Friday, April 11, 2008

A Foray into Thriftstore Shopping

I've written many advice type articles about how many aspects of being green can actually save you money. One of the things I always write about is second hand clothing. Especially for kids. Accepting hand me downs or shopping at thriftstores can save you a great deal of money.

But, I have a confession. Up until last Monday, I had never actually bought clothing at a thriftstore. I had bought clothing at consignment shops, but never a thriftstore. It's taken me a while to get past my middle class snobbery. 

In a week and a half, we're flying out to AZ for my niece's wedding. We all need something to wear. I've lost quite a bit of weight recently and don't have a summer dress in my closet that fits. The boys - well they've just grown; they were going to need new clothes anyway. And my husband rarely shops and could use something new for casual occasions. 

I hit the local consignment shops first for me, but came up empty handed in the dress department. I did find one fabulous skirt I bought, but it's not appropriate for the wedding. So I decided it was time to put my snobbery beside me, practice what I preach, and head for the local Good Will.

I went through an entire wall of dresses that were not divided by size or any other factor, and once again came up empty handed. I found only two dresses in my size that were summery, and neither suited my taste. So then I went over to the kids racks. Again, I had to route through racks of unorganized clothes, but I got some real bargains.

brand new Levi's with tags still on for $3.99
a short sleeved dress shirt for my older son to wear the the wedding for $.99!
two pairs of boys cargo type shorts - $.99/each
one boys t-shirt - again - $.99

$7.95 for all of that - it was all in good condition

When discussing my finds with some friends, I was told that I went to the wrong thriftstore. That if I had gone to one that is located in a certain other town, the options would be much better because it's in a ritzier area and better quality stuff is dropped off there. I will be checking out that one when I have the opportunity.

Based off of my one thriftstore experience (I know, not exactly scientific research) here are my thoughts:

  • Go without the kids, if possible. I was there much longer than I would have been at a traditional store because the clothes aren't divided into sizes. It took me about 1 1/2 hours to search through everything. 
  • Go with cash. The store I was in doesn't accept debit or credit cards.
  • Have a really good idea of what sizes you need. If you're shopping for someone who is not with you, have measurements written down. Purchases were not returnable, so if I bought something that didn't fit, I was stuck with it.
  • Be prepared to have your sense of smell assaulted if you're fragrance sensitive. Walking through the racks of clothes all I could smell was a mixture of various detergents and fabric softener sheets. For me, it was almost migraine inducing (I am very sensitive to fragrances). 
  • Bring your reusable bags with you to cart home all your purchases (I had my Chicobag with me, find out how to win your own Chicobag, here).
I did end up finding a dress, but at a traditional store. It's really pretty. I love it. It would have been great if I could have found a "pre-owned" dress, but it just didn't happen. And I felt like wasting the time and the gas driving to every consignment/thriftstore within reasonable distance would have negated the fact that I was trying to buy used. 

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Janine said...

I'm very excited to know that thrift shopping is a way to "go green" since I've been doing it for years and now feel more justified. Although I've always been very proud of my thrift store buys and excited to share how cheap they were. I bought both my Christmas and Easter dress at one near Hope. You should check out that one. Also got tons of dress and casual clothes for my boys there!

Robin Shreeves said...

Janine - what is the name of the store by Hope and where is it located?

Lorie said...

I've never thought of going to Goodwill as being environmentally conscious, but it makes sense. Although I think I have a bit of the middle class snobbery you mention, my problem with thrift stores is a lack of patience for the experience. I just can't search through rack after rack for long before I get sick of it. I have the same problem with outlet type stores like T.J. Maxx and Burlington Coat Factory.

Robin Shreeves said...

Lorie -

You know, I realized that I didn't specifically explain in the post why buying from thrift stores is environmentally friendly. It's easy to see why, though, isn't it?

It works really well in the reduce, reuse, recycle circle.
Buying used clothing (or accepting hand me downs):

reduces - because less new clothing needs to be manufactured


reuses - you're reusing someone else's unneeded clothing

It's also a great way to save money in one area so you can afford to spend a little more in another area - say to buy organic or fair trade food

Janine said...

The store by Hope Church is Red, White and Blue on 73. Just stay on Cooper and make a right on 73 and it's there on the right side not to far down.

Also - Ashland Church in Voorhees, NJ (33 E Evesham Rd) is having a rummage sale this weekend. You can donate on Wed between 10 and 3 or 6:30 - 8 and shop on Friday April 18 from 8 am to 2 pm or Sat from 9-12