If you have a small budget and a little patience, decorating your home on shoe string from thrift stores won’t be a problem. This applies to all styles, whether you’re traditional, farmhouse, modern, or boho– I promise there are bargains to be found.
I wish you could have seen the look on my extended families’ faces when I told them I would be thrift store shopping for Black Friday instead of hitting the mall… Priceless. You would have thought I had three heads.
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But I decorate on the cheap whenever possible so bargain shopping for me means getting stuff for pennies.
Decorating from thrift store treasures is not only about saving money; thrifted items add much-needed character to your home. For instance, think about your experience in a furniture store where everything is brand spanking new versus visiting an old friend with a decked-out place. Which place would you rather be? I’d choose the friend’s home…mostly because that home is lived in.
Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with new, however mixing new, antique or thrifted furniture and DIY décor makes a house unique to your family. If you plopped the latest catalog home in your living room, it may look great, but it probably won’t feel like you.
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You could say I was born and raised shopping in thrift stores. My mom was the queen of secondhand. Period. She could spot a deal a mile away and wasn’t ever afraid of a bargain or to even pull to the side of the road to find treasures others had passed off as junk.
She would spray paint ANYTHING and she had a knack for spotting past fashion trends that she knew would come back in style. I get it from my momma.
Here are some tricks my momma taught me plus a few things I’ve learned along the way on how to conquer thrifting for your home on the cheap.
Find the Right Thrift Stores
Not all thrift stores are created equal. In fact, even within a chain the quality and quantity of good pieces can vary widely. That’s because thrift stores survive on donations. Some neighborhoods donate better quality and more often than others. Usually, the best stores will have consistently good merchandise.
Mark a Saturday on your calendar for you and perhaps a good sporting friend to ‘thrift hop.’ Google a bunch of stores and visit them all. Then note their pricing, the quality, location and quantity of goods. Find the best ones, make them YOURS and don’t waste too much time on the mediocre ones.
Shop For Second-hand Bargains Often and Early
Thrift stores are often stocked with donated items received daily. That means every time you walk in a thrift store there’s something ‘new.’ I’m lucky enough to have my favorite thrift store at the edge of our housing division. I pass by it twice a day so I stop in at least once a week to see what’s cooking. Shopping often will allow you to get the best of the stock ALL the time. I’ve caught plenty of deals that the sales staff just put on the sales floor that day.
On days when the thrift store has sales, shop early. My store holds a 50% off weekend every month. The line starts to form at 8:30 am when the store opens at 9:00 am! I usually scope out the place the day before the sale to see if there’s anything worth getting in line for.
Shop Sales, Use Coupons and Loyalty Cards
Thrift stores are in business to make money even if they’re run for a charity. So when money is on the table, in-store sales will be close behind. When you’re doing your exploratory ‘thrift hop,’ ask about sale dates, promotions, coupons or loyalty cards. My thrift store publishes a monthly calendar of all sales and has a loyalty card. I get $10 for every 20 stamps I get (Get one stamp for every $5 spent with Wednesday being double-stamp day) On black Friday everything is 60% percent off.
Know When to Say No
This is sooo important. Visit your thrift store often but DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT buy something just because it’s cheap. Shop with a plan for your purchases. Know exactly where you’re going to put an item or where it could go before you fork over any dollars. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself with a home full of random stuff you can’t use and will end up donating it back to the thrift store (ask me how I know this?!) Plus, You’re not going for the hoarder look. Keep a running list of the items you’re looking for to help you stay on target. Need help with that? I have a free worksheet you can download here.
Know the value of items
Everything in a thrift store is not cheap. One thing that irks me about my favorite spot is when I see used Dollar Tree items for $1.29 (big ole eye roll) are they kidding me? And my favorite is IKEA furniture for the same price as IKEA. Umm no. Sometimes I think they have people pricing things that have lost their minds or didn’t bother to research the item. Be careful.
Carry a Measuring Tape
This is a great tip for all shopping, but especially for thrifting because there are no returns. Make sure you measure furniture before you buy it! And umm if you’re going to measure it, you need to know what you’re working with at home. So keep a list of items you’re looking for and their dimensions in your glove compartment or purse.
Need one of those? I got you covered with this worksheet. (It’s the same one from above)
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Know your salespeople/volunteers
Getting to know the people who run your store can prove valuable. I learned this life lesson when I was extreme couponing way back when. A friendly cashier could make or break my coupon run. And getting to know your sales staff at the thrift store may mean special notice of upcoming sales, small gifts for your kids from time to time and the benefit of the doubt when price tags go missing. I’ve also scored discounts on delivery just because I know my people.
My son and I are greeted warmly by all the volunteers and staff every week, which makes the experience so much more pleasant.
Inspect that gem before you commit!
Don’t trust that the store does a thorough job with inspections. Do your due diligence to make sure the prize you have your eye on is in good enough condition to carry home. Look for damage, missing parts and wear and tear. Some things can be easily remedied, but factor all of that into the price BEFORE you buy it because it’s yours after you hand over your money.
Look for Potential
Use your imagination when you’re shopping. That beat up old dresser could be your next toy chest. That old ladder may make a great towel rack. The fun of thrifting is in the DIY too. Look beyond the paint color and the finish, see what you could doctor up and make into a one of a kind piece.
Shop year round!
My store has a room dedicated to Christmas decor and you better believe I check it often. You’ll find fabulous Christmas decor in January when everyone is in organizing and decluttering. Springtime drives people to clean too, so that’s an especially good time to shop.
Visiting the thrift store often will help you let go of clutter IF you allow yourself. I keep a donate box in my home so every time I come across something that’s usable but no longer useful for us, I drop it in there and take it to the store with me on my weekly runs. I don’t take them anything I wouldn’t buy. Do the volunteers a favor and only donate good stuff.
Z-Gallerie and West Elm are always on the brain, but they are rarely in the budget. And while the prices in Target, Home Goods and TJ Maxx are pretty decent, You’ll never score some of the deals you get from a great thrift store.
So, download the worksheet, pick a date on the calendar and start the hunt for that one of kind piece you need to complete your room!