Sunday, January 21, 2018

10 Good Reasons to Shop at Thrift Stores

This week I'm going to post some second-hand shopping tips, mostly relating to shopping for sewing, embroidery, and fiber art supplies and treasures. 

I've been chewing on this for awhile and checked out a lot of other articles and posts online. Some of the advice is golden, but there were some real duds in there, too, and I'm going to address those.

But today, let's start with why thrift at all. 


Second-hand can be found in all of these venues and events:
  • second-hand shops
  • thrift stores
  • op shops (opportunity shops)
  • charity shops
  • rummage sales (schools/churches/town-wide/fundraisers)
  • craft fairs (many have upcycled items or supplies they are destashing)
  • flea markets
  • antique shops
  • garage sales/ yard sales
  • Freecycle
  • school fairs
I left Craigslist off, because, for example, while it's a great resource in Tucson, AZ, (and one I've used often to buy/sell/give/receive) it's very sketchy in Kansas City, Missouri, according to a lot of folks I know there. The choice to invite people to your door or go to the home of someone you don't know depends on the integrity of your community and only you can decide that.


    •    It’s a money-saver.
In a purely economic sense, it just costs less to shop second-hand.

    •    You create your own style.

Shopping for home goods and decor or clothing, you and your home won’t look just like everyone else. And even if you have a simple style, those unique accent pieces and accessories will help you stand out from the crowd and be truly you.

    •    The items aren’t unwanted or unusable, but would otherwise have ended up in landfills.

How hard is it for you to give up your clutter? Uh, huh. Don’t assume everything in the thrift store are another person’s garbage. Lots of people outgrow styles and gifts that are perfectly usable and desirable and they end up in thrift stores. Think de-cluttering treasure that didn’t end up in the trash.

    •    Thrift stores help the community - one way or another.

Most second-hand stores are non-profits and if nothing else, they provide jobs to folks with good hearts and maybe not many employment options or skill sets. They help the people who shop there make ends meet. And for some folks, it’s one of the friendliest places they might visit all week.

    •    Many items are brand new, never worn/used, and cost much less than new.

‘Nuff said! Have you ever scored a brand new pair of jeans for your daughter for only $5? I have. And then I saw them at the mall for $60.

    •    Brands and quality items you could not otherwise afford or justify, such as Guess, are the gems you’ll find there.

No kidding. I have two lovely cashmere sweaters suitable to wear casually or at work that I bought at thrift stores. $2 each. 

 100% silk? Dior? $4.99?

    •    It exercises your creativity muscles.

If you’re in the market for mixed media craft and sewing supplies, picture frames, or furniture to refinish and reupholster, thrift stores are the place to shop. The possibilities are endless and you only need to look at a little DIY upcycling on Pinterest to make a hunting and gathering list of supplies you can easily thrift. Silverware chimes? Mason jar craft? Headboard for a bench back? Or try your hand at refashioning a wardrobe.

 From Bored Panda.

    •    You can find every decade there - clothing, decor, linens, furniture.

Need a period costume? Want to go mid-century modern? Looking for French country? Love the peasant blouse look? It’s all there.

    •    You can keep holiday decorating from becoming a burden on your budget.

Yes, it pays to shop for holiday wrap, gifts, and decorations after the holidays when everything goes on sale, but what if you don’t have what you need for this holiday now? Take the budget burden out of decorating and put it into your meals and gifts by shopping second-hand for invitations, garland, ornaments, and baskets. 

 My $1 box of vintage glass ornaments - because my daughter has 
all of my Christmas boxes and I wanted to go all vintage this year.

There's a limit to what I'll buy at thrift stores and you should have yours. 

I draw the line at swimsuits, lingerie, and such - things that feel a bit too intimate with body contact. 

I also don't buy plastic food storage kitchen items because I just don't like other people's old food stuff. That said, stainless steel or cast iron can be found at substantially lower prices than new and can be cleaned and sanitized. One of my favorite scores ever was a $4 waffle iron that's used manually over the gas stovetop. Best. Waffles. Ever.

What you don't buy second-hand is entirely up to you. But consider the wondrous treasures you'll find at the local flea market - antiques for way less than at an antique store - or the church rummage sale - baby clothes you can donate to a shelter. It doesn't have to be all for you, right? 

If you paid attention, there are only 9 good reasons to shop second-hand listed above. Here's #10:

  •  Thrifting is a rush!
Oh. My. Gosh! There is so much satisfaction to be had in walking by a shelf or rack or stopping at a yard sale and finding something unexpectedly fantastic. Like a thick plaid wool blanket made in Scotland in the 1950s - $5. Or that pristine, never-used feather comforter that's on my bed right now - $20. Or a brand new Baby Gap overalls to give at a baby shower - $1. 

You won't always find exactly what you are looking for, but really, you don't find what you want at department stores either, right? You settle on something you like or can live with. But the world is full of actual treasure, and it's all waiting for you to discover it. 

The less you spend on enjoying the material side of life, the more time you'll have to enjoy it. Because if you have to work full-time to pay the bills and have a little play money at full price, imagine that maybe, at 1/3 price, you could save the 2/3 for a vacation or the kids' college, or you could actually just work fewer hours a week or take an extra couple of weeks off unpaid - because you can.

Whatever your reason - a love of upcycling, an eco-friendly ethos, a limited budget - thrifting can be really fun and highly satisfying. 

This week, I'll give you some general tips and some specific tips for buying second-hand sewing, crafting, and DIY supplies. In the meantime, comment and let me know why you thrift and what your most surprising thrift score was.


  1. Here in NZ we call them Op Shops (Op = Opportunity) and I agree there is such a satisfying kick when you find something you didn't know you were looking for but is exactly what you want.

    1. Right? It's that unexpected thrill from finding a real treasure. It's yummy!