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How Shopping at Thrift Stores Helps the Economy

As a mother of four, Denise has always strived to be frugal and self-reliant. She enjoys teaching others how to save.



Overcome the Stigma of Shopping at Thrift Stores

You don’t have to be an archeologist to unearth some amazing finds at thrift stores and garage sales. Furniture, clothes, appliances, wall hangings, books, and toys: The thrift stores have it all. So why don’t we shop there more often?

Some people think being caught at a thrift store or garage sale means you are too poor to shop at the mall. Since I have done both, I think that is a fallacy. Some people think that only old and dirty things are found at thrift stores. Of course, that is so wrong. Sure, some things in my home are stained and unusable—but those finds aren’t as often as you would think. As a matter of fact, most often, I can find some real treasures at a thrift store.

Sometimes the poor are praised for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.

— Oscar Wilde


Cost Comparison

I found some awesome buys at my local Rescue Mission Thrift Store.

Retail costThrift Store Cost

Full-length black Spandex skirt: $25.98

Full-length Spandex skirt with tag: $4.00

Women's short-sleeve T-shirt: $14.95

Women's short-sleeve T-shirt: $3.50

Black blazer with gold trim: $56.98

Black blazer with gold trim: $8.00

Six Reasons to Shop at Thrift Stores

  1. You are recycling by buying at thrift stores and secondhand stores. Things that would have gone into a landfill are being reused and given new life by your purchasing them.
  2. You are usually helping a charity by buying from thrift stores. Most are run by recognized charities that help people and provide jobs. I like to shop at the local Rescue Mission Thrift Store, which helps the homeless and people who have lost their way due to drugs and alcohol abuse. Find the local charity that means something to you and support them by shopping there.
  3. When complimented on your clothing, you don’t have to tell people where you found it unless you want to. Just say that it was a great find and leave it at that. The treasure trove can be your secret.
  4. You don't have to limit yourself to clothes only. There are often appliances, books, craft projects, yarn, knitting, sewing patterns, jewelry, toys, etc.
  5. You are helping to stop the crime of sweat-shop sewing mills in countries like Taiwan and China by not buying new clothes and instead buying from secondhand places like thrift stores.
  6. Some great costumes can be found at thrift stores. Create your own Halloween costumes by mixing and matching pieces. A little creativity and imagination can go a long way at the thrift store.

Two Tips for Safe Purchases

Here are two things to be careful about:

  1. Don’t buy used underwear.
  2. Clean the clothes if they are washable. Put them in a plastic bag and place them in the freezer for a few days if you are concerned about lice. Typically, thrift stores don’t allow anything unclean on the shelves, but some people are a little phobic.

Waste is worse than loss. The time is coming when every person who lays claim to ability will keep the question of waste before him constantly. The scope of thrift is limitless.

— Thomas A. Edison

Great Finds to Watch For When Thrifting

Here are a few of the things I often look for when I'm shopping at thrift stores:

  • Frames
  • Fabric
  • Fancy Dresses
  • Name-Brand Clothes
  • Books
  • China and Tableware


As an artist, I can often find great frames with matte and glass for just a few dollars. If you have even had to matte and frame original work, you know it can cost hundreds of dollars new. Thrift stores are the artist’s life savers.


Thrift Stores are great places to find pieces of mismatched fabric. If you have any sewing skills and a machine of your own, this is the place to find cheap fabric for small projects or quilting purposes. Just be sure to wash the fabric before using it.

Refurbish an old piece into something new and original. If you are at all comfortable with a sewing machine, you can create some nice clothes using older pieces and just hem or cut and sew new elements onto them. I started with an awful-looking dress made of some nice fabric. I cut off the sleeves and created a door draft stopper from them. The rest I cut down to make a full-length skirt. I’m very happy with it, and it cost me only a dollar, plus a little time and imagination.

Fancy Dresses

You can often find wedding dresses or prom dresses at the thrift store. They have usually only been worn once and are made of the nicest fabric. Usually, a tweak or hem will change them into just the perfect new dress for a costume or a new prom dress. It is worth the look, considering the cost of satin and other high-end fabrics today.

I believe that thrift is essential to well-ordered living.

— John D. Rockefeller

Name-Brand Clothes

The thrift stores often have new name-brand clothes with the tags still on them for a fraction of the prices in the swankier stores.


Many used books can sell for good prices on Amazon, giving you a profit from the thrift store prices. For this, you have to keep your eyes open and know which brands and books sell and which will not.

China and Tableware

If you are aware of some expensive name brands, you can buy pieces of china sets and even utensils from a thrift store and sell them for a profit on eBay or Amazon.

Growing Up With Secondhand Clothes in the '50s and '60s

I was raised in the ’50s and ’60s. I was one of four children my Mom had to shop for, and we shopped in thrift stores. Back then, the idea of hand-me-downs and second-hand clothes meant you were poor. People usually didn’t say it to your face, but they thought it.

My Mom didn’t mind. She was thrifty to a fault. She sewed our clothes or bought second-hand or accepted free hand-me-downs from friends and family. I have to say I absolutely loved the handmade, one-of-a-kind dresses, shirts, and skirts my Mom sewed for me but hated the hand-me-downs.

Back then, I had so-called friends who would announce I was wearing something her big sisters cast off. That’s just rude. Why point it out unless you have no manners and want to hurt feelings?

That's me in the middle at age 11, wearing hand-me-downs.

That's me in the middle at age 11, wearing hand-me-downs.

I Still Shop Frugally

Unfortunately for my kids, I learned to shop frugally and did the same things to my children. I sewed for them and occasionally shopped at the thrift stores. I got some of the same complaints from my daughters that I lodged with my mom.

They didn't even like the homemade clothes because it wasn't like their friend's clothes. They wanted to be clones. Fortunately, I was able to find some brand-name things at the thrift stores that appeased my daughter more than sewing originals for them did.

At times like these, when people are having to tighten their purse strings more than ever, thrift stores just make sense.

Thrifty Comments Welcomed

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 28, 2015:

So pleased to meet you too, Bobby.

Robert Morgan from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Gilbert AZ on July 28, 2015:

Glad to meet you Denise... Will be stopping by again. Blessings, Bobby

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 28, 2015:

the rawspirit,

I have to agree with you that they have hiked the prices a bit too high. I have to visit on the "red tag" days because I couldn't possibly afford or condone paying those prices. Thanks so much for commenting and visiting.



Robert Morgan from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Gilbert AZ on July 28, 2015:

I use to love shopping in them, but now the prices have become so high compared to the regular discount stores. I'm sure there are still treasures to be found if you go on the red tag day. Good article. Voting it up. You are a good writer.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 27, 2015:

Joel Diffendarfer,

I've heard of that, buying from thrift stores and reselling the books on Amazon or wherever. It's a great idea for those with the space for storage and the enterprise to work at it. Thanks for the ideas.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 18, 2015:


You are right, it does depend on how you were brought up. My mother was very thrifty and didn't mind used and second-hand clothes or what-nots so I don't either. But I have met a few people who would never be caught in a thrift store only because the mother never stepped into one. Sad. Sometimes I think we are missing out because of the way our parents taught us.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 16, 2015:

Teri Stohlberg,

Thank you for the compliment. I appreciate your visit and comments.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 14, 2015:

Peggy W,

You make a really good point. Everyone should consider shopping thrift stores if for no other reason than supporting the charities they represent to help people.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 12, 2015:

Phyllis Doyle,

I never heard of that: Angel gowns for still born babies. That is a very special ministry that takes a wonderful person to do for those who are too numb with loss to be able to do. Thanks for sharing that with me.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 20, 2015:


I noticed that too. The prices aren't as fabulous as they used to be but there usually are "bargain days" when even the low prices at a thrift store are cut in half or better. I keep my eye pealed for those days and only shop then if I can help it. Thanks so much for visiting.



Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on April 20, 2015:

I have always shopped at thrift stores. The way the economy has been the past few years, it seems like a lot of people have gotten over any stigma they may have felt. That's not such great news for me, as it has driven prices up.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 20, 2015:


Very reasonable. I hate spending a lot of money on clothes too. And they don't make clothes to last very long anymore, not like they used to anyway. So it's hardly worth the money they charge for clothes new. My take on it anyway. Thanks so much for commenting.



Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on April 20, 2015:

I started to love thrift stores in my teens when you could find clothing from the 1940s. I had quite a collection of old jackets, purses from the 20's, and other items. I love clothes but am no fan of spending a lot of money on them.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 10, 2015:

Catmalone, thank you very much for visiting.

catmalone on March 09, 2015:

I like shopping at thrift store's because you can get nice bargains. Nice hub with great information.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 06, 2015:

Dear Grand old lady, I know what you mean. There are a few thrift store here like that too. A person has to be very choosy and really look through a lot of awful stuff sometimes to find those nuggets of joy.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 06, 2015:

CrisSp, thanks for your comment. I try not to get self-conscious when I'm there but invariably I will look around to see if anyone knows me. Silly goose!

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on March 06, 2015:

I love thrift stores and fortunately, my daughter does, too. She will spend an entire day at a thrift store and come home with 10 new dresses for P1,000.00 total, or about $22.50 for all of them, and she looks very expensive. On the downside, we have some thrift stores that sell old stuff way beyond what they're worth, so in the Philippines you really have to be very careful.

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on March 06, 2015:

Great hub! Good tips! I love going to the Thrift Shops. That's where I get my books and other treasures. And no, I don't get conscious going there. I actually enjoy it just like how I enjoyed reading this hub.

Voted up and sharing.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 18, 2015:

Peachpurple, It's so true. We really need to be more conscious of the constant addition to the landfills and cut back on manufactured goods. Just yesterday I was shopping online for a new T-shirt top and was appalled at the prices... $36 for one shirt! No! So I grabbed my bag and drove to the the thrift store and bought what I wanted for $2. I'm a happy camper today.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 12, 2015:

Thank you, vkwok!

Victor W. Kwok from Hawaii on February 12, 2015:

Good advice, Paintdrips!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 09, 2015:

ArtDiva, you're not the first person who has told me about this. I think it's a great idea especially for this economy. Thanks.

ArtDiva on February 09, 2015:

I love looking for treasures in thrift/consignment stores, especially to"re-purpose" as I did to supplement income a number of years ago. Every week I would go out on a quest, oftentimes taking friends to places and salvage yards never considered and discovering the real joy of it. Now and then, would stumble upon a real value, turning a profit several years later selling to make room for something new. Good article.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 08, 2015:

ezzly, thanks for the kind remarks. I wanted DancingPaintbrush, but that seems to be taken already. I have a website with that name (minus the 'g') and it was fun designing the business cards with the dancers. Blessings,


ezzly on February 08, 2015:

Great article, i love your user name by the way. Thrift stores are my secret passion and I also love craft stores in the states because they are way cheaper than Ireland + we don't have the variety and coupons :)

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 07, 2015:

Pollyanna Jones, I totally understand what you mean by the snobbery. And vintage is quite trendy. Still you have to do some real shopping to find just the right pieces to be more trendy than second-hand. Sorry to hear you don't have so many thrift stores in the UK. I didn't know that. Thanks for visiting.

Pollyanna Jones from United Kingdom on February 06, 2015:

We don't get so many thrift stores in the UK (which we would call bric-a-brac shops). We have lots of charity shops in the UK that operate to raise funds for good causes such as children suffering with terminal illness, cancer research, and support for the elderly. It's very common for people over here to donate their unwanted things when they have a clear out.

There is a little snobbery about buying things from charity shops, but this is mostly about buying clothing from these places. Thankfully it's a minority who feel this way; it's quite trendy over here to buy "vintage" at the moment.

I love to visit these stores and support a charity whilst getting a bargain. Particularly when it comes to books!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 06, 2015:

I agree that buying from thrift store, we could reduce msnufacture new goods

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 06, 2015:

Thank you so much, DzyMsLizzy, these are good points and the perfect things to find at thrift stores!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on February 06, 2015:

I have found a few things at thrift shops in recent years; I did not shop there as a kid; my folks, while by no means wealthy, were not in dire straits, either; I was an only child, so there were no hand-me-downs. However, my mom did shop the clearance racks and 'bargain basements' of the major stores in our area. Thus it was that I finally got the "poodle skirt" I'd been wanting--just as they were going out of style! I was not amused at the time. LOL

For my own kids, I mostly sewed clothes, and did not shop at thrift stores, either, even though my then-husband made less money than I was used to growing up.

But lately, I've shopped there for a few things I needed; some button-front shirts for my current husband, (who hates button-shirts), because he'd had a surgery that did not allow him to raise his arms for a while; and I also found him a thermal pullover recently that I decorated for an 'ugly sweater party.' (And about which I wrote a Hub!)

I also bought a couple of fleece crib-sized blankets to use for our senior kitty, and did not want to spend big bucks on blankets that were going to be subject to the kinds of "accidents" she frequently has...

Voted up, interesting and useful.

Audrey Howitt from California on February 06, 2015:

Such a great article! I think about it like treasure hunting!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 06, 2015:

BlossomSB, excellent! Aladdin's Cave... I love the analogy. Thanks.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on February 06, 2015:

I love wandering around in what we here often call the Op-shops (Opportunity Shop), they're like Aladdin's Cave and I never know what I might find. After all, as soon as I've bought something in a retail shop it's second-hand, so why not buy it that way and help others in the process?

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 05, 2015:

Dana Tate, me too. I usually can't afford the name brands that I find at the thrift store. Treasures!

stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on February 05, 2015:

This is a very useful hub. I found out that furniture is better from the thrift stores. Most of the furniture is real wood and can be redone and looks beautiful. The new junk is pressboard and does not hold up if it gets wet. We have a few thrift stores here and I love donating stuff others can use.

Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on February 05, 2015:

I am a true thrift-aholic. I get a thrill at finding treasures at great prices. I couldn't care less what others think of me shopping at thrift stores. I find name-brand things I normally couldn't afford.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 05, 2015:

Earner, I am so sorry to hear that. That is disappointing. I have to admit that many of my more favorite thrift stores have also raised their prices and it forces me to find one a little farther away with the commitment to keep prices affordable. Over the standard "big chain" thrifts I have been going for the ones run by churches and rescue missions. They still keep their prices low for the most part. Also check which days they are having sales. Usually there is one day when all clothes are 50% to 75% off. Those are they days I go shopping.

Dedicated Content Curator from United Kingdom on February 05, 2015:

In the UK in recent years the prices have gone up quite a lot in these stores as the middle classes have been going into them. In a lot of cases the prices are no different to buying new. Most shops are also small, so there's little choice. Great if 2-3 are on your daily route, but disappointing if you try to go out of your way to visit them.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on February 04, 2015:

I seldom shop in thrift stores, but it's been on my mind that I should find a good one and give it a try. I need some nice boring clothes. I have been working as a extra and they always want the background actors to wear bland clothes. My taste runs to the flamboyant. So I need to find some nice but cheap clothes just for work. You have given me some good tips about how to shop in thrift stores.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 04, 2015:

Travmaj, I agree. Excellent names for them! I will have to try to adopt that and spread it around here. Thanks for visiting.

travmaj from australia on February 04, 2015:

I'm with you all the way on this, I've found many treasures and bargains over the years. Here the thrift shops are called opportunity shops

(op-shops) Most appropriate I reckon.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 04, 2015:

Breakfastpop, thank you. I have found some great ones and therefore, kept the cost of my artwork down to affordable. It's the only way I can sell a piece these days.

breakfastpop on February 04, 2015:

You have provided some terrific and creative ideas in this hub. I love the idea of searching for old picture frames. They can be amazingly beautiful.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 04, 2015:

Vocalcoach, now that was a nugget of treasure you found! Thanks for sharing!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on February 04, 2015:

One of my favorite places to shop is our local Goodwill store! I've always been frugal, and I enjoy saving money!

Great Hub and great photos, too.

Voted UP and shared.

Linda F Correa from Spring Hill Florida on February 04, 2015:

I find so many craft supplies at my local Goodwill store. I love reusing and recycling all kinds of objects in all my crafting

Joel Diffendarfer from Jonesville on February 04, 2015:

Very well presented and full of practical advice. Sometimes we forget about these sources of reclaiming both for economic and historic reasons. Keep up the good work!

Joel Diffendarfer from Jonesville on February 04, 2015:

Great read and expertly organized. As for myself, I love shopping at local thrift and "reuzit" shops. Having raised 9 children this became both an essential part of our weekly shopping and giving back. Here, locally, many churches also have "bag for a buck" events where you can stuff as much clothing as you can in a paper bag for $1. Great fundraiser for churches or any organization. I also discovered years ago that I could go to the Goodwill Central Distribution warehouses and buy gaylords of books for $50 each. I, in turn, would resell on Amazon. Just going through these gaylords to find treasures was a lot of fun and always turned out profitable...the "downside" of course, was storage. Great article, voting up.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 04, 2015:

It all depends on how the individual was taught. I prefer to buy what I like and always quality.

Teri Stohlberg on February 04, 2015:

Great article, I love thrift stores! The way you put the videos in the article was awesome... I will have to try that with my next hub. Thank you!

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on February 04, 2015:

I love shopping at thrift stores. A few years ago I found a great buy on a long gray coat with cute puffed sleeves and in perfect condition. Before taking it to the cleaners I checked the pockets and found a crumpled up one-hundred-dollar bill. You never know what you might find.

Thanks for this hub. Recycling is the right thing to do.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 03, 2015:

I volunteered at an assistance ministry for many years as a counselor and we also had a thrift store where donations of clothing and household goods helped fund the work we did in helping people pay for rent, prescriptions and other items when they had a crisis in their lives. We love supporting thrift stores and donate as well as shop there. It is a great way to help support charities as most thrift stores are operated by them as well as recycle items and get terrific bargains. Everyone should consider doing that! Sharing!

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on February 03, 2015:

Hi Denise. I am thrilled with this hub and all your great advice/suggestions. I love to shop at thrift stores. I do make quilts and doll clothes a lot. Some of the most interesting fabrics I find are in thrift stores, for old dresses, skirts, shirts, etc. I also find lovely old buttons on clothing items that I add to my collection. Tiny or large buttons are hard to find and expensive in stores, but in a thrift shop, it is amazing what I can find - the tiniest buttons to use for doll clothes.

I have a friend who shops thrift stores for old wedding dresses. She cleans them up nicely and makes beautiful Angel gowns for stillborn babies - and donates the gowns to hospitals. She also makes lovely Christening gowns from the fabric.

I had another friend, a co-worker, who often came to work in gorgeous dresses reflecting 1940s - 60s dresses. We thought she had some vintage patterns and made her own clothes. Nope! She found these dresses in thrift shops, enhanced them with beads, all new buttons, maybe some lace or fringe then shopped for inexpensive costume jewelry that complimented the dresses. She always looked like an elegant fashion model.

Thrift stores are a wonderful place to shop at and it has never bothered me to be seen at one.

Thanks for writing this hub. Voted up and H+

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