I was raised a thrifter. Growing up, almost all of my clothing and many of my other possessions came from yard sales, Goodwill, and local consignment shops. I would estimate that I never personally spent more than $15-$20 on a particular item of clothing before I graduated from high school. My buyer mentality for the first two decades (plus) of my life was: brand-new things generally cost too much, and “the cheaper, the better” even for secondhand purchases.
Once I began working full-time and became responsible for my own finances, I gradually started allowing myself to “splurge” on new items. I realized how luxurious it is to bring something home with packaging and tags intact that has never been touched, utilized, or sweated in by another human. I also realized how much easier it is to shop for and actually find the things I wanted in the chain stores — eliminating the “hunt” for treasures on a yard sale table and the repulsive picking-through of not-so-sweet-smelling piles in a Goodwill bin. I fell deeply in love with the scent of “new.” 🙂 Still, I believed that the lowest price was always the right price for me, and I continued to pay as little as possible for the things I bought, both new and used.
Then my husband, Caleb, entered my life, and he challenged me on my “lowest price” mentality. When we shopped together, he always encouraged me to select the make or brand that would work well and last a long time, instead of the cheapest option. For us, this was one of the first situations we encountered where both of us had to adjust our mindsets in order to bring about marital compromise. However, now, almost 5 years into our relationship, I admit I’ve been largely swayed over to his side.
As a general rule, though there are certainly exceptions, we are prone to purchase high-end things like appliances, kitchen gadgets, tools, furniture, electronics, and clothing. I have learned that his idea that it’s better to pay $30 for stainless steel measuring cups that will last forever than to spend $4-$5 on plastic ones and replace them every couple years really is full of wisdom. Not only will that save us money in the long run, but it keeps all that plastic out of the landfill! On the flip side, he has learned that for things that get stained and dirty quickly and can’t ever really be restored to perfectly clean and sanitary condition, it makes sense to buy cheap ones and recycle them without guilt instead of hanging onto them.
Since I’ve begun my personal journey of minimalism, or essentialism, as I prefer to think of it, I’ve been evaluating my shopping habits more critically than ever before. It started with clothing, but is now taking root in other departments. One of the realizations I’ve made recently is: I have a hard time resisting a “good deal.” In other words, thrift stores and yard sales and the clearance sections at Target (to name a few) are danger zones for me! I tend to, without much thought, scoop things up that I think are cute and useful and interesting, just because they’re so cheap. And then I get home, don’t have an actual use for them or place to put them, and end up selling them at my next yard sale. Read, waste of time, waste of money, waste of energy.
Therefore, my simplistic + temporary solution is to steer clear of such places, at least until I’ve matured in my ability to (1) shop off my list instead of the displays and (2) shop with my heart instead of my eyes.
Now, I know there are people out there (including many of my readers) who have MASTERED the art of thrift-shopping treasure-finding. This post is a classic example of that. Also, my friend Claudia is a serious professional in that department. And I can’t tell you how much respect I have for you people! I want to be like you. I want to be able to score the things I consider essential and the things that spark joy for me for a fraction of the price. I want to contribute to the work of ministries and missions around the world instead of feeding the corporate machine. But for the time being, I’m not well-equipped to walk into the consignment shop, purchase that one awesome thing, and walk away. My shopping cart is too much of a magnet for all the other mediocre but cheap (!) items calling my name from the racks and shelves.
(My other problem is a lack of patience and diligence. I’m not a good hunter. But that’s a topic of its own.)
The second aspect of the transition I’m in stems from a desire to be more conscious of where products come from, how they are made, and how companies treat their employees. My understanding of things like small business, fair trade, ethical material sourcing, and care for the environment is growing by the day, and influencing my decisions on where to shop. I’ve been making baby steps in this direction for years, but recently my motivation has been skyrocketing. I hope to expound on this a bit more in a future post.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I have an unhealthy Target addiction. At the rate I’m going, there may come a day when I don’t set foot inside a Target store for months. And that would truly be progress. I’m excited to see where this journey takes me!
What about you? What’s been influencing where, why, and how you shop lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts.