Once, like many of us, I was a retail junkie. Shopping was my thing. Living in New York City allowed me to frequent stores like discount designer stores such as Century 21 and Loehmann’s. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that NYC innately prompts me to buy! buy! buy! I would spend over $100 at a time. Keep in mind, $100 shopping sprees add up–and quickly. After I broke my bank buying bold, designer clothing, I was left with clothing that had better names attached to it than cohesive, multiple-outfit potential.

A few years later, when I joined AmeriCorps, a program that forces you into poverty, all I knew, could speak, or could hear was “budget.” My way of spending completely changed. No longer did I mindlessly buy cute things from Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie (such a splurge). I started shopping solely at Goodwill. Strictly managing my money made me think, what am I actually paying for? Where is my money going? Why pay for something that I can only wear a few times before it goes out of style? So, I started thrifting and nothing else. No more retail stores. No more online buying. No more trend tunnel vision. And I have to say, I don’t plan on going back.

There’s negative stigma surrounding thrifting. Well, I mean true thrifting, and not purchasing “vintage” clothing at boutiques. Sure, real thrifting has its downfalls. Some people denounce purchasing clothing from the Salvation Army or Goodwill because of the “smell,” who owned it last, or the idea of being seen buying secondhand clothing. Sure, some of the clothing is stained and falling apart (here’s an example of when not to buy or invest in dry cleaning). But the clothing is used, so it may have some signs of wear. It takes time, patience and sifting through a lot of merchandise, and there’s no guarantee you can actually find what you’re looking for. Sometimes articles have to be dry-cleaned, which costs some extra money. Sometimes articles need to be repaired. Sometimes you can’t just put it on and go. But, despite these conditions, there are advantages to thrifting–besides the fact that it sounds cool.

Advantages of Thrifting

1. You shop with a mission and experience anticipation. Thrifting makes you focus on what you want, and if it’s not available right away, you wait. There’s thrill in the hunt. You feel a greater sense of gratification when you finally get what you’ve been waiting for.

2. It prompts experimentation and facilitates personal style on a budget. Instead of following trends, modify and personalize them. I don’t buy clothes from retail stores anymore (well, except for undergarments). After living on such a strict budget, I think A LOT before I buy. Do I need to spend $20 on a single shirt, or can I go to Goodwill and get an entire outfit? I always choose the latter. And I always end up finding something odd, a little extravagant or a little unique, which expands my wardrobe into something that I had not originally expected. That’s why blogs like The Sartorialist are so popular; they capture individual style at its finest and most sincere. Those everyday models aren’t styled; rather, they exude personal style.

3. It offers authenticity. Why buy a manufactured military-inspired jacket that will fall apart in a year, when you can purchase the real thing for less than the retail price and that has survived all these years, with time still left in it? I tend to choose clothing on its resilience; if it’s lasted this long, then it can endure anything. There’s more value in your buck. You’re investing, not mindlessly spending.