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Top Ten Tips for Successful Thrift Store Shopping

Here are the tried and true Top Ten Tips for Successful Thrift Store Shopping! Get your shopping carts ready!

Today I’ll answer my most frequently asked question. “How do you find such great deals at Thrift Stores”? First, all of my deals don’t look great at first.

What they say about one man’s trash being another’s treasure is true. These tips will help you find your treasures.

Go With An Open Mind

Never go to the thrift store looking for that one special thing you want for that particular spot because you are most likely wasting your time. You can go online to Amazon; they most likely will have it. LOL

Begin with a mental list of things you’d be interested in finding. However, you have to search in categories, not specific items.

Example: I’m always looking for candlesticks; therefore, ANY candlestick will capture my attention. Although they may differ from what you’re looking for, ask yourself these three questions.

  1. Can I paint it?
  2. Does the style work with my (farmhouse) style? Or can I make it look Farmhouse Style?
  3. Is the price good?

Then if the answer to all three questions is yes and if you don’t already have a set like them, then they are probably a good investment. You can always use more candlesticks. Right???

Dining table filled with thrift store finds including candlesticks, bread boards, ironstone, and other vintage pieces.
A thrift store bench surrounds a table filled with thrift store candlesticks and tableware. Thrifted breadboards, wrought iron scones, and more thrifted finds hang on the wall behind the table.

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Go Often for Successful Thrift Store Finds

New items are being put on thrift store shelves every minute. Seriously, there is always a cart full of goodies in my way. I’m not saying I stop every trip out. However, my car does seem to turn into the parking lot automatically for some reason and I try to stop in as often as I possibly can because the fear of missing that one great deal is real. LOL

thrift Store find, wooden stool in great condition.
Before

With a bit of chalk paint and a reupholstered seat cushion, the stool looks brand new.

You can see how to stencil a drop cloth to look like

thrift store stool with chalk paint and recovered seat cushion.
After

Have a mental list of items that you might be interested in.

This would include things you like to collect, as well as items you like to use in your decor. The most important thing is to not limit yourself when shopping for a thrift store bargain. Think beyond the way the item looks in the shop. Here are a few items that are always on my list.

  1. Ironstone and Milk Glass
  2. Candlesticks
  3. Old Books (tiny books and classic books that I love with old tattered covers and well-loved old bibles)
  4. Vintage Rolling Pins, wooden spoons, and smashers
  5. Old Light Fixtures – See this trash-to-treasure makeover for inspiration!
  6. Handmade items such as baskets and needlework.
  7. Vintage dishes and glassware
  8. Chairs and stools
  9. Old Wooden Boxes, especially old shipping crates.
  10. Napkins, table clothes, and table runners for seasonal use.
  11. Mirrors and Old Frames, regardless of what’s inside the frame. LOL
  12. Vases, clay pots, and just about any vintage garden tool.
  13. Solid Wood Furniture, as well as candlesticks, boxes, shelves, and signs made of solid wood.

Anything Solid Wood

A quality solid wood piece is worth checking the price. When the price is right, it’s hard to leave the piece behind.

A great solid wood small chest perfect for a bedside table with lots of storage.  Easy to refinish.
Before – This chest was in great shape without any work

If you are drawn to a great piece, you may need to take it home. An example is this cute solid wood chest of drawers with a price that couldn’t be beaten and pretty vintage hardware. Because I was drawn to it, home with me, it came.

Thrift Store Chest after two coats of chalk paint.
After a fresh coat of paint

After living with this as a side table for about a year, I finally decided how I wanted this piece to look. See Amazing Furniture Transformation Before & After!

Check out this transformation of a old silverware box that was a thrift store purchase.


Can This item be REPURPOSED into something I need or want?

Again, this takes an open mind. Keeping your list of categories in mind will help you see the potential of something that doesn’t look like much in the shop.

This beat-up file cabinet didn’t have much appeal. A fresh coat of paint, some ball feet, and new hardware make it unrecognizable. It sits in my living room beside my desk now.

Beat up file cabinet get a lift in a flea market flip.


Handmade items – Some of my Favorite Thrift Store Finds

I’ve crafted all my life and know the hard work that goes into hand-crafted items. These handmade items are among the things I can’t leave behind when the price is right. My substantial collection of handmade items includes baskets, needlework, and painted pieces.

The detail in these needlepoint birds is amazing. Here’s one before!

Needlepoint artwork is a great deal and so fun to display in farmhouse

All I did was paint the frames to make these cute birds fit right into my decor. They were professionally framed as well. Win Win!

Paint needlepoint artwork frames for an updated farmhouse style look.

Look for old Mirrors and old frames

Have you priced new frames lately? Well, they are expensive, so looking for ugly prints with great frames is something to consider. The price of a lousy print will be extremely low, but the frame could be fabulous. You can remove the ugly print and use the frame in a new and interesting way.

In addition, mirrors are great to consider when the frame is excellent. I love collecting small mirrors because they are great as background for deep shelves to brighten the space. You can also lay mirrors flat to highlight a treasure. Mirrors are so versatile I have trouble leaving them behind.

I purchased a mirror for $5.00. I liked the frame, so I used the frame to anchor the bird needlepoint pieces. Alone, these little frames became lost on the wall. By putting a larger frame around them, they have more impact.

Hang smaller prints together and surround with thrifted antique frame for more impact.

Multiple Uses

I’m constantly changing my decor, and here’s another use for the mini needlepoint pieces.

Hang thrifted needlepoint prints on a painted wooden shutter for a farmhouse style display.

Be willing to sit on it!

Obviously, if you are shopping in thrift stores, you probably are a vintage collector or at least a vintage lover.

Just because it’s vintage doesn’t mean you are interested in it.

Remember always to keep that mental list in mind while shopping. That said, occasionally, you will run across such a great deal and know you can do something with it!

You’re just not sure what that might be, and you certainly don’t have a clue where you would put it!!!!

Antique primitive cabinet with green chippy paint was a great thrift store deal.

The above cabinet was only $35.00, and I pulled the tag off so fast it would make your head spin. LOL

Oh the dilemma!!!!

Your mind is racing with possibilities, and you’re starting to panic!

Yes, I mean panic!!!

So what do you do???

You can’t go home and think about it because it will be GONE!!! (Note: At this point I suggest keeping your hands on it. Seriously, someone may be lurking around waiting for you to make a wrong move.)

If you are experiencing any of these feelings, my advice is to BUY IT!

I can recall several of these moments, and believe me; I have nightmares about those pieces I let slip away. The second you move away, someone else will grab it, and THEN the light bulb goes off over your head! You now know precisely what you could have done with it.


SOLD

Side Note: How appealing is an item with a sold sign on it???? Seriously, you don’t know how many times I’ve seen that sold sign and been so disappointed that I didn’t get there first. The funny thing is you probably wouldn’t have purchased it, to begin with. LOL

Here is one piece that I made the right decision on.

I saw it from across the store and was convinced the tag would say SOLD! Much to my surprise, it said $10.00 Solid wood folding bench!!!!! I didn’t hesitate; I didn’t waver; I ran to the checkout and then tried to figure out what I’d do with it.

It was stained wood with initials carved into several places on the bench. I promptly sanded and painted it my signature colo,r “Old Whit.”. It’s been at my dining table ever since.

Wooden Folding Bench painted with old white chalk paint.

If you don’t know how easy it is to use Chalk Paint, check out all the details here.


This is one of my first thrift store-related posts, and I’ve written several more. Here are a few that might interest you.

10 Thrift Store Shopping Deals of 2021

What to Look for in Thrift Stores this Year!

Fall Decor For Home – What to Thrift For

The Best Thrift Store Decor Ideas

My Best Thrifting Tips – Where to Shop

9 Unique Vintage Bedroom Ideas


Can I fix it?

Another important step to successful thrift store shopping is looking for damaged items. If you’re handy and know you can repair an item, then go for it. However, if your talents lay elsewhere, then it’s important to keep in mind what the cost to have something repaired might be.

In conclusion, it’s not a great deal if you spend a fortune on repairs.

One of my favorite finds – before!
This is one that I let sit until I had a plan for it. Because I knew it was going to be a lot of work, I had it for almost a year before I tackled the project.

thrift store antique chair for only $5.00 and be deconstructed and recovered.

If you’ve never deconstructed a chair, you have to check out The Real Truth about Deconstructing a Chair.

After!!
After I tore all the old fabric off the frame and painted the frame, I recovered the piece with drop cloth fabric that I stenciled and aged to look like vintage sack fabric. Please take a look at how to make vintage sack fabric here.

Cheap deconstructed thrift store chair with new upholstery made of stenciled drop cloth fabric and Chalk paint.

Another example of repurposing a thrifted piece is this Wooden Shelf Flip.


See a CHANDELIER Transformation here

Thrift Store Chandelier repurposed for a solar light in greenhouse.

Is the price right?

Unfortunately, many thrift stores have realized that some donations are valuable. LOL

I’m always amazed by some of the prices. However, it depends on the day. You see prices all over the place. Items that I would give less than $5.00 for will be priced at $50.00, and then again, I see something I’d pay much more for, and it’s dirt cheap.

In addition, items that appear to be broken are usually priced to sell.

This cabinet was priced to sell. The glass shelves that were supposed to be in the top of the cabinet were missing. It was a great solid wood piece.

Inexpensive charity shop find.  Shelves missing and easy to repurpose.

Fortunately, I knew my husband could cut some boards for shelves to fit the cabinet. In addition, we spray painted the original hardware with black paint.

Remove Doors and add wooden shelves to repurpose a flea market find.

We refinished this piece for my daughter and loved the transformation. This is a great example of getting a good price because of damage and being able to make the necessary repairs yourself.

Cheap Thrift Store cabinet repurposed.

Sources

Here are some of my favorite sources when refinishing a thrift store find.

  1. Hardware replacement – D. Lawless Hardware
  2. Spray Paint – Rust-oleum
  3. Stencil Brush – Home Depot
  4. Spray Protection – Never Wet
  5. Chalk Paint & Wax – Vintage Cottage

You can see these fun tablescapes that use vintage thrifted finds almost exclusively. Here is a Promise of Spring Tabelescape and Memories of Mom Tablescape

I think that was 10 tips! maybe??

I appreciate you for stopping by and letting me ramble on about thrift store shopping. By the way, these methods work equally well at flea markets and yard sales. I hope you’ll share some of your finds with me by leaving a comment below. Your comments and input are so appreciated. Have the best day!

PIN It to Remember it
Top 10 Tips for Successful Thrift Store Shopping,  Check out the flea market, yard sale and bargain shopping tips to help you make good choices when hunting for trash to treasure items.

Renae

Thursday 5th of January 2023

Great tips. Thrifting is one of my favorite pastimes. I love your finds. Hugs to you, my friend.

Rachel

Thursday 5th of January 2023

Renae, I really appreciate this.

Susan

Thursday 5th of January 2023

I love this post! It gives me so many ideas!

Rachel

Thursday 5th of January 2023

Susan, I'm so glad you found this helpful

Lorri

Saturday 5th of February 2022

Another thing I consider ..does it take alot of storage space ? If it doesn't and I know it will take me some time to enhance it.... it is mine, lol,,. Paint is the most incredible resource out there😍 It is hard because I have a small house and don't want to be a hoarder... I am getting really good at organizing my stash.There are lovelies I have left behind and agonize about them. You have some beautiful pieces.. I also consider it to be a Mental health therapy for me🤭

Rachel

Sunday 6th of February 2022

Lorri, Oh I agree. I try to rotate my finds to use them through out the house.

Cindy@CountyRoad407

Thursday 15th of July 2021

Fantastic tips. I need to take this list with me this weekend! Pinned

rahrags@gmail.com

Friday 16th of July 2021

Cindy, Thanks so much for stopping by.

Ann Heatherton

Tuesday 7th of July 2020

Super tips. I love to go to our local antique malls and see what is new. I can't wait until our restrictions are lifted so I can visit them again. I also like mirrors and have an old frame collection painted white and displayed on the wall in my master bedroom. I love the architecture of them combined with the simplicity against an off white wall. But your idea of just laying a frame down flat and creating a vignette from there is priceless. I never thought of that. Thanks.

rahrags@gmail.com

Tuesday 7th of July 2020

Ann, Thanks for your sweet compliment! I appreciate you taking the time to explore this post. I look forward to sharing more with you in coming weeks. Rachel