Thrift store shopping guide: Home decor

If one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, than thrift stores could definitely be described as hitting the mother load, especially for home décor. By Melissa Reynolds

Whether you’re cash strapped, or simply a frugal shopper, thrift stores could well have what you’re seeking. Sara Noel, owner of, a frugal living community that offers money-saving strategies for everyday living, notes that she has many household items from thrift stores, and no one would even know the difference unless she was to tell them.

“I just replaced my old wok with one from the thrift store. It was new, in the box, and $1.50,” Noel says.

Thrift stores can be a money-saving alternative to hitting the local shopping mall and a haven of unique finds to either stock your home with the essentials or redecorate when the mood strikes. Beyond those benefits, thrift store shopping is also environmentally-friendly as you keep those unwanted goods from ending up in a landfill as well as supporting some good organizations doing charitable work, such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Thrift store shopping tips

With thrift stores full of merchandise, it’s important to know what to look for amongst the mass of merchandise, and what a good deal really is. Noel advises that the key to making good finds is to know your prices.

“Know your retail prices on new merchandise, your typical garage sale experiences or to compare to thrift store prices,” Noel says. “I suggest not buying an item unless it’s at least half the cost when buying it new.”

What’s hot right now in thrift stores:

– Bedding
– Kitchen items: storage containers, serving dishes, utensils and cookware (Pyrex and Wilton)
– Bread makers
– Dehydrators
– Slow cookers

And don’t limit yourself to the kitchen. Thrift stores can be a treasure trove of artwork, even if you only intend to use the frames, seasonal decorations, table linens, candle holders and even candles if they haven’t yet been used. Furniture is also often a good buy. If it isn’t in the condition you’re looking for, it can probably be fixed up as a do-it-yourself project!

As opposed to discount stores and shopping malls, thrift stores are also a great place to go if you’re looking for vintage items. Although you may have to go with a set of dishes that do not match, you can score some unique patterns and prints in both dishes and glassware.

How to sort through the junk:

Some people are somewhat daunted by the prospect of digging through mounds of merchandise to find what you are looking for. It doesn’t have to be that difficult though. Leah Ingram, writer of the frugal-living blog, advises visiting often to catch the latest additions, as well as visiting before the end of the weekend when everything will have been picked over.

If you visit regularly, find out when restocking days are and plan to hit up your favourite store either that day or the next to check out the new merchandise. Similarly, if you live in a city or town that has a university or college, try visiting thrift stores in the spring time when many students may have left a lot of stuff they don’t want to take home to their parents. And, like many other stores, try stopping by during the week if you can.

What not to buy at a thrift store:

While Ingram admits that the sky is the limit for what you can find at a thrift store, there are some limits on what you should buy. When it comes to fabric items, Ingram says she would steer clear of anything that could not be washed, such as stuffed pillows or fabric-covered furniture. “It’s hard to know what’s lurking beneath,” she says. She also advises recovering couches or chairs with new fabric, while washing everything else well in the dishwasher or washing machine.

Noel adds that she buys pillows that have zippers so she can remove and wash their covers. Furniture she cleans just as she would new furniture while carefully following cleaning instructions.

Noel says that when it comes to appliances, small appliances are great because you can usually plug them in there to test them out. Noel also advises looking them over carefully, checking for rips, stains or missing pieces, and checking to make sure they meet safety standards.

Creative shopping tips:

– Bring cash as most thrift stores have a cash only policy
– Wear comfy clothes to dig into those boxes that may be stashed on the floor
– Use your imagination to see what can be reused or refashioned into something usable – – Know your stores return policy in case you are unsure
– Take your time looking as some items may have been misplaced.
– If you won’t use, don’t buy it!

No matter what your needs, thrift stores can hold an abundance of useful goods from clothing to furniture to household items. Now, it’s just up to you to seek them out!

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