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Scarvey column: Thrift store shopping tips

“Seven Steps to saving money on holiday pet gifts this year.”
That was the subject line of a press release that showed up in my e-mail recently from a P.R. person named Nancy.
Hey, Nancy!
I’ll give you one step to saving money on holiday pet gifts this year. Don’t buy any.
Like most everybody else, I have a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach as bad news about the economy continues to mount.
Still, there’s a part of me that sees these times as a challenge, a test of my resourcefulness and pioneer spirit.
I’ve already been tested, when my husband and I decided that I’d stay home with our kids for four or five years. I had to be frugal and creative. I had to cook, since going out to eat was mostly out of the question. I had to drive a car that wasn’t very nice. And I had to figure out how to get things we needed without spending a lot.
Going to thrift stores was a big part of my strategy.
I’ve always liked them, ever since I found my all-time favorite cashmere jacket at one when I was in college.
Now that I can actually afford to buy new things ó and I do, just ask my husband ó I continue to shop at resale stores because I’m addicted to the hunt. There’s nothing that will lift your spirits like finding a Coach bag or an almost-new Goretex jacket for five bucks.
Plus, you’re being environmentally conscious when you buy something second-hand instead of new, so don’t feel cheap; feel virtuous.
If you’ve never shopped like this before, here are a few tips:
1. Don’t feel sheepish.
Don’t assume that if you’re seen shopping at a thrift store people will think you live in a van by the river. Your fellow shoppers will be from virtually every income level. Rich people like a bargain, too.
You may find it kind of annoying to see a well-to-do matron marching to the check-out counter with the perfect antique something-or-other that should have been in your grubby little paws, but you’ll have to get used to that.
And you may need to realize, as I have, that sometimes, you’re that annoying person.
2. Pop in frequently.Veteran thrift store shoppers often talk about “haunting” their favorite stores. That’s because the great stuff goes quickly, often the day or even the hour it’s put out.
Be prepared to come up empty on any given trip. Eventually, persistence will pay off. Cruise your favorite store sections ó handbags or books or art ó to see if anything fantastic has come in. You don’t have to stay longer than 15 minutes if you go frequently.
3. Be a visionary.
You can find some great pieces of furniture that might need a little work ó refinishing, or a coat of paint, or maybe just a change of hardware. Learn to see the potential in things.
4. Test electronic items, or make sure a store employee has.
If you buy it without testing it yourself, make sure you can return it if it doesn’t work.
5. If you’re not sure, get it anyway. If it turns out to be not quite right, just donate it back.
It’s the great circle of life.
nnn
Contact Katie Scarvey at kscarvey@salisburypost.com.

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