Six things I’d rather buy at the thrift store

I love shopping at thrift stores!  I don’t buy everything there, but there are some things I buy almost exclusively at thrift stores.

1.  Dress shoes for kids and young men–  Our kids only wear them a few hours a week, as did the previous owners, so it’s possible to find very lightly used shoes at the thrift store.

2. White dishes to add to my collection.  I now have a full collection of dinner plates, bowls, cups sand saucers, serving bowls, and dessert plates, all from the thrift store.  I’ve collected several different styles but all look great together because they’re white.

3.  Junior girls clothes in the smallest sizes.  Young ladies tend to grow through these sizes very quickly, or tire of styles rapidly, so most thrift stores have a huge variety of lightly used items of clothing in sizes 0-5.  Teach your teens to bargain-hunt here first, and you’ll set them up to save lots of money both now and into adulthood.

4.’Splurge’ items for my own wardrobe.  When I’m sick of my wardrobe and find myself wanting something– anything!– new, I always try to satisfy my longing for variety at the thrift store.

5.  Kitchenware:  If I need canning jars, orange juicers, pie pans, or other specific kitchen items, I usually check thrift stores first.  Latest bargain find:  a vintage 8-cup measuring cup in perfect condition for two bucks.

6. Exercise Clothing/Fitness Gear: We’ve found running pants, shorts, bike helmets, soccer shoes and lots of other good sports items at thrift stores.  Folks often use these items lightly and then give them away, which saves us big bucks.

What do you like to buy at thrift stores?   Here’s Money Saving Mom’s take on this topic. And here’s a post I wrote awhile back sharing more of my hints for thrift store success.

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{ 50 Comments }

  1. Our thrift stores have similar prices as a Kohl’s, Target, or Walmart sale prices. The one advantageous to thrift store shopping is the selection is unbeatable and tends to be more vintage which the girls love.
    Dress shoes- what are those? Our kids have a pair of each: sneakers, sandals, and boots. White heavy dishes–no way; love correl dishes because they are lightweight, stack nicely on shelves, and never have to replace. We love the new deep bowls you can find at Walmart for a mere $2, stack nicely, easy to replace a broken one, come in any color you want, and most importantly don’t have to worry about spilling.

  2. Funny how different things please different folks. I had Corel for years and did enjoy it, but after a decade was tired of the look and wanted something fresh. I LOVE my white dishes, and haven’t had any more breakage than I did with the Corel. (Corel rarely breaks, but when it does, boy, it SHATTERS everywhere!)

    • I have had my blue onion corelle for more than 35 years, and would not trade it for anything. Service for 12, supplemented occasionally from ebay.

    • I love my plain white Corel dishes! White goes with everything, so it’s easy to change center piece and linens for different seasons and holidays.

    • I’m with you on the Corel. I have five boys and one girl. On several occasions, we’ve had Corel shatter and break into long shards and small sharp fragments. Even though I love how it looks, I won’t buy it when I have small children around. I love thrift store shopping for expensive serving pieces like platters or large bowls. Never thought of looking for white plates. Good idea!

      • My husband and I disagree about Corelle. He likes it. I HATE it. Before I ever bought it, he always spoke of it never chipping. Once I bought it, I discovered that it doesn’t chip. It SHATTERS in little tiny sharp pieces everywhere that travel much farther than you would ever expect as possible (finding them nearly a room away sometimes). Next dishes will be stoneware, again. Much safer. The white dishes are a great idea…I will have to steal that one.

  3. Amen!!! I LOVE thrifting. Our thrift stores in the Washington D.C. area can actually be a little pricey, but it is still so worth it. My mom is an incredible thrifter and taught me everything she knows. She finds the best toys for her granddaughters! It’s extra cool when she buys a great toy for a few dollars for my 4-year-old niece, then when she outgrows it it gets handed down to my 2-year-old. Now that’s a bargain! One of the best finds recently was after my niece asked for the American girl doll horse from Santa for Christmas. No one could justify that $150 toy…until my mom scored it in brand-new condition at the thrift store for $7.50! I honestly believe that God blesses us in really unique, funny ways through thrifting!

  4. Sorry one more amazing story about thrifting I just have to share. 🙂 When I was 6 months pregnant with our daughter, my husband was working for a youth ministry that was so low in funding he was making 25% of his salary, and I had just given notice at my teaching job that I wouldn’t be returning in the fall because of the baby. It was a scary place financially, but we knew God would meet our needs for our growing family. That same month, I went to a thrift store and scored a stroller, a baby swing, and an infant car seat with a base for a total of- wait for it- $30! All were in like-new condition. The car seat was the same brand I’d been planning to register for and the stroller was even the exact stroller in the exact fabric I’d found online and wished for but knew we couldn’t afford. How cool is that? 🙂

    • I just LOVE little surprises from heaven like that. God knows our hearts desires!

    • Taylor, I have stories like that too– including chopsticks for the whole family. My daughter asked if we could buy some, and I told her to pray we’d find them yard-sale shopping that morning. There they were at the very first sale, just waiting for us. Like your story, it was a fun reminder that God does care even about the tiny details of our life.
      Mary

  5. I love thrift store finds, as well!! Just hit our local one last week, looking for the next size in jeans and dress pants for my oldest son. Found several pairs, some still with tags on them, for only $2 each! : ) We also found some really fun books, only 35 cents each! I usually don’t check out the shoe section – thanks for the idea to look for dress shoes there. My boys pass them down from one kid to the next, since they don’t get much wear, but we do have to buy them for the oldest! : )

  6. I need to find different thrift stores. The easily found, popular ones around here have forgotten the meaning of the word “thrift”. Used goods? Yes. Inexpensive prices? No. I can find better prices on clearance shelves in regular stores or even at Ross regular price. Heaven forbid someone donates something that still has the tag on it; the stores mark it down 10% off the original store’s price tag and try to sell it for that! Clothes are 50% off on Monday afternoons, and I found my son’s favorite clothes there a few years ago. The last few times I’ve gone, the sale was limited only to things that nobody actually wants to wear. Anything decent was excluded. I’ve been very disappointed with thrift store finds. It makes me happy to hear others can still find good deals and that the concept is not dead.

    • Like you, I have found thrift stores to be way too costly lately. We will go to Kohl’s, Target, and yes even Walmart before the thrift stores these days. I can find a cute top at Kohl’s on sale for $1 and if you go out of season winter pajamas there for as low as $3 and these are good quality and brand new! And my girls love to shop Maurice’s because their sale prices are much better than any thrift store nowadays.
      I have become a skeptic of how the pricing is done at these thrift stores of late. Like you see something with the tags on and figure the $3 or $4 will apply but no find that it is marked just a couple dollars shy of the original $15 price.
      I guess the bottom line is know your prices and be sure to not overspend even if you are in a thrift store. But when it comes to hearing of people’s finds, it is kind of sad. Because these shouldn’t be the abnormal and ‘look what I found’ this should be happening across the country for every shopper every time. We live in a country of excess so shouldn’t have to pay big bucks for everything. Thrift stores are going to have to change their way of pricing or they are going to lose valuable customers.

      • Laurah, maybe it depends on where you live – Kohl’s in the NY area does not have high quality clothing for the most part, especially for women – and I don’t shop at Walmart for other reasons, so thrift works for me!

  7. I always look at the thrift stores first for practically everything. But my most recent items I make a point to look for (other than the ones you already listed) are drinking glasses, fabric, and sewing patterns. We seem to break at least one or two glasses a week and I feel better knowing I paid 25 cents for them. The other items just feed my fabric/sewing addiction.

    • Great point about drinking glasses. We seem to break them fairly often too, and I usually can find ones that match ours almost exactly.

  8. I try to get everything I can from thrift stores- especially seasonal decorations for the house and clothing. Almost all of my Christmas decorations were from Goodwill this year (we had recently moved so I wanted some new things!) and snow boots/pants, etc are always a better buy there for gear. I also love looking for interesting dishes or serving plates as well as books!

    Steph

  9. I love shopping at thrift stores for clothes and have gotten some great finds with skirts, which is especially helpful with the latest fashion is anything but modest.

    I am kind of freaked out about getting things that can’t be washed, like furniture, toys, etc. because of bed bugs.

  10. I supplied my first kitchen with items from thrift shops and garage sales. While making my wedding dress, I decided I wanted a little bolero jacket to go with it and went and found the perfect pattern at the Salvation Army just waiting for me, it was great!

  11. Terri Millwood says:

    We are HUGE thrift shop shoppers. I have found great deals on used Homeschool curriculum (we live in an area with lots of homeschoolers). We buy most of our wardrobe at the local Goodwill. I have found great buys on thermal curtains,bunkbeds, school desks, stationary (and office supplies), winter coats and formal wear. My older children attend a dance/etiquette classes each month for homeschoolers. They have a winter and spring formal. I haven’t paid more than $12 for a dress or $30 for a full tuxedo (including vest and tie)!

    The problem with thrift stores is that you may buy more than you need. I have to make myself take a bag of our stuff to donate for every bag I buy.

  12. I too look for all those things that you mentioned. But I’d like to add on. I just returned home from our Goodwill and almost always I’m bringing home office supplies. Today I found thank you note cards (dinosaur themed – for you-know-who) and small baskets to corral stuff. As a homeschooling mom, I find nearly all my white 1 to 2 inch binders there.

    I was blessed to have a mom and grandma who drug me to thrift stores all throughout my childhood. I’m now thoroughly hooked.

  13. I like to decorate my house for holidays. I find so many great items at thrift stores. I got vintage glass Christmas balls (in their original package) for $2.00 this year. Also got a package of New Year’s Eve items…hats, sign, plates/napkins for $1.50. Now I’ve been looking for Valentine and Easter items. Last week I found a cute white ceramic bunny for pennies! So fun.
    Becky

  14. I like to look for vintage skirts. I like full or fit and flare type skirts with high waists and POCKETS! I have found so many at our local Goodwill, often for 99cents each. True, I usually have to shorten them a bit, as I prefer them to hit at the knee, but that doesn’t take long. I also hunt for good quality cashmere sweaters. I’ve found two cozy beauties this winter already. The previous owners were afraid to wash them to get out a couple of small stains. A gentle wash and they were good to go. : ) The other thing I always look for are the little tiny glasses for juice like my husband’s grandmother used to own. Perfect for little hands and usually they’re thick and don’t break easily.

  15. I shop at thrift stores constantly. And I love how God provides there, too. Two years ago, I had found vintage dishes I loved, but online they were $5 each, plus shipping. I kept looking every time I went to a thrift store and one day, I stopped in my tracks as I saw an entire set waiting for me! I actually cheered. Not sure if anyone heard me! I was patient for a whole year, but I have my beautiful dishes now.

    And after spending way more than I should have on a live Christmas tree this year, because it means so much to us, I had a terrible time trying to get it set up and ended up breaking my tree stand. I thought I might have to just give up on it, but thought I would try a thrift store as my last chance at the tree. There, all alone on the shelf was the best working, sturdiest tree stand I have ever seen. And it was half off. $5 and we got to keep our tree. 🙂

  16. An 8-cup vintage Pyrex measuring cup for $2?! I am so envious! My son smashed mine (and his poor little heart, simultaneously) last Thursday, and I can’t count how many times in four days I’ve inwardly ranted that I need it. Our nearby estate resale shop didn’t have one Saturday … the one I have spotted online is pretty pricey, more’s the pity … and I’m not sure how my patience is going to hold up!

  17. No used bike helmets. They are like car seats. Once they have been in a collision they need replacing. I suppose a used one would be better than nothing though, if that is the choice you must face.

    I never like to go into goodwill unless it is a sale day. Saturdays are 50% off everything. They charge $7 for out of style old jeans. Boo. We used to have athrift store that actually priced items well. I used to pay $.30 for shirts and $1 for jeans in the late 90s. What happened to that! These items are donated why do they charge so dang much?

    I still love thrifting. Now I am scared of bed bugs. My city is fourth best city for catching bed bugs. Ew. And ew. And EW!

    Thanks for the white dish idea. I am gonna steal it! I hate my dishes because they dont fit right in my dishwasher.

    • I’m afraid of bedbugs too – I live in Baltimore. I don’t know where we rank, but it’s got to be climbing! So I googled and found some thrifters in NYC and used their tips. It goes straight into the dryer because heat kills the bugs. Delicate fabrics can shrink if heated while wet, however they don’t usually shrink if heated while dry. I bought cowboy boots and in they went. It doesn’t take that long for heat to kill the bugs. Another option is a freezer. We have a chest freezer and I’ve bagged and put a couple of things in there. It can’t hurt my frozen food when in bags, and they are only going to die. That said, I’ve never seen evidence of a single bug. If I do, I will regret my shopping!

  18. Last Thursday must have been the day to break Pyrex measuring cups! My husband broke all 3 of mine (1,2 & 4 Cup) in one fell swoop! All had been bought at thrift 1 at a time and will replaced by thrifting.
    Things I buy almost exclusively at thrift stores-
    ~linens-everything from all my 400+ thread count sheets, wonderful new European dishtowels, 2 Ralph Lauren comforters for my bed, all my vintage pillowcases to down comforters for my boys beds
    ~books- For personal reading and to sell on Amazon
    ~kitchen things- pie plates, high quality bakeware, all of my Pampered Chef stoneware
    ~clothes-for all 4 of us

  19. Just want to add that linens, curtains, and old sheets are usually very inexpensive at thrift stores. I found four panels of insulated draperies for $2 each a few weeks ago – just in time for the deep freeze temperatures we are experiencing today. I also like to use these fabric items for craft projects – so much less expensive than buying yardage at a fabric store.

    • Kathleen, I look for good sheets and large sizes of clothing to use the fabric for sewing too! Not long ago I found a soft yellow cotton pointelle knit nightie with enough yardage to make several sets of baby or little-girl PJ’s.

  20. I love thrift store shopping, but after a horrible, horrible experience with bed bugs, which set us back nearly $2,000 to remedy, I’m afraid that I’ve given up buying anything other than occasional glass or metal kitchenware at thrift stores.

    I’m happy that others without similar experiences are still able to enjoy the good deals, though!

    • This is a very good reminder for me to be more careful! I love thrifting but it will not be worth the pain of a bed bug infestation. They are getting worse here in our city. I try to heat or freeze most everything but it’s easy to get lazy.

  21. Great list!

  22. Things I always try to buy thrifting:
    *jeans — huge selection and can’t beat the price. My 9yo is rough on his pants so I am always keeping an eye out for his size in jeans.
    *kitchenwares and gadgets
    *dress clothes for my kids — even found a Brooks Brothers navy blue blazer for my teen and fancy wool coat (he needs to dress up for his high school)

    Things I’ve not had luck thrifting:
    *shoes — I’ve looked but rarely find them in the condition or size I’d like
    *plain, collared polo shirts — lots of them have logos on them, these I buy at JCPenneys for my son

    My husband and I circle through our local Goodwill each week. I guess we’re lucky that the one near is has pretty high quality stuff — they also get lots of end-of-season Target items still with tags in packaging (sheets, bedding, towels, clothes, housewares).

    Shopping thrift has definitely helped our family budget. It’s always such a shock when I have to buy something retail.

  23. I recently scored a pair of Steve Madden brown riding boots at a Thrift store here in Austin for $17.50. These usually run upwards of 150.00!!!

  24. I’m not sure if this is a nationwide thing, but in our town we have a Goodwill Weigh-n-Pay thrift store. It’s amazing! All of the Goodwill stores in our area send their didn’t-sell items to the W-n-P and you pay by the pound. $1.49/lb for clothing, bedding, curtains, etc. All the other items are super-cheap too. When we moved here, we furnished most of our home from the W-n-P! (Not our beds though…I draw the thrifting line there…too risky!) 🙂

  25. Clothing is the thing I shop for most often at thrift stores. I am very particular about the quality of the item though – my kids already have worn-out clothes they can use for playing in at home, I don’t need to waste my money buying them new jeans with holes in the knees for example. Sometimes I get lucky and find what I need (last week, 4 pairs of very gently used boys jeans for $12 total) and sometimes it is a complete wash and I have to go to one of the other stores.

    A bonus to used clothes is that you can tell if washing them is going to warp the garment – because it will already be warped (knit-fabric shirts are notorious for being all crooked).

    I do check the fabric at the thrift shops too – I’m quite cautious about it though, because if it’s “vintage”, the fibers may have dry rot and only suitable for making decorative items out of.

    And I love the housewares section – we invested in a small used camper (craigslist came through with just what we needed, and a bit under our budget we’d set, so thankful!) for our family last year and I found light-weight cookware and dishes to put in it that won’t break during travel or be a risk for breaking in the forest. We are able to do some fun camping with our kids that doesn’t cost us several kidneys.

    I remember when thrift shopping was NOT something you ‘fessed up to doing unless you wanted ostracized from the ‘in crowd girls’. How times have changed!

    Also, I don’t buy upholstered furniture from thrift shops. The idea of mites and bedbugs and old pet urine or mouse droppings just freaks me out. I don’t buy clothes that can’t be washed either. If there’s something that is only a couple dollars and says dry-clean only, I’ll sometimes go ahead and buy it and wash it on the ‘hand-wash’ setting on my washer. It usually works just fine. The couple times it didn’t, I could salvage a lot of the cloth to use for small craft projects.

    My mom lives in an area that has been economically depressed for decades, and she said the thrift shops there aren’t worth going to. Most of the clothes for instance, are already at the “shop rag” stage. We go thrifting when she comes up to visit. It’s fun 🙂

  26. I love to search for bakeware — I found some pyrex bread pans from the 70s or 80s in their original packaging for $2 apiece! And I’ve found classic glass juicers, butter dishes and pie plates too. Fun!

    Aside from that, I like to thrift because many clothing items, etc. are made in horrible factory conditions in India, China and Bangladesh. I don’t like knowing that my “good deal” at Walmart, etc. was made by people working so hard, for so little money, in such terrible conditions. So that’s another good reason!

    For the readers who don’t find good deals at Goodwill — I totally agree! In our (relatively small) city, we have lots of options such as Bethesda stores (that support training/jobs for people with developmental disabilities), a store that supports a local Christian school, St. Vincent de Paul store — all of those have much better prices than Goodwill.

  27. I LOVE, LOVE thrifting. I have found lots of great deals, but my favorite story was when my husband and I were super poor and first married. We were window shopping at the mall and I saw the prettiest wool skirt at Banana Republic, with hand embroidered flowers all around the bottom. I stared at that skirt for a long time, but there was no way I could afford the $200 price tag. About a month later I was at Goodwill, browsing through the clothes. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I flipped to that identical skirt I had just seen, in MY SIZE! That was definitely a gift from God. It still makes me smile, thinking how he cares for us, even in small matters like that.

  28. Terri M. says:

    We had a funeral to attend last week and my (16yr old) son’s nice dress clothes no longer fit (we wear casual to church, so it had been a few months since he had worn dress clothing). I scored dress pants, a sports jacket, dress shirt and tie for $25. He will be going to Mock Trial competition next week, so he now has clothes for that too.

  29. I love to buy kitchen items at the thrift store. Nothing beats an old vintage enameled cast iron casserole dish for $10.

  30. I never really spent much time check out thrift stores, but lately my girlfriend and been getting into the mood to shop thrift stores. She has been coming across some amazing deals, and the quality/condition of some of these items had been amazing.

  31. Spot on about workout equipment, look at craigslist a month or two after new years, you can snatch up some pricey stuff for almost nothing.

  32. There are certain things I would never buy at a thrift store … no shoes, hats, socks, under clothes, or bathing suits of any kind. It really is disgusting! However, things like baby clothes are great to get at thrift stores because babies grow so fast they are hardly in the clothes for that long, so a lot of them are like new. I also donate to thrift stores and I always wash the clothes before I give them away!

  33. A little late cooment on thrift stores. I, too, buy clothes at thrift stores (shirts, skirts, pants, shorts, etc) just not undergarments or swimsuits. All are name brands (Coldwater Creek, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, etc-I’m a brand snob). I also pick up wood furniture. I’ve gotten an Ethan Allen dovetail desk for $40, dovetail solid wood dressers for $40, and a Lane cedar hope chest. I can’t convence my hubby or kids to get clothes there, which is sad, but I feel good saving money and helping a charity in the meantime.

  34. The best thrift store find I’ve had, in years, was a month ago. I scored four pairs of maternity pants in excellent condition (three were truly new looking) for an average of $5/pair. The cheapest new maternity pants out there are about $20, so I got four-for-the-price-of-one! It was like someone my size had just given away her wardrobe, and I was able to snatch it up. I was tickled!

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