Thriftiness doesn't come easy for me. It's not how I grew up. For my parents, being "thrifty" was the equivalent of being poor, which they both were as children. They wanted more for me and my sisters, and we did ... have more, I mean (which is to say that our things were newer and more abundant, but not necessarily better than what they had as children). In fact, we had just about everything we wanted, eventually. It's probably a good thing we didn't want a lot, though ;).
I remember a couple of years ago, Deus Ex Machina and I were watching this film about a man who was hired to be the basketball coach in an inner city school. He really shook things up quite a lot when he started imposing very strict standards of conduct on his ball players with one of the worst requirements being that the players wear a tie on game days. Some parents complained that their son did not have a tie, but when the coach suggested the Salvation Army, right up the street, the parents balked and exclaimed, "We're not that poor, yet!" The movie, based on a true story, took place about the same time I was growing up, and that was the attitude. We don't patronize Salvation Army, because we're not that poor, yet.
Growing up, we never shopped at thrift stores, that I remember. We didn't buy clothes second-hand (gasp!), and there wasn't a lot of going to yard sales. There was no such thing as FreeCycle, and my parents would be absolutely mortified if they thought I would even entertain the thought of dumpster diving (which, if you read the comments at the linked post, you'll note I did do ... sort of ... when I was in college - and yes, at that time, I was indeed that poor ;).
I grew up in pre-Wal*Mart days, although we did shop at K-Mart back then, and if my mom could find a sale, she'd take advantage of it, but bargains were end-of-season sales - not thrift finds.
So, thrifting does not come easy to me. I am really impressed reading some other people's anecdotes of their thrift store treasure hunts. The ones that impress me most are people who find fabulous clothes or items that they repurpose or recreate into something new. I always wonder why I can never find things like that.
I know it's not because my thrift store doesn't have them. I'm certain it does. It's just that I don't know what to look for. I'm accustomed to finding what I need at the closest retail outlet when I need it. I'm not accustomed to waiting and searching.
I've been doing much better, though. It actually started last year, when I wanted a salad spinner. See, I learned when I was working in a restaurant that the best way to keep the salad crisp is to soak it in cold water and then store it in a cool place. The problem is that leaf lettuce needs to be really dry when it gets stored in that cool place (like a refrigerator) or it gets slimy too fast. The one at the grocery store was some crazy expensive price, and so I waited, and I looked, and eventually, I found one for $4 at Goodwill.
I had similar luck today. For a couple of years now we've been de-electrifying our kitchen, and I've wanted to replace my electric hand mixer with a manual one. Today, when Precious and I went to Goodwill, I found one.
I also found a few other things that looked like they might be useful. A couple of glass stoppered dressing bottles (for $2 each) to put the apple cider vinegar we've been fermenting. I'm thinking if I steep some herbs in them and then strain the herbed vinegar into the bottles, they'd make some very nice gifts. It's something I've always wanted to do, but never did do, because I didn't have the pretty bottles.
I've also been meaning to get some picture frames for the girls' recital photos, and I found three, identical frames today. It was like providence, like those three frames were put there ... just for me to find, because I've had these photos sitting on my desk waiting for frames for months, and I'd resolved that I wasn't going to slide the pictures into a drawer until I could get a frame, that seeing them every day would give me that little push I needed to be more proactive. Two dollars each. And they're perfect.
The ultimate, though, was, as the young man in line in front of me called it, the old school coffee grinder.
It's just the sweetest looking thing I've ever seen. I was a little nervous when I bought it, because Deus Ex Machina and I are really watching our pennies (and it's kind of become a little contest between us since we started writing all of our cash purchases in our little notebooks to keep from spending any money at all - I know, why was I even in a store if I wasn't wanting to spend money, right? ... anyway ;). I never know how he's going to react, but I was pleasantly surprised when he thought it an awesome deal. We even bought some coffee beans, rather than the pre-ground stuff, when we were at the grocery store ... just so we could try it out.
Precious found a couple of mugs she liked, which was quite a change for her. Usually, it's clothes she wants, even though she has mounds of clothes that she never wears because they're buried under mounds of clothes that she never wears. Or it's videos, and as I'm trying to phase out and move out the VCR, I was thrilled that she was happy with mugs - something we can, and will, use every day.
I'm still not entirely comfortable that I know what I'm doing when I go thrifting. I guess it's one of those things that takes practice and patience, and I guess I'm getting there.
I probably won't ever be on Farmgal's level, and to acheive Soulemama's level would require more years than I probably have left to live, but it's something to aspire to, and my hope is that someday I'll have a house full of useful thrifty things that we use all of the time rather than just a house full of stuff.