My Cheap Addiction.

Via Sophie Legrand
on Nov 15, 2012
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Mac’s second-hand shop in Boulder Creek

I’m just addicted to buying cheap things.

That’s the diagnosis one of my toddler playgroup friends gave me the other day, when, once again, I was bragging about another great toy I bought for my son in a thrift store.

T-shirt I found in a swap meeting

I must admit I get a thrill from buying something cheap, in good or great condition, with a low impact on the planet.

Today is America Recycles Day, so I thought I would share a bit of my experience as a second-hand shopper, especially recently with our new addition to the family.

America Recycles Day is great opportunity to have a close look at our consuming habits and in which ways we can all make that extra bit of effort to reduce our carbon footprint.

I have to say I’m still puzzled however by the choice of sponsors for the event: PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, Nestle—not the greenest of companies I would have thought…

A trip down toy shopping hell

Everyone tells you that having children is expensive. Every year statistics come out calculating how much a child costs in his first year. If you buy everything new, the figures can be pretty scary. One thing I was not aware of—how many toys and books children need to keep themselves entertained and stimulated.

I quickly discovered that what the toy market had on offer nowadays was well marketed, overpriced plastic toys, made in China. I came out of my first trip to Toys R’Us feeling dizzy and sick. Navigating through the aisles I was overcome by the tackiness, cheap quality, the unnecessary hideous colors, and the unbelievable price-tags. These toys don’t only cost you, they also cost the planet.

I spent hours online trying to find earth-friendly wooden toys not made in China. As beautiful as some of them are, and as much as we wanted to support local manufacturers, we just really couldn’t afford them.

Timeless gems you find in thrifts

Cheap thrills

This is when my knowledge and skills for second-hand shopping came in handy. I’ve been buying in thrift stores for years, for clothes, household goods, yarn, fabrics, books, DVDs, you name it. When I need something specific I turn to eBay.

The keys to second-hand shopping are patience, planning and persistence. It’s also hugely fun and it can become an adult-sized treasure hunt.

When a need comes up, the challenge is to find that “somebody somewhere” who’s getting rid of what you want. It can be really helpful to plan in advance and have a system. For example, this year I’m trying to get second-hand or handmade Christmas presents. I buy most of my yarn and fabrics on eBay or at the thrift. For the rest, I have a list ready, and the quest has started a few weeks ago.

My top seven second-hand shopping options:

eBay: Or, second-hand bargain-hunter heaven. A lot of people use eBay to declutter their house so it keeps the prices reasonable. This is a real case of one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. All regular eBayers have their tricks to snatch the perfect match. Mine are creating lists of things we are always looking for: wooden toys, size XL men’s wear, or a specific brand of yarn. It’s useful to prepare a good selection of saved searches indicating specific brands, size, material, make, etc. Another great way to find bargains is by buying bundles and joblots.

Hand-me-downs:For bigger things, you can advertise your needs. Let your friends and family know what you’re looking for. They might have it in their attics or know someone who does.
Photo: Diane Worth

Swaps: Some schools and children’s centers organize swaps. Children outgrow clothes and toys quickly and parents are happy to swap for bigger sizes and more age-appropriate toys.

Exchange: For toys again, you can swap with a friend, so that both your children discover new toys.

Car boot sales and yard sales: This is one of the cheapest way to buy all sorts of things. They’re especially good for children’s stuff. Keep an eye out online and check out the ones close to you.

Charity shops/Thrifts: A good trick I found is to get familiar with what they are good at. Some are great for books, some for clothes, others for household or furniture. You need to visit them regularly and sometimes it might be worth checking at what time they usually display new items.

Freecycle/Craig’s list free ads: Nothing beats free. When we lived in Canada, my husband lost his job two weeks before moving into an empty flat and we had no furniture at all. We completely relied on Craig’s list. There are some truly generous and kind people out there.

Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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About Sophie Legrand

Sophie is the littlest French hobo. After studying American Literature in Paris, she left France in 1998 to first live in Santa Barbara, California, for a year. She then went to Madrid where she started working in publishing, as a literary agent. After 5 years of movida in Spain, she moved to London. There, she was introduced to yoga by two fantastic teachers, who gave her some very good foundations, a sense of precision and a taste for Asian philosophy. She completed her Yoga Teacher Training in Vancouver in 2011 and is now back to England where she is a proud stay-at-home mom and a yoga teacher. She is also a passionate home-cook with a focus on multicultural, tasty and healthy dishes. Her culinary explorations are on L'Artichaut.


6 Responses to “My Cheap Addiction.”

  1. edieyoga says:

    Lovely…my husband visits at least one thrift store a day….and more on his days off…

  2. mary says:

    My two kids have been raised with great vintage Playskool toys, well-loved Golden Books, and sturdy clothes from various thrift stores. Whenever she would get a compliment on her outfit, my daughter would proudly say "I got it at Value Village" even if it was a handmade item from one of her grandparents (sorry, Grandma). Both kids are now "tweens" and neither of them has caught the consumerism bug yet. As a family , we have more time, more money, and more freedom to be ourselves!

  3. sophie says:

    Thanks Edith. Thrifts are such a intriguing world to dive in and lose oneself.

  4. sophie says:

    Thanks for your comment Mary.
    I’m so glad to read that your kids didn’t buy in the consumer spirit. Good too that they wore your choices with pride.

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