Been "thrifting" lately?

Most of my friends & family (online & real life) know that I am the definition of a thrify shopper.

There are several things that I purchase from our local thrift and consignment stores. Among them are children's books, curriculum, clothes, furniture, craft and sewing supplies, educational movies, educational cd's, computer learning programs, and various household items such as kitchen items and linens. Okay. So anything and everything that we would need that I can find cheap I will buy...regardless of where I find it.

However, I don't ever go into a store and just buy something because it appears to be a good deal. I always have a working list of things I'm looking for. If something I see isn't on my list, then I don't buy it. It doesn't matter how much of a good deal something is if it's not something we're needing.

We'll also go without something before we'll pay too much for it. If it's on my list, but isn't a good price (even for thrift), then we don't buy it. An excellent example of this is a vacuum. We currently have a vacuum, but the cord is being held together by electrical tape. It could go at any time, and we lack the know-how to fix it. I've been looking for a new one for sometime. (And when I say "new" I don't mean new...just new to us.) However, my main local thrift store is currently asking $79-$150 for their used...WELL used vacuums. Evidently, the older ladies who price things there take to heart that, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness". They see those vacuums as being gold. And I'm not paying gold for a used vacuum. On the other hand, I've found THREE Creative Memories albums for $1.50 each. Those precious ladies had NO idea! (And I wasn't about to tell them...unless they'd give me a deal on a vacuum.)

I am also VERY selective when "thrifting". Part of why I shop at thrift & consignment stores is so I can get the best deal on things we otherwise couldn't afford. There are some basic rules I go by to ensure that I not only get that good price but also good quality:

  1. Furniture: I look for only solid wood, not particle-board if possible. I also look for commercial-quality shelves as they tend to be much better built than those made for domestic use. Herman Miller, a big furniture maker, is in our area so we frequently see commercial items show up. As homeschoolers and avid book addicts lovers, we are always on the lookout for bookshelves.

  2. Clothes for kids: This is a biggie! I want ONLY name brand items. Period. If I'm going to pay $2 for something that's made at Target, then I'll buy it new at Target. I won't buy Kmart or Wal-Mart clothes period. They're poorly made and don't last long. I also like to buy when the clothes are priced at $1 each or, better yet, when they have their $4 bag sale. ($4 for whatever you can stuff in a paper grocery bag.) I especially like finding clothes by Hanna Anderssen as these clothes are chemical-free and some are organic. There is someone who donates these to one of the local consignment stores. I will snap these up at $2, but have gotten several at $1 and some in the bag sale. My kids never wear anything that isn't name-brand. In addition to Hanna Anderssen, they wear Limited Too, Gap, Old Navy, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Land's End, Columbia, Talbot Kids, and Ugg...among others.

  3. Clothes for Adults: I have the same rule here as I have for my kids. My husband & I wear name-brands such as Tommy, Gap, Old Navy, Talbot, Anne Klein, Hanna Anderssen, Limited, Ralph Lauren, Land's End, Columbia, Eddie Bauer, Ugg...among others.

  4. Books: I've probably never mentioned this before, but as homeschoolers, we use a LOT of books. If a book is on our list & is without mold or tears then we grab it up! Around here, the books range from $.10 to $.25 for soft covers and $.35-$.50 for hard covers.

  5. Kitchen items: We have been switching over to stainless steel & cast iron pans & glass bakeware and dishes for about 2 years now. I make sure pans are actually stainless steel as opposed to aluminum which look similar but are NOT what we want! We have now switched almost completely over. I know what these items cost in a "regular" store. That way I can judge where a deal is really a deal.

  6. With anything else, I judge based on the item and what it would cost "regularly" whether it's a good deal or not.

  7. Don't be afraid to negotiate. If a thrift or consignment store has something you're interested in priced for more than you're willing to pay then ask if they'll take a lower price. Be prepared to give your reason and plead your case, though. For example, if I found a vacumm I was willing to take that was priced at retail used I might say, "I'd love to have this vacumm, but it's priced at $79. I can get a new vacumm for $79. Are you willing to lower the price any. They'll usually ask what you were thinking. I'll lowball & say, $20. They'll counter with $30 or $40. (Assuming it's a nice high-brand vacumm, I'll consider this.) However, if you start at $50, then they'll counter with $60. The lower you start, the less you'll pay. Not every thrift store will do this, but it never hurts to try. Also, you'll sometimes get one person to agree to negotiate, but another won't...and vice versa.

No. We are not clothes or product snobs and neither are our kids. In fact, aside from Hannah Anderssen which they love, my kids could care less which clothes they are wearing. However, I have learned that those labels DO equal better-made clothes. The only exception I have found to that rule is Target. I still don't pay full-price for their clothes though, either. 75% of or we don't need it! Also, my experience has shown the same in other brands. The better the brand the better the most cases.

An example of this is a Kitchen-Aid mixer. I could get a regular stand mixer for MUCH cheaper than a Kitchen-Aid. However, I know that if I get a Kitchen-Aid it will do what I need it to do and last FAR longer than any other product considering how often we use a mixer. I have one, VERY OLD, stand mixer that we got at a garage sale shortly after we got married. It had been a wedding gift for the people selling it and they had never used it. It lasted fine as long as I barely used it. When our oldest was diagnosed with gluten-intolerance and we had to actually start using it regularly, though, it soon died. I've been using a hand-mixer since then...for huge batches of cookies, muffins, pancakes, waffles, & breads. Not fun! I'd rather pay $199 for the biggest, top of the line Kitchen-Aid refurbished or on clearance...or cheaper at a thrift/consignment store than I would $100...or less at a thrift store for a cheaper mixer that will need replacing in a year or two. We have a refurbished Kitchen-Aid food processor that we got 5 years ago on for $39. It gets used weekly (sometimes daily) for making jams, nut-butters, and other foods. It's still going strong.

I have found in MOST cases that if you're willing to make do until you find what you're looking for that you WILL find what you're looking for. I'm only willing to go refurbished/clearance for my Kitchen-Aid because most KA owners don't want to let go of their appliances. They keep going as long as their owners do. That speaks volumes! And also lets me know that I'm not likely to find it at a thrift store.

Good luck thrifting! I wrote this in the middle of the night so feel free to comment or post if you have any questions or think I left anything out. :-)


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