Have you ever visited a thrift shop, flea market or swap meet? If you enjoy the thrill of the hunt and have a spare afternoon, consider an excursion. You never know what you’ll find!
For me, the fun of thrifting is finding a unique “treasure.” And, during the course of several years of consistent searching, I can claim quite a few! For example, I have unearthed multiple Orrefors, Galway and Waterford crystal vases, candlesticks and bowls at a cost of about $2 each.
I have also found dozens of collectible, vintage items, such as a pair wooden lacrosse sticks, which I bought for $3, and sold for $150.
And the sheer number of gorgeous mercury glass Christmas ornaments I’ve uncovered is a bit mind boggling. (If you read Susan Said… WHAT?! often, you’ll know I set up between 7-10 Christmas trees each year – with more than half the ornaments coming from my thrifting trips.)
But, my biggest find ever was a pea green suede, Prada handbag that still contained the authentication card, as well as the original $875 receipt. The cost to me? Just $1!
What you need to bring thrifting
Shopping at a thrift store or outdoor market can be… a challenge. So, it’s best to be prepared! In addition to the requisite gloves and hand sanitizer (even pre-COVID days) there are a few items that will make shopping easier, and will help you get the best bargain possible. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Measuring tape. You may also want to bring a list of measurements for any spaces you plan to fill with furnishings, in order to avoid miscalculations.
- Paint chips or swatches. When trying to match a color, never rely on color-memory, as items are non-returnable.
- List of sizes. If you are shopping for clothing, a comprehensive list of sizes for you and your family is essential.
- Magnet. To determine base metal.
- Phone or scanner. If you are searching book bar codes for resale, this makes the process go much more quickly.
- Lysol wipes. To clean an item’s surface. This is helpful when determining if a piece is scratched or is simply dirty.
- Cotton ball. To run around the edge of crystal, china or glass pieces to discover any chips.
- Magnifying glass. I have one that has an LED light, as well. Extremely helpful when reading maker’s marks on tarnished silver.
In addition, you’ll want to do some research on brand names. And, review how to spot knockoffs. Some of the fakes out there are so good, you can easily be fooled!
Best thrift stores across the country
Never been to a thrift store? Not to worry. There are plenty of independently owned and operated local shops in every town, regardless of size. Plus, there are several national organizations that operate in every major city throughout the US. The best of these include:
Goodwill Industries. Founded in 1902 in the city of Boston, Goodwill was begun as a way to help the needy and unemployed by collecting used household goods and clothing which were being discarded. Today, Goodwill provides job training, employment placement services, and other community-based programs for people who have barriers preventing them from obtaining a job. And, Goodwill is funded by a massive network of retail thrift stores!
Bonus! In some cities, in addition to regular retail locations, Goodwill also offers “clearance centers” also known as “the bins.” Basically, everything that doesn’t sell in the regular retail space is sent to these centers. Items are separated (clothing and then “general merchandise” which can include anything from children’s toys, to coffee makers, to fine china) and then dumped into giant blue bins. Fill your cart and at checkout they weigh the merchandise and charge by the pound. The experience is not for the faint of heart, but the bargains can’t be beat. (Here’s where knowing your brand names and labels is really essential). The bins get replaced and replenished throughout the day, so there’s a continual flow of new items. Click to find a Goodwill near you or shop Goodwill online.
The Salvation Army. Founded in 1865 in London by a Methodist preacher William Booth and his wife as the East London Christian Mission, this organization was created to share salvation with the poor. Today, you can find the Salvation Army in over 130 countries, operating shelters for the homeless, providing disaster relief, and offering humanitarian aid to developing countries… as well as operating hundreds of thrift shops. Click to find a Salvation Army store near you or shop the Salvation Army online.
Habitat for Humanity. Founded in 1976 by Linda and Millard Fuller, Habitat for Humanity operates in all 50 U.S. states and more than 70 countries. Habitat ReStores are retail outlets that sell new and used building and household materials donated by small businesses, large companies, job sites, and individuals. Proceeds from ReStore sales help local affiliates fund the construction of Habitat houses within the community. Find a ReStore near you.
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Susan Said… WHAT?! is your guide to real style for the way you live. From fabulous fashion and accessories, to gorgeous gardens and stunning interiors, plus the latest products and tips for throwing parties, weddings, and events of all kinds. Susan Conforte McNeill is a wife, mother, author and entrepreneur. Susan is also the co-founder of the literacy organization Success Won’t Wait!