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Second Hand and Thrift Store Shopping: Extend Your Budget

Updated on April 19, 2013

Second hand shopping offers an opportunity to stretch your budget while still being able to take home quality clothing and household items. No matter the state of the economy--recession or boon--second hand shopping makes sense for your personal budget, your wardrobe and even the environment.

Second hand shopping may occur in a variety of settings, from thrift stores such as those run by the Salvation Army and Goodwill, to yard and garage sales to pawn shops.

Re-purposing items from books to small kitchen appliances to shoes makes sense in so many ways, including lessening the worthwhile stuff thrown into the local landfill.

I've been enjoying the benefits of second hand shopping since I became a parent and continue now that I have grand children and an empty nest. As a young parent, my budget didn't leave room for much in the way of clothing or extras.

I became initiated to the joys of re-purposing long before "re-purposing" became a catch-word. Garage sales were the first venue I explored. I returned home from my "shopping" there with quality clothes for the baby, items other people's children had outgrown but still had plenty of life left in them. It wasn't long before I was able to sometimes find brand-name clothes for myself at a fraction of the price I'd have paid at the store--and certainly couldn't afford to do.

Equally important avenues to explore if you're interested in second hand shopping are thrift shops, flea markets and consignment stores. Pawn shops also offer great savings over the price of new items.

Second Hand Shopping Tips

As a second hand shopper, you have to have patience. I make a list of items I'm interested in finding and keep that with me as I make my rounds. If you're looking for an outfit for a special occasion, don't wait until the last minute. Second hand shopping isn't like going into a department store. You might find what you want immediately, but it's more likely that there's going to be some time and effort involved.

Thrift stores, consignment shops and pawn shops have inventory that is constantly changing. You may not find what you want today, but next week when inventory has been replenished, what you want may just be there. Ask the stores you frequent what day(s) of the week they put out new inventory. Many of them do so on a daily basis.

Shoppers interested in vintage clothing, jewelry, books and other items also frequent second hand shops. There's no guarantee you'll come across anything you can take to "Antique Roadshow," but then again, you never know. Collectors of all sorts also frequent second hand stores always on the lookout to add another item to their collection.

Although clothing is generally cleaned before being put out for sale, you may want to take the extra step of washing it or having it dry-cleaned yourself before wearing it or having your children wear it. Always sanitize toys purchased second hand before giving to a child. Keep this in mind if you are purchasing stuffed animals second hand--will it be something you can properly clean before its use?

If you become familiar with the staff at a certain store or shop, you may develop a relationship where someone there will notify you when something comes in that may suit your tastes. A church thrift store that I used to visit on a regular basis would call me when a certain donor brought in clothes. We were the same size and the clothing was almost always from a high-end label. The relationship turned out to be a positive one for both the shop and me.

Often you'll have a friend or relative who already knows the ins and outs of second hand shopping. That person can provide a wealth of information to get you started on your journey to save money. If not, just jump in with both feet, check the want ads for garage sales in your area and the yellow pages for other places that sell second hand goods.


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