How Much Do You Pay for Your Clothes?
For the past few years the US and most of the world has been struggling through some difficult economic times. People are losing their homes, losing their jobs, and losing their retirement savings. Yet I am constantly amazed at the prices of clothing that I see in magazines. I don't mean the fashion magazines that have always had outrageous prices. I'm talking about the magazines that are published for "everywoman". I see fashion articles that feature office-work-type outfits that sometimes cost $500-1000. Who has that kind of money? Anyone who does is probably working too hard to have time to read the magazines. For myself, I have a better idea...
Way back in the 1960s, I started haunting the Salvation Army and other thrift stores looking for the long "hippy" skirts and shawls that could only be found in thrift stores. My daughter got me back into that kind of shopping in the early 1990s, when she was the same age I was in the 60s. She was looking for grunge, but same idea.
When I moved to Washington in 2000, I was surprised to realize that lots of people were shopping the thrift stores. Goodwill had lots of good stuff. St. Vincent de Paul wasn't as good but it was cheaper. Those in the know went every week so they wouldn't miss the new stuff, including nice "professional" clothing when they put it out. Later, I learned that Portland is a great town for Goodwill stores; they are all over the place. By then, I was buying almost all of my clothes second-hand, unless I found a really good sale on new clothes.
Thrift Shopping, Mexican Style
When I moved to Mexico I discovered that the local people go to the states and buy stuff from Goodwill and Savers stores on discount days and bring it down to sell at the street markets here. I started getting lots of my clothes that way, although it always bothered me that the best items have usually been picked out, and they often charge more than the prices on tags that are still attached.
However, the people who shop at these street markets often do not know the good US brand names. And I can sometimes find great deals on brand new clothes. I think that people with more money than good sense buy them without trying them on. Then, when they don't fit, it's easier to donate them than to take them back to the store. It seems silly to me to not take advantage of this opportunity. Even if the clothes are used, I have a washing machine.
The Thrill of the Hunt
Even though I rarely buy clothing down here anymore, I still check out the merchandise at the street markets and thrift stores every once in a while, especially in the smaller villages. It is not unusual to run into amazing bargains. I once bought a Tommy Bahama silk blouse for $5, and I found a brand new sexy Ralph Loren blouse of beaded silk, still with it's $250 price tag, and I got it for about $5. Now it's the thrill of the hunt that draws me. I am always on the lookout for the amazing bargain that no one else has noticed.
Mostly, though, I'm better off going directly to the thrift stores on my annual trips north of the border. I usually take an extra suitcase, or buy a cheap one at a thrift store, to load up with my wardrobe for the coming year.
During my trip to Florida in May, I visited a tiny thrift store in a small town. I bought a blouse and two pairs of shoes. Neither pair of shoes had never been worn. The price, including tax, came to $5.30. I looked up the shoes online. One pair sells for $65. They are very comfortable flats - great for traveling. I found Terry three pairs of men's dress shorts that came to about $10.
What Will You Do with the Money You Save?
Shopping this way for the past 10 or 15 years has saved me a lot of money. It is one of the reasons why I was able to retire early. And these savings go a long way toward paying for my annual international vacations.