By Emily Smith
As visions of sugar plums and sky-high credit card bills dance in our heads, we are all desperately trying to find a way to save a buck this holiday season. Whether your bright eyes and bushy tail braved the early morning crowds on Black Friday, or you are anxiously waiting until Christmas Eve in hope of finding a last minute sale, most Americans are once again trying their hand at pinching their precious pennies this year.
Saving money, especially during one of the most expensive holidays, is, sadly, usually a failed attempt for most of our over-consuming, keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ society. We are conditioned daily by all forms of media to spend, spend, spend and ye shall be happy. ’Tis the season for racking up a debt that will carry over well into the new year, and cost you more in interest than your wildest Christmas dreams could ever fathom.
With only a week left to shop, the only sensible advice I can offer is to shop wise and try shopping secondhand.
I have been an overly vocal advocate of “thrifting” for years, to the point of fearing myself a bit redundant. But for that, dear reader, I will not apologize.
The benefits of shopping secondhand are exponential. One-of-a-kind gifts that you find at thrift stores exude a sentimentality and heirloom quality that you can’t pick off of a shelf at Walmart or a rack at Dillard’s. It shows the recipient of your unique gift that you took extra time and effort to seek out something more than just a mass produced, brand name “whatsit” that anyone could blindly purchase online. And by shopping thrift you can keep Christmas 2009’s budget intact.
But, I have recently discovered fault in my overly zealous attempts at guiding you into saving money and looking sharp by shopping at our local thrift stores.
Most secondhand stores in our area, both the not-for-profit thrifts and a couple that buy their inventory outright for profit, are wonderful places to make your dollar stretch further. Closet Crisis, Potter’s House, Second Mile Ministries, Peace at Home Thrift Store and Cheap Thrills are just a few great shops that keep their prices low, which allows for a swift turnover so that new items are frequently on the racks and shelves.
I applaud them for making my wardrobe one of my most prized possessions and credit them with helping me decorate my new house with a plethora of fabulous knick-knacks, statues and wall hangings.
But there’s a problem with a couple of national chain thrift stores, namely Salvation Army and Goodwill. In my weekly shopping excursions, I have noticed that both have been drastically raising their prices in the past several years. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t mention this, but during the holiday season, I feel the public needs to know about this more than ample price hike.
Both of these charitable groups need help and donations during the cold, winter months and receive help from the local community through donated items that end up on the thrift store sales floor.
While I have chosen to live the “thrifting lifestyle” for years because I enjoy the thrill of the hunt, I have noticed that a lot of the Salvation Army and Goodwill shoppers are the very people who these nonprofit organizations are supposed to help.
Thrift stores are great resources for lower-income families and should allow these families to spend wisely by providing quality items at a fair price. This no longer seems possible at these stores.
Would you consider it a Catch-22 that the people who should be benefiting from these stores are the people who are paying too much for these overpriced (donated) goods? Would you still donate your wares if you knew they were charging $4 for old, summer Capri pants in winter, or $149 for a stained couch from the 1980s? Can you justify spending $15 on a used
pair of heels, priced because they have yet to fall apart? I once saw a two-piece leather jacket and chaps set at Salvation Army for $250, no joke.
How is that for a Christmas travesty? Does that seem fair or reasonable to you, especially during a time when people are in need of basic, everyday necessities? This writer finds it odd and extremely disturbing.
I am currently contacting the state offices of both the Salvation Army and Goodwill in hopes of obtaining answers to these questions: Who decides the prices? And, why are your prices so high? In all my attempts, I have yet to receive an answer.
I urge you, as members of our community, to let your voice be heard. Step up. Ask questions. Be an advocate for all members of our wonderful community.