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Clearance: Have I got your attention?

Previously printed in 2005

If I had more money I could really save a lot right now. It is that time of year that the retail stores, especially in the malls, mark down their inventory and everywhere you look is a dream bargain. I have spent hundreds of dollars on items to save money. I may not have needed it at the time, but what a bargain! I have diagnosed myself with a mental disorder that affects many Americans who spend money to save money, ‘Spenditicitus’. If I had taken all that cash and just put it into the bank, then I would have really saved some money.

This fever to buy for less has taken more turns than Pamela Anderson’s chest size, because now, clearance shopping is not enough. I must visit closeout stores, such as Big Lots, Tuesday Morning, Hudson’s Salvage Treasure Hunt, and Dirt Cheap. The mass of cheap stuff that I can buy has exploded into insanity! Now stores that sell every item for a dollar are popping up all over! Dollar Tree, Dollar Store, Dollar World, Dollar Town, Dollar Stuff, Dollar whatever! Who knew you could find that many things to sell for a buck? I end up buying twelve items for the sole reason that it is so cheap. I did not ‘need’ the dollar items but what is ‘need’ anyway. For these prices, I will find a ‘need.’ Why? Because it is only a dollar!

The outlet malls in nearby towns drew my interest a few years ago and off I went searching for bargains. Occasionally I found one, but the thrill was not there. Yes, items were cheaper than regular prices at the mall, but who buys regular when they have clearance? There is no passion at an outlet mall. It teases my sense of cheapness but it does not fulfill.

My search for cheaper and more exciting good buys brought me to the thrift stores. When I discovered the larger and more organized store on the Coast, I found a haven for my addiction. Bill Blass for a dollar, Liz Claiborne for two dollars, and toys that delight my child for thirty cents. The Lite-Bright for a dollar made my twins light up! I am a hero at the thrift store in the eyes of my sons when we can buy a whole bag of toys for a dollar filled with Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, cars, Scooby Doo, and the Green Goblin. Where else can I fulfill their dreams, not at the ‘W’ store where one power ranger is like six or seven dollars. Even they cry out in delight when we park the car at the thrift store. I like buying magazines that are just a little out of date, especially expensive ones like Southern Living or Oprah. Children’s books are cheap too. I feel like laughing when I hand over the cash at the register.

My love for thrift shopping began over seventeen years ago when my neighbor and fellow church-goer and I use to visit the Salvation Army store. I discovered that if a woman who had millions in the bank, wore huge diamonds, lived in a huge home with an indoor pool, could shop for bargains then so could I! I was not ashamed anymore! We had fun plunging through stuff and she would find items like a shawl that would look good with one of her expensive dresses. I purchased a London fog jacket for $5 and the rest is history.

Not only my little ones have bought in to this shopping but also my teen who now has an extensive tee shirt collection. His goal is to find the most off-the-wall tees such as the free shirts given to you but you would never wear. They have the unknown candidate who ran for office, a birthday shirt with someone’s photo, or tees with logos from retail stores, festivals, or pictures of singers like Neil Diamond. You never know when you see him out and about, he may have someone’s lost pet on his tee. He has saved hundreds of dollars buying the cheap and quirky tees at the thrift store, but his closet is full and there are more tees in the attic. If you add the cost of all those tees, how much do you think he has saved? At least he creates his own path and does not give in to the pressure to buy ‘what is in’. He makes his own ‘in.’ I even find doing his laundry entertaining!

The thrift store says every purchase helps others. This is an added benefit because I can use that as my excuse when I buy ten pairs of shorts, five jeans, four dresses and three skirts….just for me. It was to help others that I made these purchases. What a worthy goal and what a good person I am. I keep telling my husband I am helping society. He is not buying it!

I rarely have time to visit garage sales although this is an excellent way to find great bargains for items, especially clothes or stuff for my exercise room. If I get a chance, I love to visit flea markets but they are not as good as they use to be when I was growing up. My grandmother was a ‘Fred Sanford’ of flea markets because she was always at one selling her stuff. Mainly she sold designer clothes for Barbie. She designed and sewed the cheapest and best Barbie Doll clothes that she spent hours on and sold for nothing. Talk about bargains! Those clothes would be a real treasure for me now.

Where did this need to save by shopping come from? When younger, I did not know about the great value of thrift store shopping, and clearance was not as popular as it is today. My fashion sense was not so great either. My main source of cool clothing came from hand-me-downs from a cousin. What a thrill to get a garbage bag filled with new clothes, new to me. Back then, shopping at Goodwill or Salvation Army had a stigma associated with it. You would be ashamed to tell your friends that you had bought jeans at the ‘poor people’s store. Now, I announce with pride when I am wearing a thrift store treasure, which I found that someone had to give up. I give credit to the ever-increasing bulge that many Americans are fighting; they are donating more and more clothes that look never worn. We all do it, buy a size and hope we will lose that extra ten pounds to wear it and then give up and throw it out. Thank you Biggy Size it! Unfortunately, I too am donating clothes more and more.

Now that I have this constant source of feeding for my problem, I am venturing out to other areas just like a druggie would do. I need another fix, another drug, another kind of high. I have found it too. It is called EBay or online auctions. From my own home I can hook up to eBay and search for dresses and find 5,074 dresses. The danger in auction shopping is that I feel compelled to win. I must win and so I may put in a higher bid, just to win! I discovered this competitive purchasing on Sam’s Club auctions. I just clicked on some items out of curiosity and before long, I had bid on fifty things, because they had a dollar price on them. I could at least afford $2 on a thousand dollar man’s bracelet. Needless to say, I lost forty eight bids but I got a professional fourteen inch skillet for $14. I felt satisfied because I had won. And, I had won without giving in to the urge to bid a hundred dollars for a forty-dollar item. I witnessed that others were not so wise. At least I have my addiction under control! I will spend for less, not for more!

For tips on thrift store shopping: go often, the stock changes daily; but only buy what you need. Shop for quality: collectors items, vintage linens and brand names. Take your time and inspect items closely because some stores do not allow returns. At many stores, they check out the item and put on the tag if it works. Remember spring cleaners donate mass quantities of good stuff.

For tips on saving money, try buying only what you need and even though a $250 leather backpack may be on sale for $30, try not to give in to the urge. Control your spending by following these mental rules: do not buy the cheap item if your closet will have to be extended to hang it up. Do not buy if you have four other ones in the same color and in similar styles. Do not buy it if you wore that size last year. Do not buy it if you are putting it on a credit card…..it will end up costing more than your child’s braces. You can buy furniture to do all those cute makeover ideals, but if it going to sit in the garage for a year, forget it. Do not buy it if means you cannot fit it in the car. I have left the thrift store with my children hidden beneath layers of bags and toys and stuff. Either buy a bigger vehicle, like I did, or spend less.

I should be a wealthy woman for all the valuable stuff I have bought for less. I am not, but if I do rack up millions, don’t think I am giving up thrift store shopping. It only means I will have more cash to spend and then I will save even more! Do you think they have a designer thrift store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills? I guess I had best hope for a store that just gives it away. Now that would be a bargain my pocket book could handle.