If you’re a secondhand shopper, chances are you thrift at least in part for the monetary savings. But what if the allure of inexpensive, quality finds is actually causing you to spend more?
Reader Ginna from Feet Chic and I recently convened a digital conversation about how much our beloved thrifting habit costs us. In this wide-ranging conversation, we cover how we got into thrifting, how we think about hits/misses, and blowing our retirement funds, and much more. Take a read through Part 1 below – and scroll down to chime in!
Ginna: Here’s the question I sometimes mull over — do I actually save money thrifting? Granted, my thrift finds are pricier now that I live in NY (for example, a pair of jeans that retails for $150 might be $25 here). But I still think happily all the time what great deals I get. (I probably spend $100/month thrifting clothes, but it’s a hobby for me, so it comes out of my discretionary budget.)
Leah: I definitely agree with you re: discretionary spending and it being a hobby. I’ve been thinking about scaling my habit back to be able to put more money towards social justice/charitable causes…. Though of course Goodwill is a good cause!
From your perspective, what are the pros/cons of spending your clothing $$ on thrifting?
Ginna: On the plus side:
- In a way, I DEFINITELY save money because I buy really expensive styles when I thrift. On the other hand, I would never buy designer clothes retail, so in a way I’m just upgrading my wardrobe with things I wouldn’t buy otherwise. BUT even thrifting designer jeans for $25 is cheaper than buying brand new crappy Old Navy jeans for $70. SO….
- On top of that, my jeans size fluctuates a lot, so thrifting has allowed me to buy 2 sets of jeans, one for when I’m at my low weight and one for when I’m at my high weight.
- Thrifting has also allowed me to change my look around more than I normally would. I realized this year that the light colored items in my wardrobe were making me look washed out, so I’ve been slowly phasing those out for more dark gray / navy tops.
Leah: Thrifting has definitely let me play with color – it’s given me permission to jettison all my black stuff (I think I have the opposite coloring problem you do!) without making me feel guilty about dropping tons of money on replacements.
Ginna: On the minus side:
- It takes time, but I enjoy it, so I don’t mind
- There was definitely a learning curve at the beginning where I bought a lot of stuff that didn’t work out. I still do this sometimes, especially buying ‘special occasion’ clothing that I love the idea of (but my lifestyle is very casual, so that stuff usually ends up getting re-donated after a while…).
Leah: I have a dress or two like that…
Ginna: BUT people do this with retail, too, so it’s not a problem that’s isolated to thrifting.
- Sometimes you realize that the item is damaged and you can’t return it
- Because I’m shopping more than I normally would and am trying to think outside the box, I do buy things I wouldn’t normally buy. About half the time these end up getting re-donated at some point, and the other half of the time they work out and I enjoy them. One example of this is a tuxedo-style vest that I bought because it fitted perfectly and was $5. I ended up wearing it to my office Christmas party *and* now rotate it into my wardrobe regularly.
Leah: Yup; I have a similar 50/50 track record for success. I would never have tried my favorite sweater dress or a duster-style cardigan without the permission that goes with thrifted prices. But then there was that giant bird-print swing top I never wore…
Ginna: So yeah, I love showing off my thrift finds, but in the back of my mind I think, “Yes, I got these Theory pants for $25, but I also got 2 other pairs that didn’t work out, so realistically I probably paid $50 or $75 total for the opportunity cost of getting 1 amazing pair of pants.”
^^Boots I bought against my better judgement because… They were Frye brand but 95% cheaper. They fit but could have been a bit more comfy… and the friend I was thrifting with loved them. Day 1 of wearing them, I remembered why a great deal is only a great deal if I will wear the item, regardless of a friend’s opinion. My feet were aching from lack of cushioning. There was no day 2 with these.
How do you think about this stuff? Is there a magic equation to determine how much money I’m saving (or not saving…)?
Leah: I haven’t really thought about the $ for a pair of shorts I don’t keep going into the cost of the pair I *do* keep… That’s a really good point. I tend to think of it as “I paid $6 for this dress, great deal” and the stuff that gets donated back as, well, charity. Budget-wise, though, you’re exactly right. I guess how I try to combat this is not buying things that don’t work. I’m getting better at this but I definitely still have misses.
Ginna: Here’s one way to think about the question: According to BLS, the average New Yorker spent $2,338 on clothing and clothing services in 2014. (Of course, their average New Yorker is 51 years old and could be male or female. I bet women my age – 30 – spend a lot more than this…). So if I add up my thrifting plus anything I bought new plus tailoring, did I spend more or less than this amount? I’d guess that my spending was right around this average or slightly below it, but I’d have to add it all up to know for sure.
Leah: I don’t buy new and rarely tailor so I’m pretty sure I don’t spend nearly as much as the BLS figure… factor in that I live in Atlanta where the vibe is definitely less clothes-horsey (at least outside Midtown/Buckhead), so I would assume the average amount is somewhat lower. But I’d still rather not do the math on my own spending! Which probably means it’s higher than it should be.
Ginna: I am scared to find out how much I spend per month! What if it’s some astronomical number and I walk away from the computer thinking, “WOW. GOODBYE RETIREMENT”?
Leah: Oh boy, maybe we need to give up thrifting for a year and put everything we’d spend on clothes into our IRAs.
Your turn! Do you really save when all is said and done, or does the low cost of thrifting (and the thrill of the hunt!) justify a spending habit? Scroll down to share!