10 Reasons We Should All Shop at Thrift Stores
Excellent Reasons for Shopping at Thrift Stores
Many of us regularly donate items to thrift shops. We do it because we want to support the associated cause, help others that may be struggling to stretch a limited income, and want a charitable deduction for our tax return.
A recent article in a Sedona, AZ, newspaper pointed out that many tourists that return annually frequent the local thrift shops. In addition to the usual reasons for thrift shopping, many looked for items that weren't available back home. They found items in Sedona that they couldn't get at home, and they found them at a discount to boot.
Thrift, resale, second-hand, and consignment shops—or whatever you call them—are worth shopping at in addition to donating to. Here are 10 reasons we should all shop at thrift stores.
1. To Support Charitable Causes
Many thrift shops are operated by charitable or non-profit organizations. Goodwill and Salvation Army stores are in almost every town. Local churches, hospitals, and private schools often have resale shops to support their causes.
We know that donating items to these organizations will help support them. We can support them even more by shopping there, too.
While it's true that not all resale shops are associated with a non-profit (some are actually for-profit businesses), that doesn't mean that we shouldn't use them. Many for-profit thrift stores do share some profits with local charities, and even if they don't, they do prevent usable items from going directly to the landfill.
2. To Save Money
People with limited financial resources often use thrift stores and resale shops to stretch their budgets. Isn't frugal living a good idea for everyone? Why should anyone pay more for something than they have to just because they can? Instead of paying full price or even a sale price for a new item, consider looking for the same (or similar) item at a resale shop at a steep discount.
If you cut coupons, hunt for deals, buy in bulk, or have other frugal habits, doesn't it make sense that you would also look for bargains at a charity shop? Money not spent—regardless of where you don't spend it—is money you can save for other goals or use for other expenses.
3. To Reduce Waste and Help Save the Environment
According to definitions by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, salesclerks at thrift shops have "Green Jobs." That's right—these are environmentally friendly jobs since these stores collect and recycle items that would otherwise become waste.
When people donate items that others purchase, they are keeping these items out of landfills. Everyone involved is helping the environment. The items purchased can be reused or new uses can be found for them. My son's girlfriend takes old ties and creates fashionable purses with them. Those old Father's Day gifts get recycled into something beautiful and useful.
4. To Find Gently Used or Never Used Bargains
The items my wife and I donate are gently used and still have plenty of life in them. We donate them because we don't have a use for them anymore. Some people donate items that are essentially new, occasionally still with tags on them.
There are countless stories of people buying high-end clothing or accessories at a resale shop at a fraction of the cost of buying new. You can get the status item without the status price.
My wife found a used Janome sewing machine for $15 in a secondhand store. $20 for a new bobbin and a minor repair and she had a sewing machine that would have cost several hundred dollars new. Unlike the new sewing machine I bought her when we were first married, she actually uses this one.
5. To Buy Items You May Not Use Much
Have you ever needed an item for a special occasion or a job but didn't want to purchase it new? If you're having a party and need a punch bowl or a few large platters, or if you're looking for a special tool or small appliance, check out the local resale shop. Yes, you could try to borrow it from your neighbor, but he is still mad because you didn't return his drill for three weeks the last time you borrowed it. You could try renting the item, but someone has to have it for rent, and renting isn't always cheap.
At your local thrift shop, you may be able to pick up that item at a fraction of the cost of purchasing new or renting. When you are done with it, you can lend it to your neighbor or donate it back to the resale shop.
6. One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure
People like to browse at thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales, and auctions for hidden treasures. A crystal vase, a valuable painting, an expensive watch, or some other hidden gem could be nestled among all of the everyday items in the store. What the donor may not have recognized may be your chance to score a real treasure.
We have a friend that collects Fiesta dinnerware. It is expensive to buy at Macy's and could be very costly to get a set of six or eight place settings. By regularly picking up a piece or two at auction and a couple more at flea markets and resale shops, she has cobbled together a large set at a fraction of the cost.
7. If You Forget Something on Vacation
Ever go on vacation and forget to bring something? Maybe you got there and realized the weather was warmer or colder than you expected? Perhaps you even planned on just picking up an item at your destination rather than lugging it from home? Admit it, we've all done it.
Often, we'll just run to the first store—any store—and purchase something we don't like, that's an ugly color, doesn't really fit, or worse yet, isn't on sale. Why not check out a thrift store for that light jacket or sweater you didn't bring? Need a dress or a sport coat for an unplanned dinner out? Check a resale store before you pick up a new item.
8. To Find Unusual Items You May Not Find Near Home
Items that may not be common in your hometown could be common and inexpensive where you are vacationing. Maybe you live in a warm climate but would like to pick up a nice sweater or long sleeve shirt: Check out a resale shop the next time you travel north. Items common in the desert southwest are not easy to find in New England. You'll find a larger selection of used skis in Colorado or Vermont than you will in Florida or Texas.
9. To Buy Exercise Equipment
Thrifts, resale shops, and consignment stores are full of items originally bought with the best of intentions. Exercise equipment is a good example. Retail stores know that everyone makes New Year's resolutions and many of them are related to exercise and weight loss. New exercise equipment goes on sale in December and January to take advantage of these good intentions.
People buy this equipment with the intention of starting the new year off with an exercise and/or weight-reduction program. You know as well as I do that these plans often fall by the wayside. The exercise equipment is left to collect dust or piles of dirty clothes. The odometer on the exercise bike sits frozen in time at 7 miles. Eventually, this equipment ends up at a resale or consignment shop. This is your opportunity to pick up good, nearly new equipment at a fraction of the original cost.
10. To Resell Items for Profit
Entrepreneurial shoppers buy used items to resell on internet sites such as eBay. Thrift shops and consignment stores can be great sources for bargain items that can be resold for much more.
Savvy buyers use their smartphones to research the item they are considering purchasing. It's easy to research the value of any object whether you are buying it for yourself or for resale. Your smartphone can give you that information on the spot.
In addition to not overpaying for an item, a little research helps you to calculate value where others can't see it. With a small repair, a new coat of paint, or a little sprucing up, an otherwise-worthless item can be made into something of value that you can resell.
Surplus and Salvage
If you can't find what you want or what you need at a thrift shop, you can always try a wholesale club such as Sam's or Costco. But, an even better (i.e. cheaper) option may be a surplus and salvage store. These stores sell essentially "new" merchandise that they obtain from closeouts, bankruptcies, salvage, insurance losses, etc. The inventory of these stores is constantly changing, and if the store is part of a chain, each store in the chain could have different merchandise.
Marden's is a chain of surplus and salvage stores throughout the state of Maine. My wife and her friends that sew love to browse there for fabric that they can purchase at very low prices. They can spend hours in one store and then head off to another because the selection is completely different.
It's Not Just Brick and Mortar Anymore
Like almost everything, shopping for used or consignment items can be done from anywhere on-line. In addition to the common internet marketplaces such as Amazon, FaceBook, and Craigslist there are many smaller on-line sites and apps designed to bring sellers and buyers of used items together. The list of items sold this way is almost unlimited
Consignment items can be found at sites such as Hilton Home Designs. Some of the more popular apps include Poshmark, Letgo, OfferUp and 5miles (if you want to deal with people closer to your home). There are sites for very limited markets such as clothing or cell phones, while others have much broader and diverse categories as well as options to promote services and to look for a job..
Bottom Line: Know What You Are Buying
Just because you can get something cheap doesn't mean you should buy it. You should always know exactly what you are buying and purchase items you are familiar with. If you know about crystal, art, or expensive clothing and accessories, purchase these when you find a great deal. For items you are not as familiar with, use your smartphone to help determine the value.
Be cautious when deciding when and where you meet a stranger if the transaction has to be carried out in person. If you are not comfortable giving out your charge card information or paying cash for the transaction, PayPal may be a great option for both buyer and seller.
If you know what you are buying and it is a great deal, go for it. Don't delay. My wife saw a large set of sterling silver flatware at a consignment store offered at a great price based on the price of silver. She decided to wait, think about the purchase, and check back at the store later. She went back a few days later and the silverware was gone. It was likely sold to a person that recognized the value and didn't delay.
What Items Shouldn't You Buy Used
There are some things that might be better new rather than used.
- Underwear, swimwear, hats, helmets, and even some shoes may not be the best items to buy for health reasons.
- Some electrical items, baby items, and toys may not be a good idea to purchase used for safety reasons.
- Although technically, we all sleep on used mattresses when we sleep at a hotel, I don't think I would want to buy a used mattress.
- It doesn't make sense to buy a used, older model of an item when a new model is available for only a slightly higher price.
- Some obsolete technology isn't worth purchasing used for almost any price.
One resale shop near my home has several very old television sets in their window. I hope they are a historical display and not for sale. To me, it wouldn't make sense to buy a used tv that was more than three to five years old.
We should all consider shopping regularly at thrift stores. When all is said and done, buying to save or make money, buying to support a good cause, and buying to help save the environment are all very smart choices. To all you penny pinchers: leave a comment and let me know what your "greatest" purchase was from thrift store.
Did this article help change your mind about thrift stores?
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Questions & Answers
You mention checking value with a smartphone. Can you share which website to use for looking up vintage clothing values ?
That's a really good question. There are so many categories of items available for sale, it would be hard to find one site for everything. If you want a general idea of a price of an item, check a broad marketer like eBay for similar items that have recently sold. It won't be a perfect value for your item, but it would put you in the ballpark.
For possibly a more accurate value of your vintage clothing try Sammy Davis Vintage. For a fee, they will provide an appraisal of your specific piece. They can also provide links to social media groups that could help price your item for free.Helpful 11