Confessions of a thrift-store shopper

I am thrifty. I’m not cheap. Let me explain the difference.

A thrifty shopper is someone who stretches a dollar by hunting down great deals without compromising on quality, design or craftsmanship.

A cheapskate, in my opinion, is fixated on price — and only price — and will buy even the most poorly made product to save a few bucks.

That’s the beauty of second-hand stores. They can satisfy both types of shoppers by offering top-brand clothing, footwear and housewares at bargain-basement prices.

My love affair with thrift shops started as a necessity when I was a cash-strapped teen with a penchant for shoes and funky fashion. One of my favourite haunts was the now defunct Army Surplus on Industrial Avenue where I bought cargo pants, walking shorts, military jackets and button-up sweaters in every possible shade of khaki.

As a mother of four boys, buying second-hand clothes has just made practical sense, especially during the rough-and-tumble years when grass stains and ripped knees defined my sons’ style.

I could never rationalize spending big dollars on expensive jeans and sweatshirts for my brood, when in all likelihood, they’d outgrow them in months.

Buying second-hand toys, puzzles and books was also economical because I could buy more for less. The GT Racers I picked up for $15 at Saint Vincent de Paul remain one of my biggest coups.

I’m still a regular at Goodwill and Value Village because I love the thrill of the hunt. It takes the same determination, patience and time as digging through the jammed racks at Winners except the clothes are used and cost a fraction of the original retail price.

As a bonus, you’re helping a variety of charities while recycling and saving money. It’s a win-win-win.

Yet there are many people — friends included — who think that clothes sold at second-hand stores are smelly, worn or outdated. They wouldn’t be caught dead in a thrift shop, mostly out of fear that one of their friends or neighbours would see them. To that I say, “Your loss.”

Over the years, I have found incredible deals on skirts, blazers, costume jewelry and even shoes from top designers including Jones New York, Liz Claiborne, Tommy Hilfiger and Josef Seibel.

Wide wooden bracelet, $2.50 at Goodwill, orange bracelet, $2.99 at Value Village and beaded necklace, $1.99 at Value Village.

For the boys, I’ve bought many pairs of used Levis and Dockers in mint shape and nearly-new hoodies, dress shirts and cosy pullovers from Reebok, Mexx, Gap, Hollister and American Eagle.

Once laundered, ironed or dry-cleaned, you’d never know I paid as little as $2.75 for them.

That’s thriftiness at its finest.

Best part is if we tire of the clothing after one season, outgrow them or fads change, there’s not a lot of money on the line. I simply bag them up and drop them off at a second-hand store to be recycled again.

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