My Thrift Store Shopping Failure

Salvation Army thrift storeI absolutely love getting good deals. In fact, that’s one reason we ended up in so much credit card debt years ago. I bought lots of stuff I didn’t need because it was a “good deal.” Now I’ve learned to shop only for things I do need and value,  but I still love the rush of finding what you need on the cheap. One of the best ways to do that is to shop used. While we were in Las Vegas recently, I thought it would be a great opportunity to try big city thrift store shopping, but it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Thrift Store Wins in the Past

I have had some major success at thrift stores and yard sales in the past. When I first moved out west, I brought my dog and whatever fit in my car. While it is somewhat liberating to own only enough stuff to fit into a vehicle, I do appreciate things like a bed, chairs, and dressers. so I furnished my first small house with finds from thrift stores. We still have some of that furniture in our extra bedroom. It’s really good quality if you can see past the surface dings and cracks.

When I used to be on the Humane Society board, we had two huge yard sales every year and had tons of stuff donated. Since I always helped set up, I got first dibs on the goods. I found all kinds of treasures over the years, including a huge bag of like new Gymboree clothes in my daughter’s size, new bath mats, a whole set of matching dishes, and a really nice bike jersey that I sold for a profit on Ebay.

Well, I’m not on the board anymore, and we live in a small town where thrift store shopping is very limited. Even the consignment store rarely has many good quality kid’s clothes. If only we lived in a bigger town. … I just knew in Vegas, we’d hit the jackpot.

I Can’t Find Any Tags To Pop!

Normally Jim would not go near a thrift store. He is a little weird about used things, but a friend told him about scoring some great golf clubs at a Vegas thrift store, so off we went. Instead of  blindly shopping for deals, we were specifically looking for golf clubs, school clothes and shoes, and rugs. We found two huge thrift stores, a Goodwill and a Salvation Army. With Macklemore and Lewis playing in my head, I went in to “pop some tags.”

To our disappointment, there were no good golf clubs, only junky worn out stuff in our daughter’s size, and the only rugs for sale were lime green. Now if I’d needed a piano, VHS movies, or an umbrella, we’d have been in business. I guess to find what you are looking for, you have to go to tons of stores, possibly on multiple visits with the hope that someone dropped off what you need at at the time you needed it.

The Problem With Thrift Store Shopping

The problem with thrift store shopping, at least for me, is that I don’t want to devote the time to find what I’m looking for. Perhaps if I lived in the city and could run by every weekend, I’d find that diamond in the rough. As it stands, we only get to a major city maybe every 4-6 months and we don’t want to spend all our time seeking out thrift stores. Maybe I could find shirts or shoes for $1 if we did, but I’d rather take an hour and go to Children’s Place and Payless and know I could get in and out with what I came after. At the outlet mall,  I found lots of clearance shirts for $2.99 and a new pair of PE shoes for $10, not thrift store prices, but I still had most of my day to do other things.

The other problem with being a chronic thrift store or yard sale shopper is the tendency to buy things just because they are so cheap. I can’t tell you how many people bought crap at my recent yard sale just because it was cheap, even saying things like, “I have no idea what I’m going to do with this” or “I really don’t need another XYZ, but I can’t pass it up.” Good for the seller, but really just a cheaper version of spending money on stuff you don’t need, which is something I try really hard to avoid.

Failure Does Not Mean Giving Up

Just because this attempt at thrift store shopping was a failure doesn’t mean I’m giving up on it completely. If I find a store when we are in a city, I’ll stop in if I need something. I’ll still look through the kid’s clothes every time I drop off things at the consignment store. I will go to ski or sports swaps when we need equipment, but I am not willing to spend my weekends going from yard sale to yard sale or store to store in search of perfect bargains. I don’t frown on anyone who does, but it’s just not for me.

How is your luck with poppin’ tags? Any tips for a thrift store failure?


Image: Flickr: Creative Commons



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Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, of course, writing. She is currently the editor-in-chief of


  1. I like checking out yard sales and thrift stores from time to time, but more often than not I walk away empty-handed. If I think, “I have no idea what I’m going to do with this”, I put it back, even if it’s a quarter. I am trying really hard not to bring anything into the house that doesn’t have a purpose. If I can’t picture what I will do with something, to me it means I don’t need it. It took a long time to get to this point but I hate the feeling of having too much stuff and that’s where that was born from. In fact, I’m sure I donate more to the thrift stores than I buy, which isn’t a bad thing.

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