A few days ago I went to a local thrift store in search of several items I needed for my home.  I love the stewardship of used goods. When I arrived at the store I looked for the items, but didn’t find them.  What I did find was eight Ralph Lauren Hampton Tea (Mint colored) accent plates with 22 kt gold gilded edges.  The plates were .99 each.  Several still had the manufacturers sticker on the back.  I purchased the plates and headed home to look them  up on Replacements.com.  To my surprise I found that the accent plates sell for $20.00 each–used!  My $8.00 purchase was worth $160.00.  I am looking forward to using these lovely plates with my white and gold china that I inherited from Mrs. Haney.  The set was missing some of the salad/bread plates, so these work beautifully and add a splash of color.  This reminds me of the time I found twelve place settings of Royal Doulton bone china (pattern: Darjeeling) and several serving pieces at the Goodwill in Franklin.    I bought the  twelve place settings of dishes and two oval bowls for $26.00.  When I looked the individual pieces up on Replacements.com, I found that one dinner plate alone listed at $50.00 and that the entire set of dishes was worth around $2400.00.  Not a bad day’s work.  I gave the set of dishes to Blair for Valentine’s Day her senior year of high school.  When she was engaged to be married, we registered with Replacements.com and she received the teapot, oval platter, cream and sugar, salt and pepper, cake plate, etc.
Ralph Lauren Hampton Tea ( Mint)
Blair’s china
A few things I have learned about shopping at thrift stores:
  • It’s good stewardship.
  • The goods are in better condition than you might think.  I’ll admit that when we first starting shopping at thrift stores, I was a little “nasty nice” about buying used items.  We started going to thrift stores when our children were students of a classical Christian school and we needed to buy tons of books.  We built two libraries from thrift store, estate sales, and library book sales–well, three libraries if you include what is left of ours–and cut our book bill by 2/3’s of what the books would have cost new.  I’ve found new sweaters, pants, and designer dresses (with the tag still on them),designer handbags, Irish linens, Scottish tartan wool, ulphostery fabric, Denby dishes and glasseware, Royal Doulton china, Port Meirion, Ralph Lauren china, and Polish Pottery to name a few.
  • It supports non-profit organizations doing good work. Within 10 miles of my home, there are thrift stores whose proceeds go to helping disadvantaged people find jobs (Goodwill and Salvation Army), preventing blindness (Prevention of Blindness), promoting the right to life (New Life Thrift Store), and funding Christian churches.
  • It’s fun. If you have bargain-hunting tendencies, thrift stores might be a little piece of heaven for you. I love finding a good deal on things I need.
  • Be patient. If you’re looking for something specific, don’t be afraid to return to the same store a few times and leave empty-handed when your item isn’t there. I bought a mahogany dining room table and chairs at a thrift store.  I  found six  Duncan Phyfe chairs for 10.00 each and waited about a year until I found the table to match–a double pedestal drop leaf (mahogany) Duncan Phyfe dining room table for $29.00.  The total cost was $89.00 for the table and six chairs. I’ll have to admit that I prayed for the table.
  • Be observant.  Turn over the dishes and read the manufacturer.  Prices at thrift stores rarely reflect the quality of the product–e.g., all dinner plates are 1.99 whether they are Denby, Royal Doulton, or no name . .  : )
  • Be friendly.  A lot of people get really testy and fight over things when they are marked so cheaply.  My motto is “My life for yours”.  If someone finds something that I am looking for, they must need it more than I do!
  • Don’t be afraid to barter. Although some stores have stricter policies, many are willing to be talked down on a price that’s a little too high.  I’ve picked up items that were missing a piece–like an adorable penguin bowling set (brand new still in the package, but missing the bowling ball) and gotten it for 1/4 of the sticker price.  I just ask if the the store clerk noticed that the set was missing a piece.
  • Avoid binging.  Binging is never saving.  It can be tempting to stock up when you go to a thrift store – why buy just one sweater when you can buy 10 for $25?  Unless you find something really great that you’ll actually use, stick to your shopping list!
  • Enjoy being able to afford what you need and remember that when you shop with cash, you spend a lot less.                                                                                                                                  “Frugality may be termed the daughter of Prudence, the sister of Temperance, and the parent of Liberty.” ~Samuel Johnson

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