Column: An ode to bargain hunting

I have always had a love/hate relationship with shopping. Sure, it’s nice to get new things, but there is often this pang of guilt that goes along with most purchases. “Do I really need this? I shouldn’t have spent that much money…”

Luckily, I have a trustworthy remedy for the woes of buyer’s remorse: shopping used. There are plenty of ways that you can take advantage of people trying to get rid of old stuff. Plus, they’re usually happy that you’re giving them money to take something they don’t want anymore off their hands. So everyone wins.

The most basic and well-known form of buying used is via thrift store. These institutions are known to house racks and racks of mostly ugly clothes and usually reek strongly of a grandparent’s musty house. Thrift stores require digging. While they are mostly useful for novelty items, I have found plenty of treasures at my local Goodwill. It is a known fact that thrift stores inspire all ugly Christmas sweater parties.

There’s this crazy store in my hometown in Washington called New 2 You that covers the area of a warehouse and is something like an indoor flea market. What seems like hundreds of vendors have rented out stalls to sell the most random assortment of old stuff I’ve ever seen. One vendor has only antique salt and pepper shakers. Another sells vintage cowboy hats and animal pelts. There are tons of records, books, costume jewelry and beer steins.

My friends and I have spent an ungodly amount of time wandering the overly-cluttered aisles of New 2 You, perusing for the most ridiculous items we can find. It’s almost become a competition with us. This store, and flea markets in general, are best used for amusement. If you’re trying to find something specific, then you’d better have a whole lot of patience.

If you’re a thrift junkie like me, then you are in luck, my friends, because yard sale season is coming up. There is no better place to find cheap things. And I mean incredibly cheap. People practically give their stuff away at garage sales. I once bought a six-piece luggage set for three dollars. Books usually run for 50 cents to a dollar each, and you could easily outfit an entire kitchen for under 20 bucks.

My favorite thing about going to garage sales is that you can make an event out of it. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the summer. Just jump in your car with a friend and drive around residential areas looking for signs; you’re sure to find at least a few.

A common misconception I’d like to clear up about yard sales, and thrift shopping in general: not everything for sale is junk. This may seem to be the case to the untrained eye, but if you’ve mastered scrutinizing haphazard displays like I have, then you know the joy that comes with finding something of value in all of that crap.

Shopping at used clothing stores and flea markets is somewhat of an art. It takes much more time and persistence than walking into Target and being able to find whatever you need in just a few minutes. But I’ve never minded the extra effort that goes along with thrifting. There’s something so gratifying about stumbling upon that perfect skirt or that movie you haven’t seen since you were a kid. Not to mention anything you find will be a fraction of the price you would pay in a conventional store.

I’m not advocating buying everything used. There are certain obvious items that would just be stupid and disgusting to get pre-owned unless of course you’re looking for some bed bugs to keep you company on lonely nights because you can’t afford a cat.

For all you save-the-world types out there, thrifting is the most environmentally friendly way to shop. You’re not contributing to landfills or sweatshop profits. And as I’ve said before, it’s economical. So do yourself and the world a favor, and buy used. Your mother will be proud.

– Annie Henderson can be reached at [email protected].

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