31 Reasons Why I'm in Love With Thrift Shopping (and You Should Be Too)


I realize I'm a strange animal. My palms tingle a little bit when I approach a thrift store. All my senses sharpen. The rest of the world fades into watercolor tones and muffled sounds. I can park, grab my wallet, hop out, and lock my car in a single fluid Matrix-inspired movement. Once inside, I can size up a thrift store in seconds: Who's the serious competition and who's just browsing? Is the store too organized or wonderfully chaotic? What's newly-stocked, and what's stale? (See also: The 5 Best Deals in Every Thrift Store)

I've been a die-hard thrifter since I was 13 years old, and now, as I approach the midpoint of my 40's, my love affair with thrifting has only deepened. If you're a serious second-hand shopper, you may recognize many of your own motivations in the list that follows. And if you've never tried thrifting, consider all these reasons to fall madly in love with it.

1. Where else can the average person go on a real-life treasure hunt? (I'll save you the click: Man finds copy of an 1823 print of the Declaration of Independence, worth almost $500k, in a thrift store!)

2. Saving 75% on retail is just like getting a 75% return on your money.

3. Used items are tried and true and (usually) come without surprises.

4. Those second-hand jeans are already broken-in.

5. Shop for good! Your purchases often help fund charitable causes.

6. Thrifting is recycling at its most basic and beneficial level.

7. There are all different kinds of thrift stores, and they tend to have the widest, wildest, most unpredictable inventory in the business.

8. Because retail prices hurt!

9. If older means made better, thrift stores have all the good stuff!

10. Thrift stores are the perfect places to find an expensive weekend project.

11. You can furnish a dorm room or college apartment on a shoestring.

12. Thrift stores are windows into our culture — mix shopping with sociology.

13. Thrifting keeps your kids out of the mall (and that's always a good thing).

14. You can never have too many copies of "I'm OK, You're OK."

15. Sometimes, thrifting pays off big. (Again, saving you a click: North Carolina woman buys abstract painting worth $20k for $9.99.)

16. Missing an obscure piece of your grandmother's china? Be patient; you'll eventually find it at a thrift store.

17. Retail emporiums are homogenous. Thrifting lets you find something that no one else has.

18. When you're thrifting, you're not directly increasing the industrial demand for more.

19. You can brag about how much you saved.

20. Because new books cost at least $14.99.

21. Thrift stores are a picker's paradise. Vintage clothes and other items can be flipped for profit.

22. Shopping second hand sets a great example for your kids. The value of thrift, creative reuse, and community support are noble lessons!

23. Everything is prewashed and preshrunk. When a piece of thrift store clothing fits you in the dressing room, you know it'll fit when you get it home.

24. Thrifting can be just a little competitive (in a good way). The friendly rivalry between serious thrifters produces more admiration than envy.

25. Every day is new. Inventory turns over so quickly in some markets that you seldom see the same stuff twice.

26. Thrift stores are time capsules into pop culture history. Teach your kids about ALF, Rubik's Cube, Etch A Sketch, lava lamps, and Milli Vanilli.

27. You can find items that have long since gone out of production. From out-of-print books to jeans with the perfect cut, thrift stores let us rediscover some of our favorite things.

28. Because thrifting isn't just about finding old stuff; there are new items too!

29. Because your depression-era parents or grandparents would be proud.

30. Thrifting is arguably the most local and sustainable form of commerce.

31. Thrift stores are the perfect places to find back-to-school bargains.

There you have it, my belated valentine to thrift-shopping. Of course there are many more reasons to love this half-sport half-science. What are some of yours?

Are you an avid thrift shopper? Why do you love it? What's been your best find to date? Please share a comment below (even a recycled one)!

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Guest's picture

#17, all the way. There's nothing I hate quite as much as owning the same 'something' as everyone else. My style isn't crazy, but I like unique pieces, and thrift shopping has filled my closet with many no-one-else-I've-seen-has-it pieces. As for saving a bundle over retail...have you SEEN the price of a decent pair of new jeans these days? I'll pay $8 for your used $75 jeans any day. And don't get me started on the cost of decent children's clothing...Great article! Anyone who hasn't tried thrift shopping should leave their hang-ups at the door and take the plunge.

Guest's picture

I've always donated, then one day I thought I'd check out the inventory. My #1 reason for thrift shopping is it is tax free!! It benefits our community tremendously. We have found reference books for furthering our educations. I have found paintings and my family has made frames. Clothes, costumes, housewares, craft items all round out the items I look for. It is like a treasure hunt. It's pretty addictive, in a cheap way. Anything that doesn't work for our lifestyle gets donated back. Win-win.

Guest's picture

I have to say it is as much the originality of thrift stores as it is the cheaper prices that make me love them so much. I don't like being ripped off for something new and I don't like looking like everyone else. Great article and one I wholeheartedly agree with.

Guest's picture

It started with necessity. My dad and mom frequented a place in Philly before thrift stores were chic. He was a sculptor. I never thought much about thrifts during my salad days, single and earning decent bucks in NYC, but when we got married and started having kids it became a real life saver. Who in their right mind would spend $30 for a pair of kid's jeans when they'll just outgrow them in a few months? Especially if you can find them in a thrift for $1.25? The rush in finding a wonderful, perfect thing for cheap is something retail shoppers can never know.

Guest's picture

I have shopped thrift stores for over 20 years. From the days of having to wear suits to work, many times I scored brand new suits for $20 or less! I have always had great work clothes for very little.

I have bought everything from clothes to housewares to jewelery. It is super fun and a cost effective way to furnish your closet or home.

I think my best ever score was a $1700.00 designer dress for $20.00, still had the tags on!!

Guest's picture

I am a dedicated thrifter! My best value was a brand-new, still in zipper bag queen down and feather comforter/duvet. I looked it up when I got home...it was selling at a big bed and bath retailer for $123.00 that day. I paid $3.50. This week I also filled out my tool box and bought the rest of what I needed to start my own Handy woman business. I. I spent $71.00 which included a Skilled saw and a brand name router with extra bits and blades included.

Kentin Waits's picture

Ronda, thanks for sharing your thrifting finds. It sounds like you've literally made a business out of it! Good luck with your venture.

Guest's picture

I agree to everything you said. My mama took me to thrift shops and I still go to thrift stores. I love them.