I’m thrifty by nature and nurture. My mother is a bargain hunter of the old school, and no Christmas present was complete without the game of “guess how much I paid for that!” Add to that a fascination with voluntary simplicity and a tree-hugger’s contempt of mindless consumption, and I am primed to be very deliberate with my money.
Here’s the secret, though. Thrift is not about denial. Thrift is about enjoying what you have and deciding what’s important to you. Thrift comes from the root “to thrive.”
And you know where I thrive? Thrift stores.
Ask any of my friends and family, and they’ll tell you that I am the patron saint of thrift stores. I have no horror of second-hand goods. If it can be washed in hot water or hosed down with Lysol, I’ll take it home.
(I draw the line at upholstered furniture after I brought home a darling velvet boudoir chair, then had a raging case of paranoia about bedbugs. It sits, completely stripped of its fabric, in the garage, waiting for me to do something with it. It didn’t have bugs, but I’m not going through that phantom scratching thing again.)
And I’m not talking about your high-end consignment stores. My favorite retail thrift store is Value World (I’ve shopped ALL the Indy locations). But my own personal Disneyland is the Goodwill Outlet, where goods are thrown into giant rolling bins, and everything is priced at 69 cents a pound. I have dug through those bins and come up with creative gold:
- Clothing with sequins or beads, especially formal gowns or Indian tunics. I turn them all into costumes. And I once found a load of gorgeous saris to gift to a friend. Total cost? Maybe $2.
- Beautiful vintage linens and fabric. I turn them into home decor, curtains, and gifts. I have three lengths of heavy, creamy old linen on bolts awaiting my next inspiration. I paid about $3 for all of them.
- Vintage utensils and tools. I’ve found a tea strainer I use every day, a beautiful hand-made cabinetry lathe I gave to my dad, retractable clotheslines, and a super-solid wooden drying rack. I use all of these things, and they are far more solidly built than anything I could purchase new.
- Vintage books. I love the look of them, and when they cost 50 cents a pop, they’re hard to resist.
But that’s just the start of what I’ve found at Goodwill Outlet. For my friend and fellow gardener Amy F’s birthday, I found a miraculously intact “Garden Game,” a 1980s board game about companion planting (one of her particular passions). I’ve passed on loads of formal gowns I bought for pennies to performer friends. My latest steal? A pink, fully-lit Christmas tree to give to a friend going through a divorce.
Granted, Goodwill Outlet is not for everyone. It helps to be shopping for fun and not out of dire need. Sharp elbows are also good. And if you have issues with crowds, stick to regular retail thrift stores. But since I tend to look for costumey and/or weird things, I don’t have to face down much competition.
I spend very little on my forays to Goodwill Outlet. And I’m fairly picky about what I bring home. If I can’t forsee an immediate use for it, I put it back (this has occasionally caused some gut-wrenching internal arguments); the exception is for things I can create costumes from. Those go in a big bin until I need them.
And Goodwill Outlet fuels my creativity and my generosity. Because the prices are so low, I’ll often buy things with friends in mind. When I’m done with something I bought, I pass it on to friends. Or I give it back to Goodwill, and the cycle begins again.