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.
- Can I paint it?
- Does the style work with my (farmhouse) style? Or can I make it look Farmhouse Style?
- 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
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.
- Ironstone and Milk Glass
- Old Books (especially small books and classic books that I love with old tattered covers and well loved old bibles)
- Vintage Rolling Pins, wooden spoons and smashers
- Old Light Fixtures – see a trash to treasure makeover here!
- Handmade items such as baskets and needlework.
- Vintage dishes and glassware
- Chairs and stools
- Old Wooden Boxes especially old shipping crates.
- Napkins, table clothes and table runners for seasonal use.
- Mirrors and Old Frames regardless of what’s inside the frame. LOL
- Vases, clay pots and just about any vintage garden tool.
- 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.
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.
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!!!!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Here are some of my favorite sources when refinishing a thrift store find.
- Hardware replacement – D. Lawless Hardware
- Spray Paint – Rust-oleum
- Stencil Brush – Home Depot
- Spray Protection – Never Wet
- Chalk Paint & Wax – Vintage Cottage
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!