Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cheap vs. Thrifty: A Series

I hate the word "cheap."  Maybe not everyone has bad connotations with this word but to me it conjures images of someone who stiffs waitresses, will let you buy her drinks but never picks up yours, is stingy about every dollar she spends.  That is not me and I get very offended when someone calls me cheap.  I prefer the word "thrifty."  Kevin and I strive to live below our means in order to secure our financial future and prioritize what is meaningful to us.  We find joy in traveling, spending time with family and friends, and pursuing our hobbies.  For us to do those well, it has meant driving old cars, (until recently) living in a tiny apartment, and not shopping or eating out very often.  I'm starting a new series: Cheap vs. Thrifty (feel free to tell me if I've gone over the line to cheap) where I tell you about some of the ways we save money.

Cheap vs. Thrifty: Six Rules for Shopping at Goodwill

I had many resolutions in 2012 including, (1) using a ceramic plate for lunches at work rather than disposable Styrofoam  (2) exercising five days a week; (3) only eating meat from animals who had some quality of life; (4) not buying any new clothes – only “new to me” clothes.  The exercising five days a week got abandoned very quickly and we did so-so on eating happy animals.  I succeeded at using a ceramic plate at work – either when I bought at the cafeteria or warmed up leftovers from home.  I also succeeded at only buying clothes at consignment and thrift stores – for the whole year guys – it was HARD.  You can find some good stuff with ease at high end consignment stores and with some patience at Goodwill.  Here are my six tips for a successful Goodwill/consignment store buying experience:

  1. Do not be in a rush.  Some stores are better than others in terms of categorizing, but you need lots of time.  Leave your easily bored husband (or child if applicable) behind.
  2. It’s okay to be a label snob.  I only look for brands I know and respect: Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Gap, high end designers and department stores.
  3. It has to pass for brand spanking new. Seriously, if it looks dingy on the hanger it will look worse after you've worn and washed it a few times.
  4. Try everything on.  Seriously 2x.
  5. If it is cheap enough, it is okay to take a risk.  It can always go right back in the donate pile.  I think of it giving to charity times two since hopefully they will sell it again.
  6. When in doubt, leave it behind.  Unless rule 5 applies.

Over the last year I've gotten two cashmere sweaters for $15 each, two sweater dresses (one Calvin Klein) for $15 each, a new with tags Ann Taylor skirt for $12, old navy jeans for $7, various Banana and Gap t-shirts for about $5 each.  I love it when I get compliments on something –I never reveal that it was a steal, I just silently congratulate myself on my thriftiness (not cheapness).

I will admit that one of my first acts of 2013 was to buy some new NEW clothes (on sale -- can't go too crazy right out of the gate).  But I will continue to shop second hand throughout the year.

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