One way that my family saves money is by purchasing many items from thrift stores. A thrift store sells new and used donated items at a fraction of the cost. I know this may be off-putting for some but hear me out. Shopping at thrift stores can not only be a smart way to get more for your money but can also be an exciting treasure hunt of sorts. Many experienced thrifters will tell you that you just never know what you may find. This is totally true! I have stumbled upon some amazing deals! I’m going to talk about some smart things to look for and how to take advantage of the deals at thrift stores.
First, let me just start by saying that obviously just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean you should buy it. I have seen people load up their shopping carts with junk and end up spending a small fortune at the check out on half broken and torn up items. Thrift stores are full of used things as well as new. If you are going to purchase used items you should be smart about it. Buy things that are in good shape or that could be easily fixed up. Plus by shopping at thrift stores you are living just a little bit greener than before. By helping to re-purpose these old and used items you are helping the environment.
In this post I’m going to talk mostly about the thrift store chain Goodwill. The reason I am highlighting them is because that is generally where I go only because it’s very close to my house. There are other awesome thrift stores in my area but I have found some to be more expensive than others. I’m trying to save money here people!
Goodwill, like Salvation Army or Amvets, has a mission that they dedicate their proceeds too. They take donated items, sell them to give back by providing job training, and improve the quality of life for those with disabilities and other barriers. I have had people working at the Goodwill in my town actually thank me for shopping there because they are so appreciative to be working and providing for themselves!
If you’ve never been thrifting then you may have a negative connotation about it. I am here to put some of that to rest. The below comments are things that have actually been said to me.
“I don’t want people to think I’m poor”. Please don’t feel this way. There is no shame in shopping at thrift stores. It’s an incredibly smart and fun way to shop. There are people from all economic backgrounds at thrift stores. I could easily go out and spend $60 on a sweater at Express or I could find one at a thrift store for $4.99. It’s a no brainer to me. Honestly, if I paid full price for a sweater at Express I would probably have an anxiety attack. I would always be thinking in the back of my mind what else I could have spent $60 on! Of course, I may not always be able to find the exact thing I’m looking for because the stores carry a large supply of donated items. But that’s also part of the excitement.
“Thrift stores are full of junk!” Well, yes and no. There’s no doubt that you will find your fair share of junk. In fact depending on the thrift store and it’s location you may find more junk than good items. But that does come with the territory. Again, you need to be selective and shop around for the good deals.
“I wouldn’t buy someone’s dirty underwear!” Yes, I’ve actually been told this. Now, to us thrifters this seems absurd but there are people who have a genuine concern about this. I would as well if it was valid. I’ve never been in a thrift store that sells used underwear. GROSS! I have seen brand new packs of underwear before but never used. There are laws that prevent the sale of such things in many areas (not sure about all states but I know in Ohio they won’t sell them).
Find the Right Thrift Store
There are tons of thrift store options where I live. Some in shady parts of town others in the nicer suburbs. Sometimes it might be hard to know which thrift store to start out with. In my experience you will almost always find something fun at any thrift store regardless of its location. But if you are looking for something specific like maybe summer clothes for the kiddos, then I would suggest shopping the thrift stores in the nicer areas.
Look, I’m not trying to be mean, label or judgeme but you are more likely to find Baby Gap, American Eagle and Justice in the nicer suburbs than in the not so nice parts of town. All my daughter’s wear are Justice, Old Navy, Gap and a few others and it all has come from thrift stores. Plus, I’ve noticed that the clothing is in better condition when coming from these areas. I think most times the child hardly ever wore it for whatever reason, out grew it and mom/dad decided to donate it.
I do, however have a couple favorite thrift stores that are in the not very nice areas that I just love. These not only get used items but the seconds and damaged items from major retailers. You can find Victoria Secret, Limited and Express items brand new!
By shopping in the nicer areas of town you are also more likely to find brand new designer furniture, household items, cookware, etc. I went to a thrift store in a very rich neighborhood one day and found this zebra print modern sofa there for $800. That is a high price tag to me, but when I looked at the original price of $3,000 I realized someone who has a thing for zebra print could really get a good deal here.
I personally will only buy clothes that are of brand names I know and are in excellent condition. The brand name clothes are of a higher quality and put together very nicely. They will last longer as well. I have clothed my entire family this way. No one would ever know that all of our items came from a thrift store. Actually, when I get on my thrift store rants people are normally shocked to find out this is how I shop. It’s because I don’t wear clothes that look like they came off of a thrift store rack. The clothing racks at thrift stores are lined with really nice clothes in great shape, some brand new even, as well as wholly torn clothes that you wouldn’t put in your dogs crate. All I’m saying is be smart in your purchases.
Every week at Goodwill they discount certain clothing items by 50% off! Throughout the store you will see signs like the one pictured above. It tells you which colored barb to look for to get the 50% off. This is awesome! Right around Christmas time I was perusing my local Goodwill when what to my wondering eyes did appear but two designer sweaters with original tags, oh dear! Yes, that’s right. They were men’s sweaters (normally $3.99 a sweater) and they were marked at 50% off! As if that wasn’t already awesome enough, one sweater was from Express for Men and priced at $60 originally, never worn! And the other was from Gap, priced at $40 and never worn. So I got two brand new sweaters that would have cost me $100 brand new for just $4 bucks! Winner!
Some Goodwill’s and other thrift stores may offer a shoppers card where you collect stamps upon each purchase. Once you fill up your card you get a certain percentage off your next purchase.
Oh how I love books! I’m old-fashioned. While something like a Kindle or a Nook are fun gadgets, there is simply nothing like the feel and smell of a book, especially an old one! I always spend a great deal of time searching the endless shelves of books. They are so cheap! Children’s books are only .59 cents, paperbacks are $1.99 and hard backs can go up to $2.99 or $3.99 unless otherwise marked. I always set my kids loose on the book area. I am so glad that they bug me to buy them books and not cheap plastic toys. And I can so easily say yes to a .59 cent book any day.
Today while searching the book section I came across some antique books. I wish I had a need to buy them but I really don’t. Even though they were amazing, I’m afraid I would be just wasting my money if I purchased them. One was a set of books by Charles Dickens from the early 1900’s. The other was a set of Mark Twain books from 1912. They were all in perfect condition. The bindings were well in tact, no pages were torn, just lovely. What a treasure!
Sometimes the selection of toys is either full or sparse. Never in between. But that’s just how this store is. Bigger thrift stores may have a consistently large supply. The Goodwill I go to is small and doesn’t always have a large selection of toys. One day when I was there though I stumbled upon a Barbie Airplane! This wasn’t just any Barbie Airplane but a vintage plane from 1999. I have seen this plane go for anywhere from $14-$55 dollars online. Almost all of the little pieces were with it except the top tail of the plane. Even the speaker/intercom works! I only paid $4.99 and my daughters were ecstatic!
There are a plethora of options in the accessory category. There are many bracelets, necklaces, rings, pins, handbags and book bags to choose from. Target stores donate their stock that went to clearance and never sold as well as returned/damaged items. They all find their way to the shelves of Goodwill every Thursday. I know this isn’t the case for ALL Target stores but that’s what they do in the central Ohio area.
I bought a really cute vintage looking owl necklace that had come from Target for just $2! I always get so many compliments on it. I also found tote bags from Target for my girls. They are made by the Disney show A.N.T. Farm and work perfect for their library bags. There’s even an inside pocket for their library cards (Pictured Right).
The teddy bear hanging out in this cute bag is a Vermont Teddy Bear that I also found at Goodwill for $3.99!
recently found myself a new purse also! There was nothing at all wrong with it. It was clean, no stains, no dirt inside, no ink stains NOTHING! It is by NY & CO and I only paid $2.99! Love it!
I came across a really lucky find one day while I was thrifting. My husband loves to golf and was volunteering at the well-known Memorial Tournament rubbing shoulders with pro-golfers and their families. As I was looking through the aisles I saw a bright green and black golf back completely full of clubs. This was an entirely NEW set! I think it’s previous owner may have used it once or twice as there were hardly any nicks or scratches on the club heads. They had it marked for $29.99!!! I immediately snatched it up and bought it for my hubby. He couldn’t believe I found them at a thrift store! Later that night we looked online for this brand (they weren’t any well-known brand).
There are tons of wonderful things to explore at a thrift store. My advice is if you are going to go in with an idea in mind to find a very specific item then you will most likely be very disappointed. Keep an open mind. If you go into the adventure looking for a new dresser then keep an open mind and turn on your creative eye. There are so many great pieces that could be re-purposed!
Also, always remember to wash whatever you buy very well! Now, go forth and begin your thrifting adventure. I would LOVE to hear about any treasures you may find!