The Eve of Change

Things are about to change...

Alright, Christmas gift cards have been spent- mostly the one I had to kohl's because I couldn't think of anything I would buy there during the year that I wouldn't feel like it was "cheating."  Instead I spent it on athletic-wear so I can continue my every-year resolution of working out more without wearing someone else's sweat-clothes (skeevy).

Instead, for those of you who are thinking about joining me in this challenge I thought I'd share my "Secrets for Success in Second-Hand shopping".  I already do quite a bit of thrifting and craigslist searching, and over time I've built up a mental list of ways to get the most out of other people's stuff.  Some of it may be obvious, but I just thought I'd share.

1.  Always wear something to the thrift store that is not FROM the thrift store.  Preferably something black that is relatively new.--  This is so you can compare the color of the garments you are considering to see how faded they are.  I have a black rain jacket that I usually wear.  Otherwise you can fall victim to the "thrift store effect" by which a clothing item looks bright and new compared to the faded stuff around it, then you get it home and realize it looks seriously old next to the other stuff you own.

2.  Know your personal alteration limits.  I can sew on buttons no problem, remove ugly collars, hem pants/skirts and repair minor seam splits.  But all that depends on free time and devotion to the item in question.  I still have a pair of name-brand jeans that I bought for $1 but are WAAAY too long and I have just never taken the time to hem them or have them hemmed.  Perhaps that dollar could have been spent in a different way.

3.  Be aware of general worth/bargain prices at other stores.  I can get a pair of pants off the clearance rack at Target (which is one of my favorite places) for around $10.  Many thrift stores now look at brand names and mark those items higher (the "better items" racks).  If you can get it new for cheaper or the same price, it's not worth it at the thrift store.  Now, if your goal is recycling more than saving money, then this is a moot point.  Regardless of price, you are reusing the item and therefore saving the materials/labor etc of making a new one.

4.  Know your brands.  Specifically, know which brands are going to hold up well and last for a long time.  Heaven knows I love my off-brand clothing, but I buy it cheap knowing that it won't hold up for years.  Why buy something at the thrift store that isn't going to last at home when you can get better things by looking around?  I'm not sure I can name names on BlogHer, but just keep in mind what items may be WORTH their original price due to quality, and what items may have a "known" brand but fall apart quickly.

5.  Plan ahead for big challenges.  This is what I'm trying to do with this year.  I already have a mental list of things I am going to need in the immediate future.  This will save me a lot of time looking for one specific item in many places.  For example, my nephew's first birthday is coming up in 2 weeks so I know I will need to get or make some sort of gift.  Because I have 2 weeks I don't have to spend a ton of time looking through stores.  I will look at DIY websites and make a list of materials that I need.  That way when I'm out and about I can collect them as I find them.  Also, I know that in the summer I am going to need good polo shirts.  These could be hard to find, but since I have lots of time, I can take a quick peak through that section when I get to the store, and hopefully have a decent number collected by the time I need them.

6.  Know your size and the sizes of people you are buying for.  Sometimes trying things on isn't possible, and at least in Ohio the possibility of bed bugs is a major deterrent.  I am pretty good at eyeballing my size in shirts, pants, etc.  I always measure shirts against my front to avoid the awkward "short and wide" shrinkage issue.  Also, I know my sister's pants size and my boyfriend's size so if I happen across something great that would fit them, I can buy it without having them there.  If you are unsure, go to a few different stores and try on clothes.  I know what brands of pants I like, so I look for those specific items, and know my size there.  This saves time and money on items that ultimately don't fit.

7.  If you are buying something from an individual seller, always meet in a public place.  I like to believe that most people buying and selling things online are honest individuals just trying to make a little extra cash off of things they no longer need.  If that is the case, then there should be no problem meeting in a busy McDonald's parking lot for the exchange.  If it is something too big to move, bring a friend.  I have a large male friend who suits this purpose well :-)

8. Bed bugs are gross.  I actually didn't think about this until I was discussing my challenge with my cousin.  And then I got the heebie-jeebies.  I have 2 pets.  We do NOT need bed bugs in the house.  Ohio is known to have a bed bug problem.  Fortunately, with clothing, this has an easy solution.  As soon as I get home with a bag of items- into the dryer, then the washer, then the dryer again.  This should kill any creepy-crawlies in the clothing.  Pillows, stuffed animals, and furniture are all treated when they enter the store- it is the law.  However, that doesn't cover estate sales, garage sales, personal sales, etc.  If in doubt, pass on the item.  

What are your rules and suggestions for second-hand shopping?

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