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shopping ethically on a tight budget

Back when multi-colored windbreakers and mom jeans were seeing their first heyday, I grew up frequenting thrift stores with my mom. I don’t know if you’d really call it thrifting though; we didn’t exactly peruse the aisles looking for cool, vintage finds -- we were just on the hunt for a good deal. It was this same kind of hunt that led me to frequent stores like Marshalls & T.J. Maxx for years, all in the name of cheap. If you’d asked me 10 years ago about my thoughts on ethical shopping, I would have found myself somewhere between agreeing with the principles yet struggling to find it practical for me and my budget. Maybe you’re early in your journey of shopping ethically or find yourself in a similar place that I was. If so, I’ve got a few suggestions for you as you navigate your next steps on this journey.

  1. If you’ve never been into the idea of shopping secondhand, consider this your personal invitation into the wonderful unknown. Depending on your area, there are so many different types of second-hand shops to check out. There’s the traditional thrift store, like Goodwill or CHKD where you can discover anything from fun clothing pieces to home decor to funky white elephant gifts come Christmas. Or, if you want a more curated selection, check out your local consignment shops and boutiques. Plus, at most of these shops, you can also try to sell your gently used items; if they buy, you’re usually able to apply your earnings towards store credit if you’d like, pretty much letting you make a trade. This whole process saves you money while keeping clothes local and giving them more years of wear. Win, win, win.
  2. Another fun way to curate and shop ethically on a tight budget is to participate in a clothing swap. Made has put on a couple clothing swaps in the past year or two, and I know I’ve been such a fan -- I love getting to refresh my closet by giving my old items a new home and finding some new pieces to add, plus the sentimental part of me loves wearing clothes that used to belong to my friends, ha! You can be part of an organized community swap or just throw one with your friends; no matter how you decide to do it, you’ll come away with some fresh finds for your closet, and it didn’t cost you a cent.
  3. My last thought for you, the biggest yet cheapest of all: learn to grow content with less. I know, easier said than done, right? But if we only address our external habits like where and how we spend our money while leaving the atmosphere of our hearts and any of its envy, greed, insecurity, or pride untouched, we’re only addressing half of the problem. Don’t misread me -- it’s definitely a both-and; our outward habits shape the world, and those habits matter. But I know the deepest work for me in my journey of ethical shopping has been learning to be more content with what I have, and learning to be content with less stuff in general. But I’m certainly still growing here! One resource I’ve found really helpful lately is from Bridgetown Church in Portland, OR -- take a look if you want to learn more about living more simply.

Shopping doesn’t have to be costly, not for those who make our things, and a lot of the time, not for us either. I hope these thoughts are helpful, in one way or another! Be encouraged: no step is too small, and no step is unimportant on this journey of ethical formation.


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