I was introduced to the art of thrifting a few years back when I was going through a rough patch and desperately needed attire for an interview.
I had frowned at the thought of shopping at Goodwill, Salvation Army or any other secondhand store. They were loaded with cheapskates, dusty fixtures, outdated clothing — and they smelled weird. Or so I thought.
To my surprise, the first Goodwill I visited was massive and full of irresistible deals. I landed a designer suit, blouse and accessories for around $15. And the kicker? The place had a pleasant aroma!
After that initial visit, I was hooked and decided to explore similar establishments for deals. Following are some types of items you should consider buying at your local thrift store.
But first, an important tip: Set a budget before you go. Even at a thrift store it is possible to overdo it, and it is tempting. So if you decide on $25, leave the plastic at home and only carry that amount of cash to the store. Once you’ve reached your limit, promptly head to the checkout counter. No exceptions!
1. High-end apparel
Quality has improved at thrift stores. Few try to sell every donation they take in. Instead, teams of volunteers or employees inspect incoming items to determine which are fit for sale. In most instances, the dregs are returned to the donor or passed on to another charitable organization.
You are likely to find used, high-quality clothing items that are going to serve you better and longer than cheap new things. That new bargain blouse might be stunning on the hanger, but one wear and wash will be enough to send it to the nearest trash bin.
An added bonus: You won’t have to worry about pushy salespeople hovering over you, encouraging you to buy items you don’t need just to fatten their commission.
If you desire to decorate your home in a way that stands out — and doesn’t look like a spread from the furniture store’s weekly circular — here’s your chance. Best of all, you won’t empty your wallet.
My most memorable purchase from the Goodwill was my luxurious leather office chair for a whopping $30. The suggested retail price was $495.
3. “Funky fashion” items
Have you ever spotted a spunky item you’d like to try, but you have reservations because of the price? Well, thrift stores offer this option, minus the buyer’s remorse.
If it turns out that the colorful dress, pair of oversized earrings or leather purse no longer tickles your fancy, you won’t be stressed out about it if you only spent a few bucks.
Or, you may discover you just landed a treasure. A former co-worker was in desperate need of collared shirts for work, so he picked up a few from the Salvation Army. One of them happened to stand out because it was extremely bright. Upon further examination, we discovered it was a Lacoste shirt worth $70, and he got it for $1.75!
4. Picture frames
Go to almost any thrift store, and you will see a large heaping section of picture frames — some with pictures, some without — usually located along a wall somewhere.
These frames often go for a song. As Lauren Shaver writes at the Bless’er House Blog:
I hardly ever buy picture frames in a retail store because there are so many beautiful ones already in thrift shops for a couple of bucks each. Spray paint them or distress them with chalk paint and they’re instantly customized for the look you want.
5. Clothes, toys and athletic gear for kids
Children grow way too fast! I wish I’d listened to the countless warnings during my first pregnancy so I wouldn’t have spent so much on items my son didn’t even use.
The second time around, I didn’t let history repeat itself. The bulk of little brother’s apparel is either handed down from big brother or was purchased at the thrift store. We happen to live close to a consignment shop that hosts $1 days twice a month, and it’s not uncommon to spot designer labels — from Calvin Klein to Polo — on the racks. Also included in that promotion are toys, many of which are very gently used.
If you’re searching for cleats or other athletic apparel, be on the lookout for those as well. Or, try secondhand sporting goods stores. I’ve been able to save as much as 75 percent on athletic gear and equipment by buying used.
6. Kitchen items
Thrift stores often sell bins of kitchen utensils — both used and new in the packaging — at bargain prices. On a few occasions, I’ve even purchased Pampered Chef pans for pennies on the dollar.
You’ll often find hardcover and soft cover books — from recent best-sellers to vintage classics — for anywhere from 50 cents to $2 at the thrift store. As Chelsea Coulston writes at the Making Home Base blog:
If I don’t find anything at the thrift store, I almost always find a book or two. Children’s books are usually my favorite. You can find the sweetest vintage children’s books that are gently used and in great condition. Additionally, I look for books that have uniquely colored covers to use in decorating.
What treasures have you landed by thrifting? Share them by commenting below or on our Facebook page.
Chris Kissell contributed to this post.
Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.