The Nerd’s Guide to Thrifting, Part V: Avoid the allure of the ‘good enough great deal.’

Top: Madewell Courier in Sunset Stripe, Sunglasses: Oakley, Shorts: Treasure & Bond via Nordstrom, Shoes: Sperry TopSiders, thrifted, Earrings: Made by me with made in USA findings from Hobby Lobby

This has been said many times by others, but it bears mentioning again because it’s so easily forgotton: No matter how cheap something is, it is never a ‘good deal’ if it’s not a piece you’ll actually wear. Usually this is a point made about fast fashion, but it’s also a major source of errors in thrifting, because there’s a good chance of finding great deals when the price points are always lower than retail. Great price points have a way of beckoning us: ‘Just try this out, maybe it will be the best article of clothing you own!’ Even when we know we should know better, sometimes it’s too easy to just say, ‘It’s only $2, I can just donate it back if I don’t like it!’ 

How to avoid this:

  • Keep a list of items you already know you want, and resist the temptation to justify the addition of new items on the spur of the moment at the store. If it wasn’t on your list when you walked in, at least do yourself the respect of honestly acknowledging it is an impulse purchase, and decide if it’s still a reasonable purchase in light of the truth.
  • If something just seems good enough but not greatI like to imagine that when I leave it behind, someone comes in later that finds it and is actually, for-real excited about it, and they know it’s something they will wear a lot and cherish forever. It may not actually go down like that, but hey, how would I know?!
  • When you find yourself uttering the phrase, ‘It’s only blah-blah dollars,’ red flags should go up! That probably means you’re justifying it purely on the basis that it’s cheap. This is a really hard one to overcome because your brain actually starts to distort and justify weird things when it thinks of something as a good deal, so don’t beat yourself up if this error is a particularly ‘sticky’ one to get rid of.
  • There’s a lot of research about how price points mess with us in general (there’s been more than one study conducted about wine tasting that really drives this point home). The best thing you can do is to practice being more aware and honest about how prices might sway you to think something is more or less good than it is in reality. It’s a skill that takes time, but your closet and your wallet will undoubtedly reward your efforts!

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