Calling All Spendthrifts — Keep it Up!

by Katy on July 19, 2009 · 17 comments

Gap Jeans

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

As most of my readers know, I am a member of The Compact, a worldwide group that elects to only buy used. I do this for a number of reasons, but mostly because I choose to define ourselves by my actions, not my purchases. In doing so, Compact members hope to bring awareness to how the current consumer lifestyle affects our lives, our finances and our planet.

I have two sons, ages 11 and 13. They are used to Mommy’s soapbox antics. It doesn’t faze them to wear secondhand clothes and receive secondhand gifts. The 13-year-old really gets it, and the 11-year-old is okay with it, as long as it he still gets toys. (He’s very stuffmotivated.)

The 13-year-old is growing like a weed, and is constantly needing new clothes. This time it was jeans. So I headed out to my trusty Goodwill thrift store yesterday on said mission. I quickly found a brand-new-looking pair of Gap “carpenter jeans” in just his size. They were $4.99, but had a purple tag, which meant they were an additional 50% off. Score!

When I got home I raced to scope out the Gap website. Had I gone to the mall, I would have had to fork over 35 bucks.

Ah hah! A perfect opportunity for a parental teaching moment.

“So who’s smarter?” I queried. “The person who paid $35 for the jeans, or the person who paid $2.50?”

My son turned his gaze upon me and replied with that look only a teenager can truly master. (He’s precocious this way.)

“Mom, if someone hadn’t paid $35, we wouldn’t have been able to pay the $2.50.”

Oh yeah . . . .

Will there ever be so many people doing The Compact that there won’t be enough secondhand goods to go around? Based on the long line of of cars at Goodwill awaiting their turn to donate. I’d have to say a resounding no. But my son’s response gave me pause. Someone has to start the consumer cycle.

But who do you want to be? The person who spends $35 on a pair of kid’s jeans? Or the person who spends $2.50?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Di July 19, 2009 at 9:08 am

I’m the $2.50 crowd 🙂 I went to our local thrift stores Thursday and scored some jeans too. Mine were LEI jeans and just $2. I also got a jean jacket for $5 that fits like a glove. For me the good thing about thrifting is I don’t feel bad if I have to take a sewing machine to them. Paying $2-5 for something that I have to alter is better than paying $20+ for something that fits poorly and I have to alter. I find thrifted stuff just fits better, don’t ask me why!


jessie July 19, 2009 at 10:42 am

Yes, someone *did* have to pay $35 for those jeans. But, why not let the people that just have to have the brand new products, and then when they get tired of them, people like us can come by and snatch them up! The product gets used for its entire useful life, and everybody goes home happy. Can’t really see much wrong with that!


kim July 19, 2009 at 10:55 am

I want to be the person that could AFFORD to pay $35 but just spent the $2.50 🙂

The only way I can keep my child in clothes (she is a very messy 2 year old) is to stockpile thirftstore, consignment and yard sales. She wears a 2T now, I am buying all the way up to size 5.


Kristie-ND July 19, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Great article. There will always be people who will buy new, although I have read articles that thrift stores are starting to struggle a bit as people either pass down clothes to other children, or are themselves shopping at thrift stores, etc. Kids still grow out of clothes, and many of us have kids of different sexes, so even if the clothes originally came from a thrift store, they will get donated back again.

One of the thrift stores I go to, not only gets used items, but gets donations from the Gap and Target in the mall there, so it is a great place to go for brand new clothing and gifts

I am not officially part of the compact, just trying to cut down and pay off debt. I was telling my mom the other day, that debt takes away your choices…speaking specifically of credit card debt here vs a mortgage.

Our daughter is going to be 18 this year and we are buying her 2 larger gifts as a combined graduation and birthday gift. It is hard to combine cutting back and the compact with this, but I will keep on trying 🙂


Vicky July 19, 2009 at 3:29 pm

When your kid outgrows those $2.50 jeans, what do you do with them?
Am I the only one that’s ever donated back to Goodwill something that I bought there in the first place?


marianne July 19, 2009 at 5:37 pm

my dilemma is similar. today at a yard sale i saw the most gorgeous louis vuitton handbag. it looked real but she was selling it for $3. just to make sure i did a check online (after i snatched it up of course) and turns out it is a fake. but a very very pretty one (never been used either!). even though i was following the compact, am i wrong for buying a fake designer purse? as my mother said, “you can’t even get a designer knockoff in rome for $3!”


terilyn July 19, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Tell your son that if someone had refused to pay $35, fewer people would need to pay $2.50. If consumers absolutely refused to buy overpriced items, then prices would drop, and everyone would pay much more reasonable prices. If all jeans cost $15, then I doubt that many of use that only spend a couple of bucks would have to do that. Some things are ridiculous in price. If people simply refused to buy them, then prices would drop.


Karen July 19, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Great column! My kids, who are now in their 20s, grew up on thrift stores. They wore almost entirely thrift store clothing until the snobbery of high school kicked in. Once they started working, they could pay for their clothes themselves, so buying new if they wanted to, while nuts to me, was their choice. Yes, we had several lectures on the topic of why one would choose to spend 50 bucks on a Gap shirt instead of checking out Goodwill! I found that this foolhardiness was especially rampant with my daughter and her girlfriends. My son cared a lot less about new vs gently used. I tried to instill in them that people need to do much more than consume, and am still hopeful that the message will kick in some day ; )

I have been a thrifter for about 30 years now, and it’s been interesting to ride the waves of consumerism. I am lucky to live near local mom and pop thrift stores plus good old Goodwill and Savers. Ten years ago when the economy was “good”, I picked up the most amazing things especially at Savers–wonderful old china, vases, top of the line pots and pans and top quality clothing with the tags still on, seemingly thrown away by crazy people. At that point, excess was the norm and I felt like the beneficiary of all this waste: I could get the same designer goods plus antique china etc for a couple bucks. Such bliss!

But fast forward to 2009, well it really started a couple years back, and I find a lot less quality stuff to be found on the thrift store shelves. Way more consumers are now thrifting, which is overall for the better, and I’m glad people have woken up, even though I miss the wonderful finds. I still find plenty of candles, books, linens, baskets, picture frames, and material though, and one time recently a brand new pair of Doc Martens for 6 bucks.

So yeah, I guess we do need to thank those wasteful and spendthrift consumers for our treasures, and also those of us who donate stuff to Goodwill et al, because amazingly, I have talked to people who throw their stuff away rather than donate it, as it’s “too much trouble”! If I told them I buy from Goodwill AND donate stuff back, they’d no doubt think I was the crazy one.


Rosanne July 19, 2009 at 7:52 pm

your child saw the logic…can’t beat that
that sort of smarts will bode well for the future 🙂


Marj July 20, 2009 at 7:28 am

I am a thrifter. My parents were and my children are. What you do with 2.5o jeans that your kids outgrow, as some said, is donate them to Goodwill. OR, make blue jean patch quilts for your grand children—maybe sneak one in for yourself. lolol


Tracy Balazy July 20, 2009 at 1:30 pm

I’d rather be on the $2.50 side with all of you! I’ve been a thrift-store shopper for years, but only in the past couple of years have I turned my attentions fully to clothing at garage sales. And I’ve been finding great stuff! For even cheaper than the thrift stores! A couple weeks ago, I bought a beautiful blue sundress in new condition from The Limited for $1 at a garage sale, and yesterday, I bought two pairs of chunky black shoes for $3 each. I only recently changed my way of thinking regarding used shoes, and now that I look for them, I’ve found some that look hardly worn – which I can understand, from back in my own days of buying shoes because they were on sale and then never really wearing them. I’m glad that now I get to be the beneficiary of someone else’s frivolous spending!!


Kristin @ klingtocash July 21, 2009 at 8:09 am

I was talking to someone about The Compact the other night. She was concerned that with all the people buying used clothing, would there be anything good left for the people who really needed those services. I was wondering if that is something you ever think about and how you feel about it. I thought it was a very interesting point but my jury is still out on it.


emmer August 24, 2012 at 6:08 am

i have to disagree with terilyn. the reason jeans are $35 is that they are made in asia by young women making starvation wages, while the name brand companies we buy from are raking in profit. sounds like prices should be lower. what has happened, tho, is that by off-shoring our jobs we enriched the corporations and impoverished our own. advocates say we have created jobs where there were none–that’s another issue for another day. if we buy locally made, cutting transport costs, making employment for our neighbors, we will pay more than $35. i am a seamstress in portland, or. i can’t make a pair of pants for $35. i can, however, make them better than mass produced, to last longer and i can create them in a way to allow them to be altered and repaired readily. and i can spend the money you pay me locallly to pay my bills and buy my groceries. and you can rach my home workshop via our wonderful MAX lightrail system. support your community, reduce your carbon footprint, get a better product.


Christine August 26, 2012 at 11:53 pm

I read an article last year that more stores are donating unsold items at end of season instead of hosting a clearance section. I can confirm I’m seeing a lot more new stuff from mall stores in local thrift stores. No problem….I love paying $4 for unworn $60 mall store brand slacks. SCORE!!!


Marcia January 1, 2016 at 9:09 pm

I live in a very small town and my nearest mall is at least a 30 minute drive. We have Salvation Army and Goodwill in the next town over, but that is all we have in the way of thrift shops. I would have to go about an hour’s drive to find more thrift stores–which I do occasionally, but not frequently.

Despite not being able to thrift everything, I can still BUY carefully, even when I’m buying new!! I wait for sales, coupons, or clearances. Lately the clearance on women’s clothes have been awful (styles, I think mostly are different from my taste) but I can still save quite a lot by careful shopping. My granddaughter is a clothes SNOB. She has worked retail at the better stores and likes the clothes to come from better stores. I don’t spend that much, period!! She wanted “the perfect turtleneck sweater” for Christmas and gave me her ideas of what was perfect. She asked for light grey or cream. I ended up getting her one of each color. I paid $17 for one that was marked $54 originally, and I paid $12 for one that was marked $42 originally. If she were buying, she wouldn’t have looked at anything under $80. It’s insanity to me!! She loved both the ones I bought her and has worn them both already in the first week after Christmas. When I spend for myself, I work the same way. I seriously wanted a new dress for a March wedding last year, but hated the styles I was seeing. I tried on at least 20 dresses without liking any. While on vacation in Florida in Feb. I found a shell and jacket in a print, with a gold thread in the pattern, and paired it with my basic black pencil skirt. I believe I spent about $35-40 for both pieces–don’t remember the exact amount–but it looked great AND I got compliments on it. And it’s suitably dressy to wear again for a special occasion (and is washable.) Could also be paired with pants, of course. I will not spend money on stuff I don’t like, whether it’s for myself or my family. And I have also found that sometimes it pays to look on line. I like a certain brand of underwear and I can often buy it on line more cheaply than in the stores, AND get the colors I want more easily as well. I buy the same brand for my husband, and if I stock us both up at the same time, I save on shipping costs. The point being, that careful shopping is careful shopping, whether it’s NEW or USED clothing. One is more expensive, but you do get the quality you want for what you are willing to pay–and if you’re not willing to pay that much, you just don’t buy it!


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