Since I was a kid, my mother has instilled in me a habit of bargain shopping. I have countless memories walking with her down the aisles of TJ Maxx and other discount stores or sifting through clearance sections as she refused to pay full price for what she “knew” she could find for less. Even when she found a bargain, she would haggle for a few extra percent because a button was loose or the color looked faded. At the time, this insistent need to find the best deal was quite bothersome to me (probably because she wouldn’t buy anything for me) but I now find myself on the other side of the table, stacking coupons and habitually thrifting. Its to the point where I will walk by a store I like and even though I may have stopped in just yesterday, I will think to myself, “there must be something new in the clearance section.” Rarely do I pay full price for anything, from electronics to clothing to furniture, using sites such as RetailMeNot or my outdated student ID to receive some form of discount.
I’ve recently established a personal rule to help curb my impulsive buying habits – while I’m permitted to browse, I’m limited to making an actual purchase until the following day. This is meant to prevent any rash decisions and allows me to contemplate the potential purchase, however, the rule seems to break down at thrift stores; I convince myself that if I leave the store, the customer that’s walks in behind me is going to scoop up that antique shelving unit or even worse, I’ll show up the next day and someone will be in line to buy it. Thrifting has become a hobby for me, particularly because NYC is saturated with quality thrift sores.
I typically will check out a few stores over the course of a month but lately, since moving apartments, Ive been in search for new furniture. Often times people will suggest stores like ikea to find reasonably priced furniture, however, a major concern with places like these is that while their furniture may appear nice, the quality breaks down extremely easily. A roommate of mine had a night stand from ikea (~$50) and after only a few months of ‘gentle use’ the door had fallen off and the top became waterlogged and warped. Another friend purchased a new couch from Bob’s Discount Furniture ($500) and not surprisingly, the springs broke rendering the couch more uncomfortable than the hardwood flooring. During my thrifting, I’ve come across dozens of quality couches, nightstands and all sorts of other furniture which are typically higher quality for much less. Oftentimes, the furniture found in thrift stores is made of solid wood using quality carpentry methods such as the dove tail joint (picture 1) while the cheaper options found at low-cost retailers are made of fiberboard wood (picture 2) which depreciates relatively quickly.
The one caveat to thrifting is the commitment required to achieve a successful outcome. If you’re looking for a specific item whether it be by size or color, you’re unlikely to stumble upon it, but if you’re open to what you find or are committed to the search process, you’re bound to come across something of interest. I’ve had great success buying quality furniture in a variety of thrift stores and perhaps on a more limited basis, I have found some great second-hand clothing as well including a recent $60 purchase for a blazer which I found online for $900. Below is a list of a few of thrift shops I frequent.