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EVERYTHING KING: Thrift life unlocks whole new world

In this week's column, Wendy makes the shift to thrift and admits she's already liking the thrill of the hunt
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I did not choose the “thrift life” — it was thrust upon me.

Until recently, I didn’t know it was the name for an actual activity used as a verb, as in “to thrift.”

What I am referring to is shopping at stores that sell previously owned items — from clothing to shoes and books to furniture — typically to raise money for various charities.

Depending on the location, it's not necessarily of benefit to any charity and as long as you know and accept that, then it's no harm, no foul.

So, when I say I was "forced" into this activity, that’s not really true. I was encouraged to try it out by a friend who has done it for years. It seemed a natural progression from attending garage sales, which are typically held on weekends and tend to be sporadic.

Also, I did feel a bit pressured into the activity, as I assume others have, due to the economy. Seriously, who can afford full price for anything these days?

Over the last couple of months, my friend has introduced me to this interesting, enjoyable new form of retail therapy.

I will admit I started out with a healthy dose of skepticism. I was probably a second-hand store snob, and I apologize. I assumed the stuff was going to be broken, useless, dirty, and maybe even germy. I could not have been more wrong. 

From what I have seen at a variety of for-profit and non-profit stores, everything is clean, in good shape, organized, and economical. And we have some really great ones in Simcoe County.

Most regular thrifters seem to go on a circuit from one location to the other, so you’ll see the same people at all your stops. That makes it fun and friendly.

Clearly, there’s something about the thrill of the search for a special item you want, be it vintage or modern, that energizes people. And if you have a competitive spirit, it is equally exhilarating to get the good deal before the next customer. If it comes at a discount price, all the better!

As a newbie, I don’t know the ropes yet, so I searched online for some tips on successful thrift shopping.

According to, there are a few tried and true strategies:

1. Do most of your thrifting in small towns, not big cities. Seems with less competition comes better stock.

2. Do your research. Find out what each store specializes in. Some may be better for furniture, while others have a better clothing section.

3. Find out when your favourite store restocks and shop that day. Same goes for knowing when discount day is. Some stores will give you coupons if you donate items.

4. Shop for items that are off-season for best deals.

5. Test electronics before you purchase. (I’ve noticed there are often power outlets available for testing.)

6. Know your brands so you know good quality.

7. Never pay more than 20 per cent of what a retail price would be for the same new item.

8. Limit yourself to 45 minutes per store. Visit more often but for shorter periods of time to avoid burnout and frustration.

9. Know there may or may not be fitting rooms.

10. Make friends with the staff. They might set something aside they know you collect.

Personally, I am not taking it quite so seriously. I just like a little weekday shopping spree that makes me feel like I got a deal. It remains true that one person’s cast-offs are another person’s treasure.

Plus, it's also shopping locally, which is always a good thing.

It keeps some items out of a landfill and gives things a new life — it's like a reusable bag full of second chances.

Is it time to make a shift to thrift?

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About the Author: Wendy King

Wendy King writes about all kinds of things from nutrition to the job search from cats to clowns — anything and everything — from the ridiculous to the sublime. Watch for Wendy's column weekly.
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