Thursday, September 26, 2013

$25 Thrift Shop Challenge

A competitive shopping challenge? Oh yes, count me in.

The Oklahoma Women Bloggers group is focusing on frugal finds and back to school shopping and there is a featured post link-up where we are asked to take $25 to a thrift shop and see what shakes out. A few things I should mention before we begin:
  1. I am competitive. I love a challenge.
  2. Even more than a challenge? I love a bargain. I shop often, usually starting with the websites of some of my favorite stores to find the sales and clearance items. I search for unique accessories and items everywhere I go.
  3. I need a new wardrobe because I found out about a hazardous health situation (eek!) that necessitated an overhaul of my diet and exercise regime (groan!) and led to a significant weight loss (yippee!) that dropped me essentially five sizes (holla!) and left me with a wardrobe of clothes that no longer fit (boo!).
  4. It needs to be cheap because I was unable to find a way to sell my clothes to generate money to buy new clothes. And I just can't justify buying an entirely new wardrobe. I have no What Not To Wear angels tapping my shoulder with a $5,000 Visa card to use to restock my closet. So I've become the ultimate bargain shopper.
The first place I decided to hit was a consignment shop meant for teens--you might have one in your town. These places are great--they sell clothes at a deep discount, the clothes are all fairly current, and they also buy clothes, which makes it my kind of recycling center. Unfortunately, they didn't buy the size I was selling (see #3 above), but it was still a great place to stop.

I almost passed it up, for a few reasons, not the least of which being that I am old. As in over 40 (though if I had to round my age, it would round down, and that's using old-fashioned math, not new math). And did you see This is 40? There's a line that Leslie Mann's character says about turning 40 and dressing her age: "I don't wanna go to J. Jill and Chico's and Ann Taylor Loft." Well, I do. I shop at those stores and hit up their clearance racks as often as I can. So how would I find brands that worked for old-lady me in this store that would likely be crammed with low-rise jeans and cropped tissue-weight tees? I really don't want to wear low-rise jeans or cropped tissue-weight tees. I just want to find some jeans that fit.

$24.99? Not for me! (top left)
Outfit #1: ankle jeans, striped sweater & suede loafers (bottom)
Outfit #2: dark skinny jeans, sweater, sparkly accessories (right)
So, I took a deep breath and headed into the store and was happily surprised. Because I saw plenty of clothes in my size, plenty of great bargains and even plenty of tags from stores like Ann Taylor Loft and J. Jill (I think that whole 1-2-3 sizing thing that Chico's does might be confusing). To be fair, I also saw a lot of blingy-pocketed, low-rise jeans (um, no). 

But among the low rise bling, I found 2 pairs of dark-wash, skinny-leg jeans that were just right for me. One of them even had zippers on the ankles, which took me back to my own teenage years in the 1980s... and since those zippers were the only throwback detail on the jeans (no acid wash. Though I did find a pair of authentic acid wash jeans on the rack. shudder.), I bought them. It paid to really scour the racks of jeans and shop in the area of my general size, but also look in the rack for a size larger and a size smaller. Every brand varies and since most of these jeans are second-hand, the washing and wearing will cause them to stretch or shrink. Don't strictly stick to the sizes on the tags--good advice no matter where you shop.

head-to-toe looks for a 40-something broad
found at my local consignment store for
teen trendy clothes.
Next, I headed over to the sweaters because fall is coming! Cool weather should be in there, somewhere. I hope. I'm counting on it. I found about a zillion cute sweaters, many still with tags on them, and settled on two--a striped sweater (I cannot escape stripes) that fits like a comfy, cozy T-shirt and a beautiful brown heathered crew neck sweater with a zipper up the back. This one still had tags (original price: $50. Discount store price: $25. My price? $7.50) and when I looked up the brand name (Willi Smith), I discovered more about a pioneering African American fashion designer who tragically died in the mid-1980s. (I love the internet).

I also picked up some sparkly jewelry to complement the brown sweater, and this store offered all their jewelry for under $4 a piece. I was smitten with a bejeweled peacock necklace--owls have been the fowl of choice for a while now. I'm counting on peacocks to make a run for it this year! I also found a bracelet that kind of goes but doesn't match (as per Stacy and Clinton).

These are easy, basic items that I can personalize with accessories at home, like cute shoes (the green suede loafers marked down to $9 from $90 on J. Jill or the white Vera Wang flats with leopard toes found on clearance for $5 or the Eastland penny loafers that I paid full price for--but with what I saved on the other two pairs? It can be easy to splurge every now & again.).

I paid a grand total of $37 on my haul (2 sweaters, 2 jeans, necklace and bracelet), but the next day I brought a sack of clothes and sold them to the store and earlier in the week I sold a few bags of books to the book consignment store after doing some fall cleaning. I made about $40 total on these "reverse shopping" trips, so I call that a fine trade.


  1. Love this! Wish I had the savvy and drive. And CONGRATS on improving your health! :)

    1. Thank you! Savvy and drive are self-fulfilling prophesies. :)

  2. So cute, you skinny thing, you!

    1. Thanks--now it needs to get cold so I can wear my sweaters!

  3. Wow! I'm still stuck up at the "I lost 5 sizes" thing...........Ah-mazing! The buys were really great as well. You looks so cute!

    1. Thank you--it was a huge change and hard fought but worth it for health. I just wish it was more cost-effective! lol

  4. Fun! Mari have you ever considered creating a Stacy and Clinton thrift show? I think you would make a great host. People could get $500 instead of $5000 and re-do their closets. You look thriftastic!

    1. Lisa, I love that idea. I wish I knew how to make that happen--even for myself! How fun would it be to shop around different cities and the amazing second-hand stores that you know have to be there? You are turning my (rusty) gears, my friend...