Thrift stores are fascinating places. Their shelves represent decades of fashion, trends and cultural snapshots. Their racks house interesting artifacts and items that range from furniture to glassware to musical instruments to jewelry. No other stores can compare to thrift shops in the range of items offered.

Besides the interesting nature of thrift stores, though, there are a variety of benefits both to the consumer and the community that come with doing at least some of the household shopping within their walls. Here are six benefits of buying used.

Saving money
Obviously thrift stores are cheaper than retail stores. You can buy twice or three times as many items at thrift stores than you can at run-of-the-mill retail stores. Or you can just apply the difference to other expenses, such as gas or groceries, or deposit it into a savings account or college fund.

Designer pieces
Thrift stores usually boast racks of designer clothes, just like department stores do, at a fraction of the cost. Some even sort the items out and hang them on a separate rack to make them easier to look through. Of course the selection can’t compare to a store at the mall, but the extremely discounted prices make it easy to overlook the limited selection. Some thrift stores even host online counterpartsto showcase their “best” items-talk about convenience!

One-stop shop
Although many retailers offer clothing for only one gender or age, or heavily favor one gender or age, thrift stores offer clothing for the entire family-usually sorted neatly by size, sometimes even by color. All your favorite brands from other major retailers will be present without you having to go to multiple stores. And besides clothes, a variety of other items will please everyone in the household-from toys to electronics to accessories.

New items daily
Thrift stores typically restock way more often than traditional retailers. As donations are made, which happens on a daily basis at large thrift stores, the items are sorted, tagged and added to the existing stock as quickly as possible. Whereas a big-box retailer restocks items as they run out but doesn’t necessarily add anything different daily, thrift stores add new, different things all the time. You can literally visit the same store every day and see something you didn’t see the day before.

Sales
The influx of donations makes the turnover of inventory paramount. To keep things moving out the doors and the current inventory fresh, regular sales are practically mandatory. Most thrift stores have daily, weekly and monthly sales. Student, military and senior citizen discounts are most likely offered on certain days of the week. Half-off sales of certain items or tag colors are offered at most thrift shops. Calendars are usually available in-store or online to help you learn your favorite thrift store’s sale schedule, which you should absolutely take advantage of for even more savings.

Purpose
Most thrift stores operate as an extension of a nonprofit agency with a majority of the funds raised going to help the community in some way. People in our local community directly benefit from every dollar we spend in most thrift stores. Maybe the money benefits job training, a homeless shelter, a children’s group or a unique mission such as an assistance dog program-but it definitely goes somewhere that needs it. You can also serve this purpose by donating instead of shopping. But beware of the box! To make sure your donation is benefitting others, give your items to a credible nonprofit. Many donation boxes have been dropped off in empty lots and near some businesses where there is lots of traffic. And although some do benefit local nonprofits, others are scams and the items are resold at flea markets and yard sales with a token percentage donated to a nonprofit. Do some research online to see what programs benefit from their thrift store sales. Make sure you give your donation to an attendant who can give you a receipt, and do not leave your items after hours when thieves will be able to steal your donated items.

We can feel a lot better about the money we spend at thrift stores because it is a mutually beneficial way to save money, participate in charitable giving and benefit others in our community.

Kevin Beirne loves to educate others on the benefits in our community. Kevin is the director of development with Goodwill Industries of Chattanooga. He’s passionate about the love of his life, Cindy, wife of 26 years, and his two Army sons. Outside of work, he loves travel, photography, enjoying a fine meal with friends and volunteering. Kevin can be contacted at [email protected] or 423-629-2501, extension 2310.

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