I love going to the thrift store. In fact, for a year or two, the only clothes we bought new were underclothes and socks. Everything else was from the thrift store or hand-me-downs (mostly for my daughters).
The thing about thrift store shopping is it's kind of like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get, and good thrift store shoppers (i.e. one's who always find the best price on what they really need) make frequent visits, but never buy what's not on the list. A good thrift store shopper will have a list of items that they are usually looking for, be willing to wait to find that item, and rarely, if ever, make impulse buys.
I'm a mediocre (at best) thrift store shopper, but mostly that comes from not being a very good shopper in general. I tend to buy what I need when I need it (or buy what I want when I want it). Sometimes that instant gratification is what I need more than whatever ended up in the bag at the register. I fully recognize that shopping that way is bad, and so, my solution is to spend as little time in a store as is necessary.
Today, after taking Little Fire Faery and Big Little Sister to the dance school, Precious and I took a detour through the local Goodwill. I've been looking for a pair of flats to wear at the theatre when I usher, and since the shoes will only be worn occasionally, I didn't want to buy them new.
The first thing I noticed when we walked into the store was that all of the prices have gone up. The cost for children's clothes has almost doubled (from $1.99 for everything to "$3 and up" for most items - those not marked are $3 - most of the things we saw today were marked at $5 or more). Adult clothes are "$5 and up", which is a $1 increase). They still have the half-off-color-of-the-day deal, and a thrifty shopper would take advantage of that deal.
The other day, we saw an Old Navy ad for women's cotton "tees" (just a regular fitted shirt with no logo or design) for $5. Sometimes they even have better deals than that, and it gets tough for me. New shirt at Old Navy or used shirt at Goodwill for the same price?
Back in the day, *the* reason we started shopping at thrift stores was because the clothes were second-hand. We were keeping clothes out of landfills, and we were decreasing the demand for cheaply made clothes manufactured by near-slave labor, mostly in third world countries, by purchasing used clothes.
But what we've found too much of, over the years, are so many of these same cheaply-made-in-China (or wherever) clothes at the thrift store, and it's become a quandary, because sometimes the used stuff doesn't really last very long, which makes it not much of a bargain. So, we can get it new for about the same price we can get it used, wear it out to the point that it can't be resold at the Goodwill, and then repurpose it into a rag or some other usable item. We're still keeping it out of the landfill, and also it would take a bit longer for us to wear out the new one than it does to wear out the used one.
Or we can buy the used one and stick to our ethics, but we end up spending the same amount of money, or maybe, more, because we have to buy 1 1/2 x as many shirts to replace the one that wears out too quickly. And then, there's the question - if we are so willing to buy these cast-offs, does that encourage those other people (people who don't care about overflowing landfills or slave labor in Indochina, or downtown Los Angeles) to be crazy consumerists knowing that they can just donate their stuff to Goodwill (for a tax write-off), and then, buy the new stuff anyway.
Is a shirt worn by more than one person for about the same length of time more ethical than a shirt worn by a single owner until it's no longer wearable?
I guess, I'm wondering if there really is any savings - either to my pocket book or the environment.
Some things are great for finding at the thrift store. I still wouldn't buy new picture frames, unless I needed a very specific size that I couldn't find second hand. I wouldn't buy new plates or glasses, because there are so many choices at the thrift store. Curtains, cloth napkins, table clothes, and baskets are all thrift store finds.
And cool little gadgets, like manual coffee grinders, will always be something I buy used.
And some clothes, too. Like my wool pea coat, was a very good purchase. I bought it years ago, and I'm still wearing it. In fact, I just replaced the buttons that fell off, and so I think I'll probably be wearing it for a few more winters - assuming it still fits.
I was a little surprised ... and maybe a bit disappointed ... to note the pretty sharp increase in the prices at the thrift store today, but I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised, as prices have been going up every where for a long time. I guess I was just taken aback by discovering that it might, actually, be less expensive to get a women's fitted tee-shirt new at Old Navy (if price is the only consideration) than to get the same item used at Goodwill.
The positive is that, maybe, these increases in prices will, finally, force me to pull out the sewing machine and start making some of these ideas in my head a reality - like my plan to repurpose some old tee-shirts into a skirt.
Have you noticed prices going up in places where you didn't expect them to increase?