Smile Politely

Have a thrifty Giftmas!

In the glorious Magazine Personality Quiz of Life, most people are a “B.” Allow me to illustrate:

Which best describes your approach to holiday shopping?
A. I give nothing. Gifts kill the soul.
B. I like to give gifts that are simple and have meaning.
C. I won’t stop shopping until the last box store is empty.

I’m sure there are some As and Cs out there, but I’d be willing to bet that most of us fall squarely into B range. Some have always been Bs, but many of us started out as Cs and are bravely letting go of our overspending ways, one bloated purchase at a time, to move up the quiz totem.

Here’s a great way to achieve certified “B” status: shopping resale stores for holiday gifts.

Some of you are probably way ahead of me and have been doing this for years. Others, like 25-Year-Old-Rachael, may be ready to click to the next article in frustration. Hear me out, hear me out…

Here’s the thumbnail version of reasons to shop resale: it’s better for the environment (because the items are reused or repurposed) and, depending on where you shop, the proceeds may go to a good cause.

That’s the why of the matter–—the how is a little bit trickier; this is because resale goods are, well, used. Many of us have had the experience of walking into a resale shop and being a little put off by the musty smell, the actual appearance of dirt, or the stray cat hair or two. After being on the receiving end of an impression like that, it can be hard to imagine presenting someone else with a box, seeing in our mind’s eye, the lid being lifted and a cloud of stale air greeting the person we’re hoping to gift.

A few guidlines can help you with any anxiety you may be experiencing about giving resale items as gifts.

1. Mix the old with the new.

Old cookbooks, serving dishes, and utensils are really cool, and they pair nicely in a basket with food or wine. Or, you could pick up an insulated coffee server (a lot of resale stores have some that are in great shape), a couple of cool vintage mugs, polish them up, and give them along with a bag of Fair Trade coffee.

Or, let’s say you know someone has or is getting one of those contraptions that turns vinyl into CDS or MP3s. Resale stores are the absolute best places to find great, old records and they are typically DIRT cheap–—a few well-selected ones, plus a new pack of blank disks would make a cool gift.  

Someone on my Christmas list is getting a beautiful glass decanter, bought for $14 at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, along with a bottle of mouthwash. I saw the idea for storing blue mouthwash in a decanter in a magazine-the results are too chic for words-and I am confident that the recipient of this gift will appreciate the idea as I did and not take it as a hint about hygiene. (At least, I truly hope she won’t…)

2. Look for great stand-alone items.

Some resale gifts are great to give as is. The prettier and more timeless the item, the less you may feel the need to package it up in a way that makes it “presentable.”

Artwork, home decor, and serving pieces fall into this category. The next time you are at a resale store, spend a little more time looking at the paintings, wall hangings, decorative plates, lamps, dishes, etc. You may be surprised to find that you like some of these things better than what is being sold brand new in stores.

3. Only buy items that need little (or no) cleaning.

Practically speaking, if you are going to give resale items as gifts, you’ll probably have to do a little bit of cleaning. The key word is “little.” If you pick up something that requires a major undertaking of polishing/refinishing, it is likely the gift will never meet the recipient.

4. Hone your resale skills throughout the year.

If you are new to shopping resale on a regular basis, you may not be primed to see treasure everywhere when hitting the thrift stores. Work resale shopping into your routine throughout the year, and it’ll be easier for you to spot great gift items and deals when next December rolls around.

Feel free to add your own tips below; surely I haven’t exhausted the ways that the rich resource that is resale shopping can be used during the holiday season.

See you at the (thrift) stores…

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