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Top Ten Tips for Successful Thrift Store Shopping

Here’s the answer to my most frequently asked question. “How do you find such great deals at Thrift Stores”? First, not all my deals look so great at first. It’s true what they say about one man’s trash being another’s treasure. These tips will help you find your own treasures.

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

Go with an Open Mind

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

Begin with a mental list of things that you’d be interested in finding. However, you have to search in categories , not specific items. Example: I’m always looking for candlesticks and therefore, ANY candlestick will capture my attention. Although they may not be exactly 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???

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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

Tips for Successful Thrift Store Shopping,

Before

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 (especially small 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 a trash to treasure makeover here!
  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, shelves and signs made of solid wood.

Anything Solid Wood.

Before! This piece 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 beat and cute vintage hardware. Because I was drawn to it, home with me it came.

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 RE PURPOSED into something I need or want?

Again, this takes an open mind. If you keep you list of categories in mind, this will help you to see the possible 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, makes it unrecognizable. It actually sits in my living room beside my desk now.


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, needle work and painted pieces.

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


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!


Look for old Mirrors and old frames

Have you priced new frames lately? Well, they are so expensive so looking for ugly prints that have great frames is something to consider. The price on a bad 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 great. I love collecting small mirror because they are great as back ground 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 the larger frame around them, they have more impact.

Multiple Uses

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


Be willing to sit on it!

Obviously, if you are shopping 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 to always keep that mental list in mind while shopping. With that being said, occasionally you will run across such a great deal and you 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!!!!

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 advise 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, 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 exactly what you could have done with it.


SOLD

Side Note: How much more appealing is an items 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 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 check out 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 color “Old White”. It’s been at my dining table ever since.

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.

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, painted the frame, I recovered the piece with drop cloth fabric that I stenciled and aged to look like vintage sack fabric. See how to make vintage sack fabric here.


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


See a CHANDELIER Transformation here

Is the price right?

Unfortunately, a lot of thrift stores have realized that some of these donations are actually valuable. LOL

I’m always amazed by some of the prices. However, I do feel that it depends on the day. You see prices all over the place. Items that I wouldn’t give $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.

Successful Thrift Store Shopping.  Look for broken items

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.



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.

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.

After - Successful Thrift Store Transformation.


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!

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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.

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

La Donna Sullivan

Thursday 13th of February 2020

Great blog, some really helpful information! ❤ ✔ ❤

rahrags@gmail.com

Thursday 13th of February 2020

I appreciate your input. Thanks for stopping by!

Deb

Thursday 13th of February 2020

Love your home and style also love to thrift store shop thank you for all your suggestions 🤗

KarenSue

Sunday 16th of February 2020

Oh my! I think we might be sisters from another mother! I do everything you said. The one thing I do is if I’m not sure I put it in my care, it calms be down and let’s me think about it. I feel like it’s mine for a while. So many times I’ve seen something in someone’s cart I liked and then find it put back! That makes my day! I love your blog! Enjoy the hunt!

rahrags@gmail.com

Thursday 13th of February 2020

Hey Deb, I really appreciate your encouragement! Thanks for stopping by!