smart spending

Thrift-store bargains offer thrills

Highlights
  • Thrift stores often have items priced 75 percent less than what is available at a retail store.
  • "Incredible" buys available on clothing, housewares and furniture.
  • Frugal mom's favorite birthday was also among the most inexpensive.

Thrift is the new pink in economic jargon. Daily economic meltdowns, credit crunches and corporate bailouts scream from the boob tube and YouTube alike. The only sane advice is to hold on to every dollar and make it count.

Frugal $ense winner Sharon Cece, of Willow Springs, N.C., suggests you take some time to visit your local thrift store for bargain hunting.

October's Frugal $ense winner: Sharon Cece
"We regularly shop at 'thrift' stores such as Goodwill. I find incredible buys in clothing, housewares and furniture for 50 (percent) to 90 percent off. I purchase popular trendy-named clothing for $2 to $3, and since the items are usually laundered (sometimes they are brand new with tags!) they are already preshrunk. I also bought a perfectly good microwave for only $5. The list goes and on, and so does the savings. Furthermore, when I resell these items at yard sales, I often get back what I paid and sometimes even make a profit. An added benefit: The money you spend at thrift (stores) supports good causes that help others in the community."

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Bankrate: What do you do for a living?

Sharon Cece: I wear many hats: I freelance write, I blog, I am an eBay merchant, I do contract work. I think the best way to explain it is that I am a home economist. I take my husband's salary and try to increase it as much as possible. I take his salary and find ways to get things that other people might buy at full price and get it at 75 percent less. I do that by grocery shopping; loss leaders; bulk purchasing; buy one, get one free. I bake a lot, shop thrift stores for everything from clothes to items that I resell on eBay. But what I try to do is stretch that dollar.

Bankrate: Have you always been frugal?

Sharon Cece: I started this lifestyle really when I gave up my job after my second son was born. Mostly, I reformed my spending habits and I had to come up with creative ways to live on one income.

Bankrate: Do you ever feel deprived?

Sharon Cece: We live very thriftily, but very happily. We have everything we need, not everything we want. We have three cars all paid for, we have a home that we pay less than $800 a month. It's really fulfilling, to say I'm in control of my money, instead of spending money on something that goes down in value once you walk out the door.

Bankrate: What was your best thrift-shop purchase?

Sharon Cece: I recently had a birthday and my mother wanted to take me out. I told her I would love to go up to this little thrift shop up the street, but my mom, said "Oh no, I want to take you to buy something new." But I convinced her that that's what I wanted to do. So we went up there and probably spent an hour and a half there, looking around, trying on things, and giggling like two schoolgirls. That's the fun, the thrill of the hunt. I bought a set of dishes. We carried armloads out of the store. I think she spent $20 altogether and I got three sweaters, brand new. It was a great birthday.

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