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The Art — and Virtue — of Being Thrifty

It’s about more than secondhand sweaters.

"The minute matters of life are where we prove whether we truly believe what we say we believe."  
Lore Ferguson Wilbert

If you’re out and about on a Saturday morning, say, at an estate sale or a thrift store in a sunny mountain town in Colorado, you might run into my friend, Marcia Petersen. When I first met her, she was well known for many things, one of them being her deep knowledge — and love for — buying second hand. 

Finding deals to create a beautiful, and budget-friendly, lifestyle is exactly her lifestyle. I thought about Petersen because among the many lessons we’re all facing in 2020, learning how to use resources in reaction to — or preparation for — scarcity and an uncertain economy seems vital. 

Thrifting can be not only a hobby, but also a wise way to steward money. And not only is it a way to steward personal resources, but it can help our neighbors, too. 

Thrifting, as many of us know it, spans a wide range of “bargain hunting” for items. Places where you can purchase someone else’s goods are called thrift stores, after all. 

Thrifting and secondhand stores grew in popularity among millennials and Gen-Zers in the past few years for a variety of reasons: it’s more earth and economic friendly, it can be more ethical, and it in most cases gives back to the community. Gen Z leads the way, making up 40 percent of resale consumers, with millennials following at 30 percent. The projected market size of thrift stores in 2021 is $33 billion, according to a report by thredUp. And, with COVID-19 still wreaking havoc on the U.S. jobs market, that number could end up even higher. 

But despite stigmas in some places about thrift shops, some people, like author and blogger Lore Ferguson Wilbert, find in it a kind of spiritual practice. 

“If we truly believe that God is at work redeeming all things, not just in the age to come, but right now too, then how and what we buy and where we buy from should matter to us today,” she told me via email. Wilbert, who published her first book, Handle with Care, earlier this year, spends her creative efforts not so much on stewardship, but on wholeness. Especially when it comes to tactile and everyday parts of life. 

“Integrity — that is, having congruence with ourselves and our beliefs about God, man, the scriptures, etc., all the way through — matters even down to the food we put on our plates and the clothing we put on our bodies and the art we keep on our walls and more.” 

Even as restrictions begin to lift, most of us will experience the results of COVID-19 for months, if not years, to come. We learned (in hard ways) that our tendency is to overextend our calendars, our social lives, and our wallets when everything, for most people, shut down this spring. Financially, for many, COVID-19 presented familiar challenges of scarcity outweighing the needs, which is where thrift stores might help us going forward. The idea of stewarding our money isn’t new. But the ways in which we steward it might need to look different. 

“The minute matters of life are where we prove whether we truly believe what we say we believe,” said Wilbert. “It’s not legalism, though, it’s participation in the redemption of all things in heaven and on earth.” 

For some, thrifting was a way of life pre-COVID-19. Petersen, who is currently working to start her own business to help people refresh their home spaces with items they already own, began thrifting out of a desire to create a home that was “pretty, interesting, and hospitable, and on a budget.” 

Some practical ways to thrift well, according to Petersen, include basics like taking a tape measure to yard sales, boldly making offers on things you like, and shopping around for items to compare prices more than once before purchasing. 

Thrifting in the time of COVID is a way to steward the resources in our lives in a wise, thoughtful, and budget-friendly way. We can all start somewhere, and maybe it will help someone else, too.

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