Friday, September 7, 2012

Creative Frugality-Buying Used

Two weeks ago, I bought my daughter the holistic health practitioner this Jack La Lane Juicer. I paid $20.00,  for a juicer that sells upwards of $150 and was in great working condition.  Such deals are not abnormal occurrances in my life.

As I prepared to go to "work" on Friday and Saturday of this week, it occurred to me that I only share a small part of my thrifting experiences.  Every couple of weeks I photograph and share some of the resalable items I've purchased at thrift stores, garage sales or library sales. These are treasures, and it's always nice to show when I buy something really low that I can sell really high.

Truth be told, I don't just go to thrift stores and yard sales to make money. I shop this way as a regular part of my lifestyle. Instead of going to the mall, I go to Goodwill. Rather than buy full price at home depot, I explore Salvage shops and Habitat for Humanity's Restore. The end result, I have a house full of "good stuff", and more money in my pocket-and experience absolutely no deprivation in the process.

I realize this is a reversal from the way many folks think. Heck, I've even had someone offer to drive me to the mall and take me shopping when I said I was going to go to goodwill and look for some summer tank tops. An awfully large part of the general population seem to feel that thrift store shopping is fine on a lark (the occasional retro top) or for those folks living on the edge. There's a great deal of ambivalence when it comes to buying things less than new.

To be sure, I do this first to save money. Living on a fixed income means I need to live creatively.  My goal is to have an abundant life, and my spending is designed for the most part to meet that goal. Second hand shopping, put simply, gives me more bang for my buck. Of the four good quality silky knit type shirts below, one was purchased at a regular store ( at seventy five percent off and then fifty percent off the clearance price).  The other three were purchased used. I would defy anyone to tell the difference.  All four tops together cost much less than a single top at Macy's or Nordstrom's. When my children used to go yard saling with me, they learned quickly the correlation between abundance and thrifting. In an age when a single themed Lego set cost between fifteen and thirty dollars, my son more than once found large tool boxes full of good Lego's and accessories for a few dollars. Did they have the pretty box?  They did not. But the end result was that through thrifting, my kids  had more toys than they knew what to do with. One year, I bought my daughter an entire wardrobe of size 6x clothing (remember the old sears mix and match?), three bins worth for five dollars.  Second hand shopping is not just about clothing. It's easy to discuss clothing, but there are many other things as well. I have china for Christmas, Halloween, Easter, and patriotic holidays. I regularly find real fiesta ware for pennies.......I could go on for awhile.

I also get much better quality for the price at thrift stores and garage sales.  First of all, if you find a really good quality used item, it's likely to mean that item will last and last well. Cheaper and poorly made items are more likely to end in the trash bin. For sure, there are cheaply made items at thrift stores, and you may have to "kiss a few frogs" to find the princes.  But you know what? That happens at the mall as well. Chances are equally good that you will walk into Penney's or Macy's without finding anything. And really good quality with small imperfections can be better than cheaper things that look perfect.  I have been looking for a really good new ceiling fan/light unit. It's difficult to describe, but my current light unit uses down hanging shades.  These are the kind with the halo top where the bulbs screw in, rather than the the kind with the lampshades that go around the bulb. It's apparently impossible to find the former. I recently discovered Habitat for Humanity's Restore, where like new items are donated and used for Habitat houses or to raise money for the organization. Supposedly this item has a minor scratch or imperfection but I could not see it, and comparable to a lamp store or even home depot, it was a steal.

Thrifting gives me the "no guilt" factor on occasion. When my kids were younger, I could buy a Gymboree fancy outfit for a dollar or two-and not lose it like the other mothers when my daughter started making mud pies or dissecting rolly polly bugs. I'm an artist, quilter, and gourmet cook, a canner and a gardener who is by definition a klutz.  When God was giving out grace and coordination, someone else got my share (same with the singing voice). I also despise aprons for the most part other than the little hostess style. Since I'm not one for plain white T-shirts, it's a conundrum. When I buy a nice shirt for a dollar or two, I'm not destroyed if I spill crushed blueberries or alcohol ink.

 In the same vein, thrifting allows me to "try things" and then decide if I want to invest further. For example, that bread maker was easily resold once I realized I preferred to use the mixer and knead by hand. Had I purchased the appliance at full price, I would have been very upset at letting it go.  In other words, thrifting allows me not to hang onto things just because I spent x amount of money.

Finally, secondhand shopping is wonderful for finding piecemeal and backup items. This is especially helpful if like me you have dropitis (and prefer glass to plastic).  Glass mixing bowls for my mixer, carafes for the coffee maker and blender tops are easily found.

I definitely don't buy everything used by any means. Aside from the ick factor for bedding and upholstery (and some clothing and shoes), there are some things that are better purchased new.  Safety items and technology come to mind, along with items that have many small pieces that are not easily replaced (from games upward). I have yet to join the Compact, although I appreciate their goals. Any discussion of thrift shopping or deprivation should also include the admission that I have NEVER had the shopping gene. I hate the smell of the mall (although I do have my own weaknesses, usually relating to fabric, books or similar items).

But for me, it works to continue to buy used, fill in with new, and let my shopping habits give me a richer retirement.  What about you? Do you shop used on occasion. Love it (or the idea of it)?  Hate it? I'm off tomorrow to look for books of course. I'll also be looking for things on my want list-including individual pieces of stainless steel cookware, and longaberer holiday baskets.


    1. This looks like a good habit for me to acquire. My husband already has it.

    2. Great post! We are die-hard Goodwill shoppers too. And if you look in the parking lot of our local Goodwill you will notice an abnormal amount of BMWs and Mercedes there...maybe how these people can afford those kinds of cars!

    3. Five years ago we moved to a very small town. My city friends often ask if I miss the stores. My reply - "I miss Goodwill!".

    4. Whoa! GReAT find on that juicer..I'd love to find one like that !! I enjoy my thrift store shopping and yard sales,too! I find antique lacle for my crafts projects, and other odds and end for my crafts/mixed media work. I am always on the lookout for great pots and pans such as enameled cast iron, hard to find!

    5. I love your balanced approach here Barbara. I agree that buying used is very helpful and I have scored some great stuff. However, I do buy new. Tee shirts are less than $9 and sometimes less. I can wear them until they are rags. I like things that will last and prefer to buy new in those situations.

      Be well.


    6. Hey b, thanks for your comment. I do buy new on occasion but I actually find that good quality used lasts longer than cheaper new-my two favortie shirts that I have worn for years and wear everywhere including church were both purchaseed for a couple dollars at thrift stores.

      I save my new purchases for things like socks, underswear, upholstered stuff on occasion and shoes (I can only wear clarks and ever seem to find them used)

    7. I'm not a great Goodwill shopper, probably because I hate shopping of any kind. But give me a used book sale and I can hang out there for days. For the past 30 years, I've had a "dollar a book" price limit, though these days, I'll occasionally go another dollar higher.

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