Completing some of your holiday shopping at secondhand stores doesn’t mean you have to gift items that are dowdy, dirty or cheap. With the right secondhand shopping methods you can find like-new items for steals, or unearth one-of-a-kind vintage items that have personality and style.
Around the holidays especially, there’s just something sweet about going to the effort to comb a thrift store or secondhand shop for a unique gift for someone. It makes the whole present thing a lot more special than just finding something at a mall. Plus, you’re reusing instead of buying new. While secondhand shopping is always hit-or-miss, you can use these five tips to make the most of your secondhand shopping this season.
1. Make a list
Santa isn’t the only one who needs a list this year. Before you head out to your local thrift stores, make a list of everyone who you need to buy for and some gift ideas for them. You don’t have to only stick to your list. If you spot a great vegetarian cookbook for a friend or a purse for your daughter, then buy them. A list will just help you know where to start. Thrift stores and secondhand shops are crammed with a mish mash of items, which can often be overwhelming. A list will help you navigate the clutter and hone in on exactly what you’re after.
2. Check for sales
Everybody loves a good deal! Goodwill, Salvation Army and D.A.V. stores often have certain days where items are on sale even more. If those dishes cost $1 instead of $2, well why not? Go online and check for sales at the thrift stores and secondhand shops in your area so you can plan the most cost-saving days to shop.
3. Know what to pass on
Any seasoned thrift store shopper has had buyer’s remorse. That dreaded feeling after you make a purchase that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. Perhaps that dress was a bit too stretched out. Or, maybe you aren’t actually going to turn that cheap picture frame into a cool craft project.
The trick is to really consider each item. Will the recipient actually like the gift, or will it seem cheap or just add clutter to the home? Part of being a good thrift store shopper means knowing when to pass on an item. Skip on books with ripped cover flaps and damaged items, like chipped glassware. Check shoes for too much wear and pass on high heels where the tips are missing. (This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to miss. Flip the shoes over and check the heel tips. If there is a nail sticking out, the heel tip has worn off. Put them back on the shelf.) Also, remember to always check to make sure electronics work.
Clothes shopping for others at thrift stores can be risky (unless they’re little kiddos). Sizes, even with name brands, may be different than current trends. If you’re checking out vintage clothes, it’s important to remember that sizes often run way smaller than sizes today. That’s why it’s usually best to try clothes on at thrift stores. And, you have to be sure to check for holes, stains, loose seams and excessive wear.
4. Scope out odds and ends
Secondhand stores are great places to find random items you need for do-it-yourself gifts or crafts. You can easily find those little odds and ends that really MAKE a gift, but that you don’t want to spend a lot of money on. Think items like a special ribbon to tie a present with or a vintage tin to hold homemade baked goodies. Maybe you could find a cute spoon and mug to go with a homemade hot chocolate mix? Get creative!
While you’re at it, look for secondhand gift-wrapping ideas. Instead of buying a gift bag, place your gifts in a cute tote or reusable fabric bag. Secondhand shops overflow with random purses, totes and canvas bags, so they should be easy to find. Or, “wrap” a small item in a fun scarf.
5. When all else fails…create a gift basket
When you just can’t find the right secondhand gift for someone, go with a gift basket. Head into a secondhand store with a specific theme in mind. Maybe “kitchen” or “travel” or “red”. Then, search out an assortment of related items. Compile all of your scavenged items into a cute basket or bag. The recipient will love the effort and the thought you put into it.