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Save Big With Thrift Store Shopping

Updated: Aug 28, 2021

Chances are you've got a thrift store near you. But do you shop there? There seems to be a stigma that surrounds shopping in a thrift store. "What will people think of me? Will they think we can't afford to shop somewhere else?" Or maybe you're the one that looks down upon those who shop in thrift stores.

It's time to free yourself from that stigma. A thrift store can be an amazing place to find great prices on high-quality items. We as a society get rid of many things simply because we have grown tired of them. Nothing is wrong with them, we just want to part ways. Maybe we remodeled a room, bought new dishes, or never really liked that shirt anyway.

No matter what the reasons may be, those items may very well be treasures to someone else. There is a wide variety of merchandise to choose from in thrift store, and you'll probably find unique things you wouldn't find on your Walmart run. Bonus- thrift stores are often full of vintage items, and if you're crazy about other people's old stuff like I am, you won't be able to get enough!

But First...

Aside from the great deals, there are some other really awesome reasons to shop in thrift stores that I want to make sure you're aware of. Most thrift stores benefit a nonprofit of some sort. The cause may be hunger, homelessness, special needs, or something else entirely.

For example, our local thrift stores support local food banks. They also help mentor children and support addiction recovery. Another of our thrift stores helps support Early Intervention services. An example of this would be if your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or another condition that could delay his or her development, Early Intervention would send a therapist to your home to work with your child to help them succeed. These are great things to support.

Even if you don't have a small local thrift store nearby, you've likely got a Goodwill or Salvation Army. Both of these also help support great causes. Goodwill helps people from all walks of life get jobs and become independent, and the Salvation Army helps with disaster relief and helps the homeless as they work to find employment and a place to live.

Donating to and shopping in thrift stores also helps the environment. You're saving things that would have been otherwise tossed and destined for a landfill. Less waste equals a happier and healthier world.

What could be better than saving money and helping someone else and our world, all at the same time?!

What can you find?

Almost anything! I often find clothing for two to five dollars per piece. That includes name brand and designer labels. If you have young children, you know how quickly they outgrow their clothes. If you can buy them a wardrobe, or at least part of one, for that kind of price, it's a great day! Things like heavy winter coats often get worn only a few times here in the south, then your kid has outgrown them. We have found coats for around ten dollars that would have been $60 or more in a department store.

Two sweaters found at a thrift store.
Super cute tops!

I found these two items for three dollars for each piece last fall. I love both of them, and neither looked like it had ever been worn. I also found a sweater that still had its original tags on it. It came from Kohl's and cost $44. I paid just $4. If you like to change up your wardrobe without breaking the bank, thrift stores can be the answer.

We also like to buy household items like kitchenware, decor items, picture frames, lamps, etc. People change their decor in their homes all the time, and many of the things they donate to thrift stores are barely used. You can find things to suit any taste from farmhouse vintage to sleek and modern. We got this Tolware lamp for $20 at the end of last year. I looked up Tolware lamps on eBay and discovered that many sell for $60 and up, with some closer to $200. I was pretty stoked about that find!

A vintage Tolware lamp.
My Tolware lamp in my office/craft room.

I also love vintage dishes and use them almost exclusively for serving food. I have found quite a few at our local thrift stores. I also found an antique bean pot (that makes the best baked-beans ever), Wagner cast iron skillets, and matching pieces for our Pfaltzgraff Village dinnerware set that I'm building. Pictured below is an FTD dish from 1975 that we paid just one dollar for.

Another great find was this Rival crockpot (below) in this adorable lobster pattern. We paid eight dollars for it. It's currently listed on eBay for $20 plus another $14 for shipping. Another steal! Again, this looked like it had hardly been used, and it is now my go-to crockpot for turnip greens.

Furniture is another thing you can really luck out with at thrift stores. We see full dining room sets with four chairs for around $50 quite often. They sell couches for as low as $30. A good shampoo and most of these would be just fine for someone in need, or someone simply wanting an affordable change. There are also nice bedroom suites. A new mattress and you're good to go. There is never any shortage of things such as end tables, TV stands, or side chairs. Even if these aren't in great shape, you can make them beautiful if you're the DIY type.

Baby things are also a great thrift store find. Babies grow so quickly, they often outgrow all those cute things we just had to have before they ever get to use them. Most baby swings and seats include removable covers, so this makes them super easy to clean for your baby. We found baby clothes for around one dollar per piece at our local stores. You can even find cribs and nursery furniture, but I would recommend really paying attention to these to ensure they meet the current safety standards.

Craft supplies are another great thing to look for at thrift stores. I've bought all kinds of things like fabrics, embroidery supplies, yarn, and huge tubs of crayons for the kids. I got this great lot of Christmas fabrics for just $4. They are remnant pieces, but they'll make a wonderful Christmas patchwork quilt. This cute embroidery project was only one dollar, and it's a little jewelry holder.

You can also find mason jars. Some of these are quite old and you might not want to use them for canning, but if you enjoy mason jar crafts, they can save you a ton of money. Our store sells them two for one dollar. I buy them for both canning and crafts. Right now canning supplies are impossible to find around here. Thank you, COVID-19. I'll be making a thrift store run soon, fingers crossed!

Two Patricia Cornwell books.
My favorite author, at a great price!

If you like to read, you definitely want to check out thrift stores. Most books are just 50 cents to a dollar, with some things like hardcover cookbooks costing slightly more. Our kids love to read, and they all read quickly. We can buy them a book and within just a day or two, they've finished it. This can get pricy if we buy brand new books, so we get them used or at thrift stores. I got both these Patricia Cornwell books for a dollar each. One didn't come with the dust jacket, but I think I can live with that.

Seasonal items are another fantastic thrift store find. These things can cost a fortune brand new, and you don't keep them up long. We love Christmas and go all out on our decorating. We bought most of our Christmas lights from the thrift store last year for one or two dollars per strand. We also bought wrapping paper for one dollar per roll. There are so many Christmas ornaments to choose from, too. You can find seasonal decor for any season or holiday, but Christmas by far offers the most variety.

Several patterns of cloth napkins.
Mix and match cloth napkins.

One last thing we look for is linens. As long as there are no holes or stains, a quick run through the washer and a line dry makes them as good as new. We've bought sheets for the kids' beds, vintage towel sets, a gorgeous Bates Queen Elizabeth bedspread for just fifteen bucks (easily three times that cost or more on eBay), and cloth napkins. We switched to all cloth napkins years ago to save money on paper napkins, so I buy these up when I see them.

Things to repurpose:

So many things can be repurposed into other things. Even if something isn't gorgeous, decide if you could make it work for you. Some examples include:

  • Old furniture: Would you be able to sand it down and stain or paint it to give it a new life?

  • Ugly or outdated pictures or frames: Could you take the picture out and toss it but use the frame? Or could you spray paint the frame to match your decor?

  • Lamps and candlesticks: Often these are shiny brass or something else that doesn't match our decor. However, some chalk paint or spray paint can totally change their look and help you fit them into your room, while still spending far less than if you bought new.

  • Vases: These can also be painted or otherwise decorated to match your decor. I wrapped the plain vase in the cover image in jute twine for a farmhouse look.

What should you not buy?

There are some things we steer clear of when thrift shopping. This will, of course, be a judgment call for you and your family, but here's a list of the things we avoid, and why:

  • Electronics that haven't been tested: Even if the store offers a refund if an item doesn't work, we find it to be a hassle. Our stores test most electronics, and they put a sticker on them that says, "tested-works" to make it easy to know that the item is in working order.

  • Electronics with old or frayed cords: This goes without saying, but this is a fire hazard. Unless you know how to safely rewire an item, it's probably not safe to use.

  • Socks and shoes: These things are no-nos for us. I have a thing with other people's feet, and I don't want our feet or the kids' feet in other people's socks and shoes.

  • Swimsuits and undergarments: Same as the socks and shoes thing; I prefer to buy these items new.

  • Toiletries: Not all stores sell these, but some do. I don't buy toiletries there as you can't verify what is in the bottle is what the label says it is. Also, you don't know if it could be tainted in some way.

  • Carseats: While baby gear costs a fortune, this isn't where you want to skimp. You can't verify that the seat wasn't involved in an accident. Your child's safety isn't worth cutting corners.

  • Old dishes of uncertain materials: Some vintage dishes aren't safe to eat from or cook with. They could have been made with materials no longer considered safe or even allowed. If you're using them solely for decoration, have at it, but if you plan to use them, you'll want to know what they're made of.

  • Mattresses: This is another thing I'm personally not comfortable with buying used. I don't know how clean it is or if it might have bed bugs. I'd rather buy new here.

We really love going to thrift stores and often go with nothing particular in mind to buy. It's entertainment for us, and we know that we aren't likely to spend too much money. If you have concerns about what people might think, I urge you to get past those. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the quality of the things you can find and the money you can save.

Now that you know what kind of awesome deals you can find at your thrift stores, do you think you'll check them out? Do you have anything to add to my buy, or don't buy, lists?

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