How to Thrift with Gratitude

For me, thrifting is more than just buying cute clothes at an unbeatable price.  It’s even more than the thrill of an awesome thrift score (although that’s a huge reason I do it!)  Thrifting is part of a lifestyle – a lifestyle made up of choices to save money and find value in something that others have thrown away.

It’s just as easy to buy into consumerist mentality in a thrift store as a regular mall store – sometimes even more so.  Because you can find everything so cheaply, it can be easy to slide into a pattern of greed.  If left unchecked, I will easily overindulge and stuff my closets and drawers and every nook & cranny with my thrifted treasure.  If I’m not careful, I forget to be grateful.

I forget to be grateful for the job that pays for all these thrifted treasures, because even at low thrift store prices I could not afford to buy the clothes I need without my job.  I forget to be grateful for the free time and pleasure I derive from combing the racks.  I forget to be grateful for all of the people who did that painstaking job of cleaning out their closets and donating some really good stuff, even though maybe they could have sold it for a bit more on eBay.  I forget to be grateful for all the volunteers and staff members who work long cruddy hours for little or no pay, sort the clothes, put them out on the floor, and deal with at-times unsavory customers.  I forget to be grateful that these stores exist at all!

So I’d like to take a moment to reflect on ways to thrift with gratitude in mind.  If you think of something I forgot, won’t you leave a comment or let me know on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+?

Learn what your thrift store supports.

Not all thrift stores are for-charity; some are actually for-profit enterprises (learn more about the differences between secondhand stores.)  It’s a great idea to learn what your money goes to support.  It’ll help you feel better about your decision to shop there, and you’ll feel a sense of ownership in the cause your shop supports.

Thrift with others in mind.

This applies in two ways.  First, don’t be afraid to give the gift of thrift – we’ll have some great ideas for buying Christmas presents at thrift stores in December.  If you see something that a certain friend or family member would enjoy, spring for it and give it to them.  If you know someone who is having a tough time financially but would appreciate a cute new work blazer or impractical (but cute!) shoes in their size, why not buy it for them?

You can also give the gift of thrift to other local charities.  See a great suit at Goodwill?  Buy it and redonate to your local Dress for Success chapter.  Brand new baby clothes?  Buy them for your local Crittenton Center.  You could even take this a step further and reach out to local charities that you support, asking them for a list of wants or needs and use it as a thrifting shopping list.  Just make sure that they are okay with used goods – charitable efforts like Toys for Tots ask specifically for new toys.  It can be fun to take this ‘scavenger hunt’ approach and you’ll feel good knowing your powers of thrifting are going to a good cause.

For more great ideas on how to thrift to give back, check out Thrifty Ways To Give Back This Christmas.

The second way that thrifting with others in mind applies is if you aren’t in love with something, leave it on the shelf for someone else to find.  This is one way that helps me keep my own greed in check.  If I think of some other shopper who might fall in love with a certain item that I only feel so-so about, I can imagine their delight and the joy that comes with feeling like you scored a really great deal.  If you aren’t excited about it now in the store, you likely never will be and it will sit unloved in your closet for ages.  This is part of the “know when to walk away” discipline.

Retail stores often use the principle of scarcity to entice people to buy – scarcity basically means there are limited resources and if something is scarce, it makes us want to buy it (even if we don’t particularly want or need it.)  You’ve been through that internal dialogue:  But it’s on sale.  There’s only one left on the shelf!  If I change my mind and come back later, it’ll be gone.  This is my last chance to get this deal! Scarcity the driving principle behind those trampling incidents in past years’ Black Friday doorbuster deals – there is a limited amount of desired product at incredible prices, therefore people selfishly (and sometimes violently) try to get them before they’re gone.

Source: via Natalie on Pinterest  Follow Destination Thrift on Pinterest!

Thrift stores thrive on the scarcity principle, too – after all, in a store filled with one-of-a-kind treasures, shoppers need to act fast to grab the ‘thrift score.’  By resisting the urge to snap up everything that has any value to you and focusing on what you truly love or truly will use, you are thinking of others.  It helps you to remember that there really is enough to go around for everyone, and that most of these things are superfluous.  This discipline will help you to shop smarter in all kinds of stores, not just secondhand ones.  Bottom line:  if it’s not a treasure to you, leave it for someone else to treasure.

Donate your old clothes.

This is one I struggle with – it’s such a hassle to try on all your old clothes or even just sort through them.  But it’s a necessary evil.  On the way to your next shopping spree, tote along a box of your unwanted belongings.

  1. You will be helping keep your favorite store in business with fresh merchandise.
  2. You’ll be making more room for new favorites in your closet.  There’s also a sense of freedom and relief when you unburden yourself with unnecessary possessions.  That’s why everyone is always trying to “simplify their lives” – by taking a more minimalist approach, you feel lighter.
  3. You’ll make the next owner’s day.  Think about it:  remember that really sweet thrift score from your last shopping trip?  That had to live in someone else’s closet first, and they had to be willing to give it up; it’s thanks to them that you had that awesome feeling.

If you can get past the initial hurdle of actually just doing it, it’s a win-win for everyone!

Practice Self-Denial Occasionally

When you were a child, I’m sure your parents didn’t give in every time you asked for something.  Even if you did lead somewhat of a spoiled life, there were still times when your parents put their foot down.  Then as you grew up and found a source of employment, a curious thing probably happened – at least it did to me.

Instead of waiting for things and delaying gratification, you can just go to the store and buy whatever you want.  There’s no more putting it on the Christmas / birthday wish list and hoping that your family would get it for you.  There’s no more saving up weeks and weeks of allowance until you have enough to make the purchase. I believe this theory explains why shopping for adults can be so hard sometimes – anything that you would want to buy them, they probably could just buy themselves.  If I want to buy a cute shirt, I don’t have to ask permission – I can just shell out the cash.

Here’s my theory on how to counter this instant self-gratification:  resist.  If you see something you want, deny yourself.  If you have an entire pile of “Yes” things, put at least one of them back.  Does this suck sometimes?  Of course.  But it also keeps you in check.  It keeps you from buying extra things just because you can, and it keeps your closets from overflowing.

Remember why you thrift.

A larger number of people these days are thrifting for recreation, rather than out of need.  It’s just a different type of shopping for us.  But it can be tough to remember that many people shop at thrift stores because it’s honestly what they can afford.  It’s tough to remember that many of these charitable shops exist to support people who are much worse off than we are – people struggling to get back on their feet.  Sometimes in order to get into a grateful mindset, we just need to reflect on these realities and not take them for granted.

Calculate Savings

This is a fun and challenging idea by co-blogger Lindsey:  why not calculate how much money you save in a thrifting trip and donate the extra to charity?  Guesstimate how much you would have spent if you bought all of your thrifted items brand new, subtract what you actually spent, and donate the difference to a charity you support.  You can practice this exercise with one shopping trip or all of them – it’s totally up to you.

That’s it!

These are a just a few examples of how to alter your mindset while thrifting to a more gratitude-oriented perspective.  Why are you grateful for thrifting, and how do you use thrifting to help others?

2 Responses to “How to Thrift with Gratitude”
  1. Great post with some great things to think on!

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