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There’s something to the term “retail therapy.”

It doesn’t look the same in my life as it does in the movies – the shopping bags aren’t pretty and I don’t need a man to carry them to the car for me, but the act of shopping does make me feel more relaxed, settled and at peace.

My favorite kind of shopping, though, is the frugal kind.

I’ve been shopping at thrift stores, church sales, consignment shops and garage sales since as early as I can remember. It’s something my mom and I would do for fun. Or I at least thought it was for fun. We didn’t have much money to work with when it came to buying clothes for school, so I suspect that my mom made it fun out of necessity. This theory can’t be truly tested since we both still rely on used clothing to maintain our wardrobes, but I like to think that we would hit up the thrift shops even if we didn’t have to.

I still have a tattered Bart Simpson T-shirt that we bought when I was about 10-years-old. It says “Cool your jets, man!” It still fits. I sometimes sleep in it.

When I need to make myself feel better, thrift shopping never disappoints. And I have a few theories as to why.

It’s cheap

For $20, I can get outfits for days – shoes included. When I know there are people who spend that amount on a quirky T-shirt, my haul feels that much sweeter. I rarely allow myself to spend more than an Andrew Jackson at a thrift store, and if I do, there’s good reason. I most recently spent that on a pair of barely worn hiking boots. #Winning

The thrill of the hunt

The less organized the better. I truly enjoy rummaging in the chaos that is some thrift shops. You just never know what you’re going to find and the messier the store, the less likely it is that the people who price the items will see the difference between a Walmart tank top and a Lucky Brand blouse.

Consignment shops are my least favorite for this reason. I want to find a diamond in the rough that’s at the same price point as your basic rock.

Unique looks

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I can honestly say that I have some articles of clothing that no one else has. I have a plaid, zippered blazer with shoulder pads that I have not worn, but I don’t think anyone else would have taken home. It belongs with me. One day I will find a reason to wear this blazer, and because I am known for having a unique sense of style, no one will question it. I may even get compliments on the kooky little thing. You’ll see.

Dresses

There is no better place to buy dresses than a thrift store – there are just so many. And, if you’re not sure what kind of dress looks best on your body, it’s the best place to find out. From wrap dresses to maxi dresses, wedding gowns and rompers (they’re usually with the dresses), you can try it all on at the thrift store … if you’re willing to do it three items at a time that is.

It’s good for the mind

To me thrift shopping is a type of meditation. I can zone out while strumming through racks, focusing only when a certain color, pattern or price jumps out to me. I may mindlessly sing along to an oldies track on the radio or say hello to the friendly guy who is always restocking things. On occasion I even get to help someone pick out something for their daughter who is my age or give input on a stranger’s finds in the fitting room.

I see the thrift store as a friendly environment. It’s a place where all are welcome and one of the only places I feel like I’m a native.

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Maria Sestito is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. Jersey Girl runs every other Sunday. Follow her on Twitter at @RiaSestito or email her at msestito@napanews.com.

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Maria Sestito is the former Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She now writes for the Register as a freelancer.