In addition to cooking and crafting, my other passion is finding awesome stuff for cheap. I take after my frugal mother. She taught me at a young age that there’s nothing wrong with wearing used clothes. When most children hated wearing their older sibling’s hand-me-downs, I would be eagerly sitting on my sister’s bed as she rifled through her bedroom getting rid of stuff. What can I say? I’m a bit of a scrounger. In my college years I set up a free box in my dorm lounge where people could put things they didn’t want. During move-out week that box would turn into a mountain and I would go digging. I would find shelves, lamps, tapestries, Converse All-Stars, tea kettles, and even once a $200 hiking backpack. I furnished my first apartments on mostly thrift-store items.
These days I have a more refined thrifty shopping style. I usually check out the local thrift shops once every couple of weeks and the consignment clothing shop once every three weeks. In the summer I occasionally stop at garage sales after slowly driving by and assessing the type of items.
I’ve decided to start an ongoing blog column dedicated to my thrifty finds. It isn’t just to show off the awesome stuff I find (that’s about 90% of the reason), but I’d also like to show people that you don’t need a lot of money to look and feel good.
|Candy dish – 75 cents
Colorful pot – $3
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when thrift store shopping:
- Keep an ongoing mental list of things you might need. I’m always on the hunt for queen sized sheets, king-sized pillow cases, cool fabric, belts, useful kitchen gadgets, the perfect pair of jeans, good yarn, neat sewing patterns, flute sheet music, fun stationery and books in French. Having a list will give you more of a focus and will help you hone in on the good stuff.
- Be ready to find something awesome or to find absolutely nothing. There are good thrift store days where you might totally score an old Le Creuset frying pan and a Fiestaware pitcher, but often there just isn’t anything good. Thrifting takes a certain level of dedication. You can’t expect to find that cowboy shirt with pearlized buttons on your first go. Be patient.
- Don’t become a pack rat. Just because you find a good deal on a brand new Target comforter at Salvation Army doesn’t mean to have to buy it. Think about how much you actually want and need an item before purchasing it. The last thing you want is a home full of clutter.
- Be sure of quality. Most thrift stores have a zero-returns policy, so if you’re in the market for a bigger-ticket item such as a sofa, make sure you inspect what you’re thinking of buying. Make sure there are no funky smells coming from it and take a look at the wear and tear. I’m not against buying an avocado velour wingback chair if the cushion has a stain only on one side. I’d just turn over the cushion and call it good. But if there are visible tears in the upholstery, I’d really consider if it’s the chair I’m looking for. With clothing, make sure there aren’t any holes, stains or missing buttons. Are you really going to replace that missing button on that houndstooth overcoat?
- There is always room for improvement. Find a sewing desk that would work perfectly in your computer room but the finish is terrible? Consider sanding and painting it. My godmother has made a hobby of refurbishing abandoned wooden furniture on the side of the road. All of her kitchen chairs were originally throwaways. She recovered the seats (very easy to do if you have a staple gun) and painted them all to match. The same goes for clothing. My husband has found several high-quality dress shirts at the thrift store that pretty much fit him, but for very inexpensively he took them to an alterations shop and had them fitted for him. If you have a top-loading washing machine, it’s easy to professionally dye clothing (as long as it’s made of all-natural materials). I once found a white duvet cover at a garage sale and dyed it purple to make it more interesting.
- Don’t forget about Craigslist. If you’re looking for something specific, this is always a great place to start. You don’t even have to be dressed to shop there! I have found some incredible stuff on this site including a pot-bellied pig! We found our maple expandable dining table and four chairs on Craigslist for $200, our Natuzzi cream leather couch for $700, and our entire modern bedroom set for $300 (valued at over $1,200 when I did the research).
|Acrylic paint – 15 cents apiece
Little cactus pot – $1