Top Tips for Thrifting

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Top Tips for Thrifting

I've been a thrift shopper my whole life. It started when I was a kid and I'd tag along with my mom or help her at church rummage sales. I inherited from her the thrill of the hunt and it's still one of my favorite activities. It's like modern treasure hunting. I think I've gotten fairly good at my thrifting and wanted to share some of my tips with you! Twelve to be precise!

When I go shopping I mainly look for housewares and furniture, but these tips can be applied to pretty much anything you can buy second hand!

Top Tips for Thrifting
I don't know if the sale was as impressive as the sign.
Be willing to stop in and take a look.
You never know when you'll come across a great store or yard sale.

Top Tips for Thrifting
Sometimes the packaging is better than the product!
Go shopping alone, or with someone else who enjoys browsing, too.
It's no fun when you get to a great store and the person you're with wants you to hurry up and leave. Some people just aren't suited for thrift shopping. That's ok, just don't go with them! Find some other friends and family members who like the thrill of the hunt and go with them. I like shopping with my mom because she's great at recognizing potential in an item, or a unique style, or just something that may be valuable. Plus I got my love of junk shopping from her, so we think alike in those terms. I've also found some of my favorite pieces when I was shopping alone. Plus you don't have to worry about that awkward moment when you and your friend want the same killer Pyrex bowl.

Top Tips for Thrifting
Lane coffee table I snagged for $35
Look once, look twice, look again.
I can't tell you how many times I've discovered a really cool item that I originally missed the first time around the store. Sometimes it's hard to see the good stuff when it's surrounded by junk, so take your time and look again.

Top Tips for Thrifting
Locally made ceramic vase
Find a label or maker's mark.
The best way to identify a piece (and its potential value) is by finding a label or a maker's mark. If you were looking at a set of dishes with a couple missing pieces you may be able to locate those pieces online to complete your set. Look for a label and learn about what you're looking at.

Top Tips for Thrifting
Cute set of toothpicks! Great for a party.
Take a smart phone for the on-the-fly research.
I recently purchased a cast iron enamel pan that had some stains in the bottom. When I was still in the store I did a quick search on my phone to see if the stains were bad damage or if I could live with them. I found out the stains were only cosmetic and picked up a new pan for $5! It's also fun to see what that item you're holding is currently going for on eBay. About $40 for that same pan!

Top Tips for Thrifting
Unique plate pattern.
Look for damage.
Is that beautiful glass beverage dispenser that you just put in your cart actually cracked and broken on one side? (Oops, that happened to me once! Thankfully the store accepted returns.) Take a really good look at the items your considering. Pass on it if the damage is beyond repair or makes it unusable.

Update a jewelry box
The original finish on this jewelry box was drab and damaged. A little overhaul made it look brand new!
Look for potential.
Would it look 10 times better after a good cleaning? Could that chair's wobbily leg be fixed by just tightening a few screws? Can it use a fresh coat of spray paint? Take all of these things into consideration when looking around. Items tend to look worse than they really are under those harsh fluorescent lights.

Top Tips for Thrifting
Vintage folding chairs in great shape.
Is it useful?
You can typically find lots of useful well-made items at the thrift store for less than what they'd cost brand new. Go ahead and spend a couple bucks on that Springform pan. You'd never find one new for that price.

Top Tips for Thrifting
I love the graphics on vintage record covers. You can usually find these for just a couple bucks. Buy a few and frame them to make some unique wall art.

Do you love it?
If you love it, go for it. Life's too short to regret buying that wonderfully-terrible velvet painting or that insanely huge 70's lamp.

Top Tips for Thrifting
This set of gold cocktail glasses would be a great housewarming gift.

Would someone you know love it?
I've bought some great gifts at thrift stores over the years. Don't forget to think about the tastes of your friends and family while you're looking around. You may find that perfect, unique piece!

Top Tips for Thrifting
My entire collection of plates for my plate wall came from thrift shops.

Make friends with the sales people.
Sales people can give you the inside scoop on when new deliveries arrive, or when the next great sale is. Be nice to them. They may give you some useful insider info.
Top Tips for Thrifting
My $20 Elna works like a charm.

Keep your expectations low.
You really never know what you're going to find, so don't get your hopes up. I've left thrift stores empty handed many times. Sometimes there just isn't anything good. That's ok. Keep an open mind and stop in whenever you can. The more often you look, the better chances that you'll find a great deal.

Which brings us to the first image. Yes, people, I did it! I found the mythical Eames chair (I actually found 2)! Priced for $6 each! If I can do it, so can you. Just keep at it. You're bound to come across that incredible find that you'll brag about for years.

Speaking of which, have you made any great thrift scores lately? I'd love to hear about it!


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