I Shop at Thrift Stores

It has happened again. Because of the ailing economy, my local television news is reporting another story on how to save money. Very helpful, yes, but what got my ire up was the tone of the broadcast.

This particular story detailed the local rise in people shopping at thrift stores. The report left me with the feeling that these people were indeed ashamed to be at thrift store.

People should not be reluctant to shop at thrift stores or – for that matter – feel guilty for taking the time to look closely at prices and consider how to spend their hard-earned money. We need to start admiring our thrifty habits and be proud of the value we squeeze out of each shopping trip. In short, I’m not sorry to be frugal.

Before I was thrifty

Not that long ago I barely saved anything and spent almost my whole paycheck by the time it was payday again. Where on earth did that money go? I remember how panicked I was. What if my car broke down and needs expensive repairs? What if I lose my job and need to move?

Thanks to our current, more careful purchasing habits, our life is easier simply because we go through our money less quickly. I’ve found we even need fewer things, consume less and, therefore, we save money.

We have simply said “no” to new clothes at every turn, cable television, using the car every time we go somewhere, and buying a new house when we wanted it. Here’s how it shakes out:

  • Shopping for most clothes at thrift stores – There are a few items I can’t find – children’s pajamas – and some I would rather buy new, like underwear, but the rest of our clothes comes from thrift stores, gifts or hand-me-downs. In the four years we’ve tracked our clothing purchases, thrift-store shopping has been 85% of our total clothes shopping, but just 30% of the total cost. If we had purchased the equivalent amount of clothing from regular retail stores, we could have spent more than $600 per person per year.
  • Only broadcast television – We live in an area where we are able to get a clear broadcast signal. Thanks to this, we save $45 a month on the standard package of channels. It has been more than 10 years since we have paid for cable, and trust me, we still watch plenty of television. All told, it’s a total savings of $5,400.
  • Bike to work – My husband took up riding his bike when he was too hurt to run for fitness anymore. During last year’s huge rises in gas prices, this practice especially made sense. In 2008, his biking to work saved us an average of $80 for every fill up on our full-size truck. By halving the need to fill up the truck, we saved $960.
  • One of us works at home – Talk about saving on gas, clothing and food! This is another big lifestyle change our family took on when we decided to have children. Happily, I have a profession that could translate to home and we were able to cut our childcare costs in half. If I had remained working full-time outside the home, we could have easily spent another $400 per month for the average full-time preschool in our area, which would have been another $24,000 per child for the five years needed.
  • Movies at home – We love going to the movie theaters several times a year and we always have a lot of fun. However, if we went to a weekly premiere like my husband and I did when we dated, our family would be poorer an average of $40 for every movie (including tickets and refreshments). Today, we rent a movie almost every weekend and try to patronize our local Redbox for the $1 per night movies. Compare $52 a year on movies to $2,080 a year and you’ll see why we steel ourselves to wait until the DVD release.
  • We chose to stay in our home – We are grateful every month for our reasonable mortgage payment. It is small because my husband bought our house more than 12 years ago. If we had found something we liked and purchased another house two years ago when we were looking, our mortgage payment would have at least doubled. For us, it would have cost another $800 a month, or $9,600 a year.

As you can see, we are penny pinchers for sure. Our lifestyle isn’t full of travel or meals out several times a week, but what my husband and I have is a shared sense of financial responsibility that we hope to pass onto our children.

I urge you, too, to be proud of your thriftiness, not ashamed. It’s a good thing you’re doing. Keep up the good work.

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15 Responses to I Shop at Thrift Stores

  1. Michelle says:

    Very, very good article. I like how you were able to put a tally on how much you’re saving per year by being thrifty.

  2. Pingback: A good article - Debt Reduction 101

  3. MizPat says:

    Last week I visited our local Goodwill store and found it clean, organized, and with a huge selection. All the clothing was organized not only by type, but by color. I found a blue top that looked outstanding, and had no signs of wear, for $2.50.

    I wore it to work the week and everyone told me it looked terrific and I was finally jazzing up my wardrobe – SNICKER.

  4. Vicki Priebe says:

    Great article. People need to realize, when they go into a thrift store, no one is judging them. Everyone is in there for the same reason, trying to save money on items. Once the item is home, no one will ever know where you bought it, unless you tell them. So it is thrifty shopping without the huge price tag. Thanks for your price comparisons – they were great.

  5. minny says:

    Jennifer, I am with you completely! I work as a volunteer in a charity shop in England – the goods are donated by people and the money raised goes to a hospice – a hospital for those with incurable and painful illnesses who are dying. Not quite part of our health service, but still free.

    I buy lots of things, clothes, household and craft items. Because so many people benefit from the hospice we have some very good items and make a lot of money.

    Ashamed! What nonsense – I would be ashamed not to support charity shops – and save masses of money as well. Not to is like lighting the fire with pound notes!

  6. Gloria says:

    I agree. There is no shame in shopping thrift.

  7. Panda Bear says:

    Not everything in a thrift shop is a bargain!
    (1.) Know Your Prices!
    (2.) Inspect Merchandise VERY Carefully
    (3.) Be Willing to Clean, Repair, Mend
    (4.) Take Your Time Shopping
    (5.) Be VERY Patient When Browsing
    (6.) Tolerate Uncultured Citizens
    (7.) Endure Incompetent Clerks
    (8.) Withstand Large Crowds and Lines
    (9.) Bear Filthy Disgusting Public Bathrooms (ENOUGH SAID!)
    (10.) Submit to Disorderly, Cluttered,
    Scattered Merchandise Messes- Thrift Stores seem to all be unkempt, sloppy and generally just untidy!

    So if you are willing to put up with the above, then yes, I suppose you would not be ashamed to shop at thrift shops.
    It just seems to me to be too many “cons” verses “pros” just too save a few cents.
    I personally don’t feel that all of that is worth my time and trouble, therefore, although I would not be “ashamed” to shop there, I simply just would not do it.
    Thanks for allowing me to share my view.

  8. Texas Girl says:

    I love shopping thrift stores!! Heck, I BRAG about it to my friends!! “LOOK WHAT I FOUND FOR $2!” hee hee…

  9. Gail says:

    I feel bad for the poster with the nasty thrift store. Our local store is clean, well manintained, just went through a building project because it had outgrown the building. Since the rebuild, it is even busier and I don’t think it is the eceonomy!

    Items are priced very low, all the money raised stays in our town, our clerks are very competent and although there may be some ‘uncultured’ citizens shopping there, I have also seen many women I know shopping there with college degrees, doctors for husbands, very well educated folks who know a bargain when they see one. Yes we even have poor people shopping there and that means they have clothes on their backs as there is no other place within 30 miles that they can shop at a reasonably priced store. The whole town supports this store with donations and some of the donations are incredible!!!

    I get many books to read there. I find great craft items there. I find clothes for my hubby, rarely do I find clothes for me but that is okay because I make my own. My son when setting up his apartment found a great recliner for $20 and a side table for $2. what more furniture does a young kid in their first apartment need?

    I’ve never been ashamed to shop at thrift stores, perhaps because I grew up poor and it was one of the few places we could shop? I don’t know, but jumbling all thrift stores into the same pot as messy nasty places is sad to see.

    One of my favorite tops that I have been wearing for something like 5 years or so now I got at a bag day they had once. It was one of many items in the bag, so cost me about 8 cents! It is wearing like iron and I have been trying to find a pattern just like it so I can recreate it as I know someday it will die. Obviously I don’t go by the fashion rules of tossing your clothes for the latest stuff each year!

  10. FrooGal says:

    @ Panda

    Actually, Panda, it sounds like YOU need to either actually visit a thrift store once in a while; or if this is actually based in personal experience – check out some others. I’m a dedicated thrift store shopper and I’ve never, EVER seen one like that.

    @ Jennifer

    Great article. I think it’s hilarious, though, that people feel compelled to justify shopping @ thrift stores, when really, the people who owe people an explanation are those who just mindlessly go to the G*p or wherever, just because some advertising exec told them to. This is going to get worse, especially in the States, as the people are told that consumerism is the salvation of the free world.

    (ahem, excuse the rant). Great article!

  11. Ann says:

    @ FrooGal
    I have actually found that when shopping at a thrift store, I avoid anything with a visible brand-name on it (with a few exceptions like London Fog or Levis) because I don’t want people mistaking me for someone who shops at brand-name stores.

  12. FrooGal says:

    @ Ann

    That’s too awesome! I’m such a jeans and t-shirt girl that I don’t get much opportunity to do that – but you’ve totally inspired me to find the funkiest, most obviously thrift-store outfits I can 🙂

  13. Umarider says:

    We have two great thrift stores we visit. One tends to get a lot of furniture & household stuff. We redid my daughter’s room totally for $250 including a bed (already had the mattress), desk, chair, table, artwork, plus paint, etc. from other stores!

    The other store is great for clothes! W/ a tall, skinny, growing daughter, an inexpensive source for jeans is a must!

  14. Julie Chang says:

    Don’t shop Goodwill for clothes. You can get better bargains on clothing on ebay.

  15. Anna Nalugon says:

    I am not Ashamed to Shop at Thrift
    because I am getting good bargains
    I got banana republic,ann taylor,gap,old navy,guess,mossimo,new york and company and alot more..

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