What is a Thrift Store?

Thrift Store Potters Bench

It seems like a silly question, but you’d be surprised out how many times people ask “What is a Thrift Store?.”  Well this post is going to talk about the finer points of thrift store shopping, along with some things to watch out for.

What is a Thrift Store?

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Thrift Stores are resale shops that sell used goods (sometimes new if you’re lucky!). Usually a thrift store builds its inventory off of donations. Some are non-profit organizations, while others are not. You can see whether a thrift store is a non-profit or not usually by looking at the signage. But if you are unsure and would like to know, be sure to ask an employee.

How can I find a thrift store?

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Depending on where you live, it can be either easy or difficult to find thrift stores. Places like Goodwill are usually easy to track down, but what about those little local shops? Here are a couple of ways to track them down:

1. Do a quick search on Google Maps for “thrift store” to see what pops up. Likewise, it’s good to also search for “thrift stores in X city” on your search engine. This could produce some good local results.

2. Ask local people. If you have a community forum for your area, that’s a great place to ask questions. Or you can post the question to your friends and family on a social network.

3. Keep your eyes open every time you are out driving. You’d be surprised how many off-the-beaten-path places you can find just by keeping those eyes peeled.

My Mom and I have this running joke that we can smell a thrift store if it’s within 1o miles of our current location. The jury is still out though as to which one of us has the better sniffer (psst…it’s me, but shh don’t tell her that).

What are the best tips for shopping at a thrift store?

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I think there’s a misunderstanding going around that if you bought it at a thrift store, then you got a good deal. This simply isn’t the case. Many times I have seen an item actually priced higher at a thrift store, than what I know I can get it for brand new at a retail store. Smart shoppers should keep their wits about them (and their smartphones for searches) when entering a thrift store.

1. First off, shop at a thrift store that doesn’t regularly overprice its items. You will be far too tempted to buy something, even though you know it isn’t a very good deal.

2. Set yourself a budget and make a list of things you need/want. If I know I am only looking for Summer clothing for the children, then that’s what I focus on so that I don’t go over my budget and come home with a bunch of things I don’t need.

3. When you see an item that you want to buy, do a quick search online with your smartphone (or go home to do this) to see if you will actually be getting a good deal. After a while, you will get used to recognizing good prices.

4. Before making a purchase, check your items to make sure that they aren’t broken, stained or have any defects that you can’t live with. Too often I’ve witnessed people purchase something to later regret it because they didn’t inspect the item carefully (achem – okay maybe I’ve done this…once…okay I did it a couple times, but who’s counting?).

5. “Look outside the box” when considering an item. When you are looking for something in particular, especially furniture, think outside the box if you are browsing. Could that awful piece of furniture for $5 be turned into something spectacular with a little bit of paint? Perhaps I can use that old frame that is .50 cents to make myself a chalkboard or dry erase board. There are so many possibilities when shopping at thrift stores, so let your imagination run wild!

6. Try on clothing before making a purchase. You can’t usually return items at a thrift store, so make sure clothing fits before you purchase.

7. Test electronics before purchasing. As with clothing, more than likely you can’t return an item to a thrift store. So just check to make sure your item works before buying it.

8. Take one last look at your item choices altogether before you go check out. At this point you should decide what you really need, and what you only took off of the shelf during an impulse. If you think impulse buying at a supercenter is hard, it’s even worse at a thrift store!

Thrift store shopping can be a lot of fun. It’s one of my favorite pastimes, and is what I do to unwind when I’m stressed and need a break. Even if I don’t bring anything home, I enjoy perusing all the unique items and letting my creative juices flow. And I simply love the fact that I can buy new seasonal wardrobes for my children, for a fraction of what it would cost me at a retail store. Who wouldn’t like that?

Are you a thrift store junkie like me? What’s your best thrift store find of all time? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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28 Comments:
  1. A le crueset pot for $8!! I giggled all the way home about the steal I had found. The best part? It matched the other pots I already had

  2. as a single mom of 3 daughters, I am a thrift store queen! You name it, I’ve probably bought it at a thrift store! I do think, value-wise, the best “deal” I ever got was a large dog crate ~ in the stores, I’ve seen them for over $130…I paid just $25!!!

  3. as a single mom of 3 daughters, I am a thrift store queen! You name it, I’ve probably bought it at a thrift store! I do think, value-wise, the best “deal” I ever got was a large dog crate ~ in the stores, I’ve seen them for over $130…I paid just $25!!!

  4. I found a Wonder Washer in the thrift store $15.00 brand new I can take it anywhere w/me it does a wonderful job….:)

  5. I bought a sideboard for 23.00 that while refinishing I found a gold ring with rubies and a diamond. Also just picked up a Power Ranger helmet for my son for 1.99, looked it up online it is values at 79.99. LOVE Resale!

  6. I bought a sideboard for 23.00 that while refinishing I found a gold ring with rubies and a diamond. Also just picked up a Power Ranger helmet for my son for 1.99, looked it up online it is values at 79.99. LOVE Resale!

  7. I signed up to be a “party parent” in the Nutcracker because my daughter was performing in it. I found a black formal floor length dress that was the perfect base for my costume. It cost me $5! Then I helped other moms find their costumes the same way. There were 3 of us decked out in thrift store finds. Even between the 3 of us, we spent less than $20.
    I’ve also gotten on a kick of fiding nearly new Vera Bradley purses for $8 (3 so far)

  8. I signed up to be a “party parent” in the Nutcracker because my daughter was performing in it. I found a black formal floor length dress that was the perfect base for my costume. It cost me $5! Then I helped other moms find their costumes the same way. There were 3 of us decked out in thrift store finds. Even between the 3 of us, we spent less than $20.
    I’ve also gotten on a kick of fiding nearly new Vera Bradley purses for $8 (3 so far)

  9. Well my most recent find… We were building a new deck on out house. And the decking estimate was 800 and the railing was going to be another 300. I found a pallet of decking and railing that was more material then I actually needed all for 250 dollars. I saved 850 dollars just by doing a little digging.

  10. A vintage tortise shell beaded necklace for $1! I was with my granny and she spotted it. She was so excited about it, telling me she had one like it long ago. I’m not really that into jewelry, but I really treasure that necklace! And, if I were to ever sell it I think it is worth way more than $1!

  11. I suppose my best find was a brand new Polo sweater for my son with the tags still on ($50 value) that I got for 2.50. But that pales in comparison to the $23 sideboard + ruby ring!

  12. Almost brand new burberry shirt for $3.99, all my kids name brand shoes like primigi boots, keen boots, see kai run shoes, pedipeds, women’s chaco sandals, uggs, robeez, and other high end shoes for $1.50/lb. Usually a pair of shoes costs between $0.50-2.

  13. A mint condition midcentury modern sideboard type of thing with tons of storage behind sliding door and four round metal legs. It is VERY cool and easily handles my husband’s absurdly large TV because it is 7 feet long and very, very heavy….$39 at Goodwill. Score! It looks just like what is sold at the uber-spendy retro store downtown but without the shrieking price. And it isn’t a reproduction…my mom verified it for me somehow. It’s legit! I don’t care though…I just like it and is functional and sturdy….which is good when you have three boys. ;)

  14. I was the bookkeeper for a youth center which had a thrift store. And I was able to find an absolutely gorgeous teapot in mint condition from the 1700′s for $25. (Actually my husband bought it for me for my birthday after I told the girls at the store to show it to him & make sure he purchased it. LOL!)

  15. In the 5 1/2 years that I’ve been writing about Thrifting, thrift stores have changed the most. I live in Sonoma County and prices are certainly climbing, sometimes to antique store levels. But still my favorite haul has to be from the Goodwill Outlet in Seattle. I went there one day and found so many vintage linens. I was in thrift heaven.

  16. I found a Tiffany lamp for $6.00. I went home and verified it with the Tiffany Company and it was real.

  17. I love thrifting too! I have found sooo many amazing things, but my best so far was a Burberry Trench coat in my size!! ($12.00 Goodwill)

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