Thrift Store Shopaholic

7 years ago
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I have a confession.

I rarely set foot in real stores, yet my closets and drawers are overflowing. I was forced to buy two packs of hangers last week and cleared out the guest room closet to handle the overflow. My Kiddo has a wardrobe stocked with the next two sizes up just waiting for him to grow into. And I would rather slit my wrists than pay retail.

Credit Image: Maureen Lunn on Flickr

I am a thrift store shopaholic.

I've been a savvy clearance shopper for years. I bee-lined to the back of every store I set foot in and had sale rack scanning down to a science. I memorized store mark-down schedules and regularly made the rounds. But that just wasn't enough for me.

I had to take it to the next level.

I decided to brave a thrift store.

I admit, I hung my head slightly as I shuffled across the parking lot, hoping no one driving by would see me and think I was there because I HAD to be. I hugged my purse tighter and was a little afraid of who else may be lurking inside. Despite my doubts, I was overwhelmed as rack upon rack of colored and styled clothes stretched as far as I could see. Thousands of items, each one unique, and all begging for a new closet. I started flipping through the rack timidly, assuming it would be worn-out discount department store rejects. After five minutes my arms were overflowing with finds, and I went in search of a shopping cart. Cashmere sweaters, preshrunk designer jeans, adorable summer skirts, vintage little black dresses, chic leather jackets, unique accessories -- I had died and gone to budget fashionista heaven.

A few of the tips I have learned through trial and error:

  • Ignore sizes. They vary brand to brand anyway. Almost everything is pre-washed and preshrunk. If it looks like it might fit, try it on.
  • Know the merchandise. A used Walmart t-shirt for $2 -- not such a deal. A NWT (new with tags) Banana Republic cashmere sweater set for $3 -- a steal. Learn how to spot quality fabrics and brands from a distance.
  • Dress for success. Some stores don't have fitting rooms. Some fitting rooms have a half-hour wait. If you come prepared in a skinny tank and leggings you can find a mirror and explore your inner exhibitionist.
  • Buy off-season. If you go looking for warm jackets during a January cold snap you will be sorely out of luck. Look in July, and you may have dozens to choose from.
  • Ask if the store runs sales. Many stores discount a particular colored tag each day. My secret store is 50% off all clothes each Wednesday. It's an absolute madhouse -- but utterly worth it to me.
  • Carefully check out the goods. They are "recycled." Some stores inspect items thoroughly, but others may put out items stained, ripped, or torn. If it needs to be repaired, it had better be worth the work.
  • Check back often. You never know when some style maven may clean out her closet because she's bored or changed sizes.
  • Don't get discouraged. Some days I find 25 steals I simply cannot live without. Some days I find crap. You just never know.

The only time I venture into a mall now is when I get my coupon for free Victoria's Secret panties in the mail. I have nearly stopped making my rounds at Ross and T.J. Maxx because I know if I am patient, persistent, and sometimes just plain lucky I can find whatever I am looking for (and usually more) for practically pennies.

Every Wednesday I am overwhelmed with the urge to be at my secret store. I shudder imagining the steals someone else is swiping if I am not there. I feel the store calling me, tempting me, like a discount liquor and package store calls every alcoholic for miles. My family now has so many clothes I often show up at the thrift store with a bag of donations. I'm all for recycling.

Amongst my fellow thrifty SAHMs I will gladly brag about how cheap I find my clothes. (Them: Love your shirt. Me: Thanks!{whispered} Salvation Army. $1.50!) I try to convert my friends after each compliment I receive but only if they don't wear my size. I don't want the extra competition.

When complimented by other less enlightened folk, I simply give a knowing smile and a modest "thanks."

It's vintage. It's recycled. It's unique. It's me.

Now if I only had someplace to WEAR all my little black dresses ...

Vinobaby is a sassy, savvy, someday novelist sipping her way to suburban sanity one cheap glass of wine at a time. Discover more of her musings and rants at .

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