Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Three Reasons for Thrift Stores

I have become a big fan of thrift stores. All of my casual wear (mostly jeans and Hawaiian shirts) have come from the Mercer Island Thrift Store (MITS), as well as kitchen gadgets, books, and a slowly growing collection of classic power tools (...Mikitas are o.k. but you just can't beat a plug-in Craftsman!)

I shop thrift stores for several reasons:
  • Saving money. The prices are always lower than new, even though sometimes the stuff may not have been used at all. Most tools and so forth are as good as used a few days after you buy them anyway, so all you lose is the first few days of "newness". I've got a better use for my money than that!
  • Saving our environment. The environmental costs of the goods in thrift stores have been paid by the initial purchaser. The metal that was mined or the trees that were cut down to make the item were used up when it was first made and sold; buying it secondhand means you are mining the Great American Waste stream instead of primary sources.
  • The Thrill of the Hunt. If you're in a hurry or are looking for something in particular where no substitute may do, a quick look through a Thrift Store may be worth your time but will often not result in a hit. But if you are planning far enough ahead that you know your  general requirements for the next year or so, you may be able to find what you need over time, when the quick opportunity presents itself. It's sort of the difference between hunting (you don't know what chances you'll get but you must take advantage of opportunities when they appear) and farming (more predictable but, for some people, less thrilling).

I was reminded of these points when I considered this week's Change the World Wednesday challenge:
This week consider antique stores for household purchases. If you've never been in an antique store, visit one to see what items they offer. If you need a couch, table, tools, dishes, etc., check out an antique store before buying new.

Or ...

If you don't have an antique store in your area, don't need to buy anything this week, or find antique stores too costly, write a post about all the various resources for finding previously-owned items.
Personally, I don't do antique stores. My lovely wife may enjoy them, but that's something for when she and her friends need some fun time without the old man! However, we have had many a "Cheap Date" going to MITS, then spending our savings at the Roanoke.

One final advantage of thrift stores is that they can be an opportunity to participate in community. Many of the frequent shoppers make friends with the staff and other regulars, and we are also happy to support the mission of the thrift store, both with our purchasing power and with our donations
... we also find it a lot easier to downsize with the items we're moving on are going to the thrift store than to the dump...
I may have taken this community participation thing a little too far. One day I was picking through the book section and asked why there hadn't been anything new stocked for a while. The manager replied, "Oh, that's because our Book Lady is on vacation. We have plenty of books in the back but no-one to stock them."The next thing you know, I was stocking books and five years later, it's practically a hobby (I've always wanted to run a little bookstore, and this way I don't have to worry about running a cash register.) In the process, I've made a lot of friends.

So be warned: Thrift stores may make you a little richer, they may make you a little more efficient with resources, and they may make you friends. Such A Deal!

1 comment:

Kira said...

I love this post - all excellent reasons for shopping at a local thrift store. I'm envious of your book shelving "job"!