Holiday Shopping: The Thrift Store Way

Stretch your holiday budget with these helpful thrift store tips for gift shopping.

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An image of clothes, furniture at a thrift store, save money on holiday shopping | Guideposts

Would you like to stretch your holiday budget and not have those dreaded bills filling your mailbox come January?  You can, if you shop the thrift store way.  Thrifting is a great way to stretch your family’s dollars and to be a good steward of the resources God has entrusted with you. 

Gifts.  Holiday fashions.  Home décor.  It’s all there just waiting for your discovery. Here’s how to make the most of your efforts:

1. Make a list of hoped-for items. 
You probably won’t find an entire outfit for that Christmas party in one shopping trip, but knowing what you need is a first step to actually procuring it. 

2. Get to know the thrift stores in your area and how they operate. 
Each location has its own system for organizing goods (some are color-coded, for instance, while others are offered according to size).  Also, many locations have a seniors’ discount day or other promotionals.  A pair of Miss Me jeans for five dollars for your teen daughter is sweet, but half-price on Wednesday really seals the deal.

3. Study the stores and catalogs, particularly the high-end ones, as these are where the greatest bargains lie.  
Talbots.  Ralph Lauren.  Baby Gap. Train your eye to recognize these well-known brands, so you can snap them when they appear on the thrift store rack. It’s all there waiting to be searched out by none other than you!   Reviewing the catalogs will also help you learn what’s in style and  what those items originally cost.  Years ago, a neurosurgeon I worked with me told me that a nurse only sees symptoms they know to look for.  It’s the same with thrift store shopping. Know what to look for.

4. Maintain an open mind.  
You might not be in the market in the middle of August for a holiday frock for your six year old, but if you find one with the store tags intact and the price and size are right, scoop it up for later on.  The same goes for that book your favorite nephew has been wanting to read.  If you’re in doubt, place the object in your shopping cart to reassess before leaving.

5. Make sure you actually need what you are buying.  
And always try clothing on if possible.  Remember, it’s not a bargain if you can’t put it to use. Be creative. Repurposing is one of the great joys of thrifting.  (I call it repurposing with a purpose!)  Can that vintage skating skirt be transformed into a Christmas tree skirt?  What about that patchwork curtain?  Maybe it would make a terrific stocking if you and your sewing machine got reacquainted.  And if a jacket looks a little plain, consider replacing the buttons with a bit of bling.  Simple strategies such as these can take an object from so-so to splendid. 

6. Always check for rips, stains, and other flaws.  
Hold fabrics up to the light for closer scrutiny.  There is so much merchandise out there, I stick to brand new or pristine items.  They are usually no more expensive than objects past their prime and give you the greatest bang for your buck.

7. Ask for help.
Thrift store clerks are familiar with their merchandise and they just might know where that designer purse for Aunt Mildred is lurking among the discards. You won’t find everything on your list in one fell swoop, so go often and take your time.  When you do run onto a heart’s desire, it’s more than worth the wait.

8. Keep a thrift shopping journal.  
Someone wise once said that when you journal, you get to live twice.  Looking back is a wonderful way to appreciate how God has blessed you with your new money-saving hobby.  Thrifting is an adventure every time, and your journal is a marvelous place to document your travels.

9. Try to leave the little ones at home. 
Aisles are often crowded at thrift shops and lines may be long.  You’ll generally be less frustrated if you find someone to watch your kids.

10. Consider giving a loved one a thrift shopping experience as a Christmas gift. 
This is a fabulous way to teach what you’ve learned, and you’re sure to bond over the laughs and lessons.

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