Updated on 03.12.10

An Argument for Secondhand Store Clothes, Even If You Must Dress Nicely

Trent Hamm

Monica writes in:

I don’t understand how you can recommend that people shop in thrift stores for clothes. The stuff there is usually worn out and just looks bad and outdated. I would never wear that stuff to work.

It sounds to me like you’ve made up your mind about thrift stores and secondhand stores before even stepping inside the door. I’ll make the case anyway.

First of all, I won’t buy the vast majority of clothing on sale at such a store. I’m with Monica on this one – most of the stuff there can be pretty worn out. I’ve seen lots of threadbare sweaters, worn out dress pants, and other items that, if they were in my home, would be meeting the rag bag.

Those aren’t the items I’m shopping for. The reason I go is to look through a long rack of clothes and find two or three items that are barely worn. How do quality items of clothing get to the secondhand store? A person gains or loses a lot of weight. A person passes away. A person decides they just don’t like how the item looks on them. A person is a clotheshorse who only wears an item a couple of times before getting rid of it. Each of these cases can result in some very nice clothes on the rack at the secondhand shop.

If you don’t like the item, don’t buy it. However, there are a lot of gems buried on the racks if you’ll spend some time digging through them.

Second, my biggest focus for clothing buys – once they meet a minimum standard of quality – really is cost per use. Yes, unquestionably, I could go to a store like Men’s Wearhouse, find a high quality article of clothing, and wear it, say, sixty times over the course of several years. That article of clothing might cost me $60, so the cost per use would be $1 per use.

On the other hand, I might find a nice item at the secondhand store. It might have been worn a few times already, so I might only get fifteen wears out of it instead of the sixty I might get from the new shirt. However, that secondhand item only cost me $3. That’s $0.20 per use.

I will take the second item of clothing any day of the week.

What about the time cost? Time cost is one of the first things people mention when they hear a money-saving tactic that they’re unsure about. Human beings are creatures of habit and if we can find a good reason to retain that habit (or even a not-so-good reason), we’ll use it. Time cost is often that reason.

However, in this situation, time cost matters little. I go clothes shopping twice a year, period.

In the spring, I’ll dig out all of my summer clothes (in fact, I’m intending to do this this weekend), determine what needs to go and what can stay, and then figure out if I need to add some clothes to the mix or if I have enough. I do the same thing in the fall with my winter clothes.

Once that’s done, I actually make a shopping list for clothes. I need some number of dress shirts, some number of jeans, some number of shorts, some number of khakis, some number of underwear – you get the idea. Then, I go shopping.

If I use secondhand store clothes in this process, I still just rotate them out at season’s end if they’re too worn, the same thing I’ll do with clothes that are purchased new. I’ll still go clothes shopping twice a year, regardless of whether I’ve bought new or used clothes in the past.

What this comes down to is simple: spending control. I keep a pretty tight rein on my clothes shopping habits. I simply don’t go clothes shopping more than twice a year. Because of that, I don’t devote much time in a given calendar year to picking out new clothes – and I don’t spend nearly as much money, either.

At its heart, an awful lot of frugality and financial success comes down to control over your spending. If you have firm control over how your money leaves your wallet, it’s often shocking how many ways there are to cut your spending without cutting your quality of life one iota.

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  1. Vicky says:

    I just went through a closet and threw out a ton of clothes that still had tags, and shoes I had never worn. I took them to Goodwill, and I hope someone gets good use out of them.

    Second, most of my best clothes come from Goodwill.

    I also shop at Kohl’s sometimes, because I get a lot of coupons and have frequently gone in and not spent a dime, but walked out with a t-shirt or two.

    I love Goodwill. Plus, if you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can get a lot of cheap stuff to alter into better fits or neat new items for very little!

  2. Sandy says:

    I think learning how to shop a thrift store is a great skill to have. even if you don’t “have” to shop there, knowing how to zoom through a rack to find that one great piece is great for anyone who finds them selves on a tight budget.
    The last time we went to the Goodwill was for my older daughter…she’d been invited to a birthday party with a cowboy theme, and she needed to get something that would help her look like a cowgirl. We spent about $3 for a jacket and a blouse that, together with a halloween skirt I had purchased years ago, worked. While she was shopping for those items, my 6th grader found 3 tops that were Hollister, Aeropostal and American Eagle, all still in fashion, and she wore all of them after we washed them, and got great reviews from her circle at school. All for her $3. Even if she only wears them a couple of times each, like trent says, the cost per wear is very low. What she would have paid for them at the mall would have depleted her wallet.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I can easily say that over 90 percent of our family’s clothes and home goods come from goodwill. And NO ONE has ever guessed, and in fact I get comments all the time about how cute and trendy my kids look! I hit 2 thrift stores at least once a week, and always have a list of sizes my family wears, I never remember shoe sizes. I often come across items still with the original store tags on them. My 18 mo old has 6 pairs of shoes, she loves to dress up, and every pair was 99 cents and brand new. They will go to her younger cousin when she outgrows them.

    I am already looking for winter items for next year and have a pair of boots and snowpants for my oldest already. I have several christmas gifts bought and wrapped for family members.

    And at those prices I can very occasionally indulge my passion for shoes. I wear a large size, so finding a hot, fun pair of heels that fit is nearly impossible, but I have several that came from goodwill that are brand new.

    The best part is I try and take a small bag of donations every time I go, at least once a week. This keeps the clutter down in our home, and the money goodwill receives is used to help mentally and physically challenged members of our community, like my 2 autistic sons.

    I specifically have a goodwill budget, so I can grab a good, and needed, find when I see it. But when the money is gone, we wait till next month.

  4. Pink Heli says:

    I have a friend who recently bought a whole new wardrobe using our city’s thrift stores. We don’t live in a big city either, yet he found some great stuff. Blazers, vests, good quality shirts and slacks, a pile of clothes for under $100. Compare that to how little he would have gotten shopping at Penney’s or Sears, and I think it’s definitely worth a few extra hours spent over the course of a year.

    Oh and @Rebecca, agree! I found a great, fun pair of heels for $8 the other day at a thrift store. Probably only worn once or twice, and i never would have bought them for full price. So, it’s a good way to wear trends and have fun with clothes too, without spending too much.

  5. Vintage can be very chic! :-)

    Furthermore, secondhand shops are some of the few places you’ll find solid, quality clothes made in Italy or the USA. Sure, they may be ten years old; but if they’re a classic style, you’ll still get a lot of use from them!

  6. Josh says:

    With my in-laws family business being men’s clothing, I had to snicker at your reference to clothes at Men’s Warehouse being “high quality”.

    I suppose it’s all relative though…maybe they’ve made me a clothing snob.

  7. Johanna says:

    I don’t understand your argument that time cost doesn’t matter because you shop for clothes twice a year. It takes time to get to the secondhand store, it takes time to sort through the racks for those two or three “gems” that are worth wearing, and after all that, the odds are probably pretty good that you’ll still have to go to a regular clothing store to pick up the things you couldn’t find at the secondhand store. So including a stop at the secondhand store makes your shopping trip take more time, and you’re giving up that time in exchange for saving a certain amount of money.

    Now, those amounts of time and money are highly variable (they depend on what you happen to find at the store, and they’ll be different for people who live in different areas), so it’s not as straightforward to calculate an hourly rate for shopping at Goodwill as it is for chopping up lettuce. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

    I also don’t understand why you keep arguing that people who aren’t inclined to shop at secondhand stores should do so anyway. What does it matter to you?

  8. I love thrift stores BUT the town I’m in now the Goodwill along with the other thrift stores are incredible overpriced. The other day I was at one of many thrift stores we have and found a pair of rubber boots from Target (which I had bought at Target about 2 weeks prior for $17.99). This thrift store was selling them USED for $19.99!
    What is a girl to do!

  9. Maureen says:

    I find lots of terrific clothes at thrift stores. I shop for the whole family and often find brand new fashionable items at great prices. My friend and I shop there every couple of weeks so we are much more likely to find excellent merchandise. We are discriminating shoppers and wouldn’t buy worn or shabby clothes from there either, but usually those items are weeded out. I often get compliments on my ‘new’ purchases too.

    My latest acquisition was a spring/fall coat that is just right for the current weather – for $10. I happen to know it retailed last year for over $90.

    The store I visit most frequently in clean, bright, organized and well-stocked.

    Two other reasons to shop there: It keeps usable but unwanted items out of the landfill. It also generates income for charitable organizations.

  10. kat says:

    I think of thrift store shopping as a hobby that saves a lot of money. Plus there is the thrill of the hunt when I find something like a new silk tee in my size with the tag still on it for only $2.00. I also agree with the reader who mentioned sewing. I find a good many items at the local thrift stores that I can use as costume pieces for my summer time job at the Ren Faire.
    Also kids dress clothes are a steal. They are ususally outgrown well before they show any wear. I got a childs blazer for only $1.50 that had probably only been worn once.

  11. Maria says:

    In our city, we have several Goodwill locations and several other second-hand stores. There is one Goodwill location that I went to once and have never been back. It was filthy, and there were torn items on the racks.

    The Goodwill store nearest us is clean, and if an item is torn or overly-stained, they throw it away. All clothing that can be laundered is laundered, and the store smells of fabric softener. We have three girls – 12, 9, and 5 – so the younger ones wear a lot of “second-hand” stuff anyway.

    However, I have found clothing for the youngest from The Children’s Shoppe and Gymboree, and clothing for the oldest from Gap, Tommy Hillfiger, and other brands. Some of them still had the store tags attached and had probably been in the back of a closet for a couple of years.

    My girls aren’t that hard on clothing, and they have enough clothes that they can afford to be picky about what they wear. The youngest will not wear pants/jeans, so I’m giving away a whole stack of girls size 5 pants to charity. In turn, I have had to buy a few new but mostly second-hand dresses. I usually give the clothing to Goodwill, but I received a call from another charity – NSpire of Atlanta – who are coming to pick up the things I am cleaning out of the closets).

    A lady I go to church with goes to yard/garage sales every weekend. She buys children’s clothing ridiculously cheap and gives it away to people who need it. She takes $10 with her and buys what she can with it – and she has gotten piles and piles of nice clothes from people who live in nice neighborhoods for just a few dollars. She has been going to yard sales for years and knows all of the ins and outs and where the best neighborhoods are.

    Believe me, my husband was out of work for eighteen months a few years ago and she blessed us with gifts of clothing for our girls – and I, who had never bought anything at a yard sale or…sniff…ahem…Goodwill, was extremely thankful for them.

  12. Kelly says:

    Oh, Johanna. You make me weary. You can always be counted on to make a really cranky, missing-the-point comment within an hour of a post. In that sense, I appreciate your consistency. You seem like a good candidate for yoga.

    I have found that thrift stores often reflect the community in which they reside. I have found high quality clothing with the tags still in some wealthier neighborhoods. This doesn’t to apply to actual Goodwill stores, which tend to send donations to a warehouse and then items are distributed to stores. Also, I consider Goodwill to be “expensive,” as far as thrift store goes. Their prices are definitely higher, but it does seem that they do a better job of filtering out junk.

  13. Gretchen says:

    Goodwill has that irritating method of marking up the new clothes they get from Target (for a tax break) to way more than they are worth.I much prefer Salvation army or other smaller, local chain thrifts.

    imo, the best thing about thrifting is that the items are already preshrunk for you. I have long arms and wide shoulders and can never tell if something is still going to fit after washing.

    I’ll spend the time there I saved washing lettuce.

  14. Eve says:

    She says, “The stuff there is usually worn out and just looks bad and outdated.”

    You say, “It sounds to me like you’ve made up your mind about thrift stores and secondhand stores before even stepping inside the door. … most of the stuff there can be pretty worn out.”

    I say, it sounds to me like she DID step inside the door and saw the same thing you saw. It’s not right to accuse her of judging a book by its cover when she demonstrates that she has read the book, so to speak, and understands its contents, but has a different conclusion about whether it’s a worthwhile read.

  15. Brenda W. says:

    I have to ditto what Johanna (comment #7) said re: the time cost. One thing about shopping second hand stores is that some weeks there won’t be anything worth picking up, another week, there may be a dozen wonderful pieces of clothing. One has to be willing to stop on a regular basis to “just look”. One frugal co-worker (who dresses beautifully and gets a lot of her stuff from second hand stores) says she makes it a habit to stop once every week just to see what’s on the racks.

    I shop for clothes on-line from just one place (Lands End) because: 1)Their stuff lasts forever 2)Since I’ve bought from them for years, I know how just what size from them fits me, and 3)I hate to shop (as in go to stores) and so I can get what I need with a few clicks and be done.

    Having said that, Trent is totally correct about some of the gems one can find in second hand stores. Some of the nicest outfits I’ve seen folks wearing at work have been purchased for only a few dollars at one of our town’s several second hand stores.

  16. Michelle says:

    Johanna – I beleive Trent’s point of writing this blog is to give suggestions on how one can better manage their money, with an emphasis on frugality. He used this article to describe how he believes shopping secondhand achieves that. I don’t see that his aim is to force someone to purchase secondhand when they don’t want to. He’s just presenting his experience as a secondhand shopper, in an effort to debunk some myths about the experience. As he often says, it’s about being informed about your options and what things really cost so you can make choices about what is of value to you.

  17. Sam says:

    I used to be really anti-thrift, but a few blogs out there gave me the motivation to check them out again. The Goodwill in my community is by far the best store in town, although there are two others I will shop at. Just this week I found J. Crew dress pants, Gap shorts, Joe’s Jeans and a few good books among other things. These items were in excellent condition (some new). I normally don’t find shirts that suit my taste very often, so I will still hit up the retail store for those; but it is amazing what great stuff you can find at amazing prices. I don’t think I will every pay retail price for books and pants in particular ever again.

  18. Maya says:

    One good way to increase your chances of finding more “gems” in less time is to shop at thrift stores located in the nicer neighborhoods in your town. The Goodwill store that’s located in my town’s richest community is great. I’ve found many clothes and other items that still had store tags on them or were probably used just a few times.

    In response to Johanna, I think that Trent’s post on thrift stores is just points back to a bigger theme of this blog: making priorities on the best way to spend and save money for your own situation. Some people can shop at expensive stores and still maintain a healthy 401k and emergency fund. But many people can’t. And the people who fall into this second category really should consider thrift stores.

    For me, I’m starting to realize that I was never a “clothes horse” and I wasted a lot of money (and time) buying expensive clothes in malls only to impress my friends.

    Now, I’m working on a better balance for me. This means keeping a smaller wardrobe that focuses on quality pieces that I often find at thrift stores and discount stores (Kohl’s, TJ Maxx) and I only step into a mall about once or twice a year to buy one or two outfits. And now I have more money to start saving for the future (and emergencies) which is more important to me than having a closet packed with clothes.

  19. margaret says:

    I hate shopping for clothes PERIOD. HATE IT. So I do not enjoy going through racks of stuff, and since my two “local” thrift stores are 50 and 90 km away, there is no way I am going to make a trip there regularly. This year, I optimistically went to a few thrift stores in the city looking for school clothes for my oldest child. I spent almost a whole day, and came out with one jacket and one pair of pants, and the pants were the same price that the brand name store puts them on sale. And I still had to go to the regular stores to get the rest of what he needed, which meant another day in the city, another day of paying for food, another day of dragging unhappy kids around. On the other hand, I went to one children’s store that was having their summer clearance sale and bought 25 or 30 pairs of shorts & t shirts in various sizes that we will need for the next two summers for a total cost of an hour and $80.

  20. asithi says:

    I also hate to shop. So browsing through a thrift shop on a regular basis is not a frugal option for me. However, my family and I shopped regularly at thrift shops and the flea market as a child. I have a fondness for these places because you never know what you can find.

  21. Barbara says:

    Although you only shop twice a year for clothing trent, that will nto work for most people. The best way toget the best clothing deals is to make it part of your regular errand routine to go into a thrift store and scan the racks. After all, new merchandise comes into a thrift store literally every day. For many years I clothed myself, two children and a “dress for success” husband only from thrift stores. For us though, shopping was a weekly thing.

    And you cannot, at least for children, forget yard sales. One year I got a complete summer wardrobe for my size six daughter at a community yard sale for 10.00. I also buy clothing for seasons ahead and sizes ahead as children go.

    And my kids used to be one of the best dressed in school.

  22. lurker carl says:

    I buy my suits at Goodwill in the ritzy part of town. Never spent more than $10 for any of them. No one knows the difference.

    I buy the rest of my clothes at branded outlet stores like Hagar, VanHeusen and Old Navy when the seasons change. New clothes, good selection in my size and cost the same or less than the thrift stores. These clothes last far more than 60 wearings for me, I wear them for years and years.

    I never buy children’s clothes at the local thrift stores, they are overpriced. Yard sales are the better deal for kid stuff.

  23. Kara says:

    Does it really take that much longer to walk the isles at a thrift store then at a dept store??

  24. Adam says:

    Wow, getting work clothes from thrift stores. Two posts I can’t get on board with in a row!

    I guess someone who blogs from home for a living may have a different attitude on workplace and general appearance than a 30 something executive in the big city gunning for the corner office. I can accept that.

    I have been in goodwill stores, but at least here in Toronto, finding a suit that fits me without massive tailoring and I would feel is acceptable in my office and present the image (“dress for the job you want, not the job you have”) would probably take a lonnnnnnng time to find.

    I find the attitude of buy a few choice quality items and keep them a long time works for me, rather than buying second hand.

    Also worth noting, there is a happy medium between buying from thrift stores and buying bespoke from Nieman Marcus.

  25. Michele says:

    The Goodwill in our town is nearly useless for clothes for work for me…but we have two excellent consignment stores that carry lots of very nice and nearly new items at a very reasonable cost. If you need more upscale and less worn clothing, you can get both at a consignment shop. Just remember, you have to stop by frequently to get first crack at the limited sizes :)

  26. Sarah says:

    I am a big fan of thrift stores for clothes shopping. It can be challenging, but if you find that shirt or pair of pants that are barely used, it’s totally worth the time, especially if you’re looking for kids clothes. Most of the kids clothing at thrift stores are in good condition because the kids only wore it a handful of times before they outgrew it. My mom saved a lot of money by buying us thrift store clothes.

    In fact, I found a pair of shoes to wear to my wedding for $3 – and I only wore them three times. That is amazing cost per use savings!

    On the flip side, some thrift stores overcharge for things and I could find new clothes at a place like Ross or TJMaxx (or on sale other places) for the same price. When it comes to shopping for clothes it’s important to diversify to get the best savings. (And don’t forget buying other household items at thrift stores for great savings!)

  27. Mule Skinner says:

    Maybe there’s another issue here. Maybe some people want to buy clothes frequently, and buying used allows them to do so at lower cost.

    Since I tend to wear things for a long time, the cost is not a big consideration in my budget. You might say that I’m not fashionable.

  28. anne says:

    I’ve shopped at garage sales, Goodwill, Savers (a chain in our neck of the woods) and various other thrift stores. As with anything else in life stores vary by location, staff etc. I’ve learned which thrift stores know how to price items fairly and are clean. There are also vast differences in how well stores are organized. My favorite – Savers, charges a bit more for their merchandise. But it’s all sorted on the racks by type and size. As I scan the racks I look for fabric that catches my eye and ask several questions. Is the item new or rarely worn? Is it high quality? Has it faded? My job is very public and I can’t tell you how often I receive compliments on the way I dress.

    (The Pendleton blaser and plum-colored knit top underneath it were less than $10 each. The blazer alone would retail for more than $200 dollars. It’s worth the time it takes!)

  29. matt says:

    Used goodwill/salvation army in college a lot. Had a friend find 2 3 piece suits that fit him and were brand new for $8 each. I’ve found designer jeans, khakis, sweaters for cheap but I have never had any luck with dress shirts (probably because I wear them in a popular size). Usually hit up something like marshalls or another ‘seconds’ clothing store for them. Missing buttons are easy to fix and I find $40-$80 tommy or ralph shirts for under $7 with a little sewing to do.

  30. Lindsay says:

    Everyone has different needs and priorities. Some people do thrift shops others do department stores. Trent is just giving people tips!

    I personally need scrubs for work (as an RN) and buy them new. I spend about $250 3 years ago on 8 tops and bottoms at a scrub shop. Very pricey for me, but all the scrubs are still in great shape and look new! This is a feat because I work long hours and am very rough on my clothes. Yet one of my favorite pair of dress pants I bought at Goodwill 5-6 years ago for $6. Last week my husband and I both went through all our clothes and donated 2 bags to a local thrift store. Then this week we each spent $60-$75 on new clothes. A few items from thrift stores (pants) and the rest at places like Kohl’s or Target. Now we are both good for another 1 1/2 to 2 years.

    Where you shop and how much you spend is up to you.

  31. Moby Homemaker says:

    Obviously, finding nice stuff at second hand joints is key–but so is “cost per use”. We have been able to find lots of stuff for our young kids-clothes that they used for a short time and we were able to re-sell at garage sales or give to family and friends.
    On occasion, I have found a nice sweater or some cool shoes that I wear sparingly.
    A dozen wears for a couple of bucks– the cost makes sense.

  32. Des says:

    @Kara #23 – Yes, it takes MUCH longer!!

    A department store might have 100 items of clothing, with at least one copy in each size, and all are brand new. A thrift store has thousands of items, each in only one size that, statistically, is probably not yours, and they are all in varying degrees of quality. Some may be nearly new, some gently used, others not so gently. It takes me 20 minutes to go through my section of Target. It would take me hours to do the same thing at Goodwill. You pay a price for that convenience.

  33. Laura in Seattle says:

    For the several commenters who said they could not get work clothes from a thrift store:

    I used to be the front desk/office manager at a historical society. My co-workers and the visitors would compliment my clothes just about every week.

    50% of my wardrobe came from the Salvation Army down the road from our office.
    The other half came from H&M. (A great place to shop if you are a woman and need a few trendy pieces to round out your wardrobe wothout spending a fortune. I usually do two big trips there per year and come out with 9 or 10 things per trip for around $100 total.)

  34. Nicole says:

    I’m in agreement with Johanna here.

    And I don’t even shop 2x a year. I shop when I change size or I need something specific replaced (eg. black dress pants). It is far faster for me to go to gap or gap.com where I know my exact size and fit for pants (or ebay where people put measurements down) and order that specific item that thrift shops generally only have in size 0-3 or 12+.

    The only time I go thrifting (or shopping at all, really) is as a social activity with a specific friend who enjoys shopping (and we now live in different states). I do have a few nice items from these trips, but they’re definitely not mix and match pieces. People I know who thrift tend to have a lot of nice clothing, a lot more clothing than I do, and a lot more stuff that doesn’t mix and match. Do they spend less per wear? I doubt it. I would rather just keep what I’ve got and replace specific pieces when they wear out or I change size.

    When I was pregnant, the thrift stores had nothing for work clothing. Target maternity and ebay were perfect and took very little of my time.

    If the grandparents and coworkers weren’t so generous with clothing I would definitely thrift for children’s clothing, but so far the only clothing besides diapers we’ve had to buy were underpants, socks, (picked up at Target) and a few 6-9 month onesies (and I got those off e-bay).

    I really like JD on Get Rich Slowly’s emphasis on doing what works for you, and realizing that different people have different needs and experiences and that everybody should do what works for them. If I *enjoyed* shopping, had a lower value of my time, wanted more clothing, had friends to shop with, were a smaller size, etc. etc. etc. thrift shopping would make sense. At this point in my life it doesn’t. Right now I save more time and money not stepping foot in a thrift store. And there is nothing wrong with that.

  35. anna says:

    I agree with #8 Molly On Money, the thrift stores in my area are not worth it unless you want a dated item for a tacky sweater party or some other costume party. I have seen drinking classes at one of them for $1, the picture on them was worn off and they looked USED. The same glass was still for sale at Walmart, brand new, for 89 cents. There are numerous thrift stores in my city and I have yet to find one that I would shop at, they all smell of musty dirty clothing & people with prices that are comparable to buying new clothes on sale at a department store. $12 for a pair of jeans, I can buy an Old Navy pair in way better condition without having to search for $15. Not worth my time or effort.

  36. Joanna says:

    I’m of two minds on this–I think thrift stores can have great deals, and I love browsing. But I agree with other posters that you can’t go there expecting to find one specific thing (especially if you are at all picky). The one thing that has given us the best results are the men’s shoes. There aren’t too many pairs to browse, so it’s easy to browse during a monthly trip to Goodwill. And my boyfriend has found half a dozen pairs of high quality dress shoes (retail for $200 or more) with little wear for $10 or less. He’ll have to get them resoled eventually, but that’s true of shoes he’s paid full-price for.

  37. reulte says:

    I like thrift stores and consignment shops (two very different things). I hadn’t ever purchased clothing new for my 8 year old boy except underwear and socks (and a tourist PARIS t-shirt) until he went to a school which required a uniform. Even so, his non-school clothes are still all thrift shop. However, I have to agree with Johanna (#7) that this kind of shopping isn’t ‘time-free’. The layout of the store may not be conducive to easy shopping or they may not be anything in your size and you may hve to go to a regular store in addition to the thrift experience. There are ways to make shopping at thrift stores easier but they require familiarity with the store or a very helpful staff. I remember one store that had everything sorted by color — down to the shades of color. It was great, like walking in a giant rainbow. But yes, they had menss sweaters next to baby clothes in the same shade.

    I believe that everyone should visit a thrift store every so often with an eye toward seeing if it can meet their needs.

  38. Jackie says:

    I’m a fan of occasionally shopping at thrift stores. I’m not trying to knock them. But realistically, I’m not following the time argument at all. I think this might be a case of you doing exactly what you’re trying to warn your readers against. You enjoy thrift stores and are defending them without giving weight to the argument against and finding justifications why that shopping time is OK.

    Thrifting takes an extraordinary amount of time! Especially with your specific shopping list. If you need exactly 2 pairs of jeans and 1 pair of shorts, and 3 polo shirts, that is 6 items. In thrifting-time I estimate that at 6 hours and 3 separate stores. So 7 hours with drive time. Compare that to taking your list to a place with a consistent selection and relatively inexpensive prices (I’m talking Old Navy, Khol’s or JC Penny not Macy’s) and you’ll shop for 2 hours and go to 2 stores. So thrifting you save $50 but spend 5 extra hours shopping. Doesn’t seem like a good use of time to me, especially thinking realistically, that most people can’t stand to shop for 6 hours strait, so you’ll either take a break (which might involved paying for a meal or a snack) or you’ll split it up into a few days and now three weekends interrupted by shopping.

    I do wonder a bit if you don’t see thrifting as so time consuming because the differences between men’s and women’s clothes. Maybe thrifting is more man-specific advice. Men’s clothes in general have less size and style variation. For women, a size 8 in one cut will fit dramatically different from a size 8 in another cut, even within the same brand. Throw in brand-to-brand variations and many women need to try on 50 pairs of jeans to find 1 that fits if they’re in a thrift store. And when 3/4 of the jeans in Goodwill are unacceptable to begin with, you’re sorting through 200 pairs of jeans for the 1 pair that will work out. That is major TIME.

  39. Maria says:

    I’ve been shopping at thrift stores and yard sales for years. One of my best yard sale buys was a pair of Tommy Hilfiger jeans that were almost brand new. The lady grew out of them and she gave them to me for 10 cents!! Also, thrift stores have good days and bad, sometimes I come out with a bag of nearly new finds and other days – nothing. I stop on my way home from work and just give my size aisle a run through a couple times a week. It only takes 10 minutes. The other day I got a Talbots sweater, a Lands End polo, Ralph Lauren polo, a couple nice tops from Kohls and another shirt all for $16. They were all in very good condition. I will wear them to work and fit in with the ladies who shop at Macy’s and Bloomies, except I’m only spending pennies compared to them. Books are another great deal at yard sales. I haven’t paid full price for a book in years.

  40. Karen says:

    Coming from southwestern Nova Scotia… which is a bit of a thrift-shopping mecca… I haven’t paid retail for clothing or shoes in YEARS. (With the exception of underclothes and socks, which I don’t personally care to buy second-hand.)

    The success of thrift-shopping really depends on where you are and whether it is something that is in demand in your area. Within a fifteen-minute drive, we had five well-stocked shops, and within an hour there are at least that many more. Obviously, there is sufficient customer demand for the stores to be in operation – Nova Scotia is actually home to a chain of second-hand shops (Frenchy’s). They stock the works, from infant wear up to plus-size adult clothing, prom/wedding gowns, shoes, toys, etc. Aside from regular clothes for our family of four, I have on occasion even stumbled onto a designer piece that scored significant dollars on ebay after wearing it once or twice for fun.

    For me it’s a combination of social time, the thrill of the hunt, and a personal realization that the retail markup on clothing is insane and well worth avoiding. I take that attitude with me to the mall as well, primarily shopping off-season sales (I just picked up flannel pjs for the kids for next year, for $3.00 per set).

    I have since moved to Alberta, and in this area there are only two shops, both of them charity-run and pretty small. So it’s much more challenging to have success. But I haven’t allowed my mindset to change – and whenever I go home for a visit, I’ll be bringing an empty suitcase to go “Frenchying” with.


  41. pam munro says:

    Living in the L.A. metro area, I hv said that if you aren’t pretty well dressed here, it’s because you haven’t made the effort – due to the fact that there are such GREAT clothes available at thrift shops around here! My husband’s clothes almost ALL come from a thrift shop he found with good deals on men’s wear & he is getting compliments on how put together he looks nowadays!

    I have also found that boutiques that have gone under in this economy seem to be giving away their stock to thrift stores – so certain ones have NEW things still with the tags on. Down in San Diego I got almost $100 of new shapewear for $14!! – And you also can splurge on shoes when they are $7 or so. (I have designer shoes worth hundreds of dollars I have gotten for less than $10…)

    It does help to shop for classics – but one finds trendy things one can indulge in, too – I really enjoy the treasure hunt of a thrift store spree – just as much as shopping in a real store – & there is always the thrill of the real frugal find (kaching!)ALL my designer clothes come from thrift shops! and I have a lot of designer labels in my wardrobe – you would think that I spent a LOT more on my clothes than I DO. (which is the point, really – esp. in a city like L.A.) In our brief rainy season I have enjoyed wearing my $1 bronze vinyl raincoat and my $7 London Fog trenchcoat!!!

  42. MattJ says:

    I think I’ve mentioned this before here, but I’m going to do it again. Anyone living within 1.5 hours of Scottsboro, Alabama should check out Unclaimed Baggage. They buy the lost luggage from the airlines and sell the contents. It’s like a thrift store, except instead of people’s old junk, you find their nicer things for sale, very often you can find new things. I buy 80% of my clothing there. (It helps that I’m a male office worker – many fliers (most?) are male business travellers, and they tend to wear what I need to buy)

    They also sell other things that could get lost on an airplane or in luggage – electronics, sports equipment, books, glasses, musical instruments, jewelry, cologne and perfume, etc.

    Finally, if you don’t want your bag to end up there, make sure there’s something in your bag that identifies you. If the airline CAN connect you with your bag, they eventually will, even if they accidentally sent it to Cairo. If they open the bag and there is no indication of who you are, then they’ll be unable to return it to you, and instead you’ll get a payout and your bag will be sold to Unclaimed Baggage.

  43. jim says:

    I think it really depends on the thrift store. A good thrift store is worth shopping at and a thrift store with poor selection is a waste of time.

    I’ve seen thrift stores that have absolutely no clothing I’d ever want to wear. I’ve also been to some better stores that have a wide selection and usually something that I’ll buy. But even at the nicer ones I can spend 30-60 minutes looking through the racks and come up empty. They rarely sort things well based on sizes and you have to inspect everything to make sure its not in poor condition. In any case shopping at thrift stores always takes me longer and always has less chance of finding anything worth buying.

  44. Brigid says:

    My family was very involved with a charity that ran a thrift shop when I was growing up, and I worked in that shop for two summers, so I not only bought a lot of my clothes secondhand, I learned how thrift stores work from the inside out.

    I have a large and pretty well-run thrift shop near me, and I go there a couple of times a year. They put all the new clothes (with tags still on) on a single rack, so I hit that one first and then look through the rest. I’m short, so I have a hard time finding clothes that fit well in places like Old Navy and The Gap, but this thrift shop seems to have a lot of petite sizes. And since I know that, for instance, Lee jeans fit me well, if I find a pair I can just grab them without having to try them on.

    My teenage daughters like it as well because they have a lot of Hollister, Aeropostale, etc. T-shirts on the racks (although jeans are harder to find).

    And yes, I get good-quality work clothes there. I work in an office where I meet the public, so I have to look good, and at least half my wardrobe is from thrift shops. But maybe I’m just lucky.

  45. rosa rugosa says:

    It definitely depends on the specifics of your situation. I’m a size 2 petite, who works in a professional environment, and if I had to rely solely on thrift or consignment stores, I would probably be naked most of the time. So thank goodness for Talbot’s where I buy most of my clothes, because they have a tremendous selection in my size range. I’ve also stayed the same size for my entire adult life, tend towards classics, and take good care of my clothes, so I can justify spending more on something because I’ll likely see a lot of use from it (I’m talking about decades in some instances). I don’t have anything against thrift stores, and I have found some good buys in them, but typically not for clothing. What I’m trying to get away from (and doing pretty well at it right now) is being one of the people who donates stuff to the SA with tags still on. Down with recreational shopping and impulse buys!

  46. cv says:

    I’ve tried thrift stores, but I hate shopping so much and I’m picky enough about what I wear that I’m willing to spend the money to buy new most of the time. I think some of it is the difference between men’s and women’s clothes. Thrift stores might work well for me if I were a man who could wear a lot of khakis and polo shirts, but I find business casual for women to be *very* time-consuming to shop for second-hand, at least at the thrift stores in my area, since clothing for young women is often more fitted and there are a wider range of styles.

    One place I have had luck is at clothing swaps with friends. A group of 10-15 20-something women got together a couple of weeks ago with their old clothes and I found a few items that I absolutely love. I think it works better because we’re in similar stages of life and many of us have clothes of similar levels of formality that are appropriate for similar ages.

  47. Michelle says:

    Hey, if you don’t want to shop at a thrift shop, that’s fine, more good buys for me! And I’ve seen sale racks at Old Navy, Kohl’s, even Macy’s that are most disorganized than at my local Goodwill. So yes, thrift shops don’t take any more time than going to a department store. Especially if you’re like me and refuse to pay full price for anything.

  48. Jules says:

    The thrift shop in my city sells used clothes for something like $6.50 each. Which is kind of outrageous, because across the street is a store that sells new clothes for $10-12. Obviously I’m not in the cadre of people who have to look uber-nice (and in any case hydrochloric acid stains have never been in vogue) at their job, but still it seems like a bit of a waste to buy used clothes. I do look in the racks from time to time, but I’m a short, rather petite woman, and it seems like most of the clothes are made for kids, or giants!

  49. deRuiter says:

    I love all resale sources for clothing. Tend to skip the ones in poverty stricken neighborhoods, they have low end, worn stuff and dreary, depressing atmosphere. Look for hospital resale shops (think doctors’ wives who can afford to buy nice clothing and discard it early), other thrift or resale shops run by society women (they sell their things at these shops and they are picky about quality, conditon, santitation and atmosphere), upscale resale shops, garage sales (think great quality natural fiber sweaters for $2.-$5.), yard sales are great for tee shirts, occasionally dresses and coats, particularly in upscale neighborhoods. You get better quality when buying from upscale areas where people buy the best and tire of it quickly, so it is replaced before being worn out. If you don’t like resale clothing, it’s OK, that’s your choice. Going the resale route helps the American economy: the money goes to an American, there is no money going overseas to Chinese sweatshops or workers in other countries, the landfills stay emptier, no natural resources are used because the clothing is extant. If your state charges sales tax, used clothing incurs less tax because the prices are less, and if you buy at a yard sale there’s no sales tax. Used works for me, if it doesn’t suit you, don’t bristle at the suggestion, shop the new stuff stores you like! My favorite purchase was a pair of very expensive designer jeans for a dollar at a yard sale. Wore them a couple of times and they weren’t cut right for me, so I sold them on ebay for $14.! I had the fun of finding the jeans, got to test drive them so to speak, and made a modest profit when they didn’t work for me. Win/win!

  50. Claudia says:

    #6-“With my in-laws family business being men’s clothing, I had to snicker at your reference to clothes at Men’s Warehouse being “high quality”.”

    Was that really SO necessary? Did it make you feel superior? I actually snigger at people who think paying more gets them better quality clothing. Like with all items; mostly true, but not always. Trent’s blog and the comments here are supposed to be a source of help in living frugally. Some people who comment here seem to have no interest in the blog or living frugally, but just troll here to criticize. They waste their time looking for things to take aim at, but then say they can’t afford to waste time being frugal?

    We have several Goodwills in surrounding towns, which I occasionally shop at. They are very organized, so it takes only a few minutes. They are overpriced, but rotate merchandise out every month. Every week a different colored tag is 1/2 price, then the prices are okay. I just bought a brand new shirt for $2. I buy some clothes at garage sales, but mostly for children.

    I shop clearance racks, Penneys will mark things down, down, down at the end of each season. One year I bought a huge stack of summer Carter brand baby rompers for 97 cents each. I had baby gifts for a long time. They were sized from 3-24 months, so they worked, no matter when the baby was born.

    Whether it’s thrift stores or department stores, if you spend 15 minutes walking through them once or twice a month, you can spot the new sale items very quickly.

  51. Bavaria says:

    My thrift store shopping has produced luxury items such as leather jackets, silk shirts, cashmere sweaters, and down comforters. It works for me!

  52. Mrs Embers says:

    I used to work at a thrift store- 2 stores in the same chain, actually. Working there was GREAT- I got to see everything on the racks as I put it away from the fitting rooms or picked up after people who thought it was OK to chuck stuff on the floor as they were browsing. Because I was there all the time, there was a good chance I’d see something great in my size if we had it. (We did the colour-sorting thing- I loved doing that when I had time!)

    The two stores were very different, though- the one in ON was huge, clean, and had a great selection of nearly-new stuff. The one in NL, where people tend to not have as much money to spend on clothes, didn’t have nearly the selection, and the store was not as clean (couldn’t afford to have as many people working to tidy up). I found good deals at both, though, especially baby clothes- babies just don’t wear stuff out, they grow quickly, and people get HUGE amounts of baby clothes as presents, so most of it only gets worn a few times.

    It’s harder now. We’ve moved again, and our closest thrift store is an hour away (though there’s a small consignment store closer to us), and it doesn’t have great stuff most days. I get out maybe once a month, and I never get to leave the kids at home- and they do NOT like to let me browse. I still can’t/won’t pay for new stuff unless it’s on sale, so I haven’t had a lot of new clothes in the last year.

    I miss my Ontario store.

    I think I’ll do a post on thrift-store shopping… share my expertise. ;)

  53. MP says:

    I buy my work clothes online, as I’ve found a place with styles I like that last me a long time. I tend only to do it 2 times a year – for fall winter and for spring summer.
    I get my fun clothes (summer shorts/tees/tanks/kicky dresses for walking about/working in the garden clothes) from thrift stores, consignment stores, yard sales, and church rummage sales. You are also more likely to get better quality North American or european made clothes there than in a mall where it is all cheap chinese made stuff.
    In the last year, I’ve been to the mall once and that was to get good shoes. And even then it was a chore – 80% of the shoe stores sold only made in china cheap crap. The two good pairs of italian shoes I got set me back a bit but since they replaced ten year old italian leather shoes I was expecting the price. Quality for shoes is important to me because poor quality shoes kill my feet. So I know I have to spend more and will budget accordingly.
    Thrift stores/consignment stores and yard sales satisfy my occasional craving to shop. I just try to find a cheap place to indulge.

  54. Diana says:

    I really admire folks who thrift shop well. I don’t, but I’m fortunate to have a daughter who is amazing at it.

    While visitng her in CA (a tiny town where there’s little to choose from), she took me shopping at a thrift store for jeans. Mine were threadbare by then. Within minutes, she’d set aside a dozen pairs of Wranglers, Bongos, and a beautiful pair of Lawman jeans with the tags still on them. About half of them fit me beautifully, and all were in like-new condition. I bought 5 pairs that day, expecting to pay the tag price of $4 each. However, when I got to the cashier, she told me they were all half off that day, so I walked out with all of them for only $10.00.

    Anyone who buys name brand jeans knows they don’t come cheap brand new. But, I can wear the clothes I love for a fraction of the original price by shopping in thrift stores. By the way, she also found 3 pairs of brand new, tag on, men’s Levi’s in my younger son’s size, for $3 per pair. He was so pleased. He normally buys exactly the same thing retail for $25-$30 per pair. He really needed them, and couldn’t believe what sheid come home with. Total time spent shopping that day was about 20 minutes and everything was clean.

    This is one way I can afford to save a lot of money and still look as good as any of my friends. When I get the compliments on my clothes, none of them even suspect I got them at thrift stores. Yet, most of them buy their clothes at the more expensive retail stores.

    My daughter is in the beauty biz where fashion is very important the your image and credibility. Little do her clients or co-workers know that her designer clothing and accessories aren’t from high end boutiques. Her attitude is that if you buy retail, it’s used clothing after you’ve worn it once; she is happy to let someone else wear it once, and save the difference.

  55. Georgia says:

    I think the time savings that Trent mentions is very substantial. Several people on here have mentioned they stop in at thrift stores weekly to check on new items. If you do this for only 10 minutes weekly (and that is a low estimate), that amounts to over 8 1/2 hours. Trent shops 2 times annually and just over 4 hours each trip would seem to be sufficient, especially knowing what he wants and the stores he has shopped at before.

    I, too, am not a shopper, per se. I hate shopping for clothing, but since I am retired and can go casual, I’m fine. This fall I bought, for the first time, 3 matching sweat suits for $42 and then went to Dollar General. They now stock Bobbie Brooks clothes that actually fit me. I bought 4 fancier pairs of sweats with embroidery that can be worn to church. There was a 70% off sale and I got the 4 outfits for about $32.00. These are enough to last me many, many a winter.

    Oh, and a further benefit to buying the sweats – I put my thermostat down to 65-66 in the daytime and 62 at night. My utilities are happy and so am I. Before, when we kept the temp at 72, I could not wear sweats, as I would actually sweat in them and I detest sweating.

    I don’t often shop at thrifts or yard sales, except for books, but I do know to watch for the sales. Yesterday, on some items, Dollar General had a 90% off on some items. A couple of years ago I got 2 housecoats for $2.40 and they are still in good condition. This year I bought 4 blouses/winter tops. They cost me less than $4. I even bought 2 of them in another size – to give away. If I can’t find someone who uses those sizes, I’ll just give them to the Christian Church youth who are having a yard sale soon. They are raising money to take a trip.

    I am living comfortably, but by being frugal and saving money I can do some traveling often, since I have family all around the US of A. Great fun!

  56. Brandi says:

    I’m with Kat (#10)-thrifting can be like a low-cost hobby. If you enjoy shopping, the bargain-hunting aspect of thrift stores can be thrilling. For someone who doesn’t enjoy shopping for clothes, it may be torture. I personally prefer thrift stores to malls because of the sensory overload factor. I also enjoy that stores like Goodwill that carry items other than clothing-one-stop shopping.

    Monica obviously has never been to a decently stocked thrift or consignment store. I agree with the suggestions to check out stores in wealthier areas. There is great variance even between Goodwills-the ones in Iowa City, where I live now, are amazing-I find quality, stylish clothing all the time. The one in Corvallis, OR sold new clothes from Target at jacked-up prices. The one I went to in Seattle was pretty good (also love the west coast for Value Village!). All the thrift stores I found in Vancouver BC sucked. So remember that not all secondhand shops are created equal.

  57. Sari Lynn says:

    I’ve gotten a fair amount of my ‘dress up’ clothing from the local Goodwill Boutique. I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on something I’ll only wear once or twice. I found a royal blue silk dress, that fit like it had been custom made for me for $12. It still had the price tag on it from Nordstrom’s – $158! I’ve worn it to several weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs already, and will wear it again to a friend’s wedding in May.

    Last weekend I attended a women’s clothing exchange. You bring items that you no longer wear for one reason or another, everyone tries on things and takes what they want, and the remainder is donated to charity. It was a fun afternoon, I cleaned out my closet of things that didn’t quite fit or had fallen out of favor, and came home with several items that look & feel great, all of which I’ve worn in the past week!

  58. Claudia says:

    I’ve read about the clothing exchanges with friends and was thinking about callling up some friends and having a party. Then, I remembered I’m at least 6 inches taller than most of them. :(

  59. Sam says:

    I agree with Trent, sounds like Monica has a firm opinion on the subject.

    I haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if anyone mentioned these points.
    I love to get used clothing because I know it’s already survived a few washings & isn’t going to fall apart, shrink or change colors when I get it home & run it through the wash before wearing it.

    One other thing too – is you’ll find things that aren’t available in your area. I’m in Nebraska & I’ve found stuff from Neiman Marcus and Nordstroms there. I love that I can find things that other people brought with them from other parts of the country.

    Yes, there’s a lot of damaged goods on the racks – no ever said you have to buy those (I always wonder who does). And somethings are easily fixed – like missing buttons.

    I just started to have the means to buy new clothes a few years ago. However, the quality disappointed me – many things would be great until the first wash & then shrink or whatever during washing. I discovered a lot of my clothes from the thrift store are actually really expensive when new & there is no way I could afford them on my salary. So I’ve evolved back to thrift where I can find high quality durable things. I love my 100% angora designer coat – it’s soft, really warm, classic black and very sturdy but, there’s no way I could have driven to the east coast to get it and there’s no way I could have ever gotten it new – so thank you to who ever donated it 4 years ago!

    As far as out of date goes – yes, if you want to go retro it’s easier at a thrift store. I go for classic things & do fine with what I find. I’m not a teenage so I don’t care about the latest styles & I prefer to dress conservative for work anyway. The latest styles usually look silly too – like the recent trend with ruffles, Yuck!
    No ruffles on me thank you.

  60. I’ve found a lot of things at thrift stores that were still new with the tags. I used to get jeans for the kids and since the ripped, ragged jeans are now in style (and cost $80 and up per pair WTF??)you can chop up thrift jeans for $2 a pair. I found a designer suit (the halves were separated) that I’m still wearing 3 years later and they look great as they are 100% wool, lined and beautiful. It wasn’t a new suit but I’m getting a lot of use out of it. Look around–it’s amazing how many things you will find that have never been worn and still have the tags. The better the neighborhood the nicer the clothes–I bought a dozen gorgeous sweaters at a thrift store in a nice neighborhood in Florida that I wear all the time in Illinois!

  61. SLCCOM says:

    Claudia, how about approaching other women your height and size and proposing a clothing swap? They might not only agree, but you’ll get some new friends out of it.

  62. lynne says:

    About 10 years ago my husband needed a sports coat for an upcoming event. We went to 5 different stores & were unsuccessful. Finally I suggested a thrift store. He got 2 jackets, one a top name brand, the other was custom tailored in England. We paid $5 for both of them! We started buying his polo shirts there, some for as low as $1 each. When he passed away a few years ago, I gave his clothes to the thrift store. We had recently bought him a new suit, 3 dress shirts & 3 ties for a trip we were taking. He wore the suit once, and only used one of the shirts & one tie! Someone obviously was going to get a suit that was as good as new. Don’t knock something til you’ve tried it.

  63. Diane says:

    @#12 Kelly. Bless you for speaking the truth! Very astute comment. Nice to know I’m not alone.

    @#7 Josh and #50 Claudia: I sold men’s clothing for ten years at Nordstrom. I had the same response to the mention of MW as you did, Josh.
    I also understand Claudia’s response. In the men’s clothing arena, there is a huge difference in construction and quality. There is also a more direct correlation between price and quality. A man can buy a good quality pair of shoes and have them re-soled and re-heeled for years, even decades. A woman can spend the same amount of money on shoes that will go out of style in a couple of seasons!
    So, I understand Claudia’s response, but I do think it unnecessarily harsh. If one can afford to, one should shop anywhere they like without risk of criticism from others.

  64. Caroline says:

    My friends and I regularly find lots of great barely used (or totally awesomely vintage) stuff in thrift stores. It doesn’t even take long too do it. I think some people just think this type of shopping is beneath them, but I’ve received many compliments from people AT WORK about my thrift store finds. I even bought my prom dress for $4, and I didn’t have to worry about anyone having the same one as me. And for people who really only wear stuff once or twice – you’ll save a bundle if you start at the thrift store, instead of just ending there.

  65. Caroline says:

    I don’t understand the time cost that people are so worried about. I spend just as much time in regular stores trying to find stuff I like as I do in thrift stores. I can even spend hours online trying to figure out what to buy – probably because you can’t touch it or try it on, and should you decide to return it it’s a huge hassle!

  66. Todd says:

    Someone should start a clothing exchange site like Paperbackswap.com. (Trent praises that site all the time–and it has saved me a fortune.) When someone changes sizes, they could send in their old clothes and get one credit for each item of clothing. Then they could use those credits to select “new-to-them” items of clothing from others.

  67. Johanna says:

    @Caroline: Well, for me, the biggest part of the time investment is getting to the thrift store in the first place. I don’t have a car, and all the thrift stores in my area (that I know about) are a hassle for me to get to on public transportation – and there are none in the neighborhoods I go to anyway for other reasons. It could take me an hour to get there, and another hour to get home, just for one store, which is not an enjoyable shopping destination (for me) and probably won’t have anything I want to buy anyway. Alternatively, I could go to the mall – a 3-minute train ride away – and go to Target, JC Penney, Macy’s Marshall’s, Ross, and the Gap all in one trip.

    I realize that not everyone is in a situation like mine – in fact, most people aren’t. But my point is that whether thrifting makes sense for you depends hugely on your situation, and it would be nice to see Trent acknowledge that.

  68. Well, now, where do you work?

    My husband works at a factory and has to buy steel-toed shoes. Those shoes have to be purchased retail, brand new. But he’s got a favorite t-shirt collection that he bought SECOND HAND.

    And I work in an office. I don’t like the blouses I’ve seen in my size at the second-hand stores. Therefore I buy my dressy tops retail. But I get black dress pants SECOND HAND.

  69. Nicole says:

    Oddly… reading through all these comments I think, “Man! I should go thrifting! I could get so much clothing!”

    Except I don’t NEED any more clothing right now. There’s no point in me spending money (and time) on things I don’t need. Again, not shopping saves more money than searching for bargains.

  70. teresa says:

    I am the chairperson of our local non-profit Thrift Store and find all these comments interesting. We are all volunteers and put many hours into this endevour. Our population is 500 and in the middle of nowhere so there is no other options for clothing or household items here. We have been pleasantly surprised by the success of this store, just like any other business it’s hard to know how well the community will receive it. It is amazing how wasteful people can be, people will donate bag fulls of name brand clothing, some with tags still on them. I always wonder when a person can have enough!! It is great for the store but this but crazy to think how our society has become obsessed with “stuff”.
    I think cost should be the last reason to buy 2nd hand. When you buy from Thrift Stores you are not using any “new” materials, you are keeping items out of the landfill, you are supporting a US business, not a clothing manufacturer that is paying their employees next to nothing and you are supporting a business that helps the less fortunate(most of the time).
    I always try to find things “used” before I go out and just randomly purchase new things(with all the packaging that goes to the landfill). Sometimes you have to wait a little while to find what you want, but at least you are thinking about the purchase and saving money in the process.
    I’ve heard people complain that they don’t want to buy something that someone has already worn. But at least it has been washed before you get it, think of all the nasty chemicals and who knows what is on clothing when it comes from the manufacturer, especially if it was made oversees.
    I’m sure every store has diffrent costs and quality but I would encourage everyone to consider shopping 2nd hand not only to save money but to change the attitude about “stuff”.

  71. Dawn says:

    I am a self employed consultant catering to primarily small businesses, landscapers, contractors, etc. Needless to say business has been very slow this past year.

    Every year we attend a charity auction. Despite the decrease in income we thought it important to attend – we put aside a little money every week to have enough to bid, but I didn’t want to spend a mint on something to wear. I made the decision to check out a consignment shop – I had never been before.

    Were my eyes opened!! I got a beautiful DESIGNER dress for $10.00!! It was like brand new. I love it and received many compliments on it. The dress was one of the lowest priced items in the shop but the quality was outstanding, many items still had tags and were marked at least 50% or 75% off of those prices – many items that I tried on were in the $20.00 range.

    I will be going back. I am also going to look into a couple other consignment shops that carry clothing for my kids.

  72. Cathie says:

    Just yesterday I spent a portion of my lunch hour browsing Goodwill. This time was “free” and I netted 2 blouses suitable for work for $5.98 (one was color-coded 1/2 off.) I feel sorry for the commenters who live near sub-par thrift stores-I have 3 amazing Goodwill stores all within a 10 mile radius of my home. Also near my place of employment is a Habitat Re-Store. Color me thrifty, well-dressed, and happy!

  73. Ruby Leigh says:

    I would say that 99% of my closet was purchased at less than retail prices.

    I like to dress nice – and “relatively” in fashion. I also love to shop, but part of the game for me is finding the best price… and I have managed to find some great stuff.
    Polo Ralph Lauren Sweater : $9.00
    Polo Fleece Hoodie: $3.00
    Both of these items were barely worn looking.

    Also, if for some unknown reason GoodWill is not your taste… look into other consignment Turn Style is a chain that is out there. I just bought my husband a Calvin Klein suit (tags still on) for a fraction of the original cost. There is also a lot mileage that can be had at JCPenny and Kohl’s clearance racks.

  74. Shauna says:

    sometimes I am so late in responding to these, but I just wanna say that when I score at a second hand store it makes me feel good. People complimant my cloting all the time, and I love telling them I shop second hand.

  75. Jean says:

    Like many otherswho have posted, love the thrift stores. There is a huge variance in quality, but you get to know the places you’ll usually be lucky. If your town has a Junior League Resale Shop, check it out. A little higher, maybe, but usually gorgeous name brand clothes! (And to those who don’t want to give up retail, thanks–more bargains for the rest of us!)

  76. Jenny says:

    I started a new job last month, and realized that I was going from a web publication job (read: jeans most days) to an outward-facing role (read: NOT jeans… ever). I only had two pairs of dress pants, and there was no way I could afford to go to the the mall to buy more.

    I went to a Goodwill down the street from my new job two evenings in a row, and in the course of the two trips I picked up SEVEN new pairs of dress pants, including Express, Ann Taylor and Banana Republic labels. The entire purchase cost me around $50. I wouldn’t have been able to get TWO pairs at that price, even at TJ Maxx or similar.

    The people who give clothes to places like Goodwill are often not getting rid of their 6-year-old throwaways — sometimes they just find that the clothes they’ve bought don’t fit right and don’t care to return them. I’ve even picked up clothes with the tags still on!

    I absolutely agree with Trent’s logic of starting at thrift stores and moving up from there, rather than the other way around. I’m starting to think I might try buying all the clothes I need at Goodwill for a year, and see how my finances benefit.

  77. gail gibson says:

    I am a manager for a non-profit located in N.C. While i understand a person being leery of shopping in a thrift store,i also know that they should give it a try before saying no, never! I am the wife of a wonderful man who has had numerous surgeries. Due to tha amount of money that we spend on medical supplies, I do not get to spend a lot on our clothes and such. I can tell you that we dress very well from thrift stores. I am very proud of the one that I run. Our prices are very reasonable,and our clothes at not out of date or torn. I have several volunteers that helped us to insure our store is clean and bright and welcoming to shop at.You can wear a fashionable outfit for $3.00 or less. Our mission statment is “Christians lending a helping hand:.

  78. Leslie says:

    I’d say about 90% of my clothing comes from consignment stores, with the obvious exceptions of underwear and hosiery. My closet is hung with Ann Taylor, Talbots, Anthropologie, Coldwater Creek, Chicos, Black Market White House, Tahari, etc. and all bought new or gently used at about 85-95% savings. Two rules I have about shopping – at consignment stores or anywhere else – is that the item must coordinate with items I already possess and it has to immediately absolutely knock my socks off and make me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world when I put it on. If I’m hemming and hawing and hesitating it goes back on the rack even if it’s the deal of the century. This does take more time for shopping but I don’t view shopping as a thrift event as do many people here, so it’s not as important to me. I LIKE shopping and only do it when I know I have a fair amount of time to commit to it. Obviously, not everyone has that ability; I remember trying to shop with small kids! :-) I’m past that stage in my life now – my nest is almost empty – so I have the time to commit. And, of course, my resources are now more plentiful for it, but the number one reason I love consignment shopping is hands down price. I have a fantastic, head turning wardrobe that reflects not only my own unique style but my values around money and consuming.

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