Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's Nifty To Be Thrifty

Ever have this scenario happen to you?  A friend compliments me on my clothes. I say, 'thanks! I got it at the thrift store!' They look at me, and their eyes get wider, their eyebrows shoot up and they say, in this skeptical, ambiguous voice, 'Really?'  Yes, really. Actually, that is where I got half my closet. I am still trying to figure out what the stigma is....(if you know, please tell me! I mean, it isn't like I don't launder the clothes before I wear them! Sheesh....)
I love to shop. Years ago I worked in retail management and, even today, whenever I walk into a store and that starchy, ethereal scent of new clothes hits my nose I am transported back to those days of unwrapping piles and piles of shirts, and jeans, and sweaters. Folding them, applying size stickers in careful precision, and arranging them in impeccable piles of perfected fabric. Oh right, and of course, buying them. In those days I had more clothes than I had closet space. They spilled out of drawers and laid over furniture. Camisoles hung four to a hanger and t-shirts were stacked 10 high. I could go weeks without doing laundry. Yes, I had that many clothes. (sigh) I cringe when I think about how much money went into my obsession with new clothes. And when I left the house I was still the same person.... no better (maybe a little worse though) for all those expensive clothes on my back. At the end of the day, they certainly weren't making me any happier.
Today, I still love retail. And, the truth is, some days it is hard to resist that temptation to buy everything that I see when I go to the mall. Several things help to deter me: 1.) the closets in our 1920's house are minuscule. I think they should actually be called 'cracks in the walls behind a door'. 2.) My husband trusts me with our credit/debit card. Sure, he never really checks up on me or tells me what I can/can't buy but I certainly want to be a responsible steward of our finances for him and 3.) Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:9 that women should 'dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes'. Well, there it is: without expensive clothes. Talk about seeing it in black and white, right?
And so I have fallen in love with thrift and consignment stores. (It wasn't hard - I am lucky to have several very lovable ones in my area.) And (alert: slight bragging moment ahead) I have pretty much perfected the art of thrifting. It's a huge thrill to go shopping and come home with 3 outfits for under $20. Not only does it relieve my wallet of 'shopping-stress' but it also allows me to go shopping twice as much as I would if I was shopping for full-price clothes and I still spend way less money! Plus, I have gotten some great steals - like high-quality name brand clothes that I would normally not be able to afford for basement prices. Give it a try!  
Some hints for thrifting:
  • Don't go when you are short on time. Give yourself plenty of time to hunt for those great treasures.
  • Examine everything! Check for tears, stains, discolorations, missing buttons, etc. Pay special attention to cuffs and collars, where dirt sometimes goes unnoticed at first. I have learned the hard way when I got a piece home and had overlooked these places. If a piece is dirty, determine whether it appears to be something that can be laundered out - unless it looks like dirt that happened while on the rack, pass on it. The stain is probably already set. If there is a slight tear or rip that can be easily mended, point it out and ask for a discount. Most places will reduce the price.
  • Get friendly with the owners of the store. This works best with smaller, privately-owned shops.  After you have been in a time or two, introduce yourself and compliment them on their selection, layout, whatever....  Getting friendly lets you use them to your advantage. If you are looking for a specific piece or size, let them know and ask if you can leave your phone number. This is a business for them and if they have a potential buyer for a piece, you can guarantee they will call you as soon as they see it come through the door. I have gotten some great dresses this way, not to mention some favors such as discounts and the privilege of returning something in spite of the no-return policy.
  •  Visit often. Thrift and consignment stores are always getting new things in.
  • In light of the 'visit often' idea, don't be tempted to over-buy. While it is true that you won't find multiple items at a thrift store, you don't want to buy things just because they are there. Ask yourself if you will really get use out of the piece. As my sister often says, 'if you are iffy, don't buy it.'
*A kind-of-important note: Although I buy a lot of my clothes at thrift stores, I haven't boycotted regular stores. I just make it a point to only buy things when they are on sale. Even staple pieces, like a great pair of jeans, or versatile shoes, or a seasonal jacket can be found at awesome prices if you follow sales and are patient. Unlike thrifts, chain retail stores do have stock, so you can guarantee if you wait for a reduction in price you will still be able to get what you want.

Dress: Goodwill $4, Boyfriend cardigan: Target on sale $14.99, Belt: Dressbarn on sale $9.99, Boots: Steve Madden on sale $60 (reg. $89) 

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