Friday, March 1, 2013

Thrifty Shopping

My kitchen contains a large, old container of heavy glass that originally dispensed some type of liqueur. The jar is unusual and interesting, painted across the front with a stencil announcing the name of the product. A small spigot near the bottom was used to dispense the contents.

The container is a favorite item. It currently dispenses drinking water and is both useful and artistic at the same time. A few days ago the lid was broken when a can fell from an overhead cupboard. Items had previously fallen on the jar without damage. The glass is extremely thick so I was surprised and very disappointed when the lid broke.

After carefully measuring the top of the jar and the flange of the broken lid, I decided to see if a new lid could be found.

The task was actually quite easy and, thankfully, I was successful at finding a replacement earlier today. Cost of the lid: 30 cents. Location where the replacement was found: a local thrift store about 3 miles from my house.

As an adult I have developed a fondness for thrift shopping: flea markets, yard sales, discount/thrift stores. I have been pleased at some of the bargains discovered there at a fraction of their original costs. And best of all, the search is actually fun. There is no pressure to shop at such events and I set my own pace.

This type of shopping seems to have become more popular since the 1960s. Before that time (when I was a kid), the only events remotely similar was an occasional church rummage sale. But even these were rare.

Several years ago, I was on vacation traveling through New England. A friend and I had taken a train out of New York City to pick up a rental car in Connecticut. It was early in October and the trees were displaying their multi-colored hues. We drove into a little town in Connecticut and happened upon a huge number of yard sales in the same community.

I don't know if the town was observing some holiday or this was a regular event. But I had never seen so many yard sales at the same time. The items that we saw were lovely -- old mirrors, small lamps, miscellaneous treasures -- I was actually overwhelmed.   Perhaps that was the moment that I became addicted to yard sales and retrieving bargains. Shortly after that experience, I realized the thrill of searching out treasures with bargain prices.

With the downturn of the economy in recent years, many folks in small towns around the country have begun holding sales to rid themselves of things no longer needed. The reasons are as varied as the merchandise. Some people are merely downsizing or preparing to move. Others are cleaning out a house after someone else moved. Maybe the kids are now grown and their old rooms contained childhood items nearly forgotten. Some folks clean out rooms when remodeling.

The actual cost to hold a sale are minimal. In some locations, newspapers will run ads for yard sales at a very low cost. No ad is really needed. Sellers need only to make a sign and place it on a nearby cross street, showing the address. People will show up looking for bargains.

I have found fun items as well as some lovely treasures in just this manner. However, I know people who have openly expressed a dislike for bargain hunting. When a friend once asked me what I was doing for lunch, I replied that I was going to a nearby building where a large rummage sale was being held. She indicated that she might go along. As we walked among the large tables of items, she was clearly out of her "comfort" zone. She avoided even touching any of the items displayed. Finally she said, "I don't understand why anyone would shop like this. I mean, everything seems so dirty."

In recent news, a well-known national conservative minister remarked on his television program that some second-hand clothing may be infused with "demonic" forces. However, he went on to explain that it is doubtful that every second-hand sweater contains such evil forces. I was relieved to hear that!

If for some reason -- other than fear of demons -- you have never shopped at a flea market, yard sale or thrift store, you might want to make that leap and see what you have been missing. All sorts of bargains await shoppers. If you need to downsize or are cleaning out a basement, think about having a sale of your own. It's a great way to empty out closets during Spring cleaning.

Exorcism not required.

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