How I Got Started Shopping Second Hand

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I previously introduced one of the many advantages to shopping at second hand stores.  In this post I want to introduce you to how I got into second hand shopping. I am finding more and more the majority of my clothes were purchased second hand.

Sometime in December 2005 my wife and I discovered we had a dangerous mold situation in our apartment.  Within hours of our reporting the situation we were forced to move and asked to wear masks while we collected up our personal items.  In addition, we were required to have any clothing professionally treated and dry cleaned.  That same day we packed up all our clothes and shipped them off to the dry cleaner.

Within a few days we had received all our clothes back in nicely packed bags and well organized hanging boxes.  We grabbed a few necessary items before leaving on a Christmas holiday to Phoenix, Arizona.  Once we returned from Phoenix (two weeks later) it was time for me to try and track down some of my dress clothes.  But that first Sunday morning back I discovered all my dress shirts and all my dress pants were missing.

By Monday morning at 9 a.m I found myself on the phone with the cleaner.  He knew immediately what the problem was as a lady had called a few weeks ago reporting that she received some clothing that did not belong to her.  When, however, the cleaner went to pick up the clothes he found out that the lady got tired of keeping the clothes (two weeks) and dropped everything off at a second hand store.  All my clothes were given away.  As a result, I was forced to itemize all my missing clothing and attach an approximate value.  Without much hassle I was given a fat check to go and replace my wardrobe.

Then I got a genius little thought.  I decided I would find my missing clothes and bring them back home with me.  I scoured every single second hand clothing store in Memphis, Tennessee.  I was motivated to go from store to store with the thought that I could buy all of my clothes back second hand.  Unfortunately I did not find any of my missing garments.  But, in my hunt for my clothes I found that many other people, for reasons unknown to me, had donated very nice looking clothes.

I decided that I would only use 25% of the money and see if I could replace my formal wardrobe.  And I did.  I found name brands clothing in like-new condition for only a few dollars an item.  By the end of the experience I was officially addicted to shopping at second hand retailers.

Tips for shopping second hand:

  1. Embrace the shopping experience. Shopping second hand will be a painful experience if you have the wrong expectation.  You may walk into five stores and come out with nothing before finding the perfect item.  Enjoy the process.
  2. Be patient. Let’s say you are looking for something like shoes.  Don’t expect to be able to walk into a second hand store one time and find exactly what you need.  Often it will take a few visits before you find just what you need.
  3. Take a quick look at the different sections of the store. The beauty of second hand shopping is that you never know what you will find.  At times you might be in the market for a new item that you come across at a second hand store.
  4. Take cash. Some second hand retailers do not accept credit cards and others have a minimum purchase amount.  You might just find one shirt you like.  Don’t force yourself to buy four shirts just so you can use your credit card.
  5. Don’t be embarrassed. Embrace the fact that you are not wasting money on clothes so you can use those funds towards something that is truly important to you.
  6. Check over each item carefully. You don’t want to end up at home with a huge mustard stain on the back of a shirt.
  7. Remind yourself that your money often goes to a good cause. Many second hand stores are charity related.

Here is my most recent find.  A local used clothing store had a sale a couple weeks ago.  $6 for as many clothes as you could fit into a grocery bag.  We ended up with 26 items of clothing for $6.00.  Along with other things, I got 4 shirts from the Gap, 3 Hagar shirts, and two pairs of Adidas Athletic shorts (see pictures below).  What are you waiting for, get out and find a great deal on some used clothing!

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  1. sophia says

    I am a large size woman and I find it unusual to find clothes my size in charity shops. However I buy skirts that have enough fabric to go round my hips even though they may be several sizes smaller. I cut off the tops and make a turning to encase elastic for a waistband. In this way I can have nicer more fashionable skirts for the cost of a metre of elastic!

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