By Natalie DeYoung
Second-hand gifts. I know, I know, it sounds possibly tacky. It sound like an idea your Great-Aunt Florence would veto without question. It could very well backfire, should you choose wrong. But—but—before you hit the malls this holiday season, reconsider! You can not only give second-hand gifts, but sometimes, second-hand hand gifts are even better than a brand spankin’ new vase from Anthropologie that could set you back the cost of a car payment. Still skeptical? Read on, friends, and discover a whole new avenue for the creative gift-giver.
I’m sure when you hear the suggestion of second-hand gifts, you immediately think of all those times your kid sister wrapped up your used socks and gave them to you as a gag-birthday present. But second-hand gifts open up a whole new way to approach gift giving; it is not a game of one-upsmanship or just a chore, but a chance to give something meaningful, unique, valuable and sustainable.
In case you need more persuasion that yes, it’s okay to give a second-hand gift; here is a list of reasons to go the pre-owned route this holiday season:
It’s eco-friendly. One of the leading culprits for harming the environment is the culture of consumerism. By shopping second-hand, you are saving the landfills from more packaging, avoiding the natural resources that go into manufacturing new items, not to mention bypassing the environmental costs transporting them requires.
It’s thoughtful. Purchasing another scented candle for your mother-in-law is perfectly acceptable, but by taking the time to seek out something meaningful to her, like an antique teacup for her collection or a book signed by her favorite author, you demonstrate your attention to her interests.
It’s generally affordable. One of thrift stores’ chief appeals are the low prices. No further explanation necessary.
You can get more for your money. With the lowered prices, you can afford a higher quality product. Can’t afford to spring for a pair of Lucky jeans for your brand-conscious teenaged niece? By shopping second-hand, for less than the price of sweatshop-made jeans, you can find a higher quality make—even in a designer brand—that is sure to get even the stiffest critic excited.
It’s fun. There is a reason thrift stores are such a popular way to shop—it’s like a treasure hunt, but with discounts.
Here are a few tips for purchasing second-hand gifts:
Keep your audience in mind. Your mother may turn up her nose at anything that does not come in its original shrink-wrap with the stick-um from the price tag still tacky, but your sister may have an undying love for vintage dresses. In this case, maybe head to the department store for your mom, and hit Retro Row for your sis. Some people will just never be okay with second-hand items, and that’s okay. Gift giving is more about the recipient than the giver.
If you’re purchasing clothing, make sure to examine it carefully for stains, tears, split seams or missing buttons. Just because it’s pre-owned doesn’t mean the quality of the gift can’t be top-notch. Also, once you find that perfect blouse, make sure you wash it before you wrap it!
Keep your eyes peeled for rare finds. Every once in a while you can find an autographed copy of your father’s favorite sci-fi book, a hand-tatted lace tablecloth that your mother would love, or an antique doll that would be right at home in your grandmother’s collection. Make sure when thrift shopping, you keep your mind and eyes open. Many items are collectibles or antiques, valuable in their own right.
Don’t forget to check Craigslist and other message boards. If you’re determined to get your child an Xbox, a swing set or other high-end item, then an online message board is likely where you’ll find it. You can even save your searches for easy web navigation.
Toys, toys, toys! So many toys are unwrapped each birthday and holiday, then discarded in landfills. Try to escape the marketing machine and get your child an especially cool toy that you may have played with in your youth. Cabbage Patch dolls and Rainbow Bright have come back into fashion, and Batman or Superman never goes out of style. Antique toys have their own appeal, too—a sixty-year old Monopoly set can pack a whole lot of charm.
If you still aren’t convinced, just wrap it. Wrapping for gifts can be pricey all on its own. Thrift stores often have caches of baskets that can be wrapped with cellophane for a gift basket, or decorative boxes for less than the cost of a roll of wrapping paper. Use a trip to your local thrift store as a way to channel your creativity and save on the wrapping paper.
Give yourself time. It takes time to find the perfect gift, and it may take more time when you aren’t treated to well-organized, carefully marketed items. Make sure you don’t save your thrifting or Craigslist scouting until the eleventh hour, or you could arrive for the holidays empty handed.