I am going to start featuring writers from other blogs over the next few months to share different investing/money saving techniques that I haven’t thought of or figured out yet. If you want to guest post reach out to me through my contact page.
Today’s guest post comes from Dreamer in Chief, the father of a kindergartner and college-age stepsons, who blogs about cutting expenses and personal growth at www.IDreamofFIRE.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @I_Dream_of_FIRE.
This store has the lowest prices on everything
Where can you go for a huge selection of name-brand clothing, kitchenware, tools, electronics, toys, home décor, antiques and more at obscenely low prices, all without wading through page after page of Amazon listings?
How can you help the environment, support your community, find great products and save a bundle at the same time?
Head to your neighborhood thrift store.
You may be thinking, “Really? Why do I want someone’s old junk?”
I hear you. I’ve been there. I can still remember the old hard shell suitcase my parents bought from Value Village for me to use as a prop during an elementary school play. The Samsonite’s exterior held up well, but the interior smelled like mothballs something awful. I can recall that smell even now, nearly three decades later.
But times have changed. Many thrift stores now are brightly lit, well organized, mothball-free beacons for thrifty hipsters and budget-conscious families alike. And because we live in a nation of rampant consumerism, our neighbors send an awful lot of gently used (or totally new) stuff off to the thrift store to make way for the next round of crap.
Here are just some of the awesome finds I’ve scored at our local shops:
- A beautiful, hand-painted wooden rocking horse for $20
- A brand-new toaster oven (in the box with the instructions still in the toaster) for $10
- Lots of like-new children’s clothes for $1-$5 per piece
- Original framed artwork for $20 or less
- Random home improvement stuff for 80% off normal price
- A nice set of desktop computer speakers for $8
- A $100 metal futon frame for $15
Something for the whole family
Take a young child to any other store where there are toys and they are drawn to $8 figurines and $25 games you know darn well they’re going to play with for all of 20 minutes. Take them to a thrift store and they’re interested in 50-cent toys or $1 games. (The 20-minute attention span doesn’t change.)
Go to Petsmart and wander the dog toy aisle and you’ll find no shortage of $3-$7 chew toys that will be gutted faster than you can put away the rawhides. The thrift store has piles of stuffed animals for sale for a quarter or two. Some of them even have squeakers! You’ll feel so much better about the giant stream of cotton littering your yard when it costs as much as a gumball instead of a hamburger. [AE Note – This is a grand idea, our dog loves to shred things but the stuffing lasts about 5 minutes]
Want a bed for your new kitty cat? Pick up a large wicker basket and decorative pillow for $1.50 instead of paying $30 for a new cat bed.
Thinking about renting out a room on AirBnB? You can outfit the whole thing with decent decorations for less than you’d spend on wall art at Target. I’m talking fancy glass pieces, wall décor, bedside clock, and maybe even a furniture piece or two.
There are often seasonal and holiday decorations at rock-bottom prices, too. Don’t spend $15 for a cute Halloween sign for your door at the big-box stores; you can pick one up for $1 almost any time of year at the thrift store. [Only decorations we will be buying at our house forever]
Everything you own is used anyway
Look around your house. That’s all used stuff. It was new at one time, and now you’ve used it. There’s no difference between your stuff and what could be your stuff.
Here are some helpful things to think about when you go to a thrift store:
- Some stores will be better than others. Don’t judge the whole category by one or two bad examples.
- Thrift stores and antique stores are very different animals. Make sure you know which one you’re in.
- If you’re looking for higher-end goods, go to the stores in more affluent areas. That’s where the high-rollers are bringing their pricey clothes and housewares to be donated.
- Always check to make sure your item has all the pieces and that it works.
- Don’t be afraid to plug in electronics for a test.
- If you’re not sure whether it’s a good deal, try to find the item for sale online to compare.
- Cordless power tools are definitely buyer-beware. The batteries may not hold a charge, which is probably why they ended up being donated in the first place.
- You’re keeping stuff out of the landfill, reducing pollution from manufacturing and shipping, and helping the local economy. That’s a win any way you look at it.
- Saturdays are the biggest drop-off days, but every store will have a different day when they put all the new donations on the shelves. Find out what yours is to get there when the best things are still around.
- You could turn this into a side hustle if you want to scout the best deals and resell the items yourself.
- Take some of your own donations when you go! Get a receipt — it’s a tax deduction.
There you have it. Next time you get that urge to splurge, head out to a thrift store and pick through its massive assortment. You never know what treasures you’ll come across.
Are you a thrift store shopper? Any treasures you want to share?