Confessions of a Thrift Store Shopper


I have a confession: I love clothes and I LOVE to shop!!

Confessions of a thrift store shopper1Earlier this year, I blogged about our family getting serious about reining in our spending and one of the things that had to change was my shopping habit. I have always been a sensible shopper, shopping at discount stores like Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Old Navy. When reviewing our budget and our expenditures at the beginning of the year, I realized that my downfall was the frequency of my shopping trips. I would pop over to Marshalls at lunch (trouble with working within a 5 minute drive of a bunch of box stores) and inevitably find something cute. The prices were reasonable so I would buy here and there. What I was not paying attention to is how these little items added up to a lot of dollars.

I had also been thinking a lot about the fact that the clothes I was buying were becoming disposable, not lasting very long as they were inexpensive and not great quality. I also realized that I really did not need all the clothes that were in my closet. As it was I had more clothes than occasions or time to wear them.

So I made a decision to make a change. For the first few months of this year I did not shop much other than for necessities like clothes and shoes for my daughter. This was really hard for me – I MISSED SHOPPING! But I remained disciplined – I told myself that I could not shop until I took an inventory of my closet and cleaned out what I did not wear.  On a cold winter day, I set out to clean my closet and tried almost everything and ended up with several bags of clothes to be donated. My closet had much more room and it felt good to only keep clothes that fit and I felt good about.

This spring, I started shopping again for myself, but have made an effort to primarily shop at thrift stores. My reasons are twofold: save money and reuse clothes that are in perfectly good condition.

Here is what I have learned:

  • Know your area’s thrift stores – Here in the Burlington area we are lucky to have big thrift stores and bunch of smaller resale shops that offer different price ranges and cater to many different age groups. Examples that I frequent often include:
    • Goodwill – $
    • Plato’s Closet – $$
    • Shalom Shuk – $
    • The Exchange -$$
    • Second Time Around – $$$
  • Be familiar with brands and their cost – But don’t get hung up on brands. Make sure that you can’t buy the item new for a few dollars more and don’t ignore an item if you are not familiar with the brand.
  • Examine everything for everything – Really take your time to check for damage, stains and smells.
  • Try things on – This may present a challenge for those of you who have a fear of germs! An easy fix is to wear leggings and a cami under your clothes so the used clothes don’t have to come in contact with your skin.
  • Go when you have time and don’t take kids – Thrift store shopping takes time as you have to browse through lots of racks of clothing and really inspect the items. I try to go alone or with a trusted friend who also enjoys thrift store shopping.
  • Know your size but don’t rely on sizes on the clothing – Sizing will generally vary depending on the brand of the item. Having a general idea of what your size looks like on clothes will help you narrow things down.
  • Go often – Thrift stores are constantly getting new shipments the more often you go the more chances you will find great items
  • Find out about sales and return policy – May thrift stores have seasonal and holiday sales. Some put items on sale after they have been on the shelf for a certain period of time. Also check the return policy, most will be very limited – think 7 days with tags on, but a return policy can save you if you don’t have time to try things on and will give you the freedom of buying a bunch of stuff trying on at home and returning what you don’t like.

I still plan on investing in items of clothing and accessories such as shoes, bags and sunglasses which are not items that I would buy second hand and the occasional special item that will be a classic piece that I can rely on for many years.

I am happy to report that with these efforts I have reduced my clothing expenditures 66% for the year and have added some really fun pieces to my wardrobe!

Here are some of my recent finds:

Confessions of a thrift store shopper2


And some of the brands that I have been lucky to find:

Confessions of a thrift store shopper

What are your favorite thrift stores in Vermont?

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A city girl at heart, I moved to Vermont in 2005 and now can’t imagine calling any other place home. Born and half raised in Iran (I moved here when I was 12), I moved a lot before making Vermont home. I live in Essex with my amazing multi-cultural and multi-racial family. My little family consists of my wonderful Canadian husband, my strong, smart and beautiful little girl, Zara (June 2010), and our sweet chocolate lab. I work for the State of Vermont as a Housing Program Officer and own Tala, Taste of Persia, specializing in delicious Persian sweet treats. I am a reluctant runner, love to entertain and shop. My passions are social justice and politics and travel.


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