When I was young, I loved to go to the mall. In high school, if I needed to shop for clothes, I shopped at the mall. If I wanted to buy books, I went to the mall. If I wanted new records or tapes (remember those?), I made a trip to the mall. The mall was a magic wonderland filled with fabulous prizes.

In college, when I began to use credit, the mall became even more enticing. Some days I would carry my books to the local mall and study in the food court. Every hour I’d take a break to do a little shopping. It’s no wonder I began to accumulate debt!

Now that I’m older, I rarely set foot in a mall. (I think the last time I was in one was when Kris and I bought a new range at Sears last year.) Nothing about a mall appeals to me: traffic, national chains, high mark-ups, crowds, muzak. Plus I know that they’re a dangerous trap for me — the longer I stay, the more I’m likely to spend.

Lately, I tend to buy most things used, and certainly from specialized merchants. I buy most of my books from local used bookstores. I buy clothes from used clothing shops. I buy my music from used record stores (or from iTunes). Even when I buy new (and I still do plenty of that), I stick to specialized stores instead of going to one-stop-shopping centers.

I’m curious about you folks. Which do you prefer and why: shopping malls or thrift stores? Or something in between?