When Hubby and I first started out, we had nary a pot in which to piddle. Zip. Zero. Zilch. No moolah boolah whatsoever. In fact, in the now outdated VHS of our wedding ceremony, Hubby can be seen giggling, actually giggling, through the “for richer or poorer” section of our vows. The man had to know I was standing there voluntarily and not for his riches: we borrowed his sister’s car as the getaway car, for God’s sakes (for the record: it was a yellow VW Beetle and the pictures are super cute).
We started our lives that day with a lick, a promise and a bank account in negative numbers, thanks to student loans. We were poor but we had it all in those early years. Well, all that could be purchased at a Goodwill thrift shop, that is.
While Hubby worked long hours as a medical student, I spent my days off scouring local thrift shops to decorate our love nest. Nothing made me more excited than finding a complete set of dishes that matched the kitchen walls I’d so lovingly painted. There were days I’d practically skip out of the local hospital thrift shop, my newest finds tucked safely into a bag. For mere pennies, I could be Martha Stewart on a tight budget.
While there were days I longed to wander Nordstrom or Macy’s in search of Egyptian cotton sheets, most days, I was grateful that someone generously donated their Pottery Barn castoffs for my buying pleasure.
And, let’s face it: when you walk out of a thrift shop with a Williams-Sonoma Apilco China platter (retail $180!!) for $2, you feel like you’ve robbed a bank. I would shake my head as I found Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware and Anthropologie home décor for pennies on the dollar. And, I’d wonder who actually had the money to buy these beautiful items for full price. Rich people, that’s who, and judging from the zero balance in my checking account, that wasn’t me.
Over the years, I’ve become an adept thrift shopping maven. Even before Macklemore and Ryan were rapping about the $20 in their pockets, I was on the prowl. On the hunt. Ever at the ready to pounce when that little Polo Man made himself apparent on the rack or my when my favorite lady named Lily peaked back at me with her brightly colored patterns. And, though my bank account numbers have increased, I still loves me the thrill of thrift shopping.
And, I have a few tips to make sure you can be a successful thrift shopper, too:
1). Dress Smart, Shop Smart.
When you are a serious thrift shopper, seconds count. The difference between that Lilly Pulitzer skirt in your cart or someone else’s comes down to timing. To preparation. To being dressed for guerilla warfare style shopping. For example, wearing a tank dress allows you to easily slip on pants or skirts, right in the aisle if you have to, and you can slip on a button down shirt with no fuss or muss. Dress for success, people.
One of the best parts of thrift shopping are the shoe bargains. Oh, the deeply discounted designer shoes. Flip flops will allow you to try shoes on in a flash. Slip off, slip on, Daniel Son. Oh, and make sure they have a little cushion in them: you cannot risk your dogs getting tired before you are ready to cash out.
A word on hair: I have found that a simple, slicked back bun is the best hairdo for full on thrift shopping. Valuable time is WASTED as you disentangle your tresses from eye hooks and zippers. Those Kate Spade kitten heels will be snapped up while you are wrestling a dress off your hair. I want to see slicked back, Robert Palmer back up singer hair, people. Gonna have to face it: you’re addicted to thrift shopping.
2). A Tide Bleach Stick Is A Necessity
Okay. Let’s be honest: people often donate clothing because of annoying stain, I get it. In this age of constant go, go, go, ain’t nobody got time to mess with a poorly landed olive oil glob. But, let me tell you something: in the aisles of Goodwill, if I’m holding a Ralph Lauren dress in my size, with a small stain on it, you’d better believe I’m going to put a little elbow grease into cleaning that sucker. Here’s where that Tide Stick comes in: if you can work that stain up a bit right in that Goodwill aisle, chances are, you will be able to work magic when you get to your laundry room. So, tuck that Tide Stick in your purse and snicker at the poor lazy soul who just threw $200 away.
3). Find An Over 55 Friend To Shop With You
Thrift shops love senior citizens. No joke. Walk into any Goodwill on any given day and they have the red carpet deals rolled out for the Silver Fox set. Often, seniors can get 25-50% off just for being a card-carrying member of the AARP. And that adds up to real savings. Yes, I realize that the items in question are often $5 but dammit, I don’t care who you are: walking out of a store with a Vera Bradley bag for $3.50 feels like you won the lottery. So, find an over 55 friend and shop with them and their deep doorbusting discounts. But don’t be a cheapskate: take them out to a full priced lunch afterward. And NOT the Early Bird Special, got it?
4). Know Your Brands
I admit it: I’m a label snob. I like certain expensive designers and I know they are expensive because I’ve seen their prices in Saks 5th Avenue. I recently had my hands on a Michael Kors dress in Saks 5th Ave in NYC: $1800 was the marked down price. Do what now??? So, when and if I come across that same dress in Goodwill for $15, dammit, you’d better believe imma cut a bitch to get that sucker into my cart. I am NOT, however, going to jump on a Target brand item for $6 or a Kohl’s label for $10. Know your brands to find your deals. And step aside if you see me diving into a rack. I don’t mess around.
5). Be Proud Of Being Thrifty
I have friends who make fun of my bargain shopping, who mock me because I spend my money where “poor people shop”. Bullshit. I know the value of a dollar, people. Back in those early days, thrift shops were the only place I could afford to shop. And, as I trolled the aisle as a newlywed, I vowed to myself that if I were ever successful, I’d still patronize Goodwill or local thrift stores. I never want to forget what it feels like to have nothing in your pocket and paying less for more never gets old.
To my haters, I say go ahead, buy that expensive North Face coat. Those Marc Jacobs shoes. That Vera Bradley bag. Use them and toss them to Goodwill. I’m patient. I’ll wait. And, you can bet I’ll skip out of the store, just like I did as a newlywed full of promise, snickering that you were stupid enough to pay full price.