Lifestyles of the Smart & Thrifty

This post is part of Not Your Average Week, a TNGG Theme Week.

Too often do I hear, “Girl, where’d you get that jacket?” When I say “Oh, this old thang?” I mean it.

The art of thrifting is a mere weekend activity for others, but a lifestyle choice for some. Perhaps it’s the prerogative of the young and indie-cultured, looking to live a life counter to the mainstream. Or maybe it’s just cheaper.

Thrifting, clothes-cycling, up-cycling, renewal apparel, whatever you want to call it, this lifestyle has environmental benefits too. For some Millennials, throwaway fashion is paramount – trendy but cheap – because starting salaries aren’t exactly big pimpin’.

For those of the thrifting variety, Forever 21 and H&M frocks encourage unsustainable fashion, and inspire nothing more than one mass homogeneous look. The under-30 set can, for the most part, be picked apart from our older peers based on the trends consumed from the nearest mall (or online catalog sale rack).

Thrifters however, want to stray far, far away from mono-culture.

When perusing the musty, yet exciting, racks of hand-me-downs, decades old garb, or fashionista discards, creativity becomes a finely-tuned craft. Appeasing personal aesthetic becomes a treasure hunt of styling. Additionally, reducing, reusing, and recycling is at the forefront of this process.

According to Euro Monitor International (a website you’ve never heard of) “thrift has become embedded in the way we shop globally, and is unlikely to be discarded as economies recover.” Saving money, saving the earth and ensuring your personal lookbook is yours and yours alone seems to be catching on. Thanks recession! This might also lead to fewer golden tickets hidden in the moth-eaten racks as well as higher prices for these “found” items.

DIYers and “frugalistas” are combating the nature of mall-rats and this ethos translates into an entire lifestyle of “the free-er, the better.” With so many Millennials disengaged with consumer culture, and disillusioned with the necessity of settling down and buying for keeps, thrift easily provides an interchangeable safety-net.

It’s much more than bargain-shopping and can be entered into lightly. It’s tied to becoming more socially conscious, making things our own as we seek for meaning in our newly independent lives.

As Euro Monitor puts it, it’s due “to a growing green-tinged aesthetic that expresses identity through more individual consumption.” This post-recession thrift-culture has led to an entire sector in the fashion industry which is paying homage to nature (check out EcoSalon’s 5-part series on the post-recession fashion boom). That’s vintage, baby.

For habitual thrifters, this lifestyle is also fueled by the Internet, like all things in a Millennial’s arsenal. We can’t log off, so when we want a pair of shoes, by God we’ll get them…at the lowest price.

Shopping Urban Outfitters’ or ModCloth’s sale rack becomes a new kind of thrifting – what’s the cheapest thing I can buy at this site and still meet the free shipping quota? Under $20 is often in a thrifter’s means when spent incrementally. Now that’s budgeting.

Also a common theme when living it up thrift-core are things like coupon clipping and renting versus buying. No overhead when the swag isn’t yours! We can try something out and then let someone else use it when our tastes have changed – no waste! From our apartments to our bikes to our shopping bags, renting frees our hands for more on-the-fly impulse shopping. Then when we’re done, all it takes is one giant Goodwill trip to be done with it.

The fashion industry may be chugging along to keep up with the thriftier times, but for those truly interested in non-capitalistic goals and an anti-property way of life, thrift and free are the only answers. New Orleans recently hosted a Really, Really Free Market, but this anarchist collective is nationwide. This alternative “gift-economy” movement needs no hierarchical structure to exist, aiming to counteract capitalism and build a community of resource-sharing.

All you have to do is show up. Bring your old things or offer services like haircuts or bike maintenance. Can’t do that? Put on a show! RRFM is an open forum. Everyone walks away with found treasures or a shared experience–fo’ free. The altruistic ideology behind this is that people only take what they need, or would make use of, with no impulse to buy. If something proves unworthy, re-purpose it.

Get lost in thrift store finds!

For those looking to creatively express their own style, be it for your wardrobe or your studio apartment, or to partake in a less capitalistic lifestyle, check out these thrift-tastic sites:

Thrift Core. Run by 24-year-old Vanessa, a self-proclaimed artsy, marketer/writing type. “Thrifting, frugality, and creativity are as natural as breathing for me.”

Glue and Glitter. Eat, drink, make!

Things I Found At The Thrift Store.

Come Thrifting With Me. Second-hand. Hand-me-downs. Vintage.

Thrifting in Oblivion.

Painfully Hip. Personal favorite award.

Happy shopping future thrifters! And check out this sneak peak of what a free market may look like:

Photos by Samurai johnny, Cabbit, and iknow-uk.

Jessi Stafford Graduate of Mizzou. Starving freelance writer and hipster-watcher who just moved to the Dirty South. I will work for coffee, booze or tofu scramble. I write the weekly column The Feed Bag for TNGG. Twitter: @jessistafford

View all posts by Jessi Stafford

4 Responses to “Lifestyles of the Smart & Thrifty”


    Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?

    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Cheers


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