10 Reasons We Should All Shop at Thrift Stores
Thrift Store Statistics:
- Multi-billion dollar industry that grows about 7% per year
- 16-18% of all Americans shop at a thrift store
- In the U.S. there are more than 25,000 resale, consignment, and nonprofit resale shops
Source: Association of Resale Professionals via Red Rock News, Sedona, AZ, May 18, 2012, by Patrick Whitehurst, Larson Newspapers
It is time to change the way we think about Thrift Stores
Many of us donate items regularly 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, or we just 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 on a regular basis. In addition to the usual reasons for shopping at a thrift, 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, consignment shop or whatever you call them, here are 10 reasons we should all shop at thrift stores.
#1 Support A Charitable Cause
Many thrift shops are operated by charitable or non-profit organizations. Goodwill and Salvation Army stores are in almost every town. Locally, 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. Maybe we should support them even more by shopping there also.
True, not all resale shops are associated with a non-profit, some are actually for-profit businesses. But, even that doesn't mean that we shouldn't use them.
#2 Stretch Your Budget
People with limited financial resources often use thrift stores and re-sale 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, maybe you can get the same or similar item at a resale shop at a steep discount.
If you cut coupons, hunt for discounts, buy in bulk, or have other frugal habits, doesn't it make sense that you would also look for bargains at a thrift? 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 The Purchases Are Eco-Friendly
According to definitions by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, salesclerks at a thrift shop would have Green Jobs. That is right. These are environmentally friendly jobs. These stores collect and recycle items that would otherwise be waste.
When people donate items and others purchase them from a resale shop, they are keeping these items out of a landfill. Everyone involved is helping the environment. The items purchased can be reused or new uses can be found for them.
My son's girlfriend will take old ties and create fashionable purses with them. Those old Father's Day gifts get recycled into something beautiful and useful.
#4 Gently Used Or Never Used Bargins
The items may wife and I donate to thrifts are gently used and have plenty of life still 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.
The are countless stories of people buying high end clothing or accessories at a resale shop at a fraction of the cost of buying the item new. You can get the status item without the status price.
My wife found a used Janome sewing machine for $15 in a second hand 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 Items You May Not Use Much
Ever need an item for a special occasion or a certain job but didn't want to purchase it new? Hosting a shower and need a punch bowl or a few large platters, 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 3 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.
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.
#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 hiding 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 6 or 8 place settings. By regularly picking up a piece or 2 at an auction, a couple more at a flea market or resale shop, she has cobbled together a large set at a fraction of the cost of new.
#7 Forget Something While On Vacation
Ever go on vacation and forget to bring something? Get there and have the weather be warmer or colder than you expected? Or even plan on just picking up an item at your destination rather than lug it from home? Admit it, we've all done it.
Often, we run to the first store, any store, and purchase something we didn't like, was an ugly color, didn't really fit or worse yet, wasn't on sale. Check out a thrift store for that light jacket or sweater that 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 Find Items That You May Not Find Near Home
Items that may not be common in your hometown could be common and inexpensive where you are vacationing. These were the type of items many of the annual visitors to Sedona were looking for in the article I mentioned earlier.
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 in the north. Items common in the desert southwest are not easy to find in New England. The selection of used skis would be greater in Colorado or Vermont than Florida or Texas.
#9 Good Intentions at a Discount
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, often these plans fall by the wayside not long after. The exercise equipment is left to collect dirty clothes or whatever. The odometer on the exercise bike sets frozen in time at 7 miles. Eventually, often after a fight with a spouse, 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.
#10 Buy For Re-sale
Entrepreneurs often buy used items for resale on internet sites such as eBay. Thrift shops and consignment stores can be great sources for re-sale bargains.
One particularly important tip was to use your smart phone to research the item you are considering purchasing. Know the value of what you are buying whether you are buying it for yourself or buying it for resale. Your smart phone can help give you that information instantly and on the spot.
In addition to not over paying for an item, it may be even more important to recognize value where others can't see it. A small repair, a new coat of paint, or a little sprucing up and 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 obtained from closeouts, bankruptcies, salvage, insurance losses etc. By their nature, 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 in them 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.
Garage Sales, Flea Markets, and Auctions
Thrift stores, resale shops, and consignment stores tend to be in permanent locations. Flea markets, garage sales, and to some extent auctions, while they can be in permanent locations, are often transient, seasonal, or occasional. Even still, they can offer great opportunities to get quality items at a steep discount.
Myway 720 has some great suggestions for what to look for in, "Best Items to Shop For at Flea Markets and Garage Sales". These tips also apply to shopping at thrift stores and resale shops.
A Virtual Consignment Store
If you live in Maine (or New Hampshire, Vermont, Massacussetts, or New Brunswick for that matter) stop in all most any supermarket, convenience store or auto parts store and pick up an “Uncle Henry's Weekly Swap or Sell Guide” for $2. Place an ad for free or buy an item, it is as virtual consignment store. First published in 1969 by Henry Faller of Rockland, ME, it has expanded to northern New England and even Canada. The print edition was available long before eBay and Craigslist, and not to be out done, Uncle Henry's is now available on-line. See if there is a print or on-line virtual consignment store in your area.
Bottom Line: Know What You Are Buying
Just because you can get something cheap, doesn't mean you should buy it. You should know what you are buying. 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, logos831 recommends that you use your smart phone to help determine the value of the item you are considering purchasing.
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 silveware was gone; sold to a person that recognized the value and didn't delay.
Some Items Are Not a Good Idea to Buy
In "Garage Sales: 10 items never to buy from a yard sale", WorkAtHomeMums points out that there are some things that would be better off bought new rather than used. Used underwear, swimwear, hats, helmets, and even used shoes may not be the best items to buy for health reasons. Although technically, we all sleep on 'used' mattresses when we sleep at a hotel, I don't think I would buy a used mattress. As WorkAtHomMums points out, some electrical items, baby items, and toys may not be a good idea to purchase used for safety reasons.
Know what you are buying and what you would pay for it if you were purchasing it new. 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 technology isn't worth purchasing 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 3-5 years old.
Did this Hub help change your mind about Thrift Stores?
When it is all said and done, buy smart, buy to save money or make money, buy to support a good cause, and buy to help save the environment. Call them what you want, we should all consider shopping regularly at a thrift store.
If there isn't a thrift store or resale shop in your area, maybe you should consider opening one for a cause or for a profit. RichSims' very informative, "Right Way to Open a Thrift Store!" contains all of the nuts and bolts you need to get your own thrift store up and running. Having personally opened several thrift stores, he has some great tips and explanations of the finances involved.
About a month ago, I asked the question on HubPages, "Do You Shop at a Thrift Store?" I was surprised that almost everyone that answered did.
So, all you pennypinchers, leave a comment and let me know what your "greatest" purchase was from thrift store.
© Bankscottage, 2012. All Rights Reserved.
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