Thrift Shopping Tips

thrift shopping

I was admiring this pair of lion bookends at a consignment store but left without them thinking I don’t need any more little decorative items.  What a joke that was.  I practically dreamt about them and woke up the next morning praying they were still there as I drove back. Alas, my friends, they are now in my possession and are admired daily. These are my best tips for successful thrift shopping, now go hunt some new finds!

Judge Quality

Low price does not always equal a good deal.  This is arguably the most important tip to remember.  At any given time you can walk into a thrift store and find furniture with alluring prices on them, but is it real wood? Don’t get sucked into the trap of a $10 bookshelf made of the fibercore inside and the “wood” contact paper on top.  Sure, $10 is attractive, but the best part of shopping thrift stores and garage sales is finding quality pieces for great prices because you can customize them and they will last. Utilize thrift stores to find quality pieces for cheap prices – not just to buy anything with a low number on it.

Be Creative with Color and Hardware

I’m practically blind to the wood stain and hardware when I’m looking for a new treasure. Building off of my prior point, if you find a quality piece of furniture of solid wood you can always strip it down and stain or paint it.  The same idea goes for hardware.  New drawer pulls make an immense difference in livening up furniture. Anthropologie has a phenomenal selection of unique pulls and furniture hardware. On the lesser end of the price spectrum (but still a vast selection) is Hobby Lobby. If you love the hardware but it is worn or dirty you can bring it back to its original luster with Bar Keepers Friend. Try using the polish with an old toothbrush.  I’d also recommend using plastic gloves, it can be really abrasive to skin.

Have a Shopping List

This is more my preference but everyone works differently.  Since the majority of us have limited space and can’t hoard every pretty item we find (life is tough), I always have a few items in my head that I’m on the hunt for.  Recently, I have my eyes open for a bench with ornate legs to make my first reupholstering project, a chandelier to get creative with, and a frame to make into a tray. Of course, if I see something I absolutely love (ahem, my lions) my stance changes.  Generally though, when decorating a room it is better to have a vision instead of throwing together a hod-podge of items. Your shopping list may be more about a certain aspect like color or size instead of a specific item.  Have a big empty eyesore of a wall? Measure what scale would fit well and keep your eye open for a piece that size – it could be a mirror, a clock, artwork, anything.


Not too much to explain here, though this applies more to garage sales. They aren’t big chain stores with prices in stone.  People are usually really open and expect to bargain a bit on the price.  At the end of the day, anyone running a garage sale is trying to get rid of unwanted items a make a few bucks. This is especially applicable if you are looking to buy a few pieces, try rounding down a bit.  The worst you can get is a no.  The best you can get is that bargain rush of “Can you believe I got all this for only that much!?” Let me tell you firsthand, that is quite the rush.

Keep an eye for the nice neighborhoods

Sweeping generalization here – better homes, better furnishings. If you are scouting out the best garage sales, keep an eye for the higher end areas. This obviously isn’t always true but it is helpful to check those areas first. Another tip when you are looking at garage sale ads is to see if there are a few houses in a neighborhood that are doing them the same day.  It’s super convenient to jump from place to place.


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