Monday, August 22, 2011

Being Thrifty

I love thrift stores. Consignment shops. Second hand stores. Goodwill. The Salvation Army. Value Village... Craigslist...e-bay!

Call it what you will: if it's a store or site full of stuff other people didn't want? I'm there.

My mother introduced me to thrift stores in the eighties. I don't know how she found out, but I'm pretty sure she discovered them herself around the same time, because my mother loved me and would not have held out on this information for long. Before thrift stores, she got very excited about garage sales. She and her friends would wake up early on Saturday mornings and scan the newspaper classifieds to find out who was holding a garage sale and how far away they lived. There were downsides to this practice, however, and I can't remember her going to even one garage sale after thrift stores came on the scene.

I'm the same way. A garage sale is one family's cast offs, and you have to invest a lot of time to drive over, only to find that the family in question is completely devoid of taste, or really should have held the garage sale when the Miami Vice look was more the rage. A thrift store is filled with stuff from hundreds of families. Someone, somewhere, had to have liked the same stuff I do and decided to get rid of an extra. Thrift stores = much greater chance of a return on the investment of my time.

My husband doesn't like thrifting. I didn't understand this line of thinking at first, until I thought about the kind of shopper my husband is. He's a man who doesn't experience buyer's remorse with some purchases... he experiences buyer's remorse every time he swipes his credit card. All he needs in life is a ten by ten room, two outfits, bread and marmalade, and a toilet. Also water (for drinking, and for the toilet). Anything other than these items is a frivolous purchase that he immediately questions and might decide to return later.

You can't return things to Craigslist. The commitment of buying secondhand is simply too much for him to handle.

And I'll admit it: in my quest to convert him, I've taken a few missteps. Most recently there was the "Michael Kors" dress shirt I purchased for a song on e-Bay. I place quotes around the brand name because, well, of the conversation I had with my husband when the shirt arrived.

Him: Why did you buy me a polyester shirt from e-Bay?
Me: It's not polyester. It's Michael Kors.
Him: I don't know who Michael Kors is. I do know this shirt is polyester.
Me: Prove it.

He showed me the garment label. 100%... polyester.

Me: I didn't think Michael Kors would make a polyester shirt. But it could happen.
Him: My JCPenney shirts are cotton. And returnable.

You can see how that wasn't my strongest moment.

My husband does certainly appreciate the generous wardrobes my children have that cost next to nothing (to me, paying more than ten dollars for a child's garment is something that happens when you are robbed on the highway, or desperate for clothes that match the school choir's unreasonable uniform demands). And while he could do without me returning to the house with yet another chair that I plan to (someday) reupholster, he is happier about my thrift store habit than he would be if I had the habits of some of the other wives we know, whose impulse purchases tend to be made at places like Nordstrom and Coach.

It's a little like being addicted to diet Pepsi instead of cigarettes, right?

Not precisely good for you, but things could be significantly worse.

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