The art of thrifting: Want vs. Need
For me, thrifting is a necessity; It’s a true way of life.
I’ve been buying secondhand since I was a kid and I really wouldn’t have it any other way (if I could buy everything at a discounted rate, that would be ideal). There’s something about the hunt and find that gives me a spark. It’s an “aha” moment that makes you feel like you finding it was meant to be. Oprah would be proud.
And while I enjoy the bargain bins and unsorted bric-a-brac, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a thrift store and had to ask myself: “Is this just a want or is this a true need?”
In a few shorts weeks my partner and I will be moving across the country from small-town north Louisiana to the vibrant deserts of New Mexico. We plan to call Albuquerque our new home, and with that comes a bit of a change. We’re not just moving, but we’re changing our lives all together for this. We’re downsizing, restructuring and forming new habits. We are hoping to root ourselves in ABQ for a while and truly begin our lives there.
With that being said, our wardrobe needs an upgrade. Now.
See, I've never lived somewhere with true seasons, specifically a true winter. For years my closet has consisted of a single peacoat, worn possibly one week out of the entire year — if that. Louisiana winters are usually short, to-the-point and rarely have snow. Amid a flurry of t-shirts and button downs, my closet lacks versatile winter pieces I love to wear.
A few days ago I walked into our neighborhood Goodwill on a day where gray tag items were half-off. Every day a different colored tag is on sale, either half-off or sometimes .99¢. While we’ve been working to downsize and organize our vintage stock, we still hunt for unusual and amazing pieces, but more recently we’ve been trying to focus on our personal closets.
Somehow, and by someway, the thrift gods were listening.
We hardly ever find anything for ourselves, so building our new wardrobe has been a slow road. Unless absolutely necessary, we will not buy new clothing. The only way we go about that is if we have a gift card, which seems to come most consistently around the holidays (thanks mom & dad), or when we just absolutely must find something (like a specific colored bowtie for a wedding). This time while out we spotted a collection of black jackets and cardigans that seemed to have all come from the most rad person ever. Was it fate that these coats were all our size? Even a brown suede draped cardigan found it’s way into the mix — and with an animal print, nonetheless.
This is where want vs. need comes into play.
We wanted all the coats, but which ones did we need the most.
None of these tags were gray, and while I may recognize a good deal when I see one, I’m still a thrifty risk taker at heart. Obviously it was meant we find these right before our move. We both tried on a variety of the pieces, myself settling on the animal print piece and my partner on a long, gray, cream and black cardigan. We bought pieces we needed, and wanted, but we were conscious about what went home with us that day.
It was a Friday, and we knew Sunday that all clothing at this specific location would be .99. While it was a risk to leave the other pieces we loved behind (a black, 1980s cardigan and a black and white animal print windbreaker), it was a risk worth taking. We found the pieces we needed the most and took a chance on the ones we wanted. We both went with one piece each because we had already found quite a few gray tag items (totaling the amount we had wanted to spend). We took the risk, but it paid off. We scored them that Sunday when we returned because apparently it was meant to be. Had we purchased them all initially, we would have spent quadruple what we paid.
If you’re going to thrift, you have to know the rules. Well, rule.
Don’t buy in excess just because it’s cheap. Shop smart, and shop select.
It’s really easy to spend a large amount of money inside a thrift store, especially if you’re buying for more than just yourself. The fact everything is at a discount rate can be overwhelmingly satisfying, and racking up a $50 or $100 tab can take minutes. It’s also quite easy to leave with more than what you wanted “because it was a great deal.” I’ve sang this tune before. I'm sure you have, too.
It’s best to differentiate from the get-go if your shopping trip is a want or need excursion, and if it ends up being both, just stick to the rule. If it’s a want excursion and you’re willing to blow a bit of fun money, go for it. But if this is on a need basis, know your sales, limits and finances before heading in. Now let’s identify the differences:
Want vs. need is one of the most basic co
ncepts of economics. Needs are items that you need to survive. Since we’re moving in March, we know we’re going to need some heavier winter wear (New Mexico has some cold, spring nights and a true winter). Other items could include a bookcase if you know you’re moving and you don’t own one or your apartment has no built-ins. Thrifting should always have a purpose, and it’s important to recognize it right off the bat. Keep a list of needs (either in your head or on paper) and refer to it for guidance. Don't let your wants start to outweigh your needs because then you'll find yourself sitting around a hoard of headless baby dolls and every shape, size and colored unicorn figurine a person could ever want. Maybe not.
Give me, give me, give me! I want it all! Alright Veruca Salt, hold on. This is sometimes the mentality I struggle with while I’m out shopping at secondhand and thrift stores. OK, I struggle with this every time I head to one, but now that I frequent them on a more regular basis, it’s easier to keep tabs on items, special sales and when new merchandise hits the floor. Usually if I’m out shopping I adhere to the sale of the day happening at the specific locale, so I keep a very strict outline of how much money and time I spend in one store. If everything is .99¢, I know to go slower and comb through the racks. This is when I score big.
If you're in search of more tips and tricks on how to define your wants vs. needs, comment below or leave your own! I look forward to hearing your feedback.