I have always shopped at garage sales and thrift stores. When I was very young, we lived in rural areas, and garage sales were our Saturday morning activity. My mother is the original FrugalBabe. She knows pretty much every possible way to stretch a dollar, and she taught her four children well. To this day, we all shop in thrift stores, drive older cars, and are good at seeing through advertising and commercial hype. This is not to say that I was always happy about wearing used clothes, or the fact that my parents drove 20-year old cars. From about age seven through 18, I was embarrassed by our family’s frugality. I loved the stuff I had, and I loved the fact that my mother was always waiting for us when we got home from school, ready with a hug, a snack and help with homework. I loved how close our family was, and how my parents always had time for us. But I never told anyone where we shopped, and I often wished that we could have a new car – even though my father kept the old ones running like new.
By the time I was in high school, we would take multi-day family shopping trips to the city each summer before school started. Lots of families in our town would also do their back-to-school shopping in the city, but while they were headed to the malls, we would be scouring every thrift store we knew of. My mother had it down to a science; she knew which stores were good for specific items, where every store was in relation to the others, and which ones were open late. We would get a motel room for a three day weekend, and spend the whole time shopping. I loved these trips. I would look forward to them all summer, and would be thrilled by all the treasures I’d find for a few dollars. But when I went back to school and someone asked me where I got something I was wearing, my usual response was “I don’t remember…”
By the time I was in college and handling my own money and credit card, I began to get a new perspective on money. I realized that my parents had made the choice to have less money and be able to spend more time with their children. They had also made the choice to live below their means, even on a single paycheck with four children. By buying used cars and keeping them for 15 years, my parents were able to help all four of their children pay for college, and we all graduated debt-free. I am very proud of my parents and the way they live their lives without worrying about the superficial details that so many of us get hung up on.
My siblings weren’t embarrassed by our frugality the way I was when we were growing up. They didn’t mind if people knew where we shopped, and didn’t try to fit in with all the newest trends the way I usually did. The funny thing is, I loved our thrift store shopping adventures more than anyone in the family. So why did I care so much about whether my classmates knew where I shopped? I guess it just took me a little longer to realize a few things about life…
- People don’t care nearly as much about where I shop as I thought they did.
- Most people think that it’s pretty cool when you find a sweet bargain on something.
- The approval of people who would look down on me for buying second-hand stuff is worthless. My parents told me this all my life, but I was in college before I truly believed it.
- Clothes aren’t the most important things in life. Really.
These days, when anyone asks where I got something I’m wearing, I’ll proudly tell them, or if I can’t remember, I’ll mention my favorite thrift store. After so many years of hiding my shopping secret, it still surprises me how many of them say how much they love that store as well.