What Thrifty Girls Know

Special Section “Your Best Life on a Budget”, Fayette Woman, February 2009

Black Friday, November 2008, 7:30 a.m. Christmas shopping for three children has brought me here: standing in line at a local toy superstore with a shopping cart loaded to the brim. The line is—no joke—75 feet long, and as my fellow bargain hunters and I move forward with the velocity of a sea slug, I stare morosely at the “great deals” that are lined up on our route to the cash registers. It occurs to me that I haven’t bought enough Christmas gifts for my son, so from the nearest stacked pyramid of boxes I pick up a toy gun that shoots foam darts. My son’s too young for it and probably will use our cats as target practice, but it’s marked “60% OFF!!” I drop it in my basket and trudge another two steps forward, credit card in hand. Looking at the other shoppers ahead and behind, I wonder if they, like me, are convinced that we’ve all somehow descended to Dante’s Fourth Circle of Hell.

Welcome to bargain hunting in a crashed economy, where getting a great deal—or to be more precise, believing that we’re getting a great deal—is all that matters. I don’t really want it, I don’t want to buy it, but hey, it’s on final clearance.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Maybe it’s time to just say NO to the early-bird “specials” and end-of-season sales of the big box stores. Yes, we’re collectively tightening our belts, but there are other ways to save money. We need to rethink our shopping habits. Get thrifty. As in finding what you need—clothes, toys, housewares, furniture—at thrift and consignment stores, that is.

Shop smart, shop happy. Yes, it's possible.

Even if “shopping” sits at the top of your list of favorite activities, you might nevertheless have an uneasy relationship with the idea of thrift-store shopping. Sure, we love to save money, but calling someone “thrifty,” with its connotations of penny-pinching, is oftentimes a backhanded compliment at best. And a thrift store? Perish the thought. Going clothes or furniture shopping in a thrift stores conjures up images of rummaging through bins in a dimly-lit and faintly strange-smelling little hole in the wall.

While that may be true for some thrift stores, for many others—especially those found here in Fayette County—that stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth. The new breed of thrift/consignment stores, nowadays also known as “resale shops,” is largely composed of bright, spacious, well-lit establishments. Their wares are typically good-quality or high-quality products in conditions that range from “gently used” to brand-new with original tags still on. And while some items are clearly secondhand, it’s not hard to find clothes, toys, furniture and other goods in nearly perfect condition.

Also, in case you need another reason or two to try resale shopping, keep in mind that most thrift and consignment stores benefit charitable organizations in one way or another. Shopping thrift is also better for the environment, as it is recycling and reusing instead of consuming new materials.

If you’re new to resale shopping, you may want to test the waters by visiting a consignment store such as the Red Door Consignment Company on Senoia Road in Tyrone. The Red Door is selective about the items they sell, accepting from consignors only designer or top name-brand clothing that is less than two years old and in like-new condition. When shopping at the Red Door, it’s easy to forget that you’re not in an upscale retail store—except when you glance at the price tag of that gorgeous silk blouse and realize it’s only half of what you’d pay for brand new.

If you’re looking for even deeper discounts, Fayette County has more than a few excellent thrift stores. Foremost among them is the Wellspring Store, located on Highway 54 in the East Peachtree Shopping Center. Nicely-organized and well-lit, the store offers upscale items at low prices. Not only is this good for your wallet, but also it’s good for your community: the volunteer-run store supports the Wellspring Home, a program that helps women who have suffered from childhood sexual abuse with rebuilding their lives.  The store’s departments include housewares, toys, clothing and seasonal items, and features specials and discounts on a day-to-day basis.

Another great place to find excellent bargains is the Clothes Less Traveled store, located on the south side of Peachtree City on Highway 74. The shopping experience is slightly different from Wellspring, as it’s less of a department-store atmosphere than a great place to poke around for hidden treasures. Now in its eleventh year, CLT’s prices are more than fair; who could argue with $3.00 for a “gently used” sweater or a $2.00 resale DVD? And as a charitable non-profit, CLT gives back to numerous community groups, churches and programs, including Promise Place, Fayette Youth Protection Home, and Fayette Care Clinic.

Two of Fayette’s thrift stores are associated with and directly benefit the ministry programs of local churches. The Real Life Store in Tyrone, which is affiliated with the Dogwood Church (formerly Braelinn Church), is located on Senoia Road in Tyrone. Bright, cheerful and clean, the Real Life Store’s reasonably priced items such as clothing, sporting goods and housewares directly benefit the Real Life Center, a non-profit organization that helps those in need of financial, emotional, and/or spiritual assistance. The Changing Hands Thrift Store, located inside of Atlanta City Church at 320 Dividend Drive in Peachtree City, boasts 9000 square feet of a bargain hunter’s paradise. Profits from Changing Hands go A Better Way Ministries and Pathway Network of Homes. Both the Real Life Store and Changing Hands offer a wide-ranging inventory, more-than-reasonable prices, and the warm fuzzies you’ll get from knowing that the money you’ve spent on your new “treasures” has gone to make the lives of others better.

So there you have it. From now on, this shopper is saying “goodbye” to the Fourth Circle of Hell. Because if you know where to go, it’s a bargain hunter’s paradiso.