A few months ago, I was at Goodwill and I noticed a nice red leather bag. It was larger than the purses I normally use – more like the size of a laptop bag. And although I didn’t recognize the brand name, I could tell that it was a very well-made bag. It was made in Italy, real leather, and very well stitched. And since it was half-price day, it was on sale for $3.50. I definitely didn’t need it. But I bought it anyway, because it just seemed like it was too good to pass up.
That is a thrift store no-no. Since there are so many amazing deals in the secondhand market, buying something just because it’s a great deal – even if you don’t need it – is a good way to end up with a house full of too much stuff. When I first bought the bag, I looked it up online and saw the new versions sell for between $350 and $700. So I knew that my $3.50 purchase was a good deal. But I still didn’t need the bag, and it was just taking up space in my closet. The fact that it was a crazy expensive bag when it was new didn’t change the fact that it was too big for me and not really my style.
So after a few months, I decided to part with it. The happy ending is that I sold it on eBay for $20, and the buyer paid shipping costs. The other happy ending is that the bag is no longer in my closet, reminding me of a purchase that was made solely because the item seemed like a bargain. Especially if you’re new to thrift stores, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by amazing deals in every direction you look. But unless you need something, it eventually just turns into clutter in your home.
When I’m shopping at thrift stores, I’ve found it helpful to ask myself whether I would still buy the item in question if the price were higher (set whatever price point makes you stop and think before you buy something). If you would, then it’s far more likely that it’s something you need and will actually use. If you’re just buying it because it’s a fabulous bargain, it will probably just end up in the back of a closet, gathering dust. And unless you really enjoy dusting, it’s probably best to avoid buying dust traps. Even if they’re only three dollars.
Some people run businesses that involve buying things in thrift stores and reselling them on eBay. My experience with this one item tells me that it probably takes a long time for that to turn into a truly productive gig. In this case, the item I bought was very high-end, and although the selling price was far more than I paid for it in the first place, it was still only $20 for an item that retailed for around $500 new (and it was in really good shape when I sold it). Lesser-quality items would presumably sell for even less in used condition (items that are new with tags seem to sell pretty well on eBay, but high-end, new-with-tags goods aren’t easy to come by in thrift stores). And you have to account for taxes and the time and effort you spend shopping for, listing and mailing the items. I can see how a very organized, efficient person who lives close to some really good thrift stores could turn this sort of thing into a productive hobby or even a small business. But it’s probably much more likely that it would end up being a time suck and a money pit. If you want to try into something like this, test the waters cautiously!