As a die-hard thrift shopper (30 years and counting), paying retail feels like defeat. The questionable quality, the mark-up, the immediate depreciation — ouch. I guess I’ve been spoiled by decades of amazing secondhand finds and even more amazing prices.
But it’s not all about saving money. For me, thrift shopping offers other important advantages that department stores could never match. Here are some benefits you may not have considered.
1. Cultivate a unique personal style
The older I get the less I want to look like everyone else. Instead of embracing fast fashion — clothing that is mass-produced quickly and often cheaply — I try to curate a wardrobe that’s filled with timeless, well-constructed clothing. From classic Harris Tweed suits to broken-in Levi’s, thrift shops are the perfect source for low-cost high fashion.
2. Buy the tried and true
When we buy new, we take a gamble. Will that new shirt fade after the first wash? Will the couch develop a sag in six months?
But items that make it into thrift stores have been field-tested by life. Clothing is pre-washed and pre-shrunk. Furniture, tools and cookware have all been certified by years of faithful service. Buying used is buying what’s proven — there’s no better warranty I can think of.
3. Buy new!
Contrary to popular opinion, thrift shopping doesn’t always mean buying used. I often find clothes with retail tags still attached, discontinued furniture from a showroom floor and countless unsold clearance item from retailers like Target.
4. Find the rare and unusual
No disrespect to Pottery Barn, but I don’t want my home to look like a glossy catalog. Thrift stores are great clearinghouses of goods from every part of the nation and world. If you’re patient and selective, you can build a collection of personal, treasured finds that no one else has.
5. Make money
Looking for a side hustle? Professional pickers comb thrift stores and estate sales in search of undervalued treasures to sell at a profit. By applying a bit of research and a few thrift shopping secrets, you can turn shopping into a money-making enterprise.
6. Try a new hobby
Get your creative juices flowing. At thrift store prices, you can explore new hobbies inexpensively. Try your hand at refinishing a vintage desk, use old plates to create a mosaic backsplash or go full Bob Ross by painting on used canvases.
7. Increase your gift-giving power
A few years ago, my friends and I decided to change how we celebrate the holidays.
First, we stopped buying greeting cards for each other (after all, there are better ways to spend $6 on someone you care about). Second, we welcomed secondhand gifts. Each year, we exchange one new and one carefully chosen “pre-loved” item. It not only helps everyone’s budget, but it allows us to give more and makes the gift-giving experience more personal.
8. Reduce waste
If you’re concerned about the environment, buying used is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes you can make. Reusing secondhand items is recycling in its most basic form — it not only keeps serviceable items out of landfills, it also reduces industrial demand for new products.
9. Support worthy causes
Now more than ever before, charities need our support. National resale stores like Goodwill use thrift store proceeds to fund job training. Other secondhand shops across the country support local hospitals, homeless shelters, schools and animal rescue services.
10. Discover how arbitrary prices are
The price difference between a new item and a used one is staggering. Over the years, thrift stores have helped me realize that retail prices are fairly arbitrary.
What makes a new pair of jeans worth $98? What makes that same pair of jeans worth $8.95 after they’ve been worn a few times? Showing kids drastic price disparities for the same product changes their perception of value, empowering them to be smarter consumers.
11. Explore constantly changing inventory
At most retail stores, the selection changes only quarterly or seasonally. But at thrift stores, new items arrive every single day. That not only makes for a more interesting shopping experience, but it offers more chances to find something you love.
12. Be part of a community
Once I developed a regular thrift shopping circuit, I began to notice the same faces over and over. As part of a loose but friendly community of bargain hunters, the shopping experience became more social and fun. We love to show off our favorite finds and share tips about new store openings.
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