building a sustainable and resilient community

Shopping second-hand is easy on the planet and your wallet

Posted on | April 14, 2010 | No Comments

How many times have you had a themed party to go to or simply needed a very – shall we say – “specific” wardrobe item, and you decided that going to Goodwill was your best option?  If you’re like me, then you’ve had that internal conversation a lot.  (Although, granted, most people might not like to dress up as much as me, so there’s that.)

On the other hand, when you decide you need to go “real” shopping, you might never really consider Goodwill to be your first choice.  Right?

Well, let me introduce you to the concept of second-hand shopping “for real”, which is to say, going to the second-hand clothing store to buy items that you might wear every day, or at least NOT to a pimp & hooker party.  I realize this isn’t a new concept; vintage stores have been around for a while now and happy hipsters are no stranger to the ironic high school t-shirts from the 70’s.  But shopping at vintage stores has always been an unsatisfying experience for me – unless it’s a really REALLY special piece, I don’t hold the belief that clothing, like houses, appreciate in price over time.  So, NO, I don’t want to pay $80 for that dress that probably cost $15 in 1982.  Nice try though.

All of that changed when I discovered Buffalo Exchange.  Merely coming to the realization that places like Buffalo Exchange exist was a revelation for me.

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A quick search around the internet tells me that I might be late to the second-hand clothing party, but then again if it took me so long to figure it out, then I know that there are others who haven’t yet.   Anyway, as per my usual disclaimer, this blogger is not paid to endorse or hawk any particular product or store, but if I find a product or a place that I think fits into a  “greener lifestyle” mantra, then I’m happy to talk about it.   Here’s a few reasons why I enjoy shopping at Buffalo Exchange so much:

  1. Their clothes are not so “vintage”. Most of the clothing that seems to show up at the Exchange is from within the past 10 years or so… Sure, there’s some vintage items in there, but it’s actually contemporary stuff.  It’s a bit like having the chance to raid your roommate’s closet except that you are raiding ALL roommate’s closets all at once.
  2. The prices are well within reason. Shopping at this second-hand clothing store – which sells both used AND new stuff – will not break your bank.  Most of the clothing I’ve bought has been between $12 – $20, and every once in a while, if you’re lucky, you’ll come across a pair of jeans or a designer piece that was once sold for upward of $200.  It might still cost you $50 at the Exchange, but it beats paying the original marked-up price.  (Back to my housing analogy, I think clothes are much more like cars, in that there is always an initial sticker price that is jacked up for name-brand appeal, and then as soon as you put it on it is worth about half as much.  But I will save my lecture about buying used cars for another post…)
  3. Having less choice is sometimes really awesome. So this may not make too much sense, but let me explain.  Sometimes when I walk into a store, and they have an entire section devoted to cute dresses, each in about four or five different colors, I become really overwhelmed.  I am a very careful decision maker and if I like even two or three of those dresses, I could spend an entire evening trying to decide which two I want, and in which colors.  Buffalo Exchange takes that stress away from me.  There’s something almost liberating about going straight to your size section and knowing that what’s there is there, and that unless it’s a new piece sold only at the store, you’re not worrying about which colors to get, because that’s your only choice.  AND, per #2 above, you’re probably going to spend less on it, as well.
  4. You can sell your own used clothes there too. It’s very satisfying to know that an outfit you might not be interested in wearing anymore might be very appealing to someone else.  My advice is to purge your closet before going, sell your clothes back to them for store credit, and then reward yourself for recycling by shopping!  They rarely buy all of your clothing but if it’s a unique and well-maintained piece, you’ll probably get something for it.  They also take shoes and bags!

In conclusion, next time you need a new outfit, or next time you start to take that bag of old clothes to Goodwill, try Buffalo Exchange, or another local second-hand store*.  Your wallet will appreciate it, as will the planet, since you’ll be diverting those materials from the waste stream.

*Note:  it’s been my experience that consignment stores are much more complicated than the second-hand stores that I am speaking about… If I remember correctly there are usually membership fees involved, but you should investigate for yourself if a consignment store might be as good – or a better – option.



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