Strategic Thriftstore Shopping
There's nothing like a little shopping to get one's mind off of debt, bills, mortgages, taxes and all things she needs to pay. I know that for most people, men in particular, that statement sounds insane. The cure for the blues of unemployment or debt is to go out and spend money?! Well, for some of us...uhm....yeah.
But there are methods to the madness. I'm not talking about running up the credit card for a clothing spree at H & M. I'm talking about opening the belly of the piggy bank (in our case a Neko welcome cat) and counting up the limit of our fun for the week. Usually we find $40 worth of quarters between there and the coin box in the car. I head for the thriftstores.
Thriftstore shopping can be a gross disgusting experience or it can be exhilirating. I have a dust allergy myself so I really like to be strategic about where I go and for what.
It's been my experience that the big chain thrift stores like the Salvation Army and Goodwill should be avoided. That's not to say they don't have anything worth buying, but your interesting pieces and quirky things are generally not found there. Figure that since they are the Wal-Mart and Target of thriftstores the donations are more mainstream and so is the clientel. They also can't cut you deals the way a smaller thriftstore will. You can find an emergency skirt at Goodwill and even donate a few items to you but they aren't going to budge on the $3.00 you now owe them for it. If you are looking for inexpensive treats and an opportunity to wheel and deal, you have to go smaller and strategic.
Case in point. My best friend Lysa is coocoo for expensive art books and cookbooks. Her number one thriftstore? A branch of Out of the Closet in out of the way Atwater village in Los Angeles. Because it's out of the way and because the people donating are largely from nearby Silverlake (an artistic enclave). Books that would cost up to $100 she winds up getting for $1. Her best find? A $7 cursive typewriter.
This might sound as morbid as people who look at the obituaries to find apartment openings in New York and San Francisco, but my favorite thriftstores to shop in are those found close to retirement complexes. Two things happen to make these fountains of plenty. 1) As seniors move from their houses to retirement condos and apartments, they downsize and throw out whatever has been sitting in boxes and with tags on in their closets for thirty years. They throw them out en route to their new place. 2) Anything that makes it to their new condos and apartments usually gets donated after they pass on by relatives that live too far away to cart it all back. Santa Barbara, California was a particularly good city for both retirees and thriftstores following this model. I scored three vintage sweaters for $15 --one with the tags still on and all with their beads and sequins still attached. Another favorite stop for thriftstores for me is tiny towns in the southwest and (this will sound weird) Reno , Nevada. People unload great things when they are desperate to keep on gambling or to keep on moving. For $3.00 in Tucson, Arizona I got a Thomas Brothers guide for Los Angeles in 1950 and an unused train ticket for a route that oddly enough goes right by my house now! (Only the train doesn't stop there any more).
My favorite thrift experience hands down was in Japan. Thank goodness for a national obsession with new things. I picked up great kimonos that just needed a good cleaning or needed a little stitching. A great new kimono will run in the thousands but only about $30 -$50 used. You might be wondering how a thriftstore survives in Japan--I did. Apparently it's the number one place to shop for foreign workers (and indeed it was).
If an area is too upscale though, the thriftstores won't be there and if the area is too low end, you won't find anything worth finding.
So Saturday morning is rolling around in a few hours and I'm sitting at my grandmother's retirement complex. Of course I'm spending my stimulus check on bills, but I'm saving $20 of it for the thriftstores less than a mile away. Maybe my economic depression will be cured by some hidden treasures tomorrow. I'm crossing my fingers.
Where's your best thriftstore?
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