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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What's Goodwill Good For?

Now that I have dispelled the impression that I walk into a thrift store and find expensive status items with a single glance, I would like to consider what Goodwill (or any thrift or secondhand marketplace) is good for.

Assuming the prices are low (not always the case), I would say that the best buys are the most humble, ordinary items. The savings are perhaps low, since the items are not expensive to begin with, but over a lifetime...I was going to say "Do the math," but in this case I'm not sure how one could do the math.

Yard sales are probably the best places to pick up useful items that other people have in overabundance, Such sales are especially good in areas with a transient population, such as university towns. Or affluent towns! I was once at a conference in Clarement CA and--on a walk--passed millions of yard sales with incredibly tempting items--all off limits to a plane traveler, alas. I myself don't go to more than two or three yard sales a year. The best of the best: church sales and similar. Only two that I go to. Thrift stores are my choice, even though they are more expensive than most yard sales.

OK, so over the years I have stocked up on
--cotton and linen dish towels
--pot holders
--utensils (eating)
--cooking utensils (ladles, spatulas, whisks, etc)
--mid level pots and pans
--baking dishes
--plastic storage, preferably Tupperware (but beware, often T-ware is up-priced)
--mediocre linens*** (good linens are preferable, of course, but mediocre ones are fine for students, campers, etc)
--mismatched dishes and cups (I only buy Corelle)
--mismatched glasses (I have acquired a set of my favorite Picardie one at a time)
--"" silverware (when I can find most of a set)
--coffee makers (thanks donors for the great French presses)

Hmmmm. This is a rather pathetic list. Most of these items cost only a few dollars. Some--like the linens--might evoke the squeam factor*** or EWWWW disgusting factor****.

Some require that you relinquish certain conventions, like having matching dinnerware.  (I do have matching Corelle at this point, btw).

If you look at the list, you might say: Oh, all this stuff would only cost a few hundred dollars, max. I guess that's true, but I still think that these little savings add up and compound in ways that my math cannot accommodate.

All I know is that I set up "house" for my children when they went to summer camp (my daughter was embarrassed by her linens--the other girls all had matching themed sets. I found one at the thrift for her next summer). I set up house when they went to college and when they went abroad for studies.

When my son got an apartment in New Orleans, I could set up his kitchen and bath instantaneously. This saved both money and time. When something breaks, I usually have a back up: that saves money and time also.

I am convinced that this saved money compounds somehow. Does anyone know how one could figure that out?? My fave glasses....


Atlantic said...

What is Goodwill good for....

Hmmm. In my case, excellent cashmere sweaters, $200 jeans for $7, classic woollen trousers from DKNY etc, french presses of course but also an Alessi kettle (new!), and a $600 espresso machine (new and $99 but completely worth it), electric kettle found within 1 day of mine dying, Garnet Hill flannel sheets and duvet cover virtually new (and divine)...some beautiful dresses in silk, from Kay Unger, a local high end designer, J Crew, Marni, Aquatalia boots....never know what I will find. That is what I love and also my downfall. Too much stuff!

Shelley said...

A good deal of my household items came from my grandparents' houses or from Bill's mother's house. I have multiple matched sets of dishes from Ella, also the wedding set my mom put on my wedding register - I had no idea what to chose. The Tightwad Gazette discusses the squeam factor and reminds us that we use items in a hotel that have had many previous uses and we buy clothes that no one knows who else has tried on. I'm a firm believer in soap and water. Most of my clothes come from thrifts. I buy underwear and shoes new (my size shoe is rare in stores, never mind second hand). I went into town for a new running bra yesterday and looked through the shoes and clothes at M&S - a mid-range shop. There were some deals in the boys' casual shoes - boat shoes and loafers, but the price of the ordinary clothes was silly to me. My main rule is that I have to have already identified what it is I need or want. I can look at anything, but I can only buy a previously identified need. Anything else is an impulse. I'm not outfitting anyone else's house so I don't need any more extras than I've already inherited! I would happily have turned over some of Ella's things to any of Bill's kids, but they wanted to buy their own. They'll inherit it all one day, but I'm assuming it will all go in a skip (the eldest daughter can't be bothered with thrift shops), though I hope I am wrong.

Duchesse said...

- Kid's t-shirts for school or camp (new ones from fun runs, product launches etc.)
-Hallowe'en costumes
- Champagne glasses
- Vases and planters
- Ribbon, giftwrap

Gam Kau said...

I love Corelle and mismatched Corelle is my favorite. At the peak of my acquisition phase (short lived) I actually bought Wedgewood china to use as my everyday dishes and after awhile I reverted back to my mismatched and much loved Corelle. I also have Duralex glasses, but I purchased those new.
Thrift stores are great for everything. Both my kids were kitted out for university with kitchen finds from the thrift store. Sometimes I feel sort of like I'm renting the stuff, I buy it, use it and it often ends up re-donated again.
If you figure out the money saved from not buying new and assume you would have put it in a conservative investment at 5% interest then you can compound your savings.
Example: cast iron skillet $1 - saved $10 off of buying new. $10 invested over 10 years of ownership at 5% = $16.29.
But there's a rub, so many times thrift stores purchases are no necessary so it's likely sometimes you come out ahead, but with impulse buys, maybe you come out behind. :)