items. Look for coats in the summer and shorts in the winter.
- Don’t buy swimsuits or underwear secondhand. Just no.
- Watch for sales, coupons, senior or military discounts.
- You loved your Easy Bake Oven when you were 7, but that doesn’t mean you need – or will ever use – one again. Don’t buy things that you don’t need just because they make you sentimental.
- Look for items that are brand-new or rare that you know you can sell on eBay. Some savvy thrift store shoppers have turned this into a profitable side gig.
- Donate the stuff you don’t use. Makes more room for the stuff you want. We usually drop off in the back and then go through the front door to shop.
By Amanda Rogers for Surepoint Medical Centers
Amanda Rogers is a freelance writer based in Fort Worth, Texas
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