Thrift Store Shopping Tips & Secrets from a Pro

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How to find the best deals at the thrift store

As someone who doesn’t hesitate to spend a pretty penny on items I love, I’ll admit scoring something for a fraction of the price gives a thrill that can’t be beat! Today I’m partnering with Savers Thrift to share some unique finds from the brand new store in Willow Grove as well as spilling the beans on my thrifting secrets for getting the BEST deals at your local thrift store (even when you’re shopping with two kids very close to their bedtime, ahem.)

Finding great surprises at the thrift shop

On Tuesday evening we attended the sneak peek event at Savers Thrift in Willow Grove, PA and it was a blast navigating the new store and even meeting some super sweet readers. The grand opening of the store is today, so if you’re in the area be sure to check it out! Ben was excited to get to buy the toys we scouted out last week, and Abby was drawn to the sparkling jewelry cases (Mama’s girl, right?)

Digging for the perfect find

One thing you may not know about me is when I lived in Charlotte I supplemented my teaching income by having a space at the Sleepy Poet Stuff antique mall. I’d spend weekend mornings scouring estate sales and thrift stores and reselling the items in my shop. It was a hobby that paid well, and even though it’s been ages since that time of my life I still can spot a deal in seconds flat! Since thrifting was an actual job for awhile, I have a list of tips I still follow to find THE BEST deals in the store and I’m spilling those secrets today because I love ya.

PRO THRIFTING TIP: Have a list of items you’re looking for, but you never know what you’ll find so keep your eyes open and be sure to check out each section. Sometimes it even helps to go through the store in one direction, then reverse it to see the aisles from a new direction. We did that this week and on the second pass through Abby found the deal of the night!

Before we headed to the store, I knew I wanted a few decorative items to transform and also a t-shirt to test out a DIY idea. Abby wanted more Captain Underpants books (sigh) and Ben, of course, wanted trains.

How to thrift shop like a pro

Shopping with kids takes extra strategy. Our first rule is the ‘One Finger Only’ rule, so if they see something they want to touch they may, but only using one finger. This saves tons of accidental breakage as well as teaches them to respect things that aren’t (yet) theirs.

Thrift store knick knacks

TIP: See those figurines? Don’t be turned off by wild colors. If you see figures with good shapes, spraypaint them all one color for a stunning display! This works especially well for Christmas items (and I’ve done it for Halloween, too). Mismatched nutcrackers look cohesive painted all white, or collect colorful owls and spraypaint them all black for Halloween.

Another pro ‘shopping with kids’ tip? Always handle ‘must do’ tasks first, because you never know when a meltdown or potty break might happen. I made sure to get everything on my list first, and the deal was that if they were good we could then hit up the toys. Works like a charm!

Plenty of toys in the thrift store

As mentioned in my behind-the-scenes tour, the best tip to finding great deals is to shop early and often. They put items out on the floor constantly, so there’s a serious rotation of treasures out there. I’m looking forward to going back later in the month when there will be all new inventory.

Housewares in the thrift store

Knowing we are moving soon and being in serious decluttering mode, I still found a few pieces absolutely irresistible. My eye has always been drawn to vintage finds and ways to make them modern, so looking for items of value priced inexpensively is a hard habit to break. There were many items normally I would have snagged in a second but with moving in mind, I passed them up.

I mean, VINTAGE PYREX is something you should always get, right? Someone will love those bright yellow casserole dishes, I just don’t have the space.

Vintage Pyrex

This chip and dipper was great! Again, I left it for someone else to score because I already have a chip and dip set… but this was a fantastic find. PRO TIP: run your hands along the underside of dishes to feel for chips that are hard to see with the naked eye.

Thrifting tips

This vintage ginger jar lamp was adorable! It was hard not to let it jump into my cart. Ginger jars are a classic decor item that still reigns supreme is design magazines. PRO TIP: it’s important to train your eye towards higher-end style by browsing magazines and catalogs so when you do spot a treasure you know it!

Gorgeous lamp in the thrift store

A quick scan of the racks turned up several name brands, including J. Crew, Michael Kors, Ann Taylor, and LOFT.  Since I didn’t have time to try things on (they do have changing rooms at Savers, YAY!) I didn’t get them– but it’s good to know Savers is a go-to source for quality clothing. PRO TIP: Inspect clothing carefully for stains or rips. You may need to find a big window and natural light to do this. Savers inspects clothing well but at other thrift stores you may not be as lucky.

Plenty of clothes to dig through

TIP: If you see something you may want, put it in your cart and keep browsing. Evaluate at the end what you need, and put the rest back. You can always put things back but if you pass up something on the first pass and go back it might not be there when you return!

We filled our cart and used the 30% off coupon we’d received for donating, and our total still only came to $42!!! Here’s what we scored:

Check out our thrift store finds

We may have passed up a lot, but we LOVE what we did get! First up, some swoon-worthy home decor finds. I’m always drawn to metallics, and most especially copper and gold.

Vintage finds

The bird bowl I spotted last week was still there! I may have pushed aside a few people to grab it (just kidding. kinda). I think it’s a soap dish but could also hold candy or serve as a ring dish. For now, it’s main job is looking pretty in my dining room hutch. I can picture it on the kitchen windowsill in our new home to hold rings while I’m washing dishes.

Antique finds when thrifting

The copper tea kettle got several “oh, I want that!” comments as I rolled my cart through the store. Everyone loves copper! It’s going to look stylish in my new kitchen if this photo in my current kitchen is any indication.

Antique teapot

That silver feather is super pretty, I have seen gold versions in high-end catalogs and this one was only $1.99! I’m going to add some Rub & Buff and see if I can get it looking gold-er. Is gold-er a color?

Fun feather find from the thrift shop

The vintage basket was still there, and passed the sniff test! PRO TIP: when purchasing items that may have been damaged by water (like baskets and books), do a quick sniff test to make sure there are no lingering mildew issues. Yes, you’ll look deranged but it’s better than bringing home a moldy basket.

Thrift store basket

I placed it on top of my dining room hutch and filled it with the flameless candles I use seasonally.

Thrift store hunting

Another fab find were these jadeite urns! I looked them up, and they’re called Akro Agate and they’re from the 40’s. They’re only worth about $15 each, but considering I paid $1.99, that’s a super deal. I’m going to fill them with tiny succulents for a modern look.

Vintage thrift store finds

Here they are tucked into various spaces in my home:

Decorating with thrift store finds

Using thrift store items as accents

The kids used their money wisely. I allowed them to choose a book and $10 in other goodies. Here’s a sampling of what they chose:

Great finds for the kids

Abby found the deal of the night. She has a good eye, this vintage pull toy is adorable!

Cute vintage toy

I’m going to be running a free DIY workshop using thrift store finds at the Savers in Willow Grove, PA on April 23rd from 12:00-5:00. I hope you’ll stop by and try your hand at a few DIY projects! Here’s a sneak peek at what one of the projects will involve, we are going to repurpose these into something handy:

Adorable thrift store clothing

I’m always amazed at what you can find at thrift stores. The thrill of the hunt is part of the appeal!

Of course, buy what you love and you’ll never go wrong.  😉

Do you have any thrift store shopping tips to share? I’d love to hear them! I’m also hoping to see your smiling faces at the DIY workshop on April 23rd, who’s going to be there?

How to find the best deals at the Thrift Store

Disclosure: This is a paid partnership on behalf of Savers Thrift. As always, all opinions are my own.

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7 Comments

  1. Great tips! I’m so jealous of that basket. Actually just had some in a roundup that I wanted last week 😉

  2. There is no Savers near me but I went to one in Naperville when visiting family and scored treasures galore. Great tips for any store though.

  3. Go often! I find the best deals at the junky thrift store! Lots of items for $.50 – 1.00. The staff knows you and gives you great deals. My latest finds, pyrex dish, walnut bowl sets, glass paper weight, brass napkin box cover, pottery, vintage green canister set, and the list goes on! Over 40 items for $40.00.

  4. We visited a thrift store in Branson, Mi, and my husband found a brand new pair of Rockford loafers forb$2.00. What a find. Great shape, he was so pleased.

  5. Our Goodwills in Maine change the color tag on Sun. so Sun. and Mon., last week’s color is only $1, the current week’s color is half price. I cruise the clothes looking for the tag color and then see what the item is. Also scout for clothes with brand new tags; several people on my Christmas list got those as gifts! Our church has a box for “Cold Kids” and I got several good winter coats for $1 each! I also search by color especially when I have a project in mind, i.e., stuffed pumpkins in the fall. Also by fabric; I could NEVER has too many silk blouses, right? Ihave gotten leather clothing that will become AWESOME doll clothes for the grands’ 18″ dolls! I schooch down, especially in the dish and glass section, to see the backs of lower shelves. The same grinches that peel off the price tags separate glassware sets so all 6 are not together! 3 to 4 different places is not unusual! Same for dishes; cups are hung on pegs, saucers are elsewhere.

    I like your one finger touch rule. My daughter was like me; looks with her hands. We were in a store with lots of glassware. My mother had crocheted mitten strings to keep mittens attached. She followed my no touch rule and swung her arm to point to something; the mitten was a foot longer than her arm and thankfully, did not break anything when she swung her arm! I held my breath!

    One other comment: I was told you had to take the lacquer off copper to use it on the heat (gas stove); I did that to mine and spent YEARS polishing it after only using it a few times. If I had it to do over, I would have used it for ornamental use only.

  6. I have been a thrift shopper all my life. I had to shop there as a child and wished I had more of an eye and money to buy all that I saw. I do love blue willow and was buying a cup each week that we went there for 10 cents. Those pieces are around $10 each now. However I would add that thrifty is a great way to save money, we tend to buy items over a lifetime that we do not need later. The good thing is that they just go back to our local thrift store for others to love. As you have children I would let them know that they will get tired of somethings and want to give them away. Let them. Unless it is in its original package the value will just go down. With giving back it seems like we are borrowing them for a time and then allowing others to do the same. My children are more frugal than I am now. They do not buy anything now that does not have a use. I like the hunt of thrifting and still do. But after 50 years I find that the prices are not as affordable as they used to be. I have to pass up many items because we are on a fixed budget. I do more browsing than shopping. Thank you for this article and you should be proud that you are teaching your children how to thrift. It really is teaching them great financial lessons as well.

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