Shopping at the Thrift Store

When it comes to living a life of small adventures, the thrift store is a prime opportunity. An active thrift store is always changing with new stuff to discover. Plus pre-owned items have history and character.

Although in a past post I wrote about getting paid to create, the truth is that I don't make nearly enough to earn a living from what I create. I work part-time, and my husband works part time too. Then by living frugally, we make ends meet while still having the time to be creative.

It's tough reaching that place where being frugal meets quality. Yes, buying that more expensive item may give a better return on investment for the long run, but often the money to make that investment isn't in the bank yet. I have to save up to buy quality, and unfortunately, I don't always have the time (or ability, due to bills) to save up.

However, I've found that cultivating good taste is more important. With good taste, it's possible to see the full potential in an inexpensive item, which allows me to get as much out of it as if it was a more expensive product.

The other day I bought a dress at the thrift store for $5.00. It was love at first sight for me, and this dress looked brand new! The fabric was fresh. There was no pilling or unraveled seams. It was in black.

I bought it with no regrets.

On multiple occasions when my mom has come to visit me, she'll compliment me on a piece of clothing I'm wearing and ask me, "Where did you get that?"

Every time I say, "The thrift store," she is blown away. "How can you find such nice clothes at the thrift store? When I go there, I can't find anything," she exclaims.

When I was a teen, my mom and I were mall shopping buddies, so her shock is understandable. But it all goes back to what I mentioned before: good taste. From spending plenty of time looking at new clothes, I know what a good quality used garment looks like.

When thrifting for clothes, I look for:

  • Newness. Does this item look new or barely worn?
  • Fabric pilling, undesirable color fading, lack of shape, and stains. If a piece of clothing has any of these problems, I don't buy it.
  • Unraveling seams. If the seams are coming loose, I don't buy it. Hems though, are an easy fix.

Also when I go to the thrift store, I have a specific item in mind. The day I discovered my black dress, I entered the store mainly to buy a black dress. This reduces the overwhelm that seeing so many random items can cause. On top of that, finding what you're hunting for adds to the excitement.

When shopping for inexpensive items from the thrift store to the dollar store, I also try to focus on natural materials because they last longer.

Glass, wood, metal, and ceramics are good materials. Also things made of silicone are good. However, I avoid plastic. Cheap plastic is just low quality all the time. And old plastic isn't much better.

So if you want to get the best out of low cost items:

  1. Learn what quality looks like. Plan a fun day trip to visit a store known for good quality and design. Take pictures of what inspires you.

  2. Get clear on what it is that you need to buy. Knowing the item and general color is enough. Don't get too specific. You want to leave room for unexpected possibilities.

  3. Then hit the cheap and used stuff stores. Look for natural materials and used items that look almost new or are in good shape.

I used to be uncomfortable with thrifting, but by following these little guidelines, I've become more confident.

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