Lessons from Thrift(y) Shopping


Evolution of a Thrifty Shopper

I am pleased to announce that after my thrift shop experiment, I am now a thrift shop convert, and I am excited to see what I will find next. This process was not an overnight one, though, it is actually the culmination of years of trying to work on my relationship with shopping. When I was in my early twenties, I had a job that paid me well and kept me busy, so when I would go shopping, I was a mindless shopper. I just looked for what I needed with no regard to discounts. I knew what sizes fit me at Ann Taylor, the Gap and Banana Republic. When I needed something, I would run in those stores, snag the items, pay for them and not think about it. Then I had my son, and I started to become more cognizant of costs, so I only shopped at those aforementioned stores when there was a sale or I had a 20% off coupon. Finally, two years ago, I lost 50 pounds, and I needed to essentially buy a new wardrobe. This physical change led me to stores like TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack and Marshalls out of necessity. Shopping in these stores was a wonderful eye opening experience to see so many high quality and amazing clothes at such great prices, and ever since that shopping day, I have never walked into a “typical” clothing store again. I call shopping in discount stores like this, thrifty shopping. Now when I need something, if I can’t find it for 50% less or more, I am not happy wearing it.

Thrifty Shopping vs. Thrift Shopping

After discovering the thrift shop goods, though, it made me wonder if my thrifty shopping was still a good deal. So armed with another $20 in my pocket, I headed out to TJ Maxx to see what I could find. And I am pleased to announce that my thrifty store did not disappoint. I found a new pair of shorts and t-shirt for $8 total, in addition, I found two designer dresses for $15. However, what I was most excited about in this TJ Maxx was their housewares section. I found new sets of glassware and dishes for under $20 and in some cases less than $10. Even though, there were some great finds, I ended up going with a self-made spa set for a friend of mine who can’t always get away from the kids, but deserves to be pampered.

 tj maxx gift

5 Lessons Learned from Thrift(y) Shopping

This experiment was great fun for me this week, not only in the challenge of finding amazing goods on a budget, but finding new ways to save without skimping on style or quality. Through all of this, though, I think there are a few things you need to keep in mind when thrift(y) shopping.

  1. A budget is your friend – As I mentioned on Monday, before you do any shopping, you should make sure you include a clothes budget in your overall budget. This clothing allowance, I have found, is not as limiting as it sounds. It is actually liberating. Knowing I only had $20 to spend, made my shopping experience an easier one. The second I saw something out of my budget, I had to put it down. It also made it fun to see how much I could find for that budget. Why buy one shirt, when you can get four for the same price?
  2. Beware of “thrift” traps – Just because you are “thrifting” does not necessarily mean you are getting a great deal. I saw a shirt from H&M at a thrift store for $8 which seems like a great deal, except when you realize you could get an unused shirt from H&M for $8.
  3. You need to be a patient hunter – You definitely will not find good deals if you haphazardly walk around the stores. You really have to get in the mix and sift through every rack, even in areas that are not your size because the stores are typically always in a state of chaos.
  4. Double check the quality – Sometimes there really is a reason why something is such a great “deal” and that is the type of deal you don’t want. So make sure you thoroughly examine anything you buy whether it is from a thrift or thrifty store.
  5. Don’t let a good deal change you – You should know your style and what you have at home, so just because something is a great deal, if you can’t incorporate it into your lifestyle, it’s not worth it. I saw a few wonderful brown dresses and shoes, while I was thrift shopping. However, I have never had a “brown wardrobe,” I have always had a black based wardrobe. So when I found the shirt and skirt at the thrift shop, I made sure I knew I could wear them with other items not just each other.

Are you a thrifty shopper or a full price/coupon shopper? If you have never gone thrifty shopping, what is stopping you?











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Shannon is a financial planner who left a “traditional” financial services firm to start her own company, The Financial Gym, because she felt traditional financial services firms did not have the tools or resources to help people in their 20s and 30s who are starting out and trying to build assets while also managing debt. She realized that the key to long-term personal financial success is a commitment to financial fitness and making smart financial choices. Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way To Financial Fitness, her podcast, Martinis and Your Money and The Financial Gym, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for everyone.

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