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10 Reasons We Should All Shop at Thrift Stores

My wife and I are big fans of thrift stores; we donate and buy second-hand as often as possible.

Shopping at thrift stores benefits yourself and others.

Shopping at thrift stores benefits yourself and others.

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 ten reasons we should all shop at thrift stores.

1. To Support Charitable Causes

Charitable or non-profit organizations operate many thrift shops. 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.

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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.

Thrift shops often have unexpected treasures.

Thrift shops often have unexpected treasures.

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, is 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.

If you have an eye for a bargain, you can turn a profit by reselling used items online.

If you have an eye for a bargain, you can turn a profit by reselling used items online.

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 online. In addition to the common internet marketplaces such as Amazon, FaceBook, and Craigslist there are many smaller online 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 about items you shouldn't buy?

What about items you shouldn't buy?

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 and is 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.

Final Thoughts

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 the thrift store.


Questions & Answers

Question: You mention checking value with a smartphone. Can you share which website to use for looking up vintage clothing values ?

Answer: 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.


Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on November 25, 2019:

Thanks for the comment and endorsement for shopping in thrift and consignment stores. I hope you continue to find many more reasonably priced treasures while shopping.

John Muskit on November 24, 2019:

I have recently shopped from "Hilton House Designs" and my gosh my views about consignment and thrift stores have been completely revamped. The products there were almost new and the prices were extremely affordable. I recommend everyone who wish to buy jewelry consignments, go to consignment stores since the rates are in the range and the products can be incredible. Also try Hilton House Designs, I have found it to be a life saver!

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on October 21, 2019:

Way to go! As ou point out, to get the best deals takes a little time and persistance.

Dgcoleman on October 21, 2019:

I shop thrift (almost) exclusively.

You do have to shop often to find the great deals, but its so worth it.

Prime example, just purchased a pair of ladies name brand (ALL LEATHER) boot, with soles that are practically pristine. My $20 boots easily sell for $150. I get name brand/designer items for almost nothing. Im helping charities, environment and my pocketbook. Its a win win win.


Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on October 14, 2019:

With so many everyday purchases going on-line, it makes sense to shop consignments also on-line. Thanks or the great tip John.

JohnMuskit on October 13, 2019:

What's better than getting something for almost half the price. Consignment stores are basically a blessing for the ones that can't afford the crazy prized brand stores or the ones that just don't want to spend a fortune. I have a suggestion for people who want shop fashion from consignment online. If someone wishes to they can check them out at,

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on October 06, 2019:

Hope to start getting more active soon.

Mrmarkdown on October 05, 2019:

Just signed up. I hope y'all are still active. I haven't seen any recent posts so far.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on January 20, 2016:

Thanks Laurie. I'm glad you found the Hub helpful.

LaurieNunley517 from Deep South on January 19, 2016:

Loaded article full of great tips! I love thrift shopping. Thanks for sharing!

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on January 07, 2016:

Thanks for stopping by and the suggestions Kristen

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on January 07, 2016:

Great hub. I donated clothes and books from time to time to my local Salvation Army and thrift stores. You do have two typos: Uuch should me Much, and May wife should be my wife.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on October 14, 2015:

Thanks Kara. Thanks for your comments. A true Mainer, knowing the value of a buck. Great purchase with your prom dress. My wife and I are in Maine regularly at our camp. While not thrift stores, we find great values at Reny's and Marden's.

Kara Skinner from Maine on October 13, 2015:

My greatest thrift store purchase has to be my prom dress. It was a dark blue Alfred Angelo that looked fantastic on me and was practically new. I got it at a thrift store for about twenty bucks. I looked it up online and found out that it was six hundred new. At prom I got so many compliments on the dress and the entire time I was silently gloating about how my dress cost so much less than all of theirs and looked just as good. I love this hub. You bring up some great points. While things like underwear and makeup should never be bought used, I would consider purchasing a used television for a good price, especially if I was moving into a new apartment and on a budget.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on October 03, 2014:

great tips

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on November 21, 2013:

RTalloni, glad you enjoyed the Hub. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

RTalloni on November 20, 2013:

Secondhand shops are always an adventure and this is a useful look at shopping in them.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on May 26, 2013:

Glad you find shopping at thrift stores beneficial. Thanks for stopping by anagham.

Anagha V Mahishi from Hubli, karnataka on May 25, 2013:

I always try buying something which is cheaper and also which comes

in handy.. great stuff.. voted up!

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on March 13, 2013:

DzyMsLizzy, thanks for the comments and the suggestion. I added your option to my poll. Sounds like you make some wise purchases at your local thrift stores. I have bought and sold some of our kids sporting goods at a Play It Again Sports in the past and it has worked out well for me. I was in an upscale sporting goods store over the weekend and noticed that even they now have a consignment section to sell used items. Thanks for the votes and share.

torrilynn, thanks for commenting. I know that the clothes we donate to thrifts are in good condition. If they were worn out, we would throw them out. Thanks for the votes and share.

torrilynn on March 11, 2013:

thrift stores help to save money

and you can find gently used clothes there

great hub

Voted up and shared

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on March 11, 2013:

Interesting. .... Missing from your poll is, "I only recently began shopping at thrift outlets." That is my situation. My husband had to have a surgical procedure that made him keep his arms below shoulder level for 6 weeks. Try putting on a t-shirt with that restriction! Since it was temporary, I went to the Goodwill store, and found him a trio of button-front shirts (which he normally hates!), to use while he healed. For $21, I got the 3 shirts, two of which were high-end brand names that I ordinarily would never buy. I did not care one whit about that--all I needed was shirts that would fit him!

Next, I needed a new blanket for our senior cat's bedding. She is bedded down in our shop overnights, as she forgets where the litter box is, and is on medication that makes her rather unaware of where she is walking and what she may be stepping, her blanket needs frequent washing. In winter, the blanket didn't always get dry, as it was a foam-lined version that held water like a sponge. So, an extra that could go in the dryer was in order--enter the thrift shop. Soon after, the original blanket fell apart into too many pieces to even wash; another trip to the thrift shop for another small blanket. I wasn't going to purchase brand-new crib-sized "blankies" for a kitty to mess up...

There are also stores that specialize in sporting goods (and that ubiquitous exercise equipment) one such outfit here in CA is called "Play It Again Sports." I bought my golf clubs there, because I could not see spending new prices to try out the game and see if I liked it.

Great article; voted up, useful, interesting and shared.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on March 11, 2013:

Glad you enjoyed the Hub Deb. Thanks for commenting. We donate frequently to a thrift that supports our local hospital (run by the auxillary). When one of my kids needed some furniture for a college apartment, we checked out the Salvation Army.

Deb Welch on March 11, 2013:

Yes - I have donated and our family has always donated to Goodwill or Salvation Army. I shop now and again. Flea Markets in summer are a great idea.

You can save a bundle on kid's play clothes, or work clothes. Many furniture items can be improved - painted - etc. There is a Veteran's Thrift Store nearby that I have found some really unique stuff. Some people are a little snooty and don't want to mingle and shop in a thrift secondhand store. Oh well that's their problem. Useful and Interesting Hub.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on August 14, 2012:

I'm a big thrift store shopper. You never know what treasures you'll find -- the fact that they're cheap is an added bonus. Voting this Up and Interesting.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on June 24, 2012:

Collisa, thanks for stopping by and the compliments. Craigs list is a good point on where to look for cheap used items. We bought some things on craigs list to furnish a son's college apartment.

Columba Smith from California on June 24, 2012:

Totally agree! I'm big on saving wherever possible. My kids and I will also check Craigs List - have scored some big savings that way.

I took the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace class - so helpful! You have some great, helpful hubs here!

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on June 24, 2012:

Lipnancy, glad you liked my Hub. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on June 24, 2012:

I really like the idea of buying the item that you are going to use once or twice and then donating it back. Great hub.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on June 24, 2012:

That would make you a thriftologist.

collegedad from The Upper Peninsula on June 24, 2012:

Thriftology is a science that most of us need to practice! :)

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on June 24, 2012:

Collegedad, that is fantastic! You are a frugal family. You are teaching your daughter well. There should be a name for people that live very frugal lives and shop at thrift stores. The only one that I can come up with is 'smart'. But, as a science major, I think my non-science vocabulary is about 500 words. Maybe someone on HPs knows of a word or can help us create one.

collegedad from The Upper Peninsula on June 23, 2012:

Wonderful hub! We furnished most of our home with items from thrift stores. Most of our clothes come from thrift stores. The book addictions of both my wife and daughter are fed by book stores. If you are frugal you can't go wrong in a thrift store. Voted up!

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on June 23, 2012:

Starmom41, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Good point about the books. With Kindle and e-books traditional books will be harder to come by. There will always be those of us that enjoy holding a real book and turning the pages.

Starmom41 on June 23, 2012:

I've found there is no place better to find books-- including out-of-prints & those that are hard to locate anywhere else-- and at super-cheap prices at that! Been making Salvation Armys and various other thrift stores run by charities my "one-stop shops" for books for many years.

Interesting & useful hub!!!

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on June 23, 2012:

Thanks Paul. I'm glad that thrifts were beneficial to your parents and I know their purchases helped support the missions of the stores they shopped in. I forgot about bread stores. In the blue collar neighborhood I grew up in there was, I guess, an 'outlet' for a nearby bread bakery. Overstock and day old bake goods (mainly bread and rolls) were sold there. I'm sure it was a help to the families in my neighborhood.

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on June 23, 2012:

Bankscottage, You have a very useful hub about the benefits of shopping at thrift shops. Before my parents died, they would regularly visit 2-3 thrift shops in the small city near where they lived 4-5 times a week. They bought almost everything they wanted in stores like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Saint Vincent de Paul. Some of these shops even passed out free bread and bakery every day. Voted up and sharing.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on June 23, 2012:

Derek, thanks for stopping by and the compliment.

Derek Ober from Florida on June 23, 2012:

Great hub! Excellently written!

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on June 23, 2012:

Fpherj48, glad you liked the hub. I'll check your Hubs out right now.

Suzie from Carson City on June 23, 2012:

bankscottage....a favorite topic of mine! I put out 2 hubs in the past on this. I have made penny-pinching an art-form in my own life!! lol.

I agree and 2nd every thing you have said here. Excellent hub UP++

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on June 23, 2012:

All lined up, you have taught your daughter well by example. She learned without a lecture. I don't have a girl, but isn't vintage clothing popular now? She can be right there at the cutting edge of fashion.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on June 23, 2012:

Luv2hike, thanks for stopping by and commenting. You are right, sometimes the people at flea markets and auctions are as unique and interesting as the items. You sister is smart. We had 4 boys so we know how rough they can be on clothes and how fast they grow out of them. We tried to buy good, quality clothes or sporting equipment and have our own consignment store. We would buy for the oldest and pass the item down the line son to son. For some things, like hockey equipment, our youngest didn't get new items until he was 12.

luv2hike on June 23, 2012:

I enjoy going to flea markets when they are around, seems like they are less common these days but when I do find one, it always seems enjoyable. You never know what kind of treasures you may find and what types of people you may meet. The same holds true to consignment shops and thrifts stores, often times you can find very unique items that you wouldn't find in a big box store. My sister does a great deal of her kids shopping at consignment stores and she saves a ton of money, the clothes are always in great condition and is perfect for the three boys that grow like weeds! Great hub.

all lined up from Las Vegas on June 22, 2012:

I love shopping at thrift stores and have passed this love onto my daughter. she hates shopping at the mall now because everything costs so much there. :)

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on June 22, 2012:

Thanks for stopping by, commenting and sharing Dan. Thrifts really are great places to find "treasures". That wasn't my old fleece you bought. My fleeces are nowhere near "gently used" by the time I am done with them. That is one item I wouldn't be donating, but would be likely to buy.

Dan Human from Niagara Falls, NY on June 22, 2012:

I love going to flea markets to seek out bargains. I pick up quite a few collectables - mostly knives, which I usually resell at a slight profit.

About the best thing I ever found in a thrift store was a gently used North Face fleece for $5. I've worn that fleece for years now.

Great Hub, sharing this with others.

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