One of my favorite parts of being frugal is that I often go shopping at thrift stores. Thrift stores are unusual places. They’re often just collections of the stuff that well-off people no longer want to have or to deal with, so they just drop it off at Goodwill. That means there’s usually a lot of interesting stuff in there – and, fairly often, some hidden gems.
I thought I’d share some of my best thrift store finds (spurred on by a couple of recent finds) and encourage you, the reader, to share your own. Perhaps this will convince a few of you who are thinking about diving into thrift shopping to go ahead and give it a shot. Trust me – thrift and secondhand stores contain some of the best bargains on earth.
A full winter wardrobe About three years ago, I went into a thrift store looking for long-sleeved shirts for winter. I’m a very big guy, often wearing 2XLT shirts, so I love it when I can find a high quality shirt that fits at a thrift store for a few bucks.
That day, though, I was in luck.
There was an elderly worker in the store putting clothes onto hangers and sticking them onto racks. I walked in and started riffing through the men’s shirts. She looked at me and said, “Excuse me, sir? We just got in a bunch of shirts that must have come from a very large man. Would you like to see them?”
She motioned for me to follow and took me in the back. There was an enormous pile of almost-unworn sweatshirts, long sleeved tee shirts, and dress shirts, all 2XLT and 3XLT in size. I wanted pretty much all of them, so I asked about prices (as they hadn’t been priced yet).
The woman didn’t know for sure and made a phone call, but whoever she called didn’t seem to know, either. So she went out in the store and found a rather raggedy large shirt marked $2. She turned to me and said, “$2 each.”
I was stunned. This was really high quality stuff – Harbor Bay and the like. I bought almost all of the clothes in that batch for about $50.
Three winters later, I’ve still got shirts from that batch that have barely been worn. I won’t need to buy any more long-sleeved shirts for several years yet. Not only that, most of the stuff is nice enough that it actually draws compliments from people.
Now that’s a bargain!
An out-of-print surprise When I was in college, I used to play the game Netrunner fairly often. Netrunner is a card game that requires quite a bit of orderly thought. The game went out of print in 1996 and then, in about 2000 or so, I accidentally ruined my Netrunner cards, rendering it impossible for me to ever use the cards. Since it was so long out of print, I figured I’d never play it again.
Flash forward to about a week ago. After a doctor’s checkup, I stopped at a local thrift store, looking for some long-sleeved shirts that were in good shape and would fit me – occasionally, I’m pretty lucky in this regard. In the back of the store, though, in a glass case, I found a gem.
Sitting there, still in the shrinkwrap, was a Netrunner starter set. The price tag? $3.
I don’t think $3 has ever put that big of a smile on my face.
An emergency fix One time, almost a decade ago, I was on my way to work about 9 in the morning. It was early spring, so I had pulled out my bicycle for the first time and taken off on it.
Well, after about two blocks, I began to realize that the tires were desperately low on air, so I stopped to consider my options. I was in a light commercial area, but there were no gas stations nearby. To put it simply, I was in a bit of a pickle.
I went over to the strip mall area to look around for some assistance and stopped into a thrift shop. This was in the days before everyone had a cell phone, so I asked the person behind the counter if I could make a local call. I called my work and told them I would be late because my bicycle was having issues and I’d have to walk the rest of the way.
As I hung up, the person behind the counter said, “I think we have a bicycle pump.” We went looking for it and found it, near the back. It had a price tag of $2. I emptied out my pockets and found $1.75 in quarters. The lady laughed and called it good enough. I walked outside with my pump, pumped up my tire, and I was on my way.
What are your great thrift store stories? Share ’em in the comments!