There’s always a deal if you no where to find it
Jo-Anne Lauzer arrives at the Salvation Army in New Westminster wearing brand-name clothes purchased for a grand total of $11.50 at second-hand stores and rummage sales.
That morning she made coffee with an Italian-made Gaggia espresso maker ($26) found at a thrift store, combed her hair in front of her mirror ($5 at a garage sale) located next to her antique wooden dressers (left abandoned in a lane) while she spoke on her cordless phone ($2 at a thrift store).
She was also wearing her favourite earrings (50 cents at a garage sale) and a Mickey Mouse watch ($2 at an Aldergrove swap meet).
When it comes to being thrifty, Lauzer is the queen of frugal.
She is the author of http://www.secondhandsavvy.com, a website targeting the needs of second-hand consumers.
And, like a growing number of consumers, proud to be a prudent treasure hunter.
More than just a deal
But it’s not just about finding great deals, she says.
“People are becoming more aware and because they’re more environmentally conscious, now there’s more of an acceptance when you buy something second hand and keep it out of the landfill.”
It’s also about shopping local. Many second-hand stores are run by local businesspeople and found in neighbourhoods, said Lauzer.
“It’s much more accepted than it ever was. People are now saying,‘I bought this second hand and I’m damn proud.’”
Lauzer isn’t alone in her quest for great buys and reusing items. In fact, she gives guided tours to consumers looking to get away from pricey malls and new products with big price tags.
And shopping in a thrift store is much more of an adventure than trying to find deals in a mall, said Lauzer, who often packs along her friends for the outings—what she calls “second-hand safaris.”
“I think it’s an event. It’s not just for consumption purposes. We go with a group of friends, go for a coffee, spend time together and have a laugh.”
And if the number of thrift shops are any indication, Lauzer is not alone.
There are more than 800 stores in the Lower Mainland classified as thrift, second-hand, consignment and auction, she said.
“We’ve come a long way from people hiding when they go into the thrift store. Nowadays it’s more like a badge of honour where people brag, ‘I got this for five bucks.’”
If it’s broke, you won’t fix it
During Lauzer’s visit to the New West Salvation Army thrift store she gave a reporter a crash course on the tips of the trade.
Her first tip is to come prepared with a shopping list to avoid spending hours on a fruitless search.
Lauzer keeps a list in her head, often hunting for friends and relatives who have given her their requests.
“I spent a year and a half looking for a friend who wanted a bowling bag. I finally found it in a store in Washington,” she said. “It was hard to find because they’re so fashionable these days.”
Another pointer: don’t buy anything that’s broken.
“It’s unlikely that I’ll ever fix it,” she said.
But she does make exceptions, like her espresso machine. All it needed was a good cleaning, some inexpensive parts and now it runs like a new one—worth $600 to $700 retail.
Another time she found a brushed silver, five-burner barbecue abandoned in a Vancouver lane. After scraping off some rust and replacing parts, she found it ran fine and regularly fires it up.
The savvy second-hand shopper must also be quick to pounce on a good buy, said Lauzer.
If they don’t, they’re apt to be disappointed. If they’ve been searching high and low for a Porsche-designed toaster, better to snap it up right away because it won’t be there the next time around.
As well, she says not confine yourself to just one store or source of second-hand treasures. There are deals everywhere. Some are second-hand or thrift stores, but there are also great buys at church rummage sales and family garage sales. And she’s always amazed at what people leave at the curb.
Second-hand shoppers are growing in numbers. For some it’s a matter of a limited household budget, and with others it’s the lure of the hunt and finding something distinctive. While others still see the environmental benefits.
“People come to it by different paths. Some of it is by circumstance and some by choice,” Lauzer said. “But I think now it’s more choice than anything. For me I’d rather spend money travelling or doing other things,” she said.
Lauzer sees her role as getting more people interested in being thrifty consumers.
“There is a second-hand culture that a lot of us embrace. It’s about more than finding a great buy. It’s also about trying not to be a huge consumer, being mindful to just get things you need. And not adding more to our landfills.”