4 Tips for Shopping at Thrift Stores (Or How Not to Spend Like Sarah Palin)

10.29.08 | Consumerism | 4 Comments | by Fred Siegmund

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The Washington Post ran an article on Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin titled After a $150,000 Makeover, Sarah Palin Has an Image Problem.

The article reports $75,000 bills at Neiman Marcus and $50,000 bills at Saks Fifth Avenue along with a $10,000 handbag among recent purchases, none of which goes well with her efforts to have an "Ah shucks," hockey mom image.

I think it's fair to assume savers on this blog share at least some of my annoyance, but I decided to curb that and let her excess be an opportunity to report a modest but pleasing savings I made just three days before on a pair of $175 Nunn-Bush shoes. I got them for $7.99 at a Goodwill thrift shop.

Better yet they were absolutely 100 percent new; not a scratch, not a scuff, on the tops, on the soles, anywhere.

Finding a brand new pair of shoes at Goodwill is lucky, but there is more to it than luck. Savings at thrift stores comes with strategy and patience. Never shop at a thrift store if you need something right away.

If it's Friday afternoon and you have to get new and respectable shoes for your sister's wedding, then it's not the time to go to Goodwill or any thrift.

Savings at thrift stores is a long-term process requiring regular, but short visits. At Goodwill stores and Salvation Army stores, especially in big metropolitan areas, the good stuff turns over very fast. That is important because infrequent visits mean lots of good stuff will come and go and you'll never see it.

  • Frequent visits make it easier to spot the good stuff.
  • Plan to stay twenty minutes to a half an hour, but never longer.
  • Have a departmental route: pants, shirts, shoes, furniture, electronics, sporting goods, books and so on.
  • Don't linger. If the bargain is there, you will see it. If you stay too long you'll get depressed looking at worn out stuff and begin thinking thrift shops are hopeless when they are not.

Thrift shops are a special preserve for those who like a challenge, but they pay off, especially when you find something you might not buy otherwise. The above mentioned shoes are only one of many fun buys.

Include new to nearly new Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Bill Blass and Brooks Brothers shirts, Jos. A Banks pants, 3 all leather belts, New & Lingwood sweaters, a Harris Tweed sports coat, all bought for a song. Take that Sarah Palin.

Fred Siegmund covers America's jobs as part of work doing labor market analysis and projections for a client base of recruiters, trainers and counselors. Visit him at www.americanjobmarket.blogspot.com

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