Lots of folks these days are feeling a pinch in their pocketbooks and are looking for ways to save. If that’s you and you haven’t already discovered one of these treasure troves, let me suggest you take a look inside that store on the corner with the sign outside that says “Thrift Shop.” There’s no telling what you’ll find.
Some of the things I’ve found include a wonderful old pair of Monet clip earrings. I never had the nerve to get my ears pierced and never had many choices for earrings. I’ve had these for 15 years; and will keep them forever. Are you familiar with the popular collectible, Homer Laughlin china? There wasn’t left even one chipped saucer of the everyday pattern we used when I was growing up. But I found a plate of it in a thrift shop. Later on I found another. Over the years I have had the joy of adding several pieces to my set. I found most of them one at a time, in thrift stores. There’s a thick woolen blanket on my bed right now, made by the Orr Felt and Blanket Company, worth many times over the $5.00 I paid for it at a local thrift shop. I just love finding something I can’t afford at a price I can afford! It’s addictive.
Thrift stores are not consignment shops. Consignment shops sell merchandise that you own and charge you a fee for their service, whereas thrift stores own their own inventory. I prefer thrift stores because their prices are lower. A few thrift stores, modern versions of old fashioned junk stores, are owned and operated by individuals. Some of these specialize in the types of items they sell. These small businesses must buy their inventory at rock bottom prices in order to make a meager profit on sales. While it is possible to find used items at reasonable prices in these stores, I have found I am usually better off at a store operated by a non-profit agency such as the Salvation Army, or the Humane Society. Non-profit stores depend on donations from the public for their inventory of salable goods and the income from sales supports their cause. Not-for-profit thrift stores are happy to furnish receipts to donors for the value of donated items. These gifts can then be considered charitable contributions for income tax purposes.
The principle of “waste not, want not” is the force behind the success of these stores. The belief in the value of re-using and recycling is ages old and almost universal. It is part of what motivates me to give my unwanted items to the thrift store instead of dumping them into the garbage. Most items donated to thrift stores are still usable; many are in good or very good condition. After sorting and pricing, the donated merchandise is put on racks and shelves in the retail area where you, the customer, can inspect the various offerings.
If you are shopping for clothing, check the manufacturer’s tags. Mixed in with the Wal Mart brands you will find Talbot, L.L. Bean, Alfred Dunner, Coldwater Creek, and many other popular names. Prices generally are a fraction of what you would pay for the same item new. At a store near me I regularly buy knit pullover tops for $2.00; pants also go for $2.00. Casual dresses and pants suits are around $6.00. What’s not to like about that! Besides the clothing on the racks, some stores have a plunder bin full of clothing priced at 25 cents a piece or thereabouts. It is amazing what one can find in a plunder bin.
Thrift stores usually do not allow you to return merchandise unless the item you bought is defective and there was no way of determining that ahead of time. Check lamps and small appliances to be sure they are in working order. Be certain what you are buying is what you want. A round tablecloth will not fit an oblong table. If you are buying clothing, try it on. You might have to wait in line at the dressing room but that is better than buying a garment that does not fit. I have skipped this step and regretted it later. No matter how little you pay for something, it is still wasted money if you can not use it.
Besides earrings, blankets, and name brand clothing, what can you buy from a thrift store? Expect to find a large number of household items. When we bought our little second home I was faced with the challenge of furnishing it on a limited budget. Right away I found four pairs of lovely sheer curtains uptown at the thrift shop. Later I bought a matching machine quilted king size bedspread and pillow shams at the same store. I also purchased dishes, glasses, cookware, and kitchen utensils there. Some stores also sell furniture, even large appliances such as refrigerators and washers. I have also seen pianos and organs for sale in thrift stores. Computers and electronic equipment are popular offerings. Books, tapes and CD’s are usually available. Geriatric lift chairs and medical equipment such as walkers, wheel chairs, crutches, and shower chairs are often available. If you can think of it, somebdy has donated one to a thrift store.
If you are beginning to realize that shopping at one of these stores can be great fun and might be a good thing to do you are getting the picture. When I find my wardrobe getting a little frayed, or if I break a tea pitcher, or if I just want something new and can’t justify the expense, I tuck a few dollars in my pocket and head on down to the thrift store. Try it. I bet you don’t leave empty handed.