The Frugal Café | Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup"</a> | Creative Commons License,
Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License,

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Cheapskate Lifestyle: Thrift Store Shopping Exploding As People Rediscover the Savings & Joys of Second-hand Bargains

By Vicki McClure Davidson


Second-hand stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army are booming during this economic recession, as more people discover the bargains that are available at thrift stores

Second-hand stores like Goodwill are booming during this economic recession, as more people discover the bargains that are available at thrift stores

My 21-year-old daughter and I hit the used thrift stores and garage sales in our area with enthusiasm at least one weekend a month. I raised my children as I was raised: second-hand shopping always comes before retail shopping. Buying used whenever possible is the smart path to take to give yourself more money at the end of the month for other bills or to put into savings, without having to get a raise or win the lottery.

When money's tight and prices soar in the retail stores, there's no need for despair or foolishly overspending. Second-hand stores always have inexpensive alternatives, fabulous buried treasures.

Granted, you can't always find what you're looking for at a used store, but you'd be surprised at what you often do find. And the hunt makes the conquest just that much sweeter. My daughter nearly shuns the malls these days, preferring instead to "go on the hunt" at Goodwill and other second-hand stores. Her friends are always stunned at the fabulously funky clothes she wears, many of which cost her only a dollar or two. She is quite petite and has unconventional tastes, and always scores a few amazingly cheap fashion finds when we go out. She never has been faced with not finding something she loves. When necessary, she makes a few alterations to make a shirt fit better or to update the look, but that's not too often. I have found Descoware, Revere Ware, a Pfaltzgraff serving platter in mint condition, and other kitchenware pieces stunningly under-priced. Instead of spending $7 to $10 on a new paring knife, I found an excellent one at Goodwill this summer for 99 cents, which I bought for 50 cents on half-off Saturday. I do about 60 to 70 percent of my Christmas shopping at the second-hand venues.

Being frugal doesn't mean going without or dressing frumpy. It means being wise with the cash you have and stretching it as far as it can be stretched. Why buy a pair of pants or a blouse or a large sauce pan at the mall for $50 when you can find often something of equal (sometimes even greater) value at the Salvation Army or a garage sale for less than five bucks? And you don't have to sacrifice style for savings.

There were five kids in my family and my mom was a stay-at-home mother, so we were all raised on a shoestring and taught to be frugal, to reuse, to repurpose, to do without. Therefore, I'm still a bit surprised at how many people don't stop at thrift stores before going to the department stores.

There are those who are horrified at buying used clothing. I knew a woman who claimed she would NEVER buy an item that had been on someone else's body. She fell silent when I reminded her that even in high-end retail stores, scores of people may have tried on a garment before she bought it. Oops, she hadn't thought of that.

Sadly, too many people would rather rack up their credit cards than buy and wear a gently used jacket or buy an item from a thrift store to give as a gift. That delusional, elitist attitude, thankfully, is on the decline as the reality of crashing incomes and skyrocketing costs have forced many to reevaluate second-hand shopping, with happy results. While some people still view buying used goods or wearing used clothing as a stigma, those numbers are rapidly dwindling as American families struggle with making ends meet during this economic recession. Second-hand shopping rules these days.

Thrift stores across the country are booming like they've never boomed before, as reported in this news video below — frugality is back in style, baby.

It's chic to be cheap.


This next video shows a behind-the-scenes look at shopping and donating at the Austin, Texas Goodwill store, with Indiana Adams of She gives a closer look at the life cycle of a Goodwill donation — music in the video is provided by Quiet Company.


Fun, informative video of vintage dress shopping at a Goodwill store, from the rosesNpearlsvintage YouTube channel, with the very stylish and frugal Stephanie and Ciara. Some terrific tips on selecting used fashion, including the importance of trying on the clothes before you buy them.

One piece of valuable advice given: "Know your body."

Goodwill Haul


Thrifting advice from the fabulous Roses and Pearls Vintage blog, Don't be fooled by the questionable smells....:

I know I know... Goodwill smells... so does the Salvation Army... and all the rest of the BEST thrift stores in the world. Don't be scared to get into those grimy stores that look questionable, don't be afraid to push past old ladies who overlook great pieces for silver cutlery and glass vases (I am not the only person who has followed an old lady around the Goodwill hoping she puts back that wonderful sweater in her cart...maybe I am, don't judge). You see, the true beauty of thrift store shopping is finding those one of a kind, to die for, my life is now complete pieces, in a big pile of smelly, dusty clothing. Don't be a slave to the Manhattan version of vintage either, you know, the kind that costs more than your rent to purchase, I'm sorry but vintage is vintage in my book, I am not paying $100 for a shirt because its Chanel... SOMEONE HAS WORN IT ALREADY... but you know I'm not one to gossip...


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