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Thrifty or cheap?

Published February 18. 2012 09:01AM

I enjoy visiting consignment shops. There, I've said it. Now you can tell me that I am thrifty. Or, would you consider me cheap? Both adjectives have been thrown my way.

I firmly believe that some folks are intimidated by second-hand things. I know some people - mostly women - who wouldn't be caught dead wearing second-hand clothing items. I, on the other hand, have a closet full of them. Others might look down their noses at some of my old furniture. To be frank, I would rather have one old rocker than a houseful of new pieces. Must be something in my genes.

When I was a young teacher, just starting out on my career, I lived in expensive Bucks County, PA. Income per capita in that county must be close to the top in all of America. Of course, I was nowhere near that scale. But, I wanted to look like a prosperous young professional at work. So, I haunted the consignment shops.

Some of the women who brought 'gently used' clothing to the consignment shops were society matrons from the Philadelphia area. Their clothing was top drawer - name brands and current styles. When they got tired of a piece of clothing, they took it to the local consignment shop, put a price on it, and got cash to go off and buy more clothes.

I remember buying an expensive camel wool jacket for some unheard-of price. When I wore it to school the next day, my best friend in the classroom next door said, "So, you've been to the consignment shop again, huh?" She knew that I could never have afforded to pay the regular price for that jacket.

Fast forward to today. Recently, my husband and I were invited to a wedding. After moaning that my closet didn't contain anything fancy enough for a wedding, I set off to find a consignment shop near Ocala. Yippee Skippy! I found one that fit the bill. I bought a wonderful champagne-colored jacquard jacket that went beautifully with a pair of brown slacks. Add a pair of low brown heels (new from Wal-Mart), some jewelry that I bought at the local gas station (another story), and a small clutch bag that was also at the consignment shop - voila! It was a wedding ensemble worthy of a rich dowager.

Those people who don't enjoy shopping at thrift stores are missing out on one of the greatest joys in life - bargain hunting. Sure, you might see some damaged goods, but the majority of items are clean and in good condition.

Jim and I recently went to the area Veterans Thrift Store. What a find! That darn place has everything - from pricey antiques to little 50 cent baskets - from full sets of imported French china to tee-shirts with holes in them (perfect for gardening and beach wear!). We had donated our old couch and were amazed to see the amount of old furniture there. I was especially attracted to the old 33 record albums, but since we don't have a turntable anymore, they'd be useless in our home. It was nice to see some of our old favorites, though.

One of my good friends told me that she only visits consignment shops that are in wealthier neighborhoods. Not only does she find better clothing, but she knows that the shops will not be as busy and crowded. Most of the women who bring their clothing there do NOT shop there. Go figure.

A while ago, I wrote a column titled "Second-hand Ginny" wherein I described my love of all things 'used.' One of my readers wrote to me and asked "Why do you prefer used things to new things?" I think my answer was simple - To me, 'used' means comfortable. To me, 'used' means tried and true. To me, 'used' means thrifty. And, to me, 'used' can mean 'well-loved.'

By the way, while I'm on the subject, many thrift shops appreciate volunteers. Most of the thrift shops are run in conjunction with a charity. In addition to finding bargains, you can feel good about helping others. A win-win for everyone!


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