Here are 32 tips and tricks for what to buy at thrift stores. Shopping at thrift stores can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to shop for and what to avoid. In this post, I’ll share everything you need to know about what to buy at thrift stores, what not to buy at thrift stores, and some thrifty tips along the way.
Related: gift guide for moms
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Watch what to buy at thrift stores
What to buy at thrift stores
Thrifted Home Decor
This is my number one thing to buy at thrift stores! It’s so fun shopping for cute little pieces that will go perfectly in my home. I like to shop for thrift store decor when I’m feeling extra creative and inspiration has hit because it’s then when I always find the best pieces.
*Thrifty tip: My decor is usually something that isn’t traditionally used for decor. For example, vintage cooking utensils like a flour sifter can be beautiful as decor.
Seasonal decor from a thrift store
I’ve made it a rule for myself that I will never buy seasonal decor full-price – I just won’t! If you want to know what to buy at thrift stores – this is it! There are awesome seasonal decor finds at thrift stores that you won’t pay a premium for like you do in bog box stores during the holidays.
thrifted Kitchen appliances
Instant pots are all the rage right now, and although I have resisted buying one – I do keep my eyes peeled for them at thrift stores! I have found a couple but didn’t pull the trigger because I’m very hesitant to bring another appliance into my kitchen (minimalist problems). However, if you have the need for a crockpot, instant pot, coffee maker, etc. that is something you’ll want to buy at a thrift store. You can sometimes even find them in the box still!
Skillets/Pots/Bowls from a thift store
Whenever I see a good cast iron skillet I ALWAYS swoop it up. Even if it is rusted and completely stripped, I know I can season it and make it completely non-stick. Dutch ovens, large ceramic bowls, nice glass mixing bowls, etc. are all things I don’t pass up when I find them at a thrift store.
Here are some of my cast iron recipes
I love when I score vintage dishes at a thrift store! Make sure they’re good quality and don’t have stains, scratches, etc. that you can’t fix.
*Thrifty tip: sometimes dishes can be used for something else! For example, a nice mug could be used for a little succulent planter, or a cake stand as kitchen decor.
Baskets from a thrift store
Finding good quality baskets at thrift stores is so easy! Sometimes they have things inside (like fake foliage or moss) but you can just take those out and have a beautiful basket for your home.
*Thrifty tip: Baskets look gorgeous hanging on the wall! Find baskets that you think would look good as wall decor.
thrifted Paintings and wall art
You can find some gorgeous paintings and wall art at thrift stores! Your vision just has to be different than the person who donated it.
*Thrifty tip: Maybe the painting isn’t your style but the frame is – just remove the painting and use the frame!
When I have a specific piece I’m looking for, like a winter jacket, then I’ll try to hit up a thrift store to see if I can find one. But what you really want to buy at thrift stores in terms of clothing is kids’ clothes! Think about it – babies and children grow out of clothes so fast so they’re usually lightly worn. Also, your child will grow out of their clothes fast too, so buying used is a much better option than buying full-price only to have them grow out of it in a few weeks.
*Thrifty tip: you’ll find tons of clothes that still have the tags on. I quickly scan for those pieces at the thrift store and swipe them up!
safe Toys from a thrift store
Similar to children’s clothes, toys are always being donated because kids lose interest SO QUICKLY. As a first-time mamma, myself, I’m quickly realizing this. I just got our little guy a brand new walker at Goodwill this weekend – in the box and everything!
DISCLAIMER: This is a big one, make sure that any toys you purchase are not recalled. There are many older toys that aren’t on the market anymore due to safety reasons so do your due diligence here.
You don’t just have to buy books to read, but they can make for beautiful decor as well! Or maybe the pages are gorgeous and you want to frame one. Get creative with books on your next thrifting haul.
Sporting goods from a thrift store
My husband taught me this tip – sporting goods are underpriced at Goodwill specifically. My husband, the thrifty athlete that he is, knows the value of sporting goods and always scopes out the sporting goods section for underpriced golf clubs, baseball mitts, tennis rackets, etc. He will either keep them for himself or resell them for a profit.
Sometimes you can find amazing turn-key pieces of furniture at thrift stores, and sometimes – you have to have a little more vision! Either way, keep an open mind when shopping for furniture at a thrift store. Is there a way you can repurpose it? Paint can go a LONG way when it comes to making old and dated furniture look new and trendy.
*Thrifty tip: Make sure the bones of the furniture are of good quality. If the piece looks cheap, wobbles, etc. pass on that. However, if you find real wood, sturdy pieces – swipe that up fast!
Thrift store Lamps
This is a new one for me, but on my most recent thrifting haul at Goodwill, I saw shelves upon shelves of lamps and some of them were in great shape! We don’t need a lamp right now, but when we do I know where I’m going!
*Thrifty tip: most of the time the lamps you’ll find will be very dated – think about how you can repurpose them with some matte black spray paint or another kind of paint!
Yard supplies from a thrift store
Another tip from my thrifty hubby who used to have a side hustle on restoring lawnmowers! He would find them in the off-season at thrift stores or second-hand apps, clean/fix them up, and then sell them at a profit in the high-season.
*Thrifty tip: most of the time the yard equipment just needs a good pressure wash and then they’re good as new.
Thrifted Artificial Plants
Most of the fake plants you’ll find at thrift stores look really bad, to be honest. But, sometimes you can find a diamond in the rough.
* Thrifty tip: Love the pot but hate the plant? Remove the plant and just use the container it’s in for decor, or to put your own plant in.
Thrift store shopping tips and tricks
Thrift store shopping tips and tricks
- The Goodwill location doesn’t matter
For Goodwill specifically, everything that’s donated goes to a distribution center that disperses the items throughout their locations. So, whether you go to a ritzy neighborhood, or otherwise, you’re bound to find some treasures! However, Goodwill does have boutiques called Blue where they send their name brand and particularly nice pieces (these might just be a Washington State thing but I’m sure they have something similar in other states).
- Always donate when you go
In order to avoid a cluttered home, make sure you donate some unused things when you go to a thrift store! Don’t we all have that permanent pile of donations in our garage or trunk?
- Be patient
Sometimes the perfect piece takes a while to find, especially when you’re thrifting and trying to get a good deal. Be patient and don’t feel like you need to get everything on your list right away.
- Have an open mind
Think of ways you can repurpose or reuse something you find at a thrift store. Buy quality pieces and use paint to make them pretty. Think of ways you can repurpose something instead of using it for its intended purpose. Can something functional, like a cake stand be used as pretty decor?
- Know what things are worth
The whole idea of thrifting is that you’re getting a good deal – but sometimes people go into thrift stores with the assumption that they will score a good deal on everything in the store. Thrift store marketing benefit from that mentality and mark up certain items – this is where they make they margins. If you know how much something is worth going in, you avoid overpaying.
- Know what is undervalued and underpriced
On the flip side of that coin, many thrift stores don’t know the true value of some of the items they’re selling and they will price them way too low. This is where you can benefit! For example, Goodwill prices its sporting goods super low. Know the gaps in value at your local thrift store!
- Make a list and have an idea of what you want
Make sure you always go thrifting with a general idea of what you’re looking for. If you have a list then you won’t feel so overwhelmed and you won’t overbuy either. The list can be very general for what to buy at thrift stores such as “kitchen decor, wall art, living room corner piece.”
faq – shopping at thrift stores
Home decor, seasonal decor, kitchen appliances, skillets, pots, bowls, dishes, baskets, wall art, kids clothes, safe toys, books, sporting goods, furniture, lamps, yard supplies, and artificial lamps.
Electronics, recalled toys, mattresses, and upholstered furniture, car seats and shoes.
Electronics: you never know what the wiring looks like on the inside, how much run time it’s had, etc.
Recalled toys: toys can be a good buy at a thrift store, but you need to make sure the toy hasn’t been recalled due to safety issues. If you can’t find the information then don’t buy toys secondhand.
Mattresses and upholstered furniture: these can sometimes hide fleas and bedbugs (GROSS).
Shoes: there’s just something a little icky about wearing someone else’s shoes.
Car seats: There is no way to know how long the car seat had been used, if it has been in a crash before (this automatically recalls the car seat), or if the manufacturer has issued a recall.
Although shopping at thrift stores is generally safe, there is an added risk of buying things second-hand. For example, there could be bed bugs or fleas lurking in mattresses and upholstered furniture and you never truly know the environment in which the pieces lived prior to ending up in the thrift store. Be a smart shopper and know what not to buy at thrift stores, and sanitize and wash whatever you do decide to bring into your home.
Make sure you sniff out third-hand smoke. If you smell smoke on clothes you could get sick from the third-hand smoke. Also, never buy swimwear or underwear as these sit on an unhygienic area of the body that could transfer bacteria. Lastly, if you have allergies to pets or something that could reside in someone else’s home, make sure you’re aware of those and how they could affect you buying second-hand.
No. Thrift stores generally do not wash their donated clothes, rather, they will sort through them and toss the ones that look really dirty or stained and keep the ones that are in good condition. They will sometimes spray them with a deodorizer to mask any unpleasant smells. In short, the clothes are not clean and there is no way to know what they have touched prior to coming to you. Always wash thrift store clothes prior to wearing.
Thrift store clothes smell because they come from previous homes where who knows what they’ve been in contact with. Also, many thrift stores will actually spray the clothes with a scented deodorizer to mask any unpleasant smells.
No. They usually just spray them with a deodorizer to mask any unpleasant smells. Goodwill will sort through their donated clothes and toss the ones that are overly stained or dirty.
Usually, a normal wash in your own machine should do the trick. however, if you need something more then you can let the article soak in a bag with some baking soda for a couple days then wash as normal.
Goodwill masks odors with a deodorizer (like Febreeze) rather than washing their pieces.
Sporting goods, pyrex, silver, textbooks, le creuset, brand new (in box) appliances, designer clothes, fine china, legos and so much more!