09 January 2009

Knowing When to Say No

It's the most important rule of being a successful thrifter. There's a lot of good stuff out there, at dirt cheap prices. It can e difficult not to scoop up every little thing, because its "only a couple of bucks." But truthfully, if you don't need or really can't use something, its a waste of money at any price.

I, like many thrifters, fell prey to this shortcoming for many years, but I feel I have improved on it immensely. I now believe that thrift shopping should have the effect of making one even more particular about what comes home with them.

Case in point:

Two days ago, I visited my new favorite charity thrift store secret, the one where I was actually given a pair of pants on my first visit. The place was bursting with incredible stuff: a 3 piece grey herringbone suit from Rogers Peet (too big), a pair of J.Press khakis with only three locations on the label (pre- San Francisco), and a Brooks Brothers flannel sack blazer (also too big...probably the same guy.) Such is second hand shopping.

And then I saw it: Brooks Brothers early 1960's cream colored dinner jacket with a shawl collar, in brand new condition, $8.00. Kinda like this one:

I peeled off my many winter layers and slipped it on, only to find it fit like a glove. I tried like hell to convince myself to buy it, but truth be told, I have never been to a black tie function, let alone one that would call for a dinner jacket, and that doesn't look to be changing any time soon. (it is my dream to wear a tux for real someday, just once. more on that later.)So I left it behind for some fortunate soul who needs it.

Though I don't know how many guys who wear formal clothes regularly enough to own them are shopping in the church charity store.

You see, there was a time when my closet was packed to the gills with things like this, fantastic cheap finds that I never wear which ultimately just take up closet space, which is at a premium to begin with. My new system is to accumulate all this stuff in the store, then lookit all over and put most, if not all of it, back. I try really hard not to buy stuff I won't use. Additionally, I regularly weed through my stuff and donate back those items that rarely make the rotation. You might call it the minimalist approach to thrift shopping.

Still, I can't stop thinking about that jacket, and what might have been....

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

"...if you don't need or really can't use something, its a waste of money at any price."

If Americans would only understand (and abide by this) they could, in fact, improve their financial situation greatly.

Our whole economy seems to be based on buying things one doesn't need and can't/won't use.

cowboydan said...

Hmmmm, think you missed a catch here. One day you will need to attend a black tie event, and I speak from experience that there is nothing worse than being the under dressed / rental dressed guy in the room... If / when I can afford bespoke a DJ and tartan troos are high on my want list.

Andrew said...

I have learned this lesson myself. I don't know where I heard it, but I like the advice that something's cost also includes how useful it is. I other words, you buy something on an impulse, because it's cheap. But if it doesn't fit well or doesn't get worn often, it ends up costing more in the long run. Something a little more expensive, but which gets worn all the time, will therefore end up actually costing less. A very good read, which inspired me to start thrifting, is "The Millionaire Mind" by Thomas Stanley. I highly recommend it. One of the things they said is that the wealthy actually tend to buy a lot of second-hand clothes, as well as getting shoes resoled.

Cheers

lisagh said...

But, but, but...

Anonymous said...

Do you really need a function to wear the white dinner jacket? Part of the fun is wearing it at least likely locations (after six of course). Look at Connery in the Mexican bar in Goldfinger or Bogart in Casablanca. Think of it as a "dinner" jacket for special occasions. Yes, you will get looks from people that are trying to figure what is going on or who you are, but revel in it and enjoy your "secret."

Giuseppe said...

Lisagh,

I know...be strong.

ms. mindless said...

man, you are good. i would have gotten it in a heartbeat for $8. you can still go back...

Fred said...

Stupid fool, go back and get it!

Chip Parks said...

Excellent post. I remember when my closet was stuffed to capacity with suits, trousers, and sportcoats I never used. My problem was that I immediately took items to the tailor; so I would end up with an item I bought dirt cheap but then spent money to alter...and then hardly ever wore.

Like you I've learned to pick and choose. I always ask myself if I will still be wearing/using this item in 10 years. If the answer is yes, I buy. If no, I don't. I still talk myself into buying things I don't need, but far less than I used to. Hopefully your advice will save others time and money.

Patrick said...

I wholeheartedly agree on resisting the impulse buy. Not always easy.

In this case, though, since it's a specialized item, and relatively unusual, and it fit...

I WOULD HAVE SNAGGED THAT SUCKER AND THROWN A PARTY MYSELF!!!

Giuseppe said...

Cripes, you guys have almost talked me into it. I visited the store where I found it yesterday and its still there.

No...I gotta be strong. Its not the $8, its the principle.

Marcellus said...

Guisepe,

Wish I had discovered your excellent site before, but I hope I've made up for it tonight, reading most of your posts.

Like you I tend toward traditional clothing, and like you I am an avid thrift store shopper. Consequently, I've developed a system to prevent over-purchasing. Realizing that everything in a thrift store is either dirt cheap or laughably cheaper than retail price, I now disregard price entirely, and instead only judge it by three criteria:

One, do I love it? If I don't love it, back it goes.

Two, can it replace something I already have, or, better, replace multiple things I already have. Or is it so unique as to not perform the same function as something I already have. For example, I now have 8 or 9 light blue oxford shirts--5 of which have been relegated to storage--and I definitely do not need any more.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, do I have room for it. I attempt to judge the item and value per inch of storage rather than dollar value.

Having said that, go back and get that jacket, man!!!!

Marcellus
http://andculture.blogspot.com

Giuseppe said...

A great set of thrifty rules, Marcellus. Nice to have you aboard.


I've been thinking...my wedding anniversary is in July. That could be a great excuse to step out in a white dinner jacket...

Brian said...

White Dinner Jackets is a good idea, Giuseppe!