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What you Should be Buying at the Thrift Shop

Updated on January 28, 2016


Our home is filled with an eclectic collection of thrift store finds. Second hand shops are definitely the cheapest place to find furniture, and I highly recommend it if you're on a budget. Often times, there are older pieces of furniture there that are in desperate need of a makeover. This can be as simple as a light paint job or putting new handles on some drawers, or it can be as intense as sanding down the wood and staining it a new color. I've done both, and I'm always excited about the results.

On the other hand, you can sometimes find newer furniture pieces that you can tell are from Ikea or Target. In my opinion, both are equally awesome finds! The trick is picturing the piece cleaned up and in your home, not all grimy and sitting on the dirty showcase floor. If you can do this, I promise you will have a totally new attitude about those pieces of furniture you normally walk by. I have found coffee tables, desks, night stands, lamps, shelves, and much much more just at Goodwill alone. While you have to be persistent as the thrift stores won't always have the exact piece you are looking for, keep at it - it's definitely worth it!


I'm sure some of you feel squirmish just thinking about eating off of used dishes, but I love finding random pieces at thrift stores! Just make sure you wash and sanitize first...

I have found lovely plate, bowl, glass and mug sets at the thrift store but have also found random pieces that look super cute together. If you are in need of one specific item, such as a baking pan, a mixing bowl, or a serving platter, I highly recommend checking here first. If you're feeling extra creative, you can even look into food-safe spray paint and give those outdated dishes a new makeover. It's especially fun to find beer mugs and other man-cave essentials here. One of my friends once found an awesome crystal whiskey decanter at the Goodwill for about $5 (normally $100...) that she gave to her boyfriend as a gift. Steal!


While I don't recommend looking for your new oven or washing machine at the Goodwill, it can still be a treasure chest of wish-list wants. I've found several items that I want for my kitchen or household but don't necessarily need or want to spend full price on. My best find was by far my espresso machine - I got it for $10! Yeah, I'm talking about those crazy expensive machines that normally range anywhere from $50 to $500.

I will admit it can be somewhat nerve-racking spending money on something that you don't have quality assurance on, but usually the employees at thrift stores are very understanding of this. Whenever I buy electronics I always ask if I can test them out first using one of their outlets. Since I didn't have any coffee on me when I bought the espresso machine, I asked an employee about it and she said they would refund me if I got home and found that it didn't work. Just make sure you ask beforehand, but typically they make it very easy to work with.

Picture Frames and Wall Art

Picture frames are something that I can't stand spending more than five bucks on, which is why I always look at secondhand stores first. Typically the small size frames range anywhere from 99 cents to 3 bucks. If you need a bigger frame, they do get more expensive but are still much cheaper than at a regular store. The frames can be another art project if they seem outdated to you, but I have found that once you put frames that you might think look old in the store next to all of your own stuff, it actually looks pretty good! And if not, they're always an easy paint job.

I have also gotten various wall hangings or picture frames that I can turn into wall art from the thrift store. One of my favorite projects was buying a large picture frame for around $10 and painting the glass with chalkboard paint. It now hangs in our hallway as a giant chalkboard with a beautiful gold frame!

Tablecloths and Blankets

Again, this might make some of you squeemish, but after a good washing, the linens from the thrift stores are totally safe to use! Even if you don't like how they look, buying linens here is cheaper than buying fabric from the craft store. You can use these items as-is or turn them into your own beautiful masterpiece!

Books and Media

When I have enough time for it, I love hunting for some good finds down the book aisles! You can find awesome books in here, whether you realize it at first or not. For example, I have found C.S. Lewis books in the thrift store and other works by famous authors for, like, 2 bucks. I've also picked out random books before that I thought looked interesting when I was in need of a good read. And if I don't end up liking it... So I wasted 2 bucks, who cares! Maybe you don't need any reading material at all, but just want some old, leather-bound books to make your bookshelf look a little more sophisticated; the thrift store is the perfect place for those finds as well!

Be on the lookout for DVD's (or video cassettes, if that's your thing), too. I've found about 5 of the 10 seasons of "Friends" DVD's at the Goodwill... Who would throw those out? But I'm not complaining, it's way cheaper than whatever they charge in the regular store! You can also find awesome CD's and vinyls too, if you're willing to hunt a little.

Clothing, Costumes, and Uniforms

Clothes shopping at thrift stores is not for the faint of heart. It takes some major creativity to look for normal, every day clothing items at places like the Goodwill. (Look for future posts to come on this topic...) However, these stores tend to also be the best places to find outfits for those rare occassions...

Many secondhand stores sell used costumes around Halloween time, but if you use your imagination you can find some awesome costumes at any time of the year. A lot of people tend to donate old wedding dresses, evening gowns, and just plain, old strange get-ups that they once thought were a good decision. You can make practically any costume out of pure thrift store finds. I once found some blue and white checkered drapes that I was able to sew into a dress to wear as a Dorothy costume (you know, from the Wizard of Oz).

If you're in need of a uniform but don't want to pay full price, check your local thrift store first. They often have sections dedicated specifically to uniforms and always have a multitude of scrubs available. Another trick of the trade: if you're attending a local sporting event but don't want to invest in any of those expensive brand-name t-shirts, check the thrift store out first. They often carry team gear ranging from high school level to professional leagues. So much cheaper than buying from any team store!

Jewelry and Accessories

If you're like me, you love getting cheap jewelry that you don't feel like you have to wear every day. I would much rather have ten cheap necklaces that I can play around with and switch out every day depending on my outfit than one expensive one. The thrift stores always have awesome costume jewelry that they sell for pretty cheap. You can find necklaces, earrings, clip-ons, bracelets, barrettes, pins, and so on. The best part is that it's totally funky, nothing you could find in a regular store! It can be hit and miss here, so don't get discouraged if you are disgusted by what you see the first time you check. Whether it's to go with a silly costume or as a statement piece with your new outfit, you won't be able to find a better deal anywhere else. As always, just make sure you sanitize before wearing.

You can also find awesome accessories at the thrift store, be it for play or for real. I've found some stylish hats, scarves, purses, and even ties and suspenders for hubs. These are typically items that go fast, so if you see something you like, act on it quickly!

Craft Supplies

If you're on a mission to accomplish a specific craft project, I don't recommend checking the thrift store for supplies. However, if you're a habitual crafter who is pretty much always in need of supplies, keep your eyes peeled whenever you are at the thrift store! People donate junk that they thought they would use but never did, and this includes craft supplies. You can almost always find jars, vases, floral supplies, and some sewing supplies at the craft store, and sometimes you can even find some more gems. A friend of mine found sets of embroidery hoops and paid about one dollar for three different sizes. Anyone who is on Pinterest knows that these are a hot commodity in the crafting world!

Pet Supplies

One thing that bothers me is the idea of spending as much money on my dog (whose favorite pastime is rolling around in the mud) as I do on myself. He does not need nice new things, he doesn't care. Now, just for the record, I do get his food and medicine at the regular store... I'm not shopping on the black market for that stuff or anything. But when it comes to other supplies, I try to find them used above all else.

Many thrift stores sell new toys for dogs and cats for much cheaper than your typical store. Sometimes they have other new supplies too, like treats and grooming utensils. These are a definite score! Items we have gotten used include food and water dishes, cages, blankets for our cars or for a bed on the floor, bandannas for pictures, etc. Pretty much anything that your pet doesn't need brand new, look here first.

Are any of you out there really protective parents who want your short-haired animals to wear coats when they go outside? Rather than paying a bazillion dollars for a coat that's specifically made for dogs, just pick out a nice children's jacket at the thrift store! On dogs, it's worn backwards with the zipper going up their back. Or you can try a hoodie that they won't be able to wrestle their way out of. Seriously, people do this.

A tough realization we had this winter is that our poor pups paws get sore when it's so cold out and there's snow, ice, and salt on the ground. Again, you could pay lots of money for specialty doggy shoes, or you could look for baby booties at the thrift store that fit your dogs feet! Yep, it really does work. That is, as long as your dog is a good enough sport to keep them on.

Random Junk

This is the best part about thrifting: you can find the most random things there that end up being your very favorite purchases! It's so fun just browsing the aisles, looking for that one little treasure that is being passed over hundreds of times because no one can recognize how cool it actually is while it's surrounded by all this other clutter! You really have to think outside the box here, and imagine these pieces sitting on your bookshelf or hanging on your wall.

I've found beautiful decorative plates before, awesome wood fixtures that I turned into jewelry holders, and all sorts of random gizmos and gadgets that I could never find at a regular store. A friend of mine once found a wooden oar that was perfectly in tact and had a beautiful finish on it at the Goodwill. She thought it would make a sweet wall hanging in her apartment for her boyfriend, who is a sailor. Where else can you find a random wooden oar for five dollars?

The bottom line is, you never know what you're going to find, so keep your eyes (and your mind) open! Remember that however unattractive an item looks in the store, it will look ten times better with a little TLC from you! Thanks for reading, y'all.


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    • yecall profile image


      2 years ago from California

      I agree. Thrift stores have been my lifeline for clothes particularly for the kids, who outgrow them so fast anyway. Leather and suede are great from thrift stores not to mention denim.


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