More on thrifting

January 11, 2010Jon Brooks Comments Off

Following up on our last post, on thrifting blogs, these items:

How I Paid My Rent For 6 Months By Thrifting (Things I Found at the Thrift Store)

Let me first start by saying that having to make rent this way was in no way fun or recommended. Unless you’re retired or insanely dedicated to it. Paying my rent for 6 months via scraping by on reselling thrifted goods was a ton of work. I was able to utilize my in-depth knowledge of web-selling platforms to more easily liquidate most of the items. I was able to achieve this feat mainly by selling just a few items each month that made up most of my then $800 a month rent. On a soapbox-rant side note: let me say that when congress or some rogue old senator (who you know doesn’t even use the web) dabbles with the idea of taxing people’s income from selling items on sites like eBay and Etsy, it makes me seriously cringe. Some folks do this for a living and it’s grueling. An extremely slim percentage of the web sellers are making good coin from doing it. Like I said above, reselling items for a living is not what I’d call fun.

HOW DID I DO IT? You have to have a keen eye for items that you know will sell. “Don’t sell what you don’t know.” A bus driver wouldn’t apply for a job as an Army helicopter pilot would he? You have to know what you’re looking at or you’ll waste a lot of money on stuff you can’t liquidate and end up looking like a hoarder with a garage full of junk. My item of choice was art, because that’s what I’m comfortable in. Having a fine art and design background I was able to find rare prints that had probably been turned in by someone who didn’t know any better. I found real screen prints by David Weidman, hand-colored etchings by UK artist Jo Barry, and ORIGINAL impasto oil paintings by Italian artist P.G. Tiele (which still blows my mind!) I also found art objects such as original McCoy pottery and vintage little sculptures and plant holders from various artists & eras that sold for amounts that still surprise me to this day. America is a nation of collectors and when they see an item they want or don’t have – you bet your ass they’ll pay for it…

WHERE DID I FIND THE TIME TO DO ALL OF THIS THRIFTING? I had the time to pull this off because I was freelancing at in the evenings and would go out and thrift by day to avoid heavy crowds…I’d set my alarm and get up to go hit my spots 6 days a week. Through this experience I quickly learned how, when, and what time the newest goods were delivered to each location. I even started to notice (and feel) like some of those old creeps sitting in their cars for the stores or garage sales to open, just to be the first to get in there and peruse. QUICK TIP: using a phone with fast and strong Internet can help you quick google any artist or pot or item you think may have good value.

It’s now been well over a year since I was doing this and have found a real comfort in knowing that if I ever hit a rough patch again in my life, that I’ll be just fine due to my sheer resourcefulness. Anyone can do this if they really have to. It may take a little bit of studying and a keen eye but you can pull it off. The thrill of scoring something you know isn’t supposed to be in there for $2.99 is the best feeling in the world…


Top Secret Thrifting Tips (Painfully Hip)

*Go regularly, and go on off-hours. The first helps you acquire more goodies. The second is for sanity’s sake. If you don’t go on a regular basis, you’re just asking to miss all the good loot. You can take this a step further and inquire about “restocking” day.

* A lot of the larger/more “established” thrift shops – especially in bigger towns and cities – have “last chance,” “outlet” and “as-is” shops… I can’t even begin to explain how wonderful these places are. it’s amazing what treasures make it to these shops…

* Make a list of what you need, and refer back to it to avoid stocking up on things you don’t. Aso, racks of $3 clothes are not an excuse to inundate your closet with heaps of poor-quality crap… Maintain your standards, ladies.

* Shop off-season. You’ll find the best deals and have a better selection to pick through. (Winter coats are plentiful and purchased for pennies in Tucson in august. I would imagine the same would go for vintage sun dresses during January in Vermont.)

* Give some thought to a “thrifting uniform.” You want to wear something that is comfortable and easy to try things on over (in case of long lines for – or even non-existent – changing rooms). I like leggings, long, slim-fitting tank or tee-shirt style dresses, a loose-fitting cardigan and slip-on flats. If you’re not wearing socks, at least slip a pair in your bag for trying on shoes. Not doing so is gross. And i will judge you.

* You can also take an even easier route and throw a flexible sewing tape in your bag for taking measurements right there at the racks.

* Approach things with an open mind. If you go out with specific desires – “i want a pale yellow floral house dress made in 1953. In a size small.” – you’re probably going to be disappointed. Remember that things can be shortened, re-sized, altered entirely – by you, a crafty friend, or even a tailor. And even factoring in the tailor’s fees, it’s still cheaper (and cooler) than buying something brand new and mass produced.

* Try to find shops off the beaten path. shops in areas with a high population of amazingly hip college students will be a) picked over, and b) pricey. Look for the ones near ritzy 55+ communities. Go wild.

* I’m a little nervous about sharing this last tip, out of fear of a good lecture from anyone will a little self-respect, but just hear me out, ok? Flirt. Not in that creepy, “unwanted attention” sort of way. I’m not even suggesting you give out your phone number. But putting on a big friendly smile and striking up a conversation with the occasional employee – male or female – will do some pretty amazing things…I don’t see anything wrong with securing a “50% off everything, just for you… shh!” by using some (genuine) friendliness. It is my opinion that it brightens both party’s day.

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