I’m a bargain hunter. I will pick shopping at Goodwill over the mall any day of the week. I’m sure this has everything to do with my mom: from the time I was small, she taught me that it’s always better (and more fun) to hunt for the best bargain rather than snatch up the first thing that catches your eye. Not only are you saving money, but you feel a certain sense of accomplishment when you bought something for $3.99 that was originally $50.
I didn’t always appreciate my mom’s keen bargaining eye. In elementary school, we had to bring a special pair of gym shoes for PE each year. My mom wouldn’t buy me a new pair each year, much to my dismay. When the time did come for new shoes, there was always a price limit. If I wanted the fancy new light-up sneakers, I had two choices: I could a.) pay for part of them myself, or b.) have my mom buy them now, but they would be my Christmas present. As a selfish young child, I thought this was terribly unfair. But even at that age, I was too cheap to pay for something unnecessary, so the first option was out. And I certainly didn’t want shoes for Christmas – I was holding out for Veterinarian Barbie. So we went with the cheaper, non-light-up, non-name-brand gym shoes. I was mad about it for a little while, but I let it go as soon as I remembered how little gym class meant to me.
Although it seemed like a horrible injustice at the time, Mom, of course, was totally right. What’s the point in spending $60 on a pair of shoes that will lose their appeal in a week or so – the light-up shoes seemed great in the store, but how long would I really care about them? Not long, I’m sure. Not long at all. I failed to see the logic in this at the time, but I definitely see it now. If parents gave in to every whiny demand of their children, they’d all be living in cardboard boxes.
My bargain gene didn’t kick in until I got a job of my own and suddenly had more spending money than just my weekly allowance. Of course, I blew the first few checks on junk. But eventually I stopped and thought about it. I worked hard for this money: I took a lot of orders and made a lot of ice cream cones to earn that paycheck. And what was I spending it on? A couple of movies, a couple of CDs, and it was gone. Was The Greatest Hits of Styx really worth two hours of foodservice? No. No it was not. I still wanted to use my money on things that I wanted – after all, I was 14 and had no concept of “saving for the future” and “not being too frivolous,” though this was a baby step in the right direction. Enter: my long-time love affair with Goodwill.
I cut down on the movies and CDs and started buying more $1 books from Goodwill. When I finally developed a fashion sense (way later than most people, I might add), I looked to consignment stores.
|Two of my prom dresses came from a |
consignment store. Not bad, eh?
If I did get to go to the nearest respectable mall (Sioux Falls), I would stick to the clearance racks in the teenager-overrun stores. Yes, I did want the name brands that seemed SO essential at the time. I wanted the little moose or little eagle on my shirts so everyone would know that I was cool enough to shop there. At the same time, I was not willing to pay full price for them.
Thankfully, I’ve outgrown those brands, but not the bargain hunting. My first stop in any store will always be the clearance rack. If you go at the right time, you can score some fantastic deals. I love a good consignment store, and I really love Goodwill. If you go to the right one, you can find a gold mine. Plus, your money goes to a good cause, so you can feel good about what you spend. There is a magnificent Goodwill in St Paul that has stolen my heart. At my last job, there was almost no dress code: you could wear your slippers to work if you wanted. However, when preparing to make the switch to my current job, I realized I needed to reinforce the “business casual” section of my closet. Shopping for work clothes sucks, mostly because everything is so expensive. Work clothes generally don’t make their way to the clearance section, and I do not enjoy paying full price. One day, though, I found myself in the most incredible of all Goodwills. They had rows and rows of work clothes, ripe for the picking. I got blouses, pants, blazers, skirts – everything. I spent a pittance and came away with everything I needed for my new job.
Don’t get me wrong: not everything I own came from thrift stores. There are some things (underwear) that I will NEVER buy secondhand, and I recommend you do the same. If you wander into the wrong thrift store, you might find half-used bottles of lotion and old hairbrushes for sale. I would stay away from those, too.
Though I have a deep appreciation for thrift stores, I have never enjoyed pawn shops or antique stores. Pawn shops are a little too sad for me, and antique stores make me nervous. I feel like I’m going to be the one who bumps into a shelf and destroys thousands of dollars of little flowery plates. James loves antiquing, and he’s got a great eye for little things that I would like. It’s a give and take situation: James will pick out these neat little things for me, but sometimes he does make me go antiquing with him. I can’t win them all.
Rummage sales have never been my cup of tea, either. There’s something unsettling about going through another person’s things when that person is sitting there watching you. My mom is a champion rummager, though, so I love it when she goes rummaging and finds things for me. This last summer, we went to the city-wide rummage sale in Arlington and came away with a haul. I never would’ve gone if it hadn’t been for Mom, but I had a great time. She knows exactly where to find the good stuff. Some of the best items we got were from the church rummage sale, believe it or not.
I may be giving the impression that the only things I go thrifting for are clothes. This is not the case. I don’t remember the last time I paid full price for a book, thanks to used book stores and Amazon. Most of my furniture is previously loved, including a sweet chair from the aforementioned super-Goodwill. Many of my household decorations are things Mom or James found at rummage sales, and I think a few of my dishes found their way to me via the Salvation Army. And it’s not just because I’m poor that all of my things are secondhand: it’s still the thrill of the hunt and that extra-special feeling of, “Wow… I spent almost nothing and ended up with all this great stuff! I am AWESOME.”
Anyway, after that extraordinarily long introduction, here’s this week’s list: the top ten things I got from thrift shops/rummage sales/antique stores. Also, they all cost less than $5. What could be better?
Glow in the dark skeleton: $1
Remember Skip the Skeleton from my Halloween post? Mom knew how much I love Skip, so she found me one of my own. And she found it a rummage sale, of course! This skeleton has a one-up on Skip since he glows in the dark. He doesn’t have a name yet, so suggestions are welcome. Even though Halloween is over, I think I’ll leave him up year-round. He’s way too great to only be on display one month out of the year.
Spoon bracelet: $2
This was one of James’s finds at a place called Swappers, which, from my understanding, is a giant flea market near his hometown. James presented me with this bracelet, and I loved it. I loved it even more when I found out that it had $2. James was hesitant to tell me the price, but given how impressed I was, he was glad that he did.
I got this clock at the Brookings Goodwill, which is not high on my list of favorite Goodwills. Historically, I have gone there just to buy goofy Christmas presents for my friends. Once in a while, though, you’ll find something good. The hands were flopping all over the place, but with a little manipulation and a brand new battery, my clock is as good as new.
Trouser jeans: $2
|There was no one around to take my picture, so the skeleton |
volunteered to model. Sidenote: that chair came from
the amazing St Paul Goodwill. It cost a whopping $15,
so it didn't quite make my list.
These jeans were a find at the church rummage sale this last summer. They are AMAZING. They are the softest, most comfortable jeans I own. I wish I had ten pairs just like them. Plus, they are trouser jeans, so if you watch What Not to Wear, you know that they are the most flattering pair of jeans of all time. And when What Not to Wear gives you advice like that, you listen.
TV stand: $0
|The TV was free, too.|
Including the TV stand may be cheating, since I did not get it at any sort of thrift store. This, my friends, was a dumpster find. Yes: the dumpster. Granted, it wasn’t IN the dumpster; just next to it. While I was moving out of my apartment in Minneapolis, I happened upon this poor, rejected TV stand. It was pretty wiggly, but that was nothing that a screwdriver couldn’t fix. You just never know what you’ll find when you’re taking out the trash.
Fossil watch: $1
James brought this to me one day and said, “Here, this is from my dad.” James’s dad loves going to auctions, and he’ll occasionally buy one of those grab-bag type things where you pay a buck or two to take a chance with some mystery items. This watch needed a new battery and some of the gems were missing, but with a trip to the watch store and some creative placement of silver fingernail polish (I bet you can’t find the missing gems!), it’s as good as new! Plus, it’s a great watch. It’s giant, so it’s been dubbed the “pimp watch.” It’s definitely worthy of its title.
Green A-line dress: $2.99
|It looks a lot better on me.|
The dress section at Goodwill is almost always an area you can skip. It’s mostly made up of muumuus and atrocities that have shoulder pads bigger than your head. However, once in a while, you’ll find a hidden gem. This dress is an A-line: universally flattering (thank you again, What Not to Wear). Plus, it’s super comfortable and doesn’t wrinkle. Low maintenance clothes are the only way to go.
Batman mug: $.99
|The two greatest mugs you will ever see.|
This gem came from a place called Savers, which is a better organized version of Goodwill. Whereas most Goodwills have their dishes mixed in with their ceramic puppies mixed in with the wicker furniture, Savers has everything nicely sorted. When I saw this mug sitting amongst the “#1 Teacher” and Garfield mugs, I knew it had to be mine. Next to my Pioneer Seed Corn mug, this is the best thing in my (incredibly mismatched) cupboard.
Vintage scarf: $1
Not too long ago, James and I took a trip to Mitchell. Why? Because James had never seen the Corn Palace, that’s why. After we got that taken care of, James wanted to go to the big antique store down the block. Hesitantly, I went with him. My complaining was kept to a minimum, so James bought me this scarf. I am like a small child: the only way to keep me from whining is bribery.
|The dinosaur and Mozart made fast friends.|
When I moved into my apartment in Sioux Falls, I was immensely pleased to find out that there was a Goodwill less than a mile away. When I went to this Goodwill, though, I was disappointed. The selection was iffy and the workers were a little terrifying. On the way out the door, empty-handed, I took one last look around and saw this dinosaur. I needed it. I took him home, cleaned him up, named him Stanley, and gave him a place of honor on top of my TV. You may be questioning my maturity level, but come on: look at that face!
Could you resist? I certainly couldn’t.
So those are ten of my favorite things from thrift stores that cost less than five dollars. If you have never been a thrift store shopper in the past, I’d highly encourage you to try it. You really never know what treasures you’ll find.