Extreme Thrift Shopping

You know what really annoys me? Seeing high-end cars parked near thrift shops. Don’t the owners of those luxury automobiles know they shouldn’t be there? They should be out buying new stuff, and then donating it to the thrift shop after a week or two, once they’re bored with it. Then I can buy it for 5¢ on the dollar. There should be biometric eye scanning income tests when you walk into a thrift store just to make sure you’re not in the “one percent” and don’t belong there.

I have probably rambled on too much about thrift shops, but frankly, I love them. I hate buying anything new anymore. And I revel, simply revel in some of our finds. I don’t think I’ve ever come home from buying something new as excited as I have about some of my finds at thrift shops.

Like the time I found the book “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis in hard cover about three months after it was published. I paid $2 for it! No really, a $35 book for $2! Best day EVER!

I know I drone on about thrift stores too much because recently Michelle’s laptop was in for repair. Robert, our favourite Apple Technician (and reader of this blog apparently) fixed our computer and as we were leaving he said, “And now you’re off to shop at some thrift stores …” or something along those lines. Really? Are we that predictable? Do we have so few activities that you have us pegged? Well, I have news for Robert. I found a totally awesome book for him at one of our favourite Thrift Shops and the next time I see him I will toss that book at him and say “There, how’s that for your ‘thrift store shopping’ mockery?” Well, okay he wasn’t mocking us, but it’s a fun illusion.

I recently broke a small vacuum head that I like to use. Yes, we live off grid but have several vacuum cleaners. Mind you, they are not Dysons, so I like use a small nozzle to try and concentrate what little suction there is. Alas, the only way I could replace it through traditional retailers was to buy a bag of all the attachments for $29.99. Come on. Really? Well, this seemed like a perfect thrift store challenge to me.

So last week we were in a thrift shop and there was such an attachment but is seemed too small and was attached to a hose that I didn’t want. I asked a clerk about the price, since it wasn’t tagged. She found an older gentleman working in the back and when I explained what I was after he said, “Come with me.” I waited the “Employees ONLY” door where all that magical stuff emerges from, and low and behold he produced a big plastic tub full of wayward vacuum accessories. I rummaged through it and when he said, “Which one do you want?” I said … “All of them!”

So for 50¢ each, I got three of what I wanted. I’ve been grinning ear-to-ear ever since.


I also wanted some white mini-blinds. I need a set for the battery room, which doesn’t have anything over the window, so on sunny days I can keep the room a big cooler. And years ago I brought home some mini-blinds from the dump and we cut them up to use as labels for the seedlings we grow in the spring. I’ve been working on putting rigid insulation on the chicken coop and I can cut up mini-blinds to use as great washers to screw through and keep the screw from penetrating too far into the insulation. Sure, I can buy little fancy plastic washers made specifically for this purpose, but really, where’s the fun in that? Thank you thrift store, for having such cheap mini-blinds.

During CSA season from May to October we rarely leave the house, so having some time now to visit thrift stores is awesome. Well, it’s awesome for the first time. After 6 months the books have turned over nicely and there are lots of new titles to choose from. Of course you’ve got to wait a month in between anyway to make sure you’re not looking at the same ones over and over again.

I like to wear long-sleeved cotton shirts when I am working outside. I don’t like being exposed to too much sun and I don’t believe in sunscreen, so they offer my arms some protection. Last time at our favourite thrift shop there was a rack of men’s clothes labeled “50% off” so I grabbed two $1 long sleeved shirts. Yes, that means they were 50¢ each! I can’t stop looking at them! And wearing them!

One of the shirts is black and has a beautifully sewn embroidered logo for the “Black Knights” on it. It turns out that the “Black Knights” are sports teams from LaSalle Secondary School, which I attended in about 1974 when our family lived in Kingston. How cool is that! I doubt I could go out and buy one of these shirts from the school if I wanted one. I probably wouldn’t have thought to try but when you find one for 50¢, it’s like finding a $20 bill in some jeans that have been in your drawer for years.

And yes, the reason those jeans were in my drawer for years was because I have too many pairs already, because I keep buying new/used pairs because I find them so cheap at thrift shops. It’s a vicious circle. I know. I’m trying to cut down. I’m doing much better. I’m walking away from way more stuff.

You know from reading this blog, that I am very fussy about my coffee mug. My old coffee mug was great, but it doesn’t hold enough and so I keep having a second cup, which is never as good as the first cup. So I’ve been looking for a larger mug so I didn’t have to go through this routine. I found this awesome rooster cup for 50¢. My morning coffee is better than ever these days!


I don’t think it could ever get much better than thrift shopping! Well, never leaving the house is pretty great, but if you have to leave, this is a great reason.

13 Responses to “Extreme Thrift Shopping”

  • Linda Proudlove:

    My best find at a thrift shop was a Snow Goose parka for $5 (which ridiculously retails for $600+). Now I’m waiting for -40 weather so I can wear it, which in central Alberta shouldn’t betoo long!

  • Gerrit:

    You’re right, Cam. We were always a one-income family and thrift stores have been a life saver. Now that we are retired, it’s even more so.

  • Catherine:

    I agree with you that shopping n a thrift store is fun. I never know what I will find, some days I walk out with bags of stuff, mostly books,other days I leave with nothing. either way, I enjoy the adventure.

  • Shelley:

    Our small rural town’s “Next to New” thrift store just reached charitable contributions of $2 million in just 20 years. It is only open for 6 hours per week. The entire operation is run by volunteers, many of them seniors. It serves to accept donated items, sells those items at a significantly discounted rate and then donates the proceeds back into the community’s charitable organizations. It is a marvellous example of a grass roots social service and recycling at its finest! I too enjoy donating and purchasing.

  • mary:

    I ,also, enjoy going to thrift stores. but, the goodwill stores here in west Texas, USA are priced too high. I could buy the same product at walmart or a dollar store for the price their charging. and I worked at a goodwill store for a while & un be known to the public the employees get the first pick of the stuff that comes in… for free. but, I do enjoy finding something I have been looking for & couldn’t find anywhere.

  • bunkie:

    YAY Thriftstores!!! BTW, coconut oil works great as a sunscreen!

  • Debra:

    It’s been my experience that some of the wealthiest people are the biggest tightwads!

  • suzanne:

    I really enjoy your blogging and I think I enjoy thrift shopping as much as you do. Some thrift stores even have seniors day!

  • Annie:

    I volunteer at a thrift store twice a week. I love volunteering because I get a first hand look at what comes in. I take home jackpot items such as new sheets still in the package, towels with the price tag still on them (why would anybody want to get rid of brand new towels?), unopened package of socks, lightly worn clothes, shoes, winter coats, boots, blankets, an entire set of dishes with serving pieces, an antique iron bed, my living room hide-a-bed couch, vintage Pyrex, garden tools, and the list goes on. Like you, I rarely buy anything new. With a little planning ahead, I stock up on things I find at the thrift store so I’m not caught off guard when the unexpected happens.

  • I hear you on thrift stores…its so much more fun and exciting than regular stores. For one thing, there isn’t much that’s the same. So if you’re clothes shopping you get a rack of all different clothes, rather than 1 rack with the same shirt in 20 different sizes. And the fact that you pay so little, that’s the best part. Maybe years of paying bloated prices have conditioned me to enjoy such cheap thrills:}

  • Thank you for the smiles this morning. It was fun to read the blog and smile after the terrible results of our elections here in the states. I too have begun going to thrift stores and have been surprised at some of the good things I have been able to get. I am preparing to move from Alaska to New York and have taken some great things to the thrift store that I know others will be surprised to find in there, and will be smiling when they leave with my stuff. They will be telling their friend, “can you beleive I got this”? Thanks again.

  • Susan Joy Reagan:

    You are absolutely right about thrift-store shopping! I have bad feet & finding shoes that fit is difficult — buying women’s is all fashion/no function & poor fit! last shopping trip I came home with 2 pairs of men’s boots & a pair of shoes –I think i paid $20 total–none of which had been hardly worn — NAME brands and beautiful fit! (not STIFF new, slightly broken in comfortable!) I googled them each and discovered the one pair of boots sold for $25 at Sears, the 2nd pair online at $160 and the orthopedic shoes for $149!! THAT is memorable shopping and REWARDING comfort all at the same time!

  • Norma:

    Maybe those high-end cars are dropping off their excess.
    Or perhaps they can afford to invest in high-end cars because of the money saved by buying at the Thrift Shop.

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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