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Secrets of Savvy Secondhand Shopping

by Kate Holmes

Have you ever wondered how your best friend and her children are always so well-dressed, even though she is on a limited budget? says, "Take a girl Resale Shopping..." your next-door neighbors always have the most interesting decor, although their mortgage is as large as yours? Chances are they shop resale!

You too can be an expert resaler and find treasures that will enrich your life without flattening your wallet. And you can do it without a huge investment in time or gas. Here are some Savvy Secondhander Tips:

* Map out a route of the resale shops you want to visit. Include a variety of resale shops, from charitable thrift stores to elegant consignment boutiques. Each has its own special charms.

* Shop frequently. The more often you visit, the better buys you'll find. Most resale shops have a rapid turnover of their most interesting items.

* Be prepared. Some shops don't accept credit cards or checks, so tuck away a little mad money for that unexpected delight.

* Know the sizes and colors you need. Bring swatches, measure your available space, bring a child's garment along for size comparison.

* But be flexible. If you have your mind set on a specific item, you might pass over a trove of unexpected treasures.

* Look for the unlikely. If a shop specializing in one area receives something they're unfamiliar with, you might be able to pick up a treasure for a pittance.

* Canvass every corner, poke through all sizes, explore all departments. Different brands are sized differently, and could be mismarked. Remember to check out what's on display!

* Small accessories and related items can be some of the best bargains. Examine showcases, boxes of goodies, and ledges for some hidden finds.

* Check out your selections carefully. While shopkeepers price items based on desirability and condition, be sure you can live with a small snag or scratch.

* When you see something that calls out to you, grab it! Chances are it won't be there the next time you visit. Many's the treasure missed by too cautious a shopper.

* Get to know the sales staff and let them know what you are interested in. They delight in matching up merchandise with a valued buyer. If the shop has a mailing list, sign up for their newsletter, notices on sales and special event invitations.

* Each resale shop has its own personality and merchandise strengths. You'll soon find your favorites and, even sooner, you'll have people wondering "Where does she find all those great clothes?" and "How do they manage to always have such a wonderful home?"

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