From a young age, my kids have been taught to appreciate a bargain. And Josh, who is twenty now, seems to understand the value of a buck more than he ever did. On Sunday afternoon, he spent almost thirty minutes combing through the clearance rack at Kohls, thrilled with the prices. Thankfully, though, he also understands that just because an item is cheap, you don’t always have to buy it….and happily (for me) that tuxedo t-shirt that he was eyeing up stayed on the rack for another bargain shopper to find!
Recently, my neighborhood thrift shop, which is a bargain shopping hot-spot, imparted a few more life lessons on my family….
The Upper Room Thrift Shop is operated out of our church, just a block from our home. This weekend, Joe had offered to install their window air conditioner, with the help of my boys. Joe always worries that my sons aren’t getting enough training in household repair…..and he loves to reminisce that by the time he was Jake’s age, he could tune up a car, fix the plumbing, run electricity, and had even paneled his family’s den all by himself… all by age 13. By his own account, Joe was a mini Bob Vila and our kids need to do some serious catching up.
And I have no reason to doubt his accounts, since nowadays, Joe IS pretty darn handy. Besides, there have been other kids who have excelled at a young age….like Tony Stark, who built his first engine by age 8 and graduated from MIT by age 17. So on this day, Joe, my very own Iron Man of home improvement, set out to teach the boys about cooling systems.
Once the job was done, the boys glanced around the thrift shop. “Hey mom,” one of them asked. “Can we shop a little?”
Jake, in a thrift shop, is unfortunately not searching for something useful at a good price. Instead, he seeks out the most impractical item and argues that he should have it, simply for the novelty. And since I have indulged this habit once or twice, like the time he bought a full size accordion at a yard sale…well, the habit is hard to break. On this day, the impractical item of his choice was something that he identified as a boat anchor (I wasn’t sure.). “Can I have this?” he asked…….”Do you have a boat?” I responded. Not easily thwarted, he argued that if he had his own money, I’d have to let him buy it. “But do you have your own money?” Disappointed, he moved on to find something else that he will never use.
Josh, on the other hand, is a more serious shopper. He looked around for things he might really need….and he seemed genuinely surprised by the prices. “Mom,” he called out, “these things are really cheap!” We walked through the shop calling out prices of things we thought were great bargins….the $5 toaster oven, the $2 bed spreads, the $5 set of dishes…..
And here’s where I got to share another life lesson…. I explained to the boys that since the Upper Room Thrift Shop is part the Colonial Manor Methodist Church, their main mission to is to help people…..and not to make money. “And that’s why everything is priced so inexpensively.” I explained that when we shop for secondhand items, it is partly because we are frugal, but it is also because finding bargains is fun. But let’s face it, if we went shopping for an item that we REALLY needed and couldn’t find it at a discount, we’d head off to a department store and pay full price without much hesitation.
But there are other families that don’t have the option of paying full price…people that NEED places like the Upper Room Thrift….people who HAVE to shop the bargain rack. Somewhere, there might be a young man who WILL buy that tuxedo t-shirt from the Kohl’s discount rack…..and not because he thinks it is silly and fun…but because it only costs $3.
So in one short day, my boys got one valuable lesson in climate control installation and another priceless lesson in counting their blessings….. And Jake did not get a boat anchor…….at least not yet.
And a side note: If you are a South Jersian and and a bargain hunter, check out the Upper Room Thrift. They are at 56 Elberne Ave in West Deptford and are open every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm. And if you own a small watercraft, ask about that anchor…..just don’t tell Jake.