I've been receiving many requests for advice on thrift store shopping lately. In response, I'm pulling out a series of posts from The Thrifty Chick archives. I just don't believe one can provide sound advice on successful thrift store shopping in one post. The Thrift Culture is far removed from that of the retail and requires a complete shift in mentality and strategy. This is the first in a series of posts to help those interested in getting more out of thrift and possibly save thousands of dollars while participating in a reuse market. These archives are some of the very first posts from this seven month old blog. I treat them as living documents and have added information and new reflections as they surface.
The funds for purchase of a home, retirement and our advanced education are planned. So why are we so ad hoc about shopping? Why wait until the last minute? Some annual events are simply certain: birthdays, holidays, graduations, births and gifts for a host/hostess. I know my daughters will be invited to at least 20 birthday parties in the coming year. We know our children will probably need new coats next winter. So what’s up with last minute purchases? Retailers, that’s what. Why? People spend more money under pressure, when they're in a pinch. And, let’s be honest, pressure sucks. I feel like the world is trying to turn me into a pressure junkie so I'm offering advice on gift giving in The 2009 Thrifting Gift Guide, a New Year's Resolution Revolution. This post was picked up by Karen Datko of MSN Money Blog.
Ever spent hours roaming a crowded mall or department store annoyed that a birthday gift is in immediate need only to buy something out of complete exasperation that has a high probability of sitting on the return desk the next day? Add to this misery that more money was spent than anticipated. I have done just that and it completely vacuums the joy out of giving. I fiendishly imagine showing up at the party and chucking the gift only to say, “Here’s your damned present that you’ll probably return. Now give me a stiff drink so I can brood!” There should have been a Seinfeld on just that loathsome experience.
Now there are a smart lot of people who shop sales with planning in mind. I used to do that. It’s economical. But there’s a hitch. Sales are not a constant and subsequently bring crowds, which is exactly what conventional retailers want. Bargain shopper conflict is brutal and lines are long. Ensuing battles seem to be growing more intense. Is this fallout from a tough economy or is there a new social phenomenon, Bargain Rage? And there’s always that one item we thought was on sale, but really wasn’t, which we argue about but buy anyway.
There are the chain bargain discount stores with big advertising budgets. I tried many times, but I don’t like them. Since they are for profit stores, I believe there is an obligation to keep things tidy. Also, I really the don’t like limitations set on the numbers of items I can take into a dressing room or the dirty plastic tally cards they give me. Do they think me a thief? Beside that, they’re really not counting. How could they when the dressing rooms look like the lost and found at my daughter’s elementary school? No thanks. If I’m to be insulted, it better be by someone that I have given honest reason not to trust me, in particular.
Now, let’s change the venue. Think about causally roaming the aisles of a thrift shop, with a mind open to any possibility. It’s not too crowded. The perfume lady is not chasing you down. Sales associates haven’t asked you multiple times in that fakely voice, “Can I help you find something? No? Well, you should know that we do have a special on men’s sock supports.” Your mind, free of retail perversion and shocking cardboard displays, spots:
A French Madeline baking tray for $2.99 that was $35 on sale at the local gourmet store. My best friend loves Madeline’s. They remind her of a train ride to Versailles on a cold, rainy day. She also loves to bake. So what if her birthday is six months away? Buy that tray and save the $32.
An original, hand painted Dutch oven. It's vintage and in great condition. I can almost smell the things that have roasted in this treasure and I have a friend who can make this oven waft smells that will make his neighborhood salivate with scents of lamb, pork, brisket. It's $4.99, I already know it's something ridiculous on EBay and what would be the cost of shipping this hunk of iron?
A Wedgwood cake pedestal for $2.99. My grandmother collects Wedgwood and loves birthday presents.
A four-poster bed and frame for $9.99. My older daughter will soon be getting her own room. But wait! There’s a separate matching dresser and bedside table for $50. The bed and dresser may not match now, but they would look great in ivory. We’ll just put them in garage until we’re ready to paint and outfit the room. Once assembled, this room was featured on the Ohdeedoh Home Design Network.
A stainless globe birdcage for $9.99. My younger daughter is sad about not sharing a room with her big sister. Perhaps having a pair of finches to sing and chatter for her might make her feel less alone.
An off the sales floor (but new) butter-colored Pottery Barn sofa sleeper. It’s beautiful and $250. I dreamed of some day buying a sofa sleeper. Buy it today for $250 and save at least $2,250 if not more. This sofa sleeper made it into my 2008 Top Five Thrift Finds.
A huge bag of spools of beautiful ribbon for $3.99. I’ll need that for wrapping gifts and this will save me at least $40.
Two gorgeous cashmere sweaters, free of moth holes, $2.99 each. My oldest daughter will learn the luxury of cashmere this holiday.
A bag of vintage buttons for $2.99. My youngest collects buttons, another holiday present.
All the above are some of my personal stories and I must stop now else I shall be giving away too many secrets to my friends and family. The hardest thing will be the temptation to contain the excitement and not give a gift early. That’s a hard feeling to fight but I love it because I am reminded of being a child. My husband actually runs from me when I'm try to give him a present early. I'm not joking.
One thing that’s cool about planning gifts and buying early, is that you have more of a chance of hitting pay dirt and scoring something a person really wants. When I receive a gift, I want it to somehow symbolize this person really knows me. To me, that feeling is more precious than the gift as discussed in the post, Whg Retail, Tat's happened to fine art of giving?
Now, sit down and list things for the future year or so. Birthday presents are a given. A newly bought cabin needs stocking. Prepare for the arrival of a new baby. A soon to be new college student or new graduate student will be need loads of provisions. You can do all of this at the thrift store.
Have a mental wish list, like the sofa sleeper I someday wanted but thought I couldn't afford. Dreams, like my sofa sleeper, can come true at the thrift store.
When you are left to wander the thrift store, you'll find that your mind is free to ponder the items that you really need in your life and you'll develop something that is a rarity in the retail world. You'll develop a Flinch Point that will serve you well. My flinch point is $5. Five bucks can buy me a lot in a thrift store. It can't even buy me a tube of mascara in a discount retailer.
For even more details, Dump That Retail Mindset!