I have been a thrift store aficionado for many more years than I’d like to admit (and I say that only because I’m older than I’d like to admit, but that’s another subject…) Thrift stores are, I’m convinced, God’s gifts to discount seekers such as myself, and I am in good company. My shopping soulmate – the girlfriend who introduced me to some of the best thrift stores EVER – has an uncanny knack for ferreting out the most unbelievable deals. She has the patience (and the eye) for searching out the quality items and deducing quickly whether or not they are worth the price that is marked. We have had many…many…many…thrifting excursions that have concluded with bags nearly bursting with “new to us” treasures.
And treasures they are!
I can not count the number of times I have found something brand new, tags still attached, selling at the thrift store for a fraction of the retail price. Nice, quality merchandise…in my size or style…that is destined for my closet. It makes me a little giddy to find a deal like that, even a little tingly all over. I’ve come to believe it’s addictive in a way, if only that it completely changes my shopping (and especially buying) perspective. Seriously, once you’ve picked up something that is a brand you love, that looks new (or nearly so), that is a color & style you love, and that is dirt cheap, it’s hard to go back to paying full price. Really, really hard.
There is only one hard and fast rule for thrifting: when you find that unbelievable deal, buy it immediately. Do not think twice. If you wait, it will be gone, and you will regret it. Most thrift stores have some sort of return policy, and I’ve found it’s better to buy now and return later (if I change my mind) than second guess myself in the store. I truly speak from experience on this, thinking back to that pair of gently used Birkenstocks in a lovely, original print that I left in the store because why?? It doesn’t really matter, because they were g-o-n-e when I went back the next day. D’oh! Double d’oh!
If you will permit me, I’d like to offer a few suggestions on what not to buy at a thrift store. There are a few obvious ones (for me) – underwear, bathing suits, bathroom soap dispensers, anything rusty or broken. Yes, I’ll explain.
- Underwear…just ewwwww. Unless (and only unless) it is obviously brand new, and (not or) it is a gag gift for some unsuspecting friend. I mean, that actually happened with one of my friends, who found a brand new (tags still attached) man’s thong and bought it for a gift. But I digress…
- Bathing suits…just like underwear. If it has touched some unknown hoo-ha, it will not touch mine, except for the “brand new, tags (and crotch sticker) still attached” exception mentioned above.
- Bathroom soap dispensers…this is just a personal “ewwwww.” If it’s still gooey with soap / lotion / whatever, I just can’t.
- Rusty or broken anything. Because even at that price, if it requires a repair, I’m not investing in it.
- Upholstered furniture…just no. Germs.
- Personal toiletry items….same “ewwwww” factor, unless they are obviously brand new, still in the package.
- Toys that are broken, torn or missing parts / pieces.
With that, let me share a few of my fabulous finds over the years:
- Two solid wood night stands, oak, not painted, drawers fully functional…$15 each.
- Small wooden cd shelf, fully assembled…$5.
- Metal clothes drying rack…$5.
- Lane Bryant and Avenue pants…$4-9 per pair.
- Carter’s, Gymboree, The Children’s Place, and Oshkosh B’Gosh clothing ranging from $0.50 to $5.
- Steve Madden, 9 West and Chinese Laundry shoes, usually less than $10.
- Le Creuset stoneware, $5 per piece.
- Corning Ware cookware…usually $3-5 per piece (usually with lid included).
- Crystal wine glasses…$o.99 a piece.
- Large crystal wine glasses…$1.99 a piece.
- Books, glorious books…trade paperbacks $2, buy 4 get 1 free. Kid’s books $0.60, buy 4 get 1 free.
Couple these incredible prices with the often 25-50% discounts on select tag colors (or for club members…which means you have their nifty discount card), and you can really buy an insane amount for an insanely low price. I have said for years that free is my favorite price. However, nearly free is a close second, and I’ll take it for that.
So get out there and thrift, my friends. The treasures are awaiting you…all you have to do is keep your eyes pealed for the deal.