Thrifting: Good for Your Wallet, Your Wardrobe, and the World
When you walk through the front door of your local thrift store, there is a rush of anticipation. You might find your new favorite winter jacket, a pair of designer jeans, or the perfect outfit for a night on the town—all for just a few dollars.
The thrift store market has grown in recent years as more consumers become aware of the impact fashion purchases have on our planet and move away from fast fashion. According to The Association of Resale Professionals, the thrift store industry is a billion-dollar industry, estimated to be worth between $17.5 and $24 billion.
Whether you want to find unique fashion pieces, save money, or reduce your carbon footprint, shopping at a thrift store can have a positive impact on your life and the world around you. Need more reasons to head to your local thrift store? Here are 12 of them.
12 Reasons Why Thrift Stores Are Awesome
1. Thrifting won’t break the bank. If you want to look good on a budget, thrift stores are the way to go. According to Goodwill, the average cost of a woman’s blazer at one of its stores is just $4.99 versus the price at retailer Express, which can come out to more than $100. Jeans, T-shirts, and jackets are similarly discounted, which can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a season.
Families with children can save big by shopping at thrift stores. On average, families with kids spend $630.36 annually on back-to-school clothing. At a thrift store, the average cost of a child’s T-shirt is just $2.79, unlike stores such as Old Navy, which charge between $10 and $12.99.
In addition to everyday lower prices, many thrift stores offer discount days, which can reduce the cost of items even further. At the Salvation Army Stores of Chicago, specific tags are discounted to 69 cents every Saturday. Shopping at thrift stores could significantly reduce the average $1,800 per year consumers spend on clothing, with additional savings on items such as books, shoes, and household goods.
2. Thrifting is good for the environment. In addition to being more affordable, shopping at thrift stores can have a positive impact on the environment. Items such as coffee mugs, books, and even toys that would end up in the landfill can find a second home through thrift shops.
Buying second-hand clothing can do more than reduce the amount of trash you produce. The average cotton T-shirt requires 2,700 liters of water to produce, which is equal to the amount of water a person drinks in two and a half years, on average. That statistic is particularly troubling when you consider that Americans toss an average of 14 million tons of clothing per year. When these items end up in landfills, they contribute to greenhouse gases and leach chemicals into groundwater.
As the environmental impact of clothing production becomes more apparent, companies like H&M have implemented recycling programs to reduce the amount of textiles that wind up in landfills. However, only a small portion of clothing donated to this program gets recycled. By shopping at thrift stores, you help keep clothing and other items out of the landfills and reduce your carbon footprint.
3. Your purchases support thrift stores that help their communities. Many thrift stores are nonprofit organizations that support community programs such as homeless centers and pet shelters. Other thrift stores are for-profit organizations that donate a portion of profits to charitable causes and provide jobs for underemployed populations.
At The Soul Dog Thrift Store in Englewood, Colorado, profits from the store are used to fund low-cost medications, supplies, and spay and neuter services for animals in their community. Goodwill, one of the most popular thrift store chains, provides jobs for people with disabilities and job training opportunities.
It is worth researching where the profits from your favorite thrift stores go and the percentages of profits that support these efforts. Charity Navigator is a useful tool for locating information about the financial health and accountability of your favorite thrift store.
4. Vintage clothes are often higher in quality and have stood the test of time. Fast fashion, which rose in popularity in the early 2000s, increased the demand for low-quality items designed to last just a few washes. In contrast, vintage clothing (which is defined as clothing pieces that are more than 20 years old) was created at a time when clothing was made to last for years. A vintage jean jacket made in the 70s has already survived dozens, if not hundreds, of washes and will last much longer than a more recently made jacket.
One reason vintage clothing lasts is the shift in popular fabrics used in clothing manufacturing. For instance, elastic, which allows for more form-fitting clothing, only became popular in recent years. While stretch fabric may make it easier to lounge in jeans, it also breaks down quickly. Vintage clothing often includes more generous seams, which makes it easier to have garments altered to fit your frame or adjust for a fluctuating waistline.
5. You can find one-of-a-kind pieces. Don’t want to wear the same clothes as everyone else? Thrift stores offer a variety of unique fashion items and clothing that are no longer made, such as vintage designer pieces. Vintage clothing is more likely to feature unique details such as French seams and beautiful buttons because those clothing pieces were expected to last for years to come. Thrift stores may also carry handmade or altered clothing items that are truly one of a kind.
6. You can resell items to make a profit. Thrift stores can also support your side hustle. Resellers are people who hunt thrift stores, yard sales, and other secondhand retailers for items they can resell at a profit on marketplaces such as eBay, Poshmark, Depop, and Facebook Marketplace. This practice is known as “flipping.”
Thrift stores get a large amount of product; however, staff members often have limited knowledge about the retail costs of items. Even an experienced thrift store employee might not be familiar with every niche. For example, they might know the most expensive jean brands but may not recognize the value of a VHS tape of a cult horror movie. As a result, there can be a decent profit margin for dedicated resellers.
To be a successful reseller, carry a smartphone and check prices as you browse your favorite thrift store. You might find an authentic Picasso or even a $35,000 limited-edition wristwatch. However, flipping experts recommend you start by sticking to items you are familiar with.
7. You can develop your sense of style. Low prices and a wide selection of unique pieces make it easier to experiment with new styles. Not sure how you feel about the high-waisted jean trend? You can find a pair at the thrift store for a few dollars and take them home to test out the new style with different tops, shoes, and belts already in your closet.
Or what about that funky patterned shirt that catches your eye? You may balk at spending $25 to $50 for a shirt you aren’t sure you can pull off. At a thrift store, you can afford to take the risk. If you don’t end up loving that flamingo print shirt, send it back to the thrift store for someone else to love.
8. Thrifting is very trendy right now. Cost and sustainability aside, thrifting is just plain cool! The rise in popularity is likely due to the increase in the number of fashion bloggers and celebrities who are becoming more environmentally conscious. In fact, the thrifting industry has seen an annual growth rate of 2.3% in the past five years.
The Unmaterial Girl, a blogger and fashion influencer dedicated to “slow fashion,” is known for sharing her favorite thrifted items and sustainable brands. She currently boasts more than 18,000 Instagram followers and a recent feature in Vogue magazine.
People from all walks of like enjoy the thrill of searching for unique items at great prices, including your favorite celebrities. Kim Kardashian was recently lauded for embracing vintage clothing by sporting popular designer threads from the 90s.
9. You know where your money is going. Every dollar you spend supports a company. What do you do when a brand you love engages in less-than-stellar business tactics? You may decide to stop supporting it with your dollars.
However, when buying from a thrift store, your money is not going directly to that brand. Instead, your dollars are going to a local store that employs people in your neighborhood. That keeps the money local and might let you enjoy the styles you love without compromising your values.
10. You can practice DIY projects. Want to get creative with the clothes you buy? From cutting T-shirts to distressing your jeans, the only limit to DIY projects is your imagination.
Thrift stores are an ideal place to source materials for your next DIY project. Whether you want to modify clothing to fit your fashion sense or are looking to refinish your dining room chairs, you can find a plethora of fabrics and other crafting supplies at your local thrift store much cheaper than buying from name-brand supply stores.
For home improvement projects, consider secondhand home good stores such as Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores. They sell gently used furniture, home accessories, appliances, and building materials for far less than retail home-improvement stores. Since the supplies cost less, there is less risk if something doesn’t look quite right.
11. Thrift shops have continually changing selections. Unlike mall stores, which tend to get new merchandise delivered just once or twice a week, thrift stores are always getting new merchandise. This influx means you can return to a thrift store every day of the week to discover new treasures.
When will you find the best selection of new items? It varies by store, of course, so your best bet is asking an employee at your favorite store when the staff puts out new merchandise. However, many thrift stores see an increase of donations during the weekend, which means the best day to shop is likely the beginning of the week, according to Dabney Frake at Apartment Therapy.
12. The clothes are already broken in. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars on fashionably faded jeans, you can find distressed jeans at a thrift store for pennies on the dollar. Clothing from your favorite thrift store has also been worn and washed several times, so the fabric is softer and more comfortable.
Have you ever bought a brand-new sweater only to find out it stretches out after one wear, or that your new designer jeans are too tight after one wash? Garments from a thrift store are preshrunk, meaning your clothing is more likely to fit even after washing.
Leather boots are another ideal secondhand purchase. It can take an average of 80 hours to break in a brand-new pair of leather boots. That is two full workweeks of blisters and achy feet. You can save your feet the agony by buying pre-broken-in boots—and your wallet will be happier, too.
Environmentally Responsible Fashion Resources
Being an environmentally responsible fashion consumer is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It is nearly impossible to be 100% environmentally friendly. Thrifting is a step in the right direction; however, it can be challenging to support recycled fashion via thrifting exclusively.
You may not always have time to sort through the racks, and sometimes you need a particular item and need to go right to it. How can you support sustainability in these situations? The next best thing is to buy new clothing from stores known for their environmental friendliness.
The following resources will help you explore additional benefits of thrifting.
Resources on the Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion:
- "'Fashion’s Dirty Secrets' is a film that will change your shopping habits": This article explores the pollution and water issues that make fashion such a problematic industry.
- "Stop making China suffer toxic pollution for Western fashion": This article describes a Greenpeace investigation into the chemicals used by top fashion brands and how they affect the villages where clothing from brands such as Nike and Puma are manufactured.
- "Fashion industry has the potential to be a force for good": This piece explores the ways fashion brands are working to support greener efforts and reduce the impact of fashion on the environment.
Resources on Financial Benefits of Thrifting:
- "Thrift Stores Industry in the US: Market Research Report": This report looks at the financial impact of thrifting and how the market will perform in the coming years.
Resources on the Fashion Benefits of Thrifting:
- "Craftsmanship, a dying art?": This article from on the Ecologist explores how the shift away from local factories overseen by clothing designers themselves has made it more difficult for independent designers to be successful. It also explores how the shift to overseas fashion production may affect fashion innovation.
Resources on the General Benefits of Thrifting:
- "20 Amazing Benefits of Thrift Shopping You Probably Never Expected": Thrifting is good for the environment and your pocketbook, but you can also find unique gifts and much more. This article outlines more thrifting benefits you may not have considered.
- "10 Reasons We Should All Shop at Thrift Stores": Need more reasons to support thrift stores? This article offers ten more reasons to head to your favorite thrift store.