Sunday, January 11, 2009

Thrifty Giving

My daughter Alea came up to me after RSVPing for a birthday celebration next week. The party is for her very best friend and she wanted to make plans about the gifting process. Anyone who knows Alea knows that she is a planner, takes most things into consideration and while she is at it, will help you to organize your life as well. This could be an annoying feature to her personality but somehow, she nails it in such a way that makes you want to follow her lead; it is, no matter how you look at it, the sensible thing to do. This time was no exception, however, she did pose me with a question that made me pause with furrowed brow.

She wanted to shop for said friend at the thrift store. Now a few facts would be helpful here as you ponder with me:

1. Alea loves to thrift shop. Most times she gets her own cart, peruses the isles with reckless abandon and finds herself some sweet (as she says) pieces. Joy emanates from her. And, getting a bargain makes it even sweeter. She totally gets that she can purchase way more, for way less. She is quite the shopper. She never fails to spot a "so me" item on the rack and insists that I give these things a try and truth be told she is never far off. Sometimes the sizes don't work or she picks something that doesn't suit my color scheme, but all in all, she is an asset in the shopping department.

2. OK, back to the birthday situation. Alea attends school and has many friends from New Albany (a suburb of Columbus). It is fair to say that my kids witness true wealth when they go to visit their friends from school. On the whole, they have not come home whining about what other kid's have and what we are lacking (Lord knows I am grateful for that). I also realize that wealth is a relative concept here. It is not my desire to stereotype here. I am only recognizing that there is most definitely a difference in economic class.

3. Alea would like nothing better than to share her joy of thrift shopping with her friend. She argued sensibly that her friend likes the very jeans she was donning and THEY were from the thrift store. I can follow her logic her after all, I purchase most of my clothes from the thrift store.

4. When Alea told her friend where she purchased these fine jeans she did not know what a thrift store was-- the concept was totally out of the realm of her experience.

So, I explained to Alea, under most circumstances, you don't give someone a birthday gift that is considered used, unless it is a special item from your own collection that you want to share, like a family heirloom......

In general, for a birthday celebration, you make a purchase from a traditional store or make something that is a gift from your heart.

I must admit, I have conflicting values here and a limited ability to explain this dilemma within. I would not have thought it would be hard for me to express the why behind here-- but in truth, I believe any gift given from the heart is of value-- no matter where it is purchased.

One year my sister DeeDee asked for clothing for her birthday since she was giving up her deaf interpreting gig (you mostly wear black or other plain dark colors). I asked her if she minded me shopping at the thrift store for her because I could do some real damage that way. She said she did not mind. It was so fun! I felt free to buy a few items that may be considered absolute finds or may be considered clunkers. I did not feel like I bought the farm. I know for a fact that I picked out some jeans that she wore until they became thread bare-- jeans that she probably would not have picked out for herself.

I suppose I am worried that a gift from the thrift store may appear cheap or may be unappreciated in the circles of New Albany or worse, us becoming labelled as the poor family, when really, the whole idea came from the joy of the hunt.

I did offer Alea the option to invite her friend on a shopping spree at the thrift store to share in the experience. Of course, I am about to work my last day, heading into the land of layoff, so calling it a spree may be a bit misleading. The girls may have to make selections, keep within a budget and make hard decisions about what to purchase and what to leave behind. But, even that is a wonderful lesson in life (may even make those items purchased feel more special).

Anyway, I am curious to how others may see this opportunity.


Mars Girl said...

I generally dont shop at thrift stores because I feel weird--like grimy weird--about wearing clothes other people have worn. Not to say that that is the right way to look at it, but I generally dont like hand-me-downs either just simply because wearing something that someone else wore kind of creeps me out in an obsessive-compulsive buggy way that is probably unhealthy. Forgetting the fact that I used to borrow my mom's clothes regularly. But I think it's the whole "strangers used to wear this" thing that creeps me out. Even though the clothes have been washed.

However, I have a lot of friends who thrift shop quite often and I wouldnt even know they were wearing thrift clothes unless I asked (and who would). The whole concept doesnt bother me at all. I think it's great. Just this morning, I gave away a huge bag of clothes to one of those charities that take clothes and shoes and the clothes I gave had nothing wrong with them (other than the fact that I'd worn them!)--I was giving them away because, sadly, they no longer fit and I no longer wear them. It was my way to justify buying new clothes for my own wardrobe by getting rid of the stuff I have around that I never wear anymore.

So, anyway, I think that's great that your daughter is so thrifty and that she doesnt have weird hang-ups like I do about wearing clothes previously worn by strangers. I too know what it's like to have to "compete" with fashion in a world where some parents could afford to buy their kids designer jeans. (Kids in school used to make fun of my off-brands from K-Mart.)

I never really thought about the whole gift giving thing in terms of whether or not you give somebody something used. My friend Sarah has, on a few occasions, given me a book for Christmas or my birthday that was previously used, which she'd gotten from a used book store, and I never thought anything the less. A book is a book! ;) But maybe that's because I'm an adult now. I look at gift-giving as "it's the thought that counts." So if a friend cooks up a batch of their famous crab dip to give me for Christmas--which a friend did last year when she was low on funds--I'm just as touched as if she'd gone to a store and bought me something for $180. (Actually, I'd be embarrassed if anyone blew that much money on me!)

But maybe that kind of thought comes with age when you realize that people do what they can and that the little things are most precious...

Erin said...

Well,I just thought I would share that most of the items she picks out are from a store called Justice (which I hear in her age group-- is just the rage). Many times we find some quality name brand stuff.

One of my traditions, in addition to visiting labrynths, is to visit thrift stores when I am on vacation. My greatest finds were when I visited a thrift store in Seattle and another in Kilarney, Ireland. The one in Seattle was filled with NorthFace and outdoor gear stuff-- sweet!

You never know what you will find.

Mars Girl said...

Isnt Plato's Closet another one of those types of stores for the young'uns?

Frank said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank said...

But think about where clothes come from: The cotton was once sitting in a field with bird crap on it or if it is polyester that is even worse as it is made from oil, of all things.

Then it was made in some sweat shop in the third world, with someone stitched it together who didn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom, or even worse maybe they cut their finger on a sewing machine since they were tired from working 16 hour days and got some blood droplets on your new clothes. Why do you think they are called "sweat" shops? That's right: Sweat on your clothes, too.

Then it was shipped in a big cargo ship where rats and mice made their home among the boxes. I am sure the rats didn't get into the boxes of clothes, but whoever touched the outside of the box is probably the same person who opened the box and pulled out the clothes with rat and mice residue on their hands.

And then on down the line, yadda yadda, and all that.

Mars Girl said...

No one said phobias/obsessions were rational. Merely a preference. Didnt say I looked down on people who thrift shop, just said I prefer not to do it myself. But I also wear clothes until they distingrate, so I'm not wastefully buying more. And I only have one set of dress shoes in each color. I'm by no means an overconsumer of clothing. I'm not the type of person to shop to entertain myself when I'm bored.

Alison said...

I'm late to the party, literally, but it sounds like Alea's friend would LOVE the idea of a thrift store shopping spree until and unless her parents had a negative reaction to it. That would be a real shame, IMO, but whatever. Could you scope things out with the parents ahead of time?