I have always been a huge fan of the Thrift Store. One of my earliest memories is at the Lemon Grove Salvation Army in San Diego, CA with all my friends, cruising for quality labels at dirt cheap prices.
I was five.
My mom trained us to know which labels were good quality, what her size was (and the sizes of all her friends) and what colors she would wear. Needless to say, my mom is the Empress of Second Hand Shopping.
Even though I still love a good pop into the Goodwill in South Boston, I notice that I am less and less a fan of Second Hand Shopping. The more concious I am of the difference between Actual Savings and False Savings, the more dubious I am of heading to the Goodwill. Here are #5 tips to keep in mind the next time you’re doing some discount digging.
#1: Shop Quality, not Quantity
The most important thing my mom taught me about second hand shopping is to Know Your Brands. A White Stag shirt for $1.50 might seem like a better deal than a Classiques Entier Atelier shirt for $6. But if you know your brands, you know that White Stag is a Walmart brand (think $6 new), and Classiques is a Nordstrom brand ($85 new). If you’re just shopping for the cheapest possible items, you’re better off buying new at Marshalls or TJ Maxx, since you can get more wear out a brand new item.
Obviously, it would be impossible to know every single brand (unless you’re my mother, in which case, stop stalking my blog) but there’s easy ways to figure out quality, like becoming familiar with the difference in quality fabrics, checking seams and buttons, or using the iPhone (my personal fav). My iPhone recently helped me score a Brooks Brothers purse from a local consignment shop in mint condition for $32. ($279 new). Enough said.
#2: Be Realistic with Yourself
No, you don’t need lime-green stockings, funky lamps from the 1970s with broken shades, a wall painting of the Dalai Lama or ANY stuffed animals (no matter the size or shape). Do not under any circumstances buy VHS tapes, audio tapes or CDs. Give me a break.
#3: Alterations = A Time Expense
This is a sub-section of Be Realistic with Yourself. If you need to fix it, hem it, or alter the item in any way, ask yourself if A. you’re actually ever going to do it B. the time investment will be worth the financial (or personal) savings. The path to financial hell is paved with intended alterations.
#4: Stick to a Budget
I know how easy it is to lose track of time when you find a really great thrift store. You’re flinging clothes right and left, creating a Hold pile in the corner and yelling into your phone about the amazing Feragamos you just found for half price…and in the wrong size. Yeah,you’re having a blast…but pretty soon, three hours have gone by and you have two carts full of purchases. Suddenly, you’re not having fun anymore, and you’re no longer saving time or money. Give yourself a time budget (35 minutes) and a cash budget ($25) and have a blast. Then go home, exactly thirty five minutes later.
Have any superb second hand finds you want to share?? Any thrift store horror stories?