Thrift Stores Are NOT Your Friend, Until They Are

thrift stores

At the risk of sounding like a Scrooge, I’m going to make a bold statement, but don’t write me off just yet. Read on before you decide. It’s not always a good financial practice to give away your old stuff to charity. I can’t believe I just said that in print. But let’s be real here. Charities often run thrift stores that sell our old clothes, shoes, household goods, and misc. items we no longer need or use. Let me be clear here. I’m all for charity. And I love to help when we can but sometimes, giving those items away is not the best choice for your season in life, and you may not even realize it.

Sometimes we are helping others but hurting our family’s financial situation when we forego the money we could have earned by selling those items ourselves. Long term, this will inhibit our ability to help charity in even greater ways.

Toss the Junk

Items which are in good, usable, re-saleable condition are the only items you should be giving to charity thrift stores. They don’t want your “junk” and I say that as nicely as possible! It actually costs them more to go through true “junk” and dispose of them than it is worth to them. Please do them a favor and only donate items in good repair.

When to Sell

Now that only worthwhile items remain, consider the following alternative. Each dollar from the sale of your items (think Craigslist, online Facebook yard sale groups, yard sales, etc.) is an unallocated dollar in your budget that can go towards an outstanding debt or an upcoming expense (car repair, school clothes, moving, etc.). Sure, debt is manageable for some and they don’t feel the crunch. But think of all the good they could do with no debt payments! Think of all the charity gifts they could make if they had no debt at all.

When to Give

I do recommend that you give a percentage of your income to charity. Donate 10% of that income you made from the sale of those said items to charity, yes, by all means. Note: Many famous financial coaches advise the same, no matter your financial situation. Faith-based advisors generally advocate giving 10% (a tithe) to your local church, synagogue or charity. The idea behind this is the financial principle of reaping and sowing. Whatever your thoughts on this, it is a widely accepted financial practice. I am not advocating complete abstinence from all charity giving when you have debt, but I am saying rather than donating the 100%, you should sell your items, give 10% (or your choice) to charity and apply 90% to debt or other urgent expenses.

More Saving, More Generosity

If you’re anything like most of America, you have plenty of items to get rid of. Declutter the house, go through the clothes and grab items you haven’t used in the last 3 months. Combine them with gifts that you plan to re-gift and put them up for sale. Use that money to apply to your debt and free yourself up to do even better things for your favorite charity or church. In the meantime, while working on paying off your debt, frequent those thrift stores first.

When you are in the market for shoes, clothes, household appliances, etc., make sure to check there first for any items they may have. In this way, you are not only helping their charity, but you are helping your family’s financial state as well with the money you saved on those items rather than shopping new. Take the difference and apply it to your debt. While it may not seem like much independently, these little things can add up in a big way. If you sold just $25 of items each month, and saved $25 on purchases, you could apply $47.50 (assuming you gave $2.50 to charity, as mentioned) a month to your debt. In 12 short months, you would have reduced your debt by $570.00 by this one simple task.

So, thrift stores are not your friend. Well, until they are…