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The One Thing I Might Love More than my Bike

July 27, 2010

Do you wear these things forward?

Yard sales. Garage sales. Tag sales. Thrift stores. Second-hand boutiques. Curiosity shops.

No matter what name you give it, I love second-hand shopping.

I’ve been a second-hand shopper since high school, and my love for this spendthrift environmentalist’s sport has not diminished. The thrill of a super find is the same now at the Front Range area’s ARCs and Savers as when I was 16 and hitting up my Indiana home town’s church-run thrift stores.

Following is a short list of some of the valuable items I’ve acquired from a second-hand source:

  • A sturdy mountain bike, which served me well for two years until it was stolen ($60)
  • A bread-making machine (free at end of sale)
  • Trendy jeans that fit better than the pair I bought at a trendy store ($6)
  • A Cuisinart mini food processor, with which I’ve already processed hummus, peanut butter, and mayo (free with purchase)
  • A picnic basket that makes me the envy of surrounding picnickers ($1.50)
  • My current couch, which truly neighborly neighbors helped me hoist from the curb up to my third-floor apartment (three beers to thank my sweaty neighbors).

Last weekend, I hit it big at a yard sale in Boulder.

One Boulderite's discards = this Denverite's treasures

For a lump sum of $15, I came away with a haul of bike gear, which included:

  • A like-new, water-proof Eddie Bauer messenger bag,
  • A never-used VeloNews bike water bottle,
  • A probably-too-cool-for-me flipped-brim cycling cap, also branded VeloNews, and
  • One of those super-handy bike pouches for your wallet, your phone, or tire-changing supplies.

Not too shabby, eh?

I really needed the new water bottle, as I only have one, and it’s looking pretty rough these days. The new bag has spiced up my commute, as I feel like one of those tough NYC bike messengers charging through traffic—even though I’m just pedaling to work along Denver’s shady Cherry Creek trail. I haven’t found the courage to sport the hat yet, but maybe one day soon I’ll feel bold enough.

I’m convinced that if you have a good eye and a little patience, you can get about 90 percent of the things you need second-hand.

I’ve gleaned a shopping strategy based on my second-hand experiences, which span half of my life. I stress patience, and I should probably also throw in there that you need to be flexible. The Goodwill racks may not have the messenger bag in the exact color that you would’ve chosen, but they will have something close—and for a tenth the price of a first-hand bag.

Here are some more second-hand shopping tips:

  • If you need something specific, go to one of the big second-hand stores—like Goodwill and the Salvation Army—because they have bigger selections; if you’re just browsing, go to yard sales, because they have (usually) lower prices.
  • Try to find garage sales in wealthy neighborhoods; they’ll have good stuff, and since they’re already rich, they’ll have no interest in jacking up prices.
  • Resist the urge to buy everything that might work; all those $1 price tags will eventually add up, and if you the junk isn’t what you need, then you’ll just have to got to the trouble to get rid of it again.
  • Again, if you’re not looking for anything in particular, peruse yard sales at around 1 or 2 p.m. when many of them are beginning to close down, and sale managers are ready to give stuff away for free just to get it off of their property.

Or backward?

What are your second-hand shopping tips, tricks, and secrets?


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenny permalink
    July 27, 2010 8:48 am


    I love getting your updates, Amy — it’s good to know you’ve been doing so well since leaving DC.

    Totally with you on the thrifty purchases. Love the thrill of a good find!

  2. Adam permalink
    July 28, 2010 11:02 am

    Yep, the hat is too cool for you. 😉

  3. avaerewyck permalink
    July 28, 2010 2:35 pm

    So nice to hear from you, Jenny! I’ll trust your judgment and wear it backward … unless Adam’s right. Man, I thought I was cool enough.

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