Are thrift stores just for poor people?
This past weekend, Nic and I hit up the Salvation Army for a 50% off sale. And I was reminded of a post I once read on Budgets are Sexy: Should only poor people shop at thrift stores? In that post, J$ spoke about a friend who told him he wasn’t allowed to shop at thrift stores because they were only for poor people.
When I first read the blog post, I scoffed at the idea. I’ve always shopped at thrift stores. That’s where I get the most for my money, and it’s fun to peruse the aisles looking for great deals and hidden treasures. Thrift stores are for everyone – not just poor people – aren’t they? Especially the Salvation Army, which reinvests the money they raise back into the community.
But then, as I walked around the store, it finally clicked. I got what his friend was talking about. In a weird way, it made sense: every time I buy something from one of these thrift stores, I’m taking that item away from someone who might not be able to afford to buy it brand new. And while I get that money is money, and the Salvation Army can use any and all donations going through their cash register, I was more concerned about the people that were shopping there. Someone might need what I’m buying more than me. While I shop for pleasure, they could be shopping for survival.
Plus, as someone who makes a decent income, I can really afford to be buying these items at full price. And yeah, my total bill only came to about $6.46, but it should have cost twice that amount, because there was a 50% off sale. And for someone who is genuinely poor and living on the very edge, $6.46 could mean the difference between whether they feed their family or not that day.
I don’t necessarily agree that thrift stores are just for poor people, because in the end, I think that the money donated through places like Salvation Army will eventually go back to benefit those who are truly down and out. But I do think that it’s interesting to think about and be aware of.
So what do you think? Are thrift stores for everyone, or should we leave those stores for people who truly cannot afford to buy items anywhere else?
Author: Krystal Yee
I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.