thrift stores and clothing

The Nickel Pincher: Thrifty Wardrobe Tips

By Jean Nick

The Nickel Pincher: Thrifty Wardrobe Tips

The price is right: Thrift store bargains cost less, take less toll on the environment.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Buying clothing made from organic fibers and materials is a positive trend that’s less harmful for the environment than buying similar, nonsustainable items. But along with that, you can reduce the impact of your wardrobe on the environment (and your wallet) by looking for clothing that’s had a previous owner. Not only does it keep the clothes from ending up in a landfill, but it translates to less energy expended, and fewer greenhouse gases emitted, to dress you in those duds.

I grew up wearing hand-me-downs (until I hit those fashion-sensitive teen years), and so did my kids. We didn’t call it “precycling,” of course, but that’s what it was: reusing stuff so it doesn’t need to be thrown out or recycled. Passing nice but unwanted or outgrown items back and forth between friends is still a great way to get more use out of perfectly wearable garments. If you have a circle of friends who are about the same size as you, host a swap party: Each of you brings some clothes that are still wearable but no longer wanted by the owner, and you all go home with some “new” items to spruce up your wardrobes.

But you don’t have to get your precycled attire from people you know. We all like buying new clothes. Still, let’s face it, the minute you wear them, they become used. So why pay more for the privilege of taking the tags off yourself? I buy most of my clothing in thrift and consignment stores, and I’m always amazed at the vast array of new-looking (and sometimes new-with-tags) garments available—all for a fraction of what they originally cost. You may not want to rely as heavily as I do on these treasure troves, but you owe it to your budget and your planet to give them a try. And it’s fun!

If you’ve never shopped for preowned clothing, there a few different places to find it:

• Consignment shops, where individuals get a percentage of the profit from the sale of their unwanted items, usually offer the cream of the crop. Every item has been vetted by the store staff and is likely to be of high quality, in good condition, and freshly laundered or cleaned. Their prices tend to be a bit higher than other used outlets, but some have “discount” racks or seasonal sales that can net you great deals. It’s a good option if you just want to dip your toe in the used-clothing waters.

• Thrift stores, including well-known charities like The Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries, sell donated items that vary widely in condition and quality. The store’s staff may or may not go over clothing carefully before putting it out for sale, so you need to take a close look at what you buy. Remember that an article of clothing with a stain or a rip can still be a good deal if you can clean or repair it. Prices tend to be lower than consignment shops’—some prices are so low that you’ll save a bundle even if you need to have something professionally cleaned or tailored. You may have to sift through more items here than at a consignment store, but the thrill of the hunt is part of the appeal. Thrift Shopper can help you find stores in your area; the site also has a forum and some links that will give you a glimpse into the mentality of hard-core thrifters.

• Yard/tag/rummage sales run by individuals, neighborhoods, or organizations tend to be less organized, but if you happen on the right one and have the time, you can get amazing deals. A big advantage of these is that you can haggle—politely—with the seller to get a better price. Check your local paper for sales in your area.


Published on: March 26, 2009

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Wow! I love this article. I just happen to volunteer at Care Net thrift store in Franklin NC. This is absolutely one of the best ways to accomplish several of your green goals at once. De-clutter your home with just about anything in it then take it there. This is sorted into several categories checked and made sale worthy if at all possible. The unusable clothing and metals and plastic are recycled at out local landfill. As you can see this helps EVERYONE on the planet. A you can purchase clean usable fashionable clothing for the whole family, replace your broken appliances with working ones, buy your kids the latest toys and take up anew hobby like sewing or knitting!! I just happen to organize the craft & sewing department which is filled with both new and retro supplies daily all which keep more "GREEN" in your pockets. The cash received is then used to purchase groceries and run a small soup kitchen for our community. Both the store and kitchen are mostly staffed with volunteers. So, I challenge you to help yourself and your community by cleaning out and donating to your favorite cause.

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