Monday, November 22, 2010

Stretching a dollar in hard times

Black Friday's a'comin', so hide your credit cards. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, the traditional first day of Christmas shopping, is the day that big retailers like Walmart, the Gap, Sears, Best Buy, etc., try to make us feel bad for not spending more money with them. We haul out the plastic, pushing ourselves further into indebtedness for their benefit. I refuse to accept any responsibility for any store's bottom line. Growing up I was taught that thrift was a virtue, but now Americans are taught that spending, and often way beyond our means, is patriotic by being "good for the economy."

As a retiree on a pension it's important that I save money. For years my wife and I have shopped in thrift stores, and they're becoming even more popular during the bad economy. With careful shopping I can still have some of the things I want. Yesterday I bought a sports coat with the Lands End label for $10.00. A few days ago, at a fraction of the retail price, my wife bought a new top to wear to a special occasion. Many thrift stores--and you have to look through their stock--accept overruns from manufacturers and outdated clothing from department stores, who donate them for tax purposes. We’ve gotten a lot of new name brand merchandise for just a few dollars.

Last week I bought an RCA DVD from my local non-profit thrift store for $12.00. It needed a remote. I rummaged through a shelf full of television remotes, old cell phones and used cameras; I found an RCA remote for $1.00. I needed AAA batteries, which I got at Big Lots, not a thrift store but a discount retailer; I found an 8-pack of Duracell AAA alkaline batteries for $4.50. The remote works, the player works. Yippee. And using the calculator I paid fifty cents for, it all added up to $17.50.

We’d be pushing it to buy Christmas presents from a thrift store (even I’m not that cheap), but Sally found some brand-new cups with Christmas designs she will fill with goodies for her coworkers. She also routinely buys baskets for a dollar or so which she uses for unique ways to give gifts of food.

If there's a problem with shopping thrift stores it's not that you "get what you pay for," because often you get much more in value than it costs, but that it doesn't come with a warranty. If my DVD player quits on me then I'm out $12.00, but that's not really so much. I'll just shop around until I find another used machine in good condition.

There are a lot of bargains out there; you just have to keep looking.

Before the modern meaning of “Black Friday,” (a day when stores go “in the black” financially) it meant the day the stock market crashed in 1929. I’m not sure if that’s the meaning that Steely Dan had in mind because with Steely Dan and their sometimes opaque lyrics you just never know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found a lot of my beautiful corsets at thrift shops