As I’ve been thinking through this year’s financial goals, I’ve been wondering if my beloved thrift shopping is kind of, maybe, somewhat undermining my budget. While I’m certainly spending within my means and saving upwards of 30 percent of my after-pension and after-tax income each month, the thrift shopping can still add up. Since I have a few big financial goals that I’m working towards, cutting back is clearly in my best interests.
Now, don’t get me wrong – thrift stores are fantastic if you need to save money on things you actually need. Looking for used first can save quite a bit of money, particularly with a bit of time on your side. Speaking from experience, I’ve bought a lovely vintage solid wood coffee table for $15. Warm snow boots for $10. Hankies for $0.25. Camping chairs for $5. Wool blankets for $6. A sewing machine for $5 (yes, you read that correctly).
The trouble is that the thrift store is also filled with all kinds of lovely, wonderful things for pennies on the dollar. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I have a really hard time resisting thrift temptation. This is why I own a waffle maker, baskets (upon baskets) of yarn, and more cookbooks than I can shake a stick at. Standing there, I latch on to what a good deal whatever the thing is and my little aspirational mind scuttles ahead to imagine all of the lovely breakfasts I will serve, hats and socks I will knit, and cheeses that I will produce.
Ultimately, spending even a small amount on something that isn’t necessary – and that, in some cases, I didn’t know I even wanted until it was right there in front of me – isn’t really saving money. At all. This is all about crazy aspirational wants that are costing me a bit of money every month. Not a lot, but enough that it’s worth my while to try to curtail them a bit more.
I put a few numbers into the latte factor calculator. Even assuming a really low rate of return – the kind you’d find on a high-interest savings account, for instance – saving even $15 a week over a period of 30 years adds up to quite a lot of money.
My plan this year is to be a bit more intentional about my purchases and a little harder on myself about the impulse buys and recreational thrift shopping. If it’s something I need, no problem, but there’s very little that I do actually need these days. I have a lot of stuff – far too much stuff, really – and I need to actually make use of it before I buy anything else.
In an effort to keep myself accountable, I’ll be posting here about what I buy at the thrift store and how much it cost – likely with a whole pile of self-recriminations, because no one’s as good at being hard on me as me – in an attempt to dissuade myself from purchases that just aren’t necessary.