2012-01-28

Avoiding the Thrift Money Traps

Perhaps I have too much pride when I write the word 'thrifted' in the clothing itemization list on outfit posts. Conversely, when I have an outfit post with only a few or no thrifted items, I am disappointed with myself. Afterall, my entire blog's identity is wrapped up in the sport of thrift and if I am not a thrift advocate, who am I? Therein lies a problem, because the point of thrifting is hunt for treasure, to build a better wardrobe and to get the best value for your dollar; it is not merely to find something new to brag about every time. And as prices rise across the board in our beloved thrift stores, it is important to be more intentional with what we buy. Gone are the days where you could stuff all you can fit in a bag for $1 (and if they aren't gone... where do you live and can I stay at your house?). That is not to say that there aren't tons of deals left to be had. I know there are many dresses waiting to join their friends in my closet and I will keep looking to find them all. It just means that we need to get smarter and avoid some of the money traps of the thrift store...

1. Don't overspend on mall brands.
The people pricing at thrift stores are often familiar with the mainstream mall brands. Labels like Gap, Abercrombie and Guess, are recognized and often priced higher. It drives me insane because you can often find these exact items for a better price brand new on the end of season clearance racks. My own personal rule is that I will never pay double digits for anything that you can find at the mall. I am sure I have broken my own rules occasionally but it's a good limit to keep in mind.  Of course, you are most familiar with your own wardrobe needs and if you know you will wear that $11 J.Crew skirt all the time at work, then the purchase may be worth it. Just be sure you are thinking about value... Anything F21 is not worth more than a  dollar or two the second time around....

value4
I paid $4 for this Gap sweater. Now I wear it so much that I would have paid $5....

2. Paying too much for vintage.
Vintage can be priced two ways at the thrift store. In areas away from big urban centres, I have noticed that true vintage is seen as kooky and weird and priced lower than other merchandise. This is my favourite thing. Unfortunately more and more thrift stores are catching on the popularity of vintage goods and pricing them higher accordingly. Here's the sad thing though, you can now sometimes find vintage items (especially little knick-knacks and home goods) at a flea market or even an antique store for a better price. I'm not talking about the fancy, perfectly merchandised antique stores but those stacked, dusty antique stores that I discussed in the last post are full of good stuff waiting to be discovered. In a flea market or an antique store, that vintage fruit crate is just one of many, whereas in a thrift store, the fruit crate stands out as unique... And that uniqueness may cost you. There is much more to be said on the topic of vintage and its value, enough for a book, maybe even a shelf full of books but be aware that just because something is at a thrift store doesn't automatically make it a good deal.

value5
I got this mint condition 1950's dress for $15 at a local flea market. It would be hard finding something of this quality at that price even at my most beloved Talize...

3. Being realistic.
I've talked about it before, the moment when thrifting stops being a challenge and starts to become a world of possibilities. And it's a great feeling but suddenly, every single thing you take a good look at, has potential.
'These pants would make the cutest shorts!'
'I could, like, totally stud the collar of this shirt!'
'This dress would be so cute if I just dyed it pink!'
It is great to think creatively in the thrift store; to take chances and to have fun but it is important to be realistic. If you buy those pants, that shirt and that dress and never hem them, stud them or dye them, then you just spent money on three things you will never wear. And that is a rip-off. Be honest with yourself, what are you actually going to alter and get done? And if you do the alteration, does this piece of clothing become something that could work in your wardrobe or does it become the project that people will mercy compliment? The thrift store is a great place to explore creativity on a budget but wasted money is wasted money...

value2
I am the worst for buying things with big plans to alter them.. probably because I have the ability and the tools to do it. But I hate doing alterations (real talk) and it has been a work in progress to curb my unrealistic purchases. Thankfully, I did hem these pants to take them from awkwardly short to intentionally cropped.

If you think that this post signifies the end of my thrift boasting, then you are sorely mistaken. Afterall, I can hardly boast of my culinary skills; thrifting is all I have. This post is more about spending your money wisely and avoiding some thrift pitfalls. It's also about how many times I can use the word thrift in one post...

46 comments :

Anonymous said...

I love posts with tips like these! Thanks for sharing!

freedomandfreethings said...

This post is gold and helps me save gold. Good tip about checking out flea markets - Melbourne op shops have plenty of really over priced half altered/hacked vintage items, v. disappointing.

j.love said...

Really enjoyed reading this! I too hate seeing thrift stores full of the "mall brands". I was just at a shop that had a Target dress for $20 that I actually bought years ago on the clearance rack for $5....I kid you not! Crazy talk.

Laura Wears... said...

I liked your point about mall brands. I have seen items from brangs like Gap, F21, Old Navy, and American Eagle priced in the double digits (or the high single digits) in the same store where I found a mint condition RED Valentino skirt priced for $9.99. I can only assume the pricer was unaware of the brand and decided that since the skirt was lined, it should be priced a little higher than average.

Kelsey said...

As one who is just getting started thrifting your tips couldn't come at a better time. I think fashion can and should be affordable you just have to approach with a bit of creativity.

I really like the idea of looking at the "possibilities" of a piece (but for me it will have to get taken to my tailor as my sewing skills are atrocious!).

Love your blog, long time reader but first time commenter. Thanks for all the great reads.

thatdamngreendress said...

ugh...fast fashion is tragic! I always look forward to my summer trips to PEI since I find great things at the Value Village and Froggies, and return repeatedly until it is time to leave! This year the VV was so full of overpriced Joe Fresh, in multiples. really sad. I still found some cute pieces (and a Joe Fresh top...) but it seems the glory days are maybe over? I did find a beautiful 60's creamsilk dress at VV recently though so maybe we just need to be more persistent. I think I can!

Terri said...

Your comments on pricing are very true to my experience...and I have gradually been curbing my spending at thrifts. That said, I have discovered the antique places...and today I came home with a cardboard funeral home fan!

Teresa Parson said...

Love this! I am so guilty of number 3! I have bought in bulk while thrifting, only to never wear those items... what a sad thing!

xo Teresa
www.delightfullydarling.com

emma said...

Great post, great tips. I am so guilty of over buying thrift items to alter. I have hung all my unfinished items on the front of my wardrobe so these projects get finished, no more spending until they're done. I hope to learn my lesson.

Maria Trendy said...

I like very much the outfit number 2. Your blog is amazing! Greetings from Uruguay

Jeanne said...

Yes, yes, yes! These are good reminders to be careful. Right behind me is a stack of sweaters to be felted and repurposed.

liveonbeauty said...

i agree with you about the prices, and i am gonna follow a litle bit some stuff u said, like visiting more often flea markets and stuff. thanx for sharing it! very nice! good for a sunday morning read!
xx
Anna
liveonbeauty.org

The Daily Fashionista said...

The magic of the thrift shops is all too much for me to handle. I have stopped buying items to alter or change because, really, I never do it. Just not enough time in the days or weekends for me. Plus I lost my fabric scissors and have yet to buy new ones. Doh!!

Your tips were right on the money :) Thanks for making such an awesome post.

Loulou said...

Great post. I'm laughing at your term 'mercy compliment' ... haha ... ouch. Love your thrifted gap sweater and white (now) cropped pants. ps, and that was not a mercy compliment!

Loulou Downtown

That's My Mama said...

Great tips! It really does suck that the prices are going up.

Megan said...

Great post, and I am definitely guilty of buying something based off of its perceived potential. Also, in my small(ish) Florida town our thrift stores still run monthly $1 fill-a-bag sales... it's pretty amazing/scary.

Natasha Fatah said...

Thanks for all these awesome tips!

xoxo
www.natashafatah.blogspot.com

girl in the poodle shoes said...

I am so guilty of not being #3, realistic. This post is SO true… I think we're all guilty of all of these every once in a while, even at stores with just really great sales.

Best,
Casey
Girl in the Poodle Shoes

russian girl said...

as a fellow addicted thrifter, i, too, have had to set the same rules while thrifting. unless it's a pretty spectacular mall brand item or a nice mall brand at a good price (i did score a lovely lightweight cashmere gap cardigan yesterday for $2), i keep moving. i've also learned that if i find something during the initial sweep that i think i may want, i put it in my basket then allow myself enough time before heading to the register to review my picks, try them on and ask those questions to see if it's a good deal or if i'm wasting my money.
i just found your blog recently and enjoy your posts!

briannelee said...

Now that I don't live close to a Savers I feel like I cannot find quality clothing items at the thrift store anymore. I have decided I am just going to focus on home items for the time being and hopefully hit Savers on my next trip to Boston :)

Lauren {Stylized Existence} said...

This is a great post. I am guilty of #3 - I always see "THE BIG POSSIBILITIES" in the store and then get home and I'm like, "Ok, let's be real, you're never going to do the XYZ changes you thought of in-store" so I totally agree with you there.

Whitney said...

I completely agree with these tips, especially the first one. I'm all for going to the stores themselves and buying stuff on super-sale. I won't pay double digits for mall brands either!

We So Thrifty said...

All so true! Old Navy and Joe Fresh are two more brands that thrift stores inexplicably price ridiculously high. I too, have also fallen victim to thinking "creatively" - and I can't even sew. Now, I only take the risk if its something that I can alter with sewing glue. Keeps me in line.

Christen said...

This is a great compilation of rules and tips. Regarding the first one, I generally avoid mall brands at thrift stores altogether. The quality is just not that great in the first place, so I'm hesitant to purchase them previously worn. I haven't had much success in the past.

newpetite said...

Great tips!! Its like you've mentioned everything that Ive learnt over the past year! You are so smart and gorgeous, with a great sense of humor!!

Anonymous said...

I just had a discussion like this with my daughter. She found some (insert popular mall store here) t-shirts that she reeeeally wanted but it irritated me they were priced $6-8. Especially when I found a Lord & Taylor cashmere sweater marked for $3. I convinced her to wait and we went back on 1/2 off day. Success - and training a future thrifter. :)

Jenni said...

Love this post! It all comes down to value, like you said.

I'm going to have to start checking out area flea markets once it warms up again. Thanks for the advice.

liz said...

Thank you for these tips Jentine! I am excited to branch out to some lesser known thrift stores to find real gems and will keep this in mind!

Esther said...

I love this post, thank you for sharing all your tips, you made so much sense as well about not kidding yourself into thinking that just because something's cheap and can be upgraded with abit of effort it's going to add value to your wardrobe.


I wish we had better thrift shops where I live as Iove finding bargains.

Esther xx

amanda said...

ugh. i know. i've had to talk to myself about being realistic with my purchases. i always have big plans about hemming this and altering that and almost never carry through. i'm lazy!!! i just need to embrace that.

Anonymous said...

I hear you about the old "fill a bag for a dollar" sales...Luckily there is one left in my neighborhood. A local church runs a sale like that once a month. You have to get there EARLY (by 9am, when it opens, the line is around the block.) But the deals are so worth it. I find a lot of mall brands like GAP, J. Crew, Banana, etc, that would be way overpriced at my local Goodwill/VV, but are priced just right at the church sale! I've also found some higher end stuff too.

Emily B. said...

I have totally fallen victim to that last one and just sent a big bag of said clothes BACK to the thrift store. I have learned my lesson! I hate doing alterations, too!

Erin said...

Great post, Jentine! I've fallen victim to that last one many times too. I should know better, as I serioulsy hate mending and alterations! There's a pile of about 10 to-mend pieces sitting beside me right now. Bleh. I also find I lie to myself about fit too. "It's a little big, but maybe it looks cool baggy and belted?" or "It's a little tight, but I'm going to start running again so...". Haha! Why?

kelsey williams said...

great post, yen! i would love to watch you thrift...you should have matt videotape you one time walking through the store :) i went to goodwill last week and spent 5 minutes looking for a silk blouse. no luck :(

Bek W said...

Haha! I love your writing!

Susanna said...

Thanks for the advice! Very helpful and I love the way you combine your thrift store finds and brand new!

Sydney said...

I love this post on thrifting! I often fall into the last category, thinking of buying so many things knowing full well i DO NOT SEW so I will not wear it. I've gotten good about debating and then finally putting said items back.

Kerrie said...

Love this post! I absolutely agree with everything you have said, particularly about buying vintage. ALL of my local thrift stores have cottoned onto the vintage thing now and put their prices up. It has completely taken away the excitement of thrifting...I guess I will just have to try thrifting further afield now! Having said that I found an amazing 1970's black and gold jumpsuit for $10 in the weekend...!! Thanks for the great post! Love Kerrie - from New Zealand! xx www.kekiandglam.wordpress.com

melanie said...

Hi Jentine

I have a question for you: How do you get the nasty "thrift store smell" out of items that you can't wash or dry-clean? I bought a super cute purse last week at second hand store but the smell is really intense and I,m not sure how to go about it. It's fake leather and I don't really want to take it to the dry-cleaner seeing how cheap it was...
THanks in advance for tips!!

Market Publique said...

Great post! I also do the same thing with "Oh, I can just hem this" or "I can change the buttons on this!", but realistically I don't have time to do that. I end up amassing so many alter piles! I do attack some of the projects on snow days and sometimes bring a giant pile to my seamstress for help!

Lindsey A. Turner said...

Great posts! Love these tips! You are so right on!

Lindsey Turner
http://thriftandshout.blogspot.com

Snazzy Dollface said...

Absolutely love this post. I often have grt intentions with little pull through :-/

T. said...

I love these tips, but my own thrifting rule is never pay more then $5. May sound crazy, but I do not recall ever paying more than that amount on a thrifted item!

Jim Thomson said...

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Karen Cully said...

Many people just spend whatever they have (and more) just because they don’t know any better, but they don’t save anything at all so the bank balance is flat-lining.

If you don’t save you can’t invest and if you can’t invest then you can’t build a platform of wealth for your future. Look to save at least 5% of your income on a weekly basis and be mindful of spending just for the sake of it.

Gibbs Connor said...

Right now I'm feeling fairly financially secure, though all that could change in an instant. Ive got good skills and I network well, and I'm really working to pay off debt - so that I can make it through for
longer than I would have been able to with the debt in the even of a catastrophe. I think that once I get married H and I will both feel pretty financially secure and can really start to focus on some long term goals.