Best Decisions: Embracing Thrift Stores
I should have mentioned it sooner, I suppose, but this series of posts is in no particular order. Discovering thrift stores opened up a world of savings, business opportunities and fun to me that so many other people are missing.
If this list was in order of occurrence or order of important, this post about thrift stores would have been near the top.
Embracing thrift stores is among the best decisions I’ve made on my trek toward a simpler life, but I discovered second-hand shops, charities shops or resale stores — whatever you want to call them — long before I got serious about simplifying my life.
This post, the ninth in a series of 10 posts about my best decisions along life’s simpler path, is all about used merchandise stores and how they can change your life — if you understand them.
How I Discovered Thrift Stores
My online used bookselling business — now nearly folded — supported me for half a decade or more. It was great fun while it lasted, however, and much of that fun came from tearing through thrift stores (and used bookstores) looking for books good enough and worth enough to resell. I found tens of thousands.
No, that’s not an exaggeration. I’ve handled well over 20,000 books during my bookselling career, almost all of which came from used merchandise stores of one kind or another.
Some people mistakenly think buying things to resell from thrift stores is dishonest or unethical, but it’s actually a smart business decision that serves many people very well.
The store gets the full price it was asking for the merchandise, and if I’m lucky and careful, I make a nice profit. Even better, many thrift stores use the money they make to provide clients with food and necessities (like the Salvation Army, a conservative Christian service organization) or jobs and job training (like Goodwill, a secular charity).
As I explained in my post Making Thrift Store Clothing Your Own last July, charity thrift stores aren’t necessarily places where the underprivileged shop, as many people believe. They’re most often places that sell things to raise money to help those in need. Many other thrift stores are for-profit companies with no charitable connections or that donate only a small percentage of profits to charity.
The Role Of Thrift Stores In My Life
Many thrift stores now sell their highest quality merchandise on eBay or other online sales venues themselves, limiting the opportunity to use them as an inventory source for a business of your own. Some opportunities still exist, however, and I take advantage when I notice one.
In addition, almost all of my clothing is from thrift stores. I don’t buy shoes, socks or underwear at these places, but all of my other clothing comes from thrift stores. Some items cost me less than a dollar; others cost me as much as $8 each. I recently bought two pairs of jeans at a local thrift store for $7.99 each. That’s more than they should be charging, I think, but it’s substantially less than retail, so why should I complain?
For me, thrift stores are many things. First, they’re a business opportunity — although one that’s very limited now. They’re also an inexpensive source of clothing — although one that’s getting more expensive. Even better, however, they’re endlessly entertaining. I hate shopping in regular stores, but I like digging through bins and mismatched racks at thrift stores.
An Important Caveat
It’s not often I use the word “caveat”, but it’s just the one I need here.
Whether you use thrift stores for the resale opportunities they present, the endless supply of inexpensive clothing and home goods they offer or the sheer fun of the process, a bit of care is needed.
Clutter is the enemy of a simple, deliberate life, and thrift store shopping is a great way to increase the clutter in your home if you do it wrong. Buying clothes without trying them on is guaranteed to result in a pile of ill-fitting items on which you wasted your money. You can also seriously derail your life buying knickknacks and other uselessness from thrift stores.
Think about it: There’s a reason someone got rid of that collection of porcelain cats. It’s not the sort of thing you want to see more than once or twice. Admire these pieces in the store, then let someone else deal with dusting, arranging and protecting them for their rest of their days.
Even the tightest budgets can probably afford dozens of pieces of thrift-store junk.
Where do thrift store fit into your simple, deliberate life? No matter how much money you have or what misconceptions you may have had about thrift store, they can have a place in your life.
Because thrift stores promote reusing, recycling and re-imagining, they’re good things to have in your life. Never mind all the money you can save.