Hemning Sternberg (moonshadow) wrote,
Hemning Sternberg

How to Buy (Almost) Anything Used

The economy is not doing so well. We all know this. But you can't just stop needing things, can you? Here are a few ideas on how to become a Thrift Maven.

- Know your local thrift stores. In the Boston area, there are a number of good ones and others you will mostly want to avoid. Even "general" thrift stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army often have things that they specialize in at their different locations - furniture, books, clothing. Find out how often they get new deliveries. Find out whether there are dressing rooms. Compare their prices with prices of getting similar items new. Look at the labels. Most thrift stores carry a variety of brands, which could include your favorites! Call and ask about sales to make things even thriftier.
- If you're the type that likes to try things on, consider wearing a bodysuit under your clothes. Thrift stores and their merchandise are not always clean. Plus, if you try something on over something else, you don't need a fitting room to do it.
- Have patience. If you are looking for something specific, you will probably not find it on the first try. You might want to ask a thrift-store owner to be on the lookout for something (this is more helpful for vintage boutiques than places like Goodwill), or you may want to check a number of places. It helps to start thinking about things you'll need soon, and to have a list of those items in your head, rather than waiting until something wears out completely. Sneaker got a hole? Start looking for another pair before they really fall apart.
- Be flexible. You may have a shiny red fondue pot in mind, and if you were buying something new, you could pick exactly the one you want. But if you see a shiny blue fondue pot in good condition for three dollars, you should probably jump on it. One of the great things about buying something used is that if you decide you don't like it, you can just re-donate it and try again. Which leads me to...
- The dollar-a-wear principle. This is an essential concept of thrifty shopping, be it used or new. Something's value to you lies in how often you will use it. If you buy new shoes for $150, you have to wear them 150 times for it to only cost a dollar when you wear them. If you buy a used book for a dollar, try picking it up once, and decide you don't like it, you're only out a dollar. What this means in a nutshell is that used items are less of a commitment than new items. If you got something for only five dollars, and will donate it rather than throwing it out, if you use it five times you've gotten your money's worth.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle. American consumption of goods is ridiculous when compared with that of other countries. Happily, buying things used extends their life cycle without necessitating new goods being produced, so if you shop used, you can be a bit more adventurous with your purchasing.
- Check everything carefully before you buy it. Look for stains, missing pages, holes, a broken zipper, missing buttons. You should also make sure that your coveted item is not smelly (although some smells can be handled at home).
- Alterations are easy. If you're handy with a needle, you can probably change the length of those cute pants or sew up that hanging seam. If you aren't, maybe you know someone who is. As a last resort, getting used items custom tailored is not unheard of.
- Process your used items. Don't consider things "ready to go" as soon as you take them home. At the very least, wash them with hot water and detergent, or spray them with disinfectant. You don't know where it was before! Make sure to take the tags off before you wash them - the tags they use in thrift stores are tough and may tear a hole in your garment. If you can't wash it, you might be able to dry clean it. If you can't dry clean or wash something, try hanging it up on your porch for a while to air.
- Keep in mind that some things are better new. In general I do not recommend buying shoes used unless they are washable, because it's nearly impossible to get them clean otherwise. I also do not recommend buying socks or underwear used. This is primarily because of the "ick" factor, though if you are comfortable with a few hot-hot cycles and maybe some bleach, that is your business. Also, if you are buying someone a gift, they may prefer new items. Let all your thrift be wanted!

What thrift suggestions would you give people new to the experience?
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