Years ago, when I was younger than forty and felt more up-and-coming, more aspiring to Upper Middle Class status, I thought myself above shopping at a Goodwill store.
I typically donated items to Goodwill, along with another local charitable organization in our town, consisting of old clothes, many books (over one hundred by now) and household items that I call nicknacks but that other people may view as treasures.
I would always ask for a signed donation receipt, then I would attribute a fair donation amount based on what I may see the item later selling for, fifty cents or so per book, a buck for a nicer hardcover, and a buck or two per clothing item, maybe five bucks or so for something like a nice sweater or jacket. I have donated framed art prints, old bike helmets, a duck-shaped wood thingamajigger and lots of other odds and ends.
Sometimes I would poke around the store a bit after donating items, making sure to show my donation receipt prominently so as not to look like I need to shop there.
Through my profession, I have worked with hundreds of business owners over the years, mostly sole proprietorships but some representing multi-billion dollar publicly traded companies. Some privately-held multi-million dollar companies. Two of them close to billion-dollar companies, but I never asked to review their books. Mostly mom-and-pop business owners who barely scrape by. I have even worked with Goodwill before.
I have a business owner friend who retired as a cop and later opened a small coffee shop. He has four grown daughters in various stages of life from attending community college to homeowners with jobs and producing grandchildren.
While chatting with him earlier this year, I mentioned something about spending nearly fifty bucks on Levi’s jeans (that I happen to be wearing right now) at Kohl’s and how that feels like an investment to me now. I was wearing my same one pair of good jeans at the time even though it was a work day after having made a five dollar charitable donation for the right to wear them.
My friend mentioned that he had recently purchased some new Levi’s with the label still on them at a local Goodwill store for seven dollars. I raised an eyebrow, and he continued to tell me that he purchases much of his clothing there, most of it in new condition and for cheap.
About a month ago, shortly after starting this blog and starting my effort of thinning out my massive collection (hoard?) of rarely used possessions, I went to our very small downstairs “spare clothes/out of season” closet and came across these three wool sports coats, one of which actually has elbow patches, all of which were given to me by older, wiser people when I was much younger. A person who gave the dark one to me has been deceased for nearly ten years already. I had not worn the two grey ones for well over a decade.
I donated these, as well as a pair of slacks that I could no longer fit into (upcoming blog post), some other items that I cannot recall, and some other useless junk that I would again call nicknacks. I asked for and received a donation receipt, valued the stuff at about $15 on the receipt for tax purposes, parked my car, and then went in to look around.
Like my friend said, I was surprised to find many items in great condition, actually better condition than most of the clothes that I wear to work.
I tried on nearly a dozen sports coats, many of which had designer names and were in good shape. There was an entire Hugo Boss suit for sale for only about $20, and I wanted to purchase it just to know that I am wearing a designer suit, or to casually mention that it is Hugo Boss if anyone asked, but the interior pockets had holes in them and I knew that I would never get them fixed, Hugo Boss or not.
Finding a sport coat that fit me well and was in mint condition was challenging, but I finally purchased a size 44 with a Bachrach label for about $6, and also found a large sized Croft & Barrow (Kohl’s main brand) genuine leather jacket for $20 in new condition.
It just so happens that I had four suit-wearing occasions over the past four weeks, and I wore my “new” Bachrach sport coat, paired with dress slacks, at all of them including a major Chicago retail trade show, an out of State conference (in Wisconsin) where I served as a guest speaker, a board meeting where my attendance was required to present an item and a meeting last Thursday with local Workforce development officials and business leaders.
Without asking anyone at any of these, I would be shocked and amazed if anybody else there was wearing a sport coat or any other item that they purchased at Goodwill or for anywhere close to six dollars.
By some prior posts, and many more to come, I must confess to being an avid collector and reader of books. I have even read about ten more books in the last three weeks, all of which I intend to post about.
I purchased hard cover books for $1.99 each at my local Goodwill store, four or five at a time, on my last few donation visits. My wife does not appreciate this, so my new goal for book buying is to buy less than I donate, so there is a net reduction in my collection (hoard?) of books.
Most of the books that I donate are to the local library, where they sell them for one dollar each for hard covers and fifty cents per paperback. Of course, I have purchased many, many books there as well, over thirty this past July alone.
Even though you will not find any new best sellers for sale at the Goodwill, you will find a multitude of great books one year and older. I have purchased many books in what I call the improve your life/make more money/change your way of [middle class] thinking genre. The 7 Effective Ways books and the Rich Dad, Poor Dad books for example.
Bottom line, I am not too good to shop at Goodwill. Nobody in the Middle Class should feel like he or she is. I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree, I am certified in my profession with sixteen years of experience, I am the head of a solidly Middle Class household (at least the money making/bills paying part) according to the IRS and earn a solid Middle Class salary for our area.
I am solidly a Middle Class Guy, but will definitely continue to donate to and shop at local Goodwill stores and strive to purchase less books than I donate.