I know what you’re thinking.

  • “I don’t know why anyone would want to shop at thrifts stores? Half the time the things are awful”
  • “I get things new and cheaper on sale”
  • “I’ll sell there, but I won’t buy there”
  • “Thrift stores are for people who can’t afford to buy new” etc.

I know because I used to feel the same way.

I’ve shopped at thrift stores when I was in college. One of my favorite stores was a thrift shop, back when I was totally broke, had no car, and was desperately in need of a new wardrobe because I used cheap laundry soap and ruined all my clothes.

I had no choice really. And once I got a “real job” I had put away those days of slumming it.

But as I’ve grown older I find myself becoming more ‘woke’.

Interested in my impact on the environment, where the resources I consume come from, and if I’m being a good steward of the blessings I’ve received. Maybe you can blame it on wisdom, or on all the Netflix documentaries I’ve been watching … like ‘The True Cost’, ‘Rotten’, Saving Capitalism etc.

But I’ve come to realize that if I want my children to have an environment in the future then I need to start giving a crap. So while there are financial gains from shopping at thrift stores, that’s not the main benefit or reason why I’ve started doing it again.

In fact, everyone should shop at thrift stores. And it’s my hope, that after reading this, you’ll be curious enough to at least check out a consignment store or thrift shop near you.

You Get Access to Unique Finds

I’m always looking for interesting, new, and fresh ways to dress my kiddos. It’s especially hard for boys who always look the same. I mean, how many different ways can you wear a t-shirt and jeans combo? And since I usually shop at the same couple of stores, the merchandise is usually similar.

But at thrift stores, I get exposed to brands I’ve never heard of and might have never seen if it wasn’t in the store that I happen to be in.

Think of all the places and experiences different people encounter over their lifetime. All those varying tastes and unique styles converge at the thrift store. And it’s not just for clothes either.

I especially make good finds to furnish my home with 75% – 90% off side tables, bookshelves, picture frames, mirrors, and other decorative items. Vintage, antique, traditional, authentic … so many varieties of books, types of furniture, and art makes thrift stores more like a bazaar rather than a preowned items store.

You Find Availability of Good Quality – Vintage, New and Like New – Items.

Just because an item is from the thrift store it doesn’t mean that it’s old, damaged, or has outlived its usefulness.

In fact, you’d be surprised how meticulous consignment stores can be in regards to the stock they accept – ever tried to sell some kid’s clothes and they told you it was “too loved?”

Many consignment stores are very specific on the items they sell and work to ensure it matches the season and their demographic. So it isn’t unusual to brand new with tags, or like-new items in the store.

My mother (as master thrifter) routinely finds Ralph Lauren, Lulu-lemon, and Isaac Mizrahi in thrift stores. She’s even found Michael Kors, Tory Burch, and Burberry shoes, bags, sweaters, and shirts.

Check out some of  her finds below:

The Clothing Industry is In Crisis

With fast fashion instead of 4 seasons a year (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall), now there are 52 micro-seasons a year. Yes, that’s right – there is a new season/line every week. So people are throwing out their ‘outdated’ clothes long before it outlives its use. Donating these last season, barely worn items helps to stop it from ending up in the landfill.

A Newsweek report found that in 2012, 84% of unwanted clothes ended up in the landfill. And even though you might be wearing a shirt made of all-natural fiber when it hits the landfill it doesn’t degrade like a banana skin.

Because “natural fibers go through a lot of unnatural processes on their way to becoming clothing,” says Jason Kibbey, CEO of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.  They are compostable but can’t be burned because of the toxins they produced. what you end up with is this.

And it’ll be there for a while. Because according to Down 2 Earth some of these items take decades to break down.

  • Plastic bottles: 70-450 years 
  • Plastic bag: 500-1000 years 
  • Tin can: around 50 years 
  • Leather shoes: 25-40 years  
  • Nylon clothes: 30-40 years Glass bottles: 1,000,000 years
  • Aluminum can: 200 years

And you know what else? It’s not just the trash left behind that a problem. It takes a ridiculous amount of water to produce these garments that end up in the trash.

Buying pre-owned items is a step in the right direction to use clothing until they’ve reached their full level of usefulness while helping the environment (and don’t forget our wallet).

You Can’t Beat The Excitement of Finding Treasure

You’ve heard the stories like a Pennsylvanian bargain hunter who paid $4 for a copy of the declaration of independence (because he liked the frame) only to realize he had out an original copy of the Declaration of Independence. He promptly sold it for a cool $2.4 million.

Or Zach Norris who bought a watch for $6 only to find out it was a 1959 LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm that he sold on eBay for $35,000. There are many other similar stories over the years and across the US.

While that shouldn’t be the reason you make a purchase at the thrift store, you really never know what valuables you might find. And even if you don’t find a priceless lost painting or a million-dollar payday, there are many other things to find – like gold jewelry, sturdy antique furniture, etc.

It Supports Local Businesses (and can be lucrative)

I routinely sell and donate my family’s clothes to local thrift stores and consignment shops in the area. They are able to pay a reasonable price for my items (and provide me a great service) because they are able to sell them at a reasonable price to consumers as well. So shopping at consignment and thrift stores helps to keep the supply chain going.

They’re able to make money and keep offering their services to others which is good for everyone’s neighborhood. It’s a win-win. And for those who have the entrepreneurial bug, you can support local businesses while forming your own as a thrift store flipper.

And don’t snub … reselling is big business,  a $17 billion industry, big business. And it’s pretty lucrative. Just ask Rob and Melissa who made 6 figures in 2017 flipping pre-owned items. Not too shabby if you ask me.

You Help the Community

Thrift stores like Good Will, Salvation Army, and St. Vincent De Paul and ReStore help provide aid to people in need from providing food, resources, and even shelter.

Money from sales also goes towards creating training programs and other services. In 2017 Good Will put 288,000 people back to work through the donated then sold stuff. And if you don’t believe that your donation (and the purchases people make) have an impact, then calculate your impact by using their website impact calculator.

Check it out. Just one jacket donation can provide 12 minutes of job search class for someone.

But I get it. Most folks have at least stepped into a thrift store in the past, seen garbage and decided to never return. But you won’t find great finds just walking into a thrift store and start adding things to your cart. You need to be thoughtful about what you’re doing.

Want to Know How To Snag Great Thrift Store Finds?

So here’s how to check out your local thrift stores and start grabbing some great finds, supporting your local economy, and helping the earth.

Have standards

The prices at thrift stores can be very enticing, but don’t convince yourself to make a purchase that doesn’t fit your standards just because the price is right. You’ll regret your purchase and waste your money.

Shop with your phone

When you see new brands you don’t recognize, use your phone to help give you info on the brand, size charts, prices, and quality reviews if available. Just because you’ve never heard of the brand before doesn’t mean it’s not a good brand.

Stick to the plan

Just because it’s in a thrift store doesn’t mean it’s a good buy. And just because it’s for sale doesn’t mean you should buy it. Stay on course, don’t get caught up in the sales, and don’t fall for the nick nacks you will undoubtedly see at the store. Otherwise, you could come home with a whole host of items you have no place for.

Go Mid Week

Good Will and some other thrift stores have half off all prices on Saturdays. But most people go on these days, and not only does it make for longer checkout lines, but the racks are usually picked over and the best items are gone. It’s best to find out when the store will be restocked, and go then or in the middle of the week with fewer customers.

Don’t be a stranger

Thrift stores work off donations. Some days have great donations, other days .. not so much. So if you don’t find something on one day, then don’t write off the store. Come back and check it out again, to see if you are lucky.

I hope this will help spark some interest in you at least checking out your local thrift store. And if you are a regular shopper – then keep doing awesome stuff! – and share with us any tips you have on thrift store shopping.

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