Updated on 10.15.09

Hidden Treasures from Thrift Shops

Trent Hamm

One of my favorite parts of being frugal is that I often go shopping at thrift stores. Thrift stores are unusual places. They’re often just collections of the stuff that well-off people no longer want to have or to deal with, so they just drop it off at Goodwill. That means there’s usually a lot of interesting stuff in there – and, fairly often, some hidden gems.

I thought I’d share some of my best thrift store finds (spurred on by a couple of recent finds) and encourage you, the reader, to share your own. Perhaps this will convince a few of you who are thinking about diving into thrift shopping to go ahead and give it a shot. Trust me – thrift and secondhand stores contain some of the best bargains on earth.

A full winter wardrobe About three years ago, I went into a thrift store looking for long-sleeved shirts for winter. I’m a very big guy, often wearing 2XLT shirts, so I love it when I can find a high quality shirt that fits at a thrift store for a few bucks.

That day, though, I was in luck.

There was an elderly worker in the store putting clothes onto hangers and sticking them onto racks. I walked in and started riffing through the men’s shirts. She looked at me and said, “Excuse me, sir? We just got in a bunch of shirts that must have come from a very large man. Would you like to see them?”

She motioned for me to follow and took me in the back. There was an enormous pile of almost-unworn sweatshirts, long sleeved tee shirts, and dress shirts, all 2XLT and 3XLT in size. I wanted pretty much all of them, so I asked about prices (as they hadn’t been priced yet).

The woman didn’t know for sure and made a phone call, but whoever she called didn’t seem to know, either. So she went out in the store and found a rather raggedy large shirt marked $2. She turned to me and said, “$2 each.”

I was stunned. This was really high quality stuff – Harbor Bay and the like. I bought almost all of the clothes in that batch for about $50.

Three winters later, I’ve still got shirts from that batch that have barely been worn. I won’t need to buy any more long-sleeved shirts for several years yet. Not only that, most of the stuff is nice enough that it actually draws compliments from people.

Now that’s a bargain!

An out-of-print surprise When I was in college, I used to play the game Netrunner fairly often. Netrunner is a card game that requires quite a bit of orderly thought. The game went out of print in 1996 and then, in about 2000 or so, I accidentally ruined my Netrunner cards, rendering it impossible for me to ever use the cards. Since it was so long out of print, I figured I’d never play it again.

Flash forward to about a week ago. After a doctor’s checkup, I stopped at a local thrift store, looking for some long-sleeved shirts that were in good shape and would fit me – occasionally, I’m pretty lucky in this regard. In the back of the store, though, in a glass case, I found a gem.

Sitting there, still in the shrinkwrap, was a Netrunner starter set. The price tag? $3.

I don’t think $3 has ever put that big of a smile on my face.

An emergency fix One time, almost a decade ago, I was on my way to work about 9 in the morning. It was early spring, so I had pulled out my bicycle for the first time and taken off on it.

Well, after about two blocks, I began to realize that the tires were desperately low on air, so I stopped to consider my options. I was in a light commercial area, but there were no gas stations nearby. To put it simply, I was in a bit of a pickle.

I went over to the strip mall area to look around for some assistance and stopped into a thrift shop. This was in the days before everyone had a cell phone, so I asked the person behind the counter if I could make a local call. I called my work and told them I would be late because my bicycle was having issues and I’d have to walk the rest of the way.

As I hung up, the person behind the counter said, “I think we have a bicycle pump.” We went looking for it and found it, near the back. It had a price tag of $2. I emptied out my pockets and found $1.75 in quarters. The lady laughed and called it good enough. I walked outside with my pump, pumped up my tire, and I was on my way.

What are your great thrift store stories? Share ’em in the comments!

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  1. Molly says:

    So we used to have these two folding chairs (bought for a dime and fifty cents) that served as our dining room chairs. They were getting pretty rickety, but we didn’t want to buy new chairs.

    Thrift store in the ritzy neighborhood to the rescue! We got THREE matching chairs, $9 each, that are quite sturdy and will last quite a while. Now we have an extra chair for a guest!

    While that’s my favorite find, I’ve also gotten some very comfy clothes – corduroys in particular. And my partner (who’s a very slim guy) can regularly find brand-new pants. Woohoo!

  2. Leah says:

    I love thrift store finds! Some of my favorites include two Patagonia quick-dry shirts for $2 each, Gap jeans for $5 (a frequent find), and all the fancy shirts my little heart could desire. A lot of ladies will wear something once or twice and then get rid of it. Oh, and I almost forget my favorite: a mario + mushroom = big Mario shirt for just $4!

    I try to visit thrift stores in college areas, as they tend to have lots of gently-worn clothes.

    I also love getting board games at thrift stores. I found guesstures for $5 the other day (my friend bought one on ebay for $20). I’ve had good luck buying several partial sets of games like scrabble to make one good set or put together a bananagrams game.

    The key to thrift stores is having an open mind. If you want something super-specific ( for example, brown slacks with pink details), you’ll likely be disappointed. But if you just go in and say “I need jeans, some sort of nice shirt, and a sweatshirt,” you’ll often find great gems.

  3. JVM says:

    I have a similar size issue to you, 6’6 160lbs.

    A few halloween’s ago I was going out as the guy from the movie Castaway. I was going to get an old suit from the thrift store, rip it up a little bit and carry a Wilson volleyball around. I found a pair of black dress pants that fit perfectly! I had to go back and find another pair. Those dress pants are the only pair I have that fit so well.

  4. j says:

    We donate a lot of stuff to Goodwill over the year. When we donate, we also pop in for a look. We had wanted a large 5ft mirror for above our fireplace but didn’t want to spend the $100+ starting price (Ikea). We found an amazing mirror with a dark wood frame (35+lbs) at Goodwill for $50!! Amazing.

  5. Kim says:

    I was actually not shopping, but dropping off donations at the back door of the local thrift shop. I saw a top-of-the-line Atlas hand-cranked pasta machine, new in the box, on top of a pile of stuff. I asked the employee how much they wanted for it and he said, “Just go ahead and take it.” When I got home, I checked the price online – it retailed for $90! That was my best bargain ever.

  6. almost there says:

    We donate our stuff to the ARC. While there I went in and found a new in box hot water heater for 5 bucks. Another place had curved metal in shape of dog picture frames that we used with pictures of our passed on dogs with the frame curving around their remains boxes. Of course my father was a scrounger so it runs in the blood, but only things I need.

  7. sarah says:

    I once found a set of hand-painted cocktail glasses for $5 for a 4. Each one is normally around $25 individually. I also recently found a real designer purse (could tell by all the detailing) in excellent condition for $3.50

  8. bethh says:

    I got a pair of Chuck Norris high-tops in the Christmas plaid pattern. They are AWESOME even though the jingle bells have since fallen off. I wear them every December, just a few times per month, and have had them for 13 years. They’re a fun holiday tradition.

  9. chacha1 says:

    I found a stunning 1970s-vintage evening gown at a thrift shop in Atlanta for $50. And my DH and I spotted a vintage UCLA office armchair (nice, solid wood complete with stenciled university seal on the back) for $100 at a secondhand shop in Ventura. Maybe not a super bargain, but given he worked at UCLA for a lot of years, something we enjoy having (and it’s comfortable!).

  10. Procrastamom says:

    I just scored a barely worn, wool winter coat for $9.99 at the Sally Ann the other day. Fits perfect and the same coat would have cost minimum $150 at any retail store.

  11. Hannah says:

    “Three winters later, I’ve still got shirts from that batch that have barely been worn. I won’t need to buy any more long-sleeved shirts for several years yet.”Flash forward to about a week ago.

    “Flash forward to about a week ago. After a doctor’s checkup, I stopped at a local thrift store, looking for some long-sleeved shirts that were in good shape and would fit me – occasionally, I’m pretty lucky in this regard”


  12. Laura in Seattle says:

    My first college roommate and I were hardcore Salvation Army shoppers. Our favorite finds were mismatched or single high-quality china dishes for 25 or 50 cents each — we were cooking spaghetti and ramen in a hot pot and eating it off bone china rimmed in 24-karat gold!

  13. Sandy says:

    One of our best is an old teacher’s desk. We got it for $20 25 years ago, and I’m sitting in front of it right now…a daily used item. I also get a set of dishes that I bought right out of college for $5. So, 25 years later, I just this year replaced them (several have broken over the years). Also, children’s clothes. I buy them at the Goodwill, my kids wear them for sevral years (I have 2 girls), and then I take them back and get a tax deduction…sort of like borrowing them!
    Also, I bought a mirror with a unique frame for over my bed…spray painted it gold and it looks great $5. And, while technically a trash pick, I found a really sturdy indoor clothes rack, that has 3 levels of rungs, and holds 2 loads of laundry. Folds up and hides behind the ofice door when not in use. Free. Has saved us probably $1000 in electricity cost by not using the dryer for most loads for the last 11 years.

  14. Grace says:

    I recently found a winter coat for my two year old at a thrift store – a Calvin Kline puffer jacket with a faux fur hood, for $8! It looks brand new. I was thrilled, because I was looking at spending three times that amount on a winter coat for her at the store.

  15. Christina says:

    That’s awesome! I LOVE bragging about my thrift store finds. One time, I bought a pair of sandals at a thrift store with the tags still on. When I tried them on, they JUST barely fit, but had the “no receipt return” sticker on the price tag for Macy’s, so I went in to see if I could return them. I did – and received $20 for them. Sweet deal. :)

  16. Larabara says:

    My nephew was moving into his own place, and needed some used furniture. The thrift store had a lot of furniture they were trying to clear out, and I found a slightly used couch for five bucks! I’ve been to that thrift store many times since, and managed to find lots of bargains, but that $5 couch was what keeps me coming back, hoping to find another gem like that.

  17. Katrina says:

    A pair of Franco Sarto (one of my favorite shoe designers), 100% leather, barely worn, soft as butter, perfectly my size, brown ankle boots. $3, retailing for close to $100.

    I am a big estate sale shopper, and have decorated much of my house and furnished most of my tool collection that way, for pennies on the dollar. I have a pair of Ethan Allen matching wingback chairs that I got for $75 total. They retail for over $1000 each. I just need to have them reupholstered eventually.

  18. Kim says:

    I’m about to donate a bunch of clothes. Someone is going to score two beautiful suits which I hardly ever wore and which no longer fit me. I loved those suits and they are brand name/expensive. Someone is going to be very happy in a few days.

    I like thrift stores. When I was unemployed 6 months ago I realized I didn’t have any good interview clothes which fit and we got three good interview outfits for just a few dollars. One was a suit jacket with the price tags still attached. It was originally $90 and I got it for $2. It’s lovely and I wear it to my new job all the time.

  19. anne says:

    i’m petite- so petite that even petite sleeves are too long. ::sigh::

    but i go to a fantastic thrift shop in an affluent town and pick up lots of pricey clothes that almost fit, then have them altered.

    if it’s easy, i can shorten some sleeves, but if i’m afraid i’ll ruin it, i take it to the tailor.

    one of my faves is a lovely silk blouse that cost me $2.50, then $20 to have just the sleeves done.

    i’ve found great shoes and boots that just needed to be resoled. and brand new ones that didn’t need any work at all.

    and on their last everything a $1 sale day, i picked up a $225 linen sundress w/ the tags still on. and that one doesn’t even need to go to the tailor. no sleeves, you see.

    i love that thrift shop- i really do.

    one tip i read was for men to pick up a well made suit from goodwill, the salvation army, or the thrift shop, then take it to a tailor. then you have a practically custom made suit just for the cost of the tailor.

    so i picked up a stunning ann taylor pantsuit that had never been worn, for just a $1 (same sale as the $225 sundress.) when i lose a few more pounds, i’m going to try out that tip myself- i can’t wait.

  20. anne says:

    oh- just thought of my best “score”

    at an estate sale, managed by one of those companies you hire to handle that kind of thing, i bought a box of mixed silverplate for $10

    when i went through it later i found 5 tiffany sterling silver teaspoons. plus a few other sterling silver items. woo hoo!!

  21. Linda says:

    We raised 3 girls, usually on one income, so thrift stores were everything to us! You name it, we got it there (which the girls didn’t always appreciate at thetime). My favourite purchase was, what we call, our “german table”, a white kitchen table with high-back benches that can sit 4-6 people. Bought it for $50 in 1995 and still have it. Still have a loveseat too, that we bought around the same time for $100–very sturday, and easy to clean. Just recently found a beautiful (namebrand) black evening dress in a Canadian thrift store for $9. I’m spoiled with thrift store prices and, even now with more income, have diffiuclty with retail prices.

    Great article!!

  22. Jen says:

    My brown/burgundy leather coat (knee-length, with lovely back detailing): $2.50 at Goodwill. Instantly makes me look way more stylish than I am. :-)

    My black leather pencil skirt with vertical seam detailing: $7.00 at Brown Elephant. Have worn it to several job interviews with a sweater I got for $5.00 on clearance at Sears. A combo classy-looking enough to pass for “professional dress”–no suits for me!

    My friend Meghan is my thrift-store lucky charm. She attracts vintage bargains like a magnet.

  23. Andy says:

    The trick is going to the affluent town and hitting their thrift stores and consignment shops. The local one, not so great

  24. Esme says:

    Best thrift store find- a Christian Dior private collection men’s dress shirt, mint condition, with french cuffs, $2. Not a mass produced low price point designer shirt , one of the GOOD ones.
    Next best find- a pair of genuine 1950’s black winklepicker style stilettos- brand spanking new (I found them in 1998), the most comfortable and sexy high heels I have ever worn-$5.
    Best find ever -that someone was putting out on the curb for garbage- a tiger maple late victorian (or possibly early 20’s) tall valise, 3 drawers. Excellent condition, original hardware, just a few age-related scuffs.. FREE!
    Whoever says thrift stores and other people’s castoffs aren’t worth it- is nuts.

  25. Michele says:

    My favorite thrift store find was a Hawaiian specialty vase that I bought for $1 because it was pretty, but I sold it a month later on ebay for $220 when I found out it was a collector’s item!

  26. kristine says:

    When I was flat broke newly divorced mom and my son wanted a Buzz Lightyear with all the bells and whistles from Santa, I tried to figure out what I could do without to buy it. I already did not ever eat lunch so I could put food on the table at home, and afford childcare while I worked. Sometimes I went to bed hungry, and still I operated in the red. A friend drove me to Goodwill to find shoes, and there was a barely opened Buzz Lightyear doll, for $15, instead of the fifty they charged in the store. My friend and I chipped in and got it for him! (And then he bought me groceries.) It was the best Christmas ever- my son was so thrilled as I had told him earlier in the month that I didn’t know if Santa had any left. Turns out, Santa did! That friend is now my husband.

  27. Cyde Weys says:

    Wow, you played NetRunner too? I’ve never met anyone else who knew what it was besides the guys I played it with in elementary school. I still have my entire collection too (many hundreds of cards). Great game. You’re giving me an urge to get ’em out and teach the game to my current friends.

    It’s funny, Trent, I don’t read your blog so much for the financial advice as because we seem to be exactly the same person, only that you were born some years before me.

    I look into the kinds of things that you’re doing and I see your future, if that makes any sense.

  28. Cyde Weys says:

    And I see *my* future. Wow, that was a creepy typo.

  29. Ryan says:

    Kristine, I’m not sure why exactly but I thought your story was really cool.

  30. MattJ says:

    My best thrift store find is the best thrift store in the world, unclaimed baggage in Scottsboro, AL. That’s the store where your luggage ends up when it gets lost when you’re taking a plane, train, or bus.

    They’ve got clothes, electronics, books, jewelry, sports equipment… everything.

    And consider this: When you go to a normal thrift store, what you’re buying is what someone else considers their old junk. The luggage people lose is usually filled with some of the best stuff they own, and often it’s brand new with the tags still on it.

    My best buy there was a hand-sewn (in New York) custom-fitted dress shirt that was sold as ‘good condition, but used’ price, when in fact it was brand new. The original buyer had taken all the tags off of it, but the pins that were holding the collar closed were still there.

    I love that store. Especially since I match the demographic of the typical traveller: male, business casual.

  31. Robin says:

    Best finds-
    a Millet Gore-tex XCR men’s jacket for my husband, like brand new, looked it up and it retails for over $350 and I paid $9.99!
    Also, a pair of Dansko clogs that are awesome, retail over $100 and I paid $9. I buy designer clothes at Goodwill all the time, and people think I spend a fortune! I give a bag, buy a bag,….it’s the thrill of the hunt that brings me back time after time!

  32. Kevin WIlson says:

    Best find ever: my daughter had just started “rapier fighting” in the SCA (Society for Creative Amachronism) and she needed a fencing jacket to wear for protection under her historic costume. We lived in a town where one was unlikely to find even a new fencing jacket (well into the 100’s of $$) at a store.

    Lo and behold, the next time we walked into the Salvation Army store, there it was: a perfect condition fencing jacket in her exact (small) size, for $8.

  33. Frank says:

    I don’t think you have enough space Trent. My family, immediate and long distance live at the thrift store. You would be amazed at what we have found. New suits, ties, shoes, sweaters, TV’s, toys and the list goes on and on. All of my dress clothes have come from the thrift store. I have received compliments from people who wear $500 suits. It just requires time and patience. Read again, we have purchased every one of the items I have listed brand NEW with tags still on them at the thrift store. Our new family motto is if its not a the thrift store then we don’t need it.

  34. Julie says:

    I used to shop in thrift stores all the time, until I learned about bedbugs.

  35. Rick Francis says:

    When we first got married my wife found a very nice chest of drawers at goodwill. It is real wood not particle board and was only $50- I’m not sure exactly how much it would run new but certainly sever hundred. There were some minor scratches and the bottom drawer was sticking, bit a bit of polish and some oil made it into a wonderful piece of furniture.


  36. Susan says:

    I love shopping at Thrift Stores. I recently went to a conference in the Rockies. While the town had lovely little shops full of pretty things, I couldn’t bring myself to buying anything because I know that I can find equally nice items for my home in a thrift store for pennies on the dollar. Alas, thrift stores have ruined me for ‘regular’ retail shopping.

    I am continually amazed at how the items I need, jeans for my teenager, seem to magically appear at my favourite thrift store!

  37. Diane says:

    #10 Hannah,

    Let’s see…I sold Men’s Furnishings at Nordstrom for ten years and I love puzzles. Here are some the types of men’s long sleeved shirts I can think of off the top of my head…

    Dress shirts (Neck/sleeve size i.e. 18 x 37)
    Button down collar
    Spread Collar
    Straight Collar
    Tab Collar
    Scalloped Collar

    Casual Shirts (M_L_XL)
    Button down
    Straight collar
    L/S Polo Shirt (Interlock or Pique)
    L/S Henley Shirt (Interlock, Pique, Waffle, Thermal)
    L/S Knit shirt
    L/S Turtleneck
    L/S Mock Turtleneck
    L/S Sweatshirt

    Fabrics: Egyptian Cotton, Pima Cotton, Broadcloth, Oxford Cloth, Pinpoint Oxford, Flannel, Corduroy, Wool, Felted Wool, Cotton, Cotton/Poly Blends, Wrinkle Free, EZ Care, and lots more.

    Then there are French Cuff shirts, Formal Shirts (Wing, Straight, Spread Collars) etc.

    I should stop now, this post is getting long, XXLT long, in fact.

    Sure, Trent could have phrased it slightly better, but there are dozens of types of long-sleeve shirts available. You missed the entire point of the story. The post is not about shirts, it’s about finding buried treasure.

  38. Craig Ford says:

    I love shopping second hand. I month ago our local second hand store had a bag sale. As many clothes as you could fit into a medium sized bag for $6.00. I got a bunch of shirts and shorts – 2 Hagar shirts, 3 Gap button down shirts, Nike shorts, and Adidas shorts. Best $6 I ever spent!

  39. Amazing finds, just like garage sales, pawn shops, and flea markets!

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  40. Rebecca says:

    My husband and I are thrift store regulars. We get most of our clothes there as vintage pieces are much more reasonably priced than at vintage shops.

    About ten years ago I found a pair of vintage Frye boots at a Value Village in Seattle for $7 (these retail for about $200 new). I wore them a number of times while I owned them. Then a few years ago, I found another pair of the same boots at a Value Village in Atlanta. Also $7! I almost didn’t buy the second pair since I already had a pair at home. In the end I just couldn’t resist the deal!

    Last year I sold both pairs on a vintage site for over $100 each. That’s definitely my best deal yet!

  41. Shannon says:

    We had to go to a wedding and we found a suit at Goodwill for my husband for $6.99. Had the suit drycleaned and pants altered for $14.00. It was probably the best suit he has ever owned!

  42. Melina D. says:

    I adore thrift stores. I love the “searching for buried treasure” aspect of them. My best finds? First, a blue suede jacket I bought for $2 years ago, and wore for years, before passing it on to a delighted friend. Second, a beautiful long black leather jacket with heavy zip-in lining that cost me $25. I have worn it every winter for 10 years now. (How many cents is that per wearing?)

  43. Emily says:

    I recently found an item I had been looking for, for the past two years. My son is an avid Star Wars anything collector so I wanted to get him the Star Wars Mr. Potato Head collection. He had been given a “Spud Trooper” so I thought I would get him the “Darth Tater”. Long story short, even Hasbro did not have any. Two years later I walked into our local Goodwill Store (in a really small town) and there he was for $5. When I relayed this story to a coworker, she told me her brother had recently found the same thing on line and he paid $45 for it. My son got a great gift for his bday and because I found it at the thrift store made it even more meaningful.

  44. Tracy says:

    I totally love thrift stores! I popped into a brand new one last weekend. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but I found a beautiful winter dress coat for me. Real suede with a furrish lining, even a hood. It’s a really really nice coat. I saw just about the very same coat at Burlington the very same day retailing for $99.00 on sale! My cost? Just $15.00. I wore the coat last Sunday to an outdoor wedding and got about 10 complements on the coat. That was my best recent find. But truth be told, my “finds” are way too numerous to mention!

  45. Denise says:

    The Salvation Army in my area is very overpriced-I live in an affluent college town. However, there are other thrift stores. My best find was a set of antique, cast iron frying pans and corn bread pans. I use them almost every day and even take them camping.

  46. littlepitcher says:

    I lived out of city thrift stores for years, and have garnered too many great deals to count. Vintage advertising posters, old blues 78’s–wait a minute, scoring Bessie Smith’s “Empty Bed Blues” at a thrift store on, so help me, Valentine’s Day 1997–definitely my favorite.

    Local thrift stores aren’t great, but still score occasionally.

  47. Ruth says:

    I am a paid church pianist and play for a very affluent congregation. Since the piano sits up front, I need to wear pretty dresses……! I have a local consignment store that sells everything at half price and once a month, they host a sale where everything in the store sells for $2.00 each. Everything….clothes, shoes, purses, even evening wear and bridal dresses! I stock up on beautiful dresses, wear them a few times and donate them back to the store. I select new dresses for the next month. Cheaper than a hamburger!!! The Lord provides in mysterious ways, doesn’t He??

  48. Rachel says:

    My most useful thrift store find was a stovetop espresso maker. It was $6, but I had a “buy 2 items get the 3rd free!” coupon (yes, I use coupons at thrift stores), so it was free. Now that I have it and have given away my drip percolator, one bag of fair-trade coffee beans lasts me a month instead of two weeks.

    My second-most favourite thrift store find was a large steamer trunk one of my sisters & I found for $30 (and again, I used a coupon: price reduced to $20). The same kind retail at the local Army Surplus store for $200; second-hand ones on craigslist regularly cost upwards of $100. It went to another sister for Christmas, and is now a very stylish coffee table.

    Reading all the other comments has made me want to go to Value Village today! Perhaps I’ll have more treasures to report later. :-)

  49. Mary W says:

    My best find was actually at an estate sale. Family (rather than professionally) run. I opened up an armoire and found about 20 overlooked St Johns knit suits folded up. I asked how much and the son picked $10 each out of the air. I quickly bought ’em all. I resold them at a vintage clothing shop for $50-$75 each. They in turn sold them for over $200 each.

    Everyone happy!

  50. fairy dust says:

    I’m one of those less-than-lucky ones when it comes to thrift store shopping. I know the deals are there, and I have a frugal friend who is always showing me great finds she’s gotten for herself and her entire family – really cool, new clothes that fit beautifully, are high quality,etc. And we go to the exact same store. An example of how it usually works – she found a brand new name-brand purse, just beautiful, for about $1. I went a few days later and the first purse I picked up and opened had what looked like chewed then spit out oreo cookies in the bottom of it. LOL! Seriously, it’s like the thrift store gods see me coming and switch out the good stuff for the holey, ratty, truly unwearable stuff :) But I love reading about people’s finds and continue to look every time I go by. You just never know!

  51. Claire says:

    My mom came down from MI to visit me in GA and we went “treasure hunting” at my local thrift stores. My mom was in the men’s department looking at blazers and called to me across the store. She was holding a black wool gabardine custom made double breasted blazer w. beautiful gold buttons for $7.95. I tried it on and it fit like it had been made for me! I wore that coat on job interviews, and as a winter coat for many, many years.

  52. Catherine says:

    I’m a knitter, and this spring I bought $600 worth of luxury yarn (with no bugs and no smells) at a thrift store for about $130. So far I’ve made myself a shawl and a sweater, and I’ve only used about a quarter of it.

    My spouse once thrifted a Brooks Brothers suit for about $10 that fit him with only very minor alterations. He got years of use out of wearing it to the office.

  53. Louise says:

    I went to a thrift store and saw a white wicker bureau (built on a wood frame, so it was very sturdy). It was exactly what I wanted, so I was thrilled. It didn’t have a sticker, so I asked how much it was. The guy looked around the store and found a beat-up old wicker hamper for $5, so he said that’s what the bureau would cost. I couldn’t believe, so I made him come with me to the register, so that he could tell them. They then told me it was 25% off day, so I got it for $4.75! With a quick coat of spray paint, it’s been a wonderful addition to our home for over 10 years.

  54. LaDonna says:

    My cousin was having a baby, and knowing they were financially strapped and not strangers to thrift stores, I headed to Value Village. I bought every nearly-new baby item I could find and in a variety of sizes. I laundered them three times to make sure they were really clean, pressed and folded them and put them in an enormous box. Instead of one cute little newborn outfit, they got newborn-sized clothes up to 1-year, plus burp cloths, onesies, hats, etc. They took me to the side later and told me it was the best shower gift they received!

  55. Lora says:

    I am with #33 Julie. Unfortunately, my former extreme enthusiasm for shopping in thrift stores has been muted since learning about the resurgence of bed bugs in recent years.

  56. Ginger says:

    I LOVE Carol Little clothing and could never have afforded it new, but over the years I’ve found a lot of her pieces at the Goodwill. People stop me on the street and say “That’s a Carol Little!”

    I also have a hard time paying retail for ANYTHING because if you wait and are patient, it will appear at a thrift shop sooner or later. Our family has joined the Compact, which means always shopping 2nd hand/vintage first…or doing without. We also belong to Freecycle, and got our couch for free. Can’t beat free. Also a wood stove…like others here I could go on and on.

    I love the new baby clothing story, what a great gift!

  57. stella says:

    We have a salvation army thrift shop near us here in NYC. For years, we got some tremendous stuff (we also did/do a lot of donating over the years including furniture, household items, etc.) for our home office and apartment, and there were great books. On occasion, if you were lucky to hit it right, great clothes as well. You never knew what you’d get and it was great. People who ran it were very nice, too.

    But about three years ago, something happened.–the management changed, the way they distributed goods, etc. Now, the store is only about 1/3rd full, the stuff is really junk (seriously, it should not have been donated) and though we still donate (because it’s close to our apartment), we’ve rarely if ever found anything.

    One of the things that has also changed is that the salvation army workers now pretty much pick off good stuff and, it seems, have been doing their own reselling on craigslist and/or ebay.

    It’s not legal, but it’s been happening. It defeats the purpose of the whole giving thing and many people, realizing this, have stopped donating.

    In reading other stories, it reminded me of how many times we’d put something on a “wish” list, and stop by the SA on the way to somewhere else and presto, like magic, it appeared. But, alas, no more. (File cabinet, recliner, various books, lamps, including stuff that was often in original packaging and never used.)

    What we have found that are great, that we can’t personally use, but our family members in Florida love and swear by, are hospice-run thrift shops. You can find a lot of stuff you might need in terms of medical equipment for really affordable prices, home items for the elderly and/or someone who is ill but you also find lots of other great stuff because not only do those who pass on via hospice donate, but their families, who are truly appreciative of hospice, choose to donate their best stuff to them. (Plus you have people who have moved to Florida from other places and finally declutter when they get to Florida and those who are downsizing for whatever reasons.)

    The other “thrift” store we have nearby has great stuff, but really high prices (no real bargains unless you consider high-end furniture at $500 and up and designer clothes at $400 and up a bargain. It’s all relative, but us real folks can’t afford it.) They’re so upscale now that they have online auctions.

    There are a few other thrifts in the city, with good stock (if you are lucky) but things go really fast because 1/Donations have decreased and 2/More people of all socio-economic backgrounds are “thrifting.”

    We hope all continue to exist and re-evaluate how they are setup for “average” folks and those in dire need as well. Our family has always liked being able to look around and say: Hey, this is good stuff. But we are not using it. Let’s get it out and put it out there for those who can use it. We should not be hanging on to it when others can use it.

    It’s great for de-cluttering and it’s great from a giving standpoint. Too many people need stuff and can’t afford it. So we do what we can by donating good stuff and reminding ourselves that “letting go” is the fastest way to put something out there for those who need it.

    The problem these days is everybody is trying to sell everything on ebay or craigslist and there really is not as much available in our area, at least, for thrifting.

  58. Aunt Jenny says:

    About 10 years ago, my brother got very lucky and found an upright piano for $99 at the Salvation Army Thrift Shop in his town. No cracked sound board, no damage, just a nice piano. Holds it’s tuning well. It’s given he and his daughters many hours of enjoyment, they play it frequently.

  59. I had the same long-sleeved “hmm?” as Hannah. :>)

    Our small-town thrift store charges a fraction of what I have to pay at Goodwill. I don’t really look at clothes too closely, but I pick up kitchen items, craft supplies, TONS of books, games, etc. for 10 cents to $2. (ALL books are ten cents each. I walk out of there with a box on a regular basis.)

    When we went on vacation this year that involved a LOT of driving, I picked up a bunch of books and little things for my 2 year old. I think I spent around $10 total for a huge pile of stuff that kept her cheerful all the way across Wyoming.

    This year for Halloween I wanted to make my daughter a care bear costume. I used a 25 cent sleeper from the thrift store, cut off the feet, used bargin bin fabric to make the tummy and a hood, and for less than $5, she’s Funshine Bear.

  60. Georgia says:

    Another place to look for furniture and accessories is the thrift shop of the Habitat for Humanity group. I was in one in JC, MO and they had fabulous finds, but I was 90 miles from home and no pickup. But I’ll try to find one closer to home.

  61. dsz says:

    #36 Diane @ 1:53 am October 17th, 2009

    #10 Hannah,

    Let’s see…I sold Men’s Furnishings at Nordstrom for ten years and I love puzzles. Here are some the types … You missed the entire point of the story. The post is not about shirts, it’s about finding buried treasure.

    Hannah copied from Trent’s post:
    ‘I’ve still got shirts from that batch…I won’t need to buy any more long-sleeved shirts for several years yet’

    “Flash forward to about a week ago… I stopped at a local thrift store, looking for some long-sleeved shirts’

    You may have missed the entire point of her post. She was not looking for a lengthy description of men’s long-sleeved shirts, she was puzzled as to why in one sentence he indicated he wouldn’t need to buy any more for several years (‘I’ve still got’ indicates at present) and in another mentioned how he went to the shop looking to buy more.
    At least that’s how I read it.

    My happiest find was two dozen baskets for 25-50 cents each. I make gift baskets for our local food pantry to give out at Christmas. The low cost enables me to buy more items to fill the baskets. I sanitize them and they’re often nicer than ones I can get at the hobby store for $5+.

  62. Nikki says:

    Earlier this fall I borrowed my sister’s down jacket for an afternoon and instantly coveted it. So warm! So puffy! But I didn’t want to spend $150 on a good one, so decided to wait until spring to find one on a discount. Then to my delight, 2 weeks ago, found one that fit perfectly and looked brand new while thrift shopping with friends. I’ve worn it every day since then and expect to do so until the end of our brutal northern MT winter (we live 8 miles from Canada). That’s 20 bucks I’m tickled to be relieved of.
    Other favorites: a mid-century modern style office chair, super comfy with clean lines and fun orange upholstery, for $3. Carharrt work pants which I wear all the time for cutting wood, $8 instead of $40. A Stetson cowboy hat for my husband when we moved to Montana, $15 instead of $200. Blender components culled from 3 different thrift stores and garage sales, a full set of Ironstone dinnerware that we use every day, stainless steel whistling kettle, a not-ugly-plastic wire dish draining rack, Banana Republic and Wet Seal dresses and skirts, the perfect soft wool black V neck sweater…OK, so pretty much every thing I own and love.

  63. tentaculistic says:

    Yeah, I was confused as to how he got 25 long-sleeved shirts, and 3 years later he was still unpacking new ones to wear from that batch, then last week he was back to looking for long-sleeved shirts. Huh? I think the chronology got messed up there ;)

    I’m not great with thrift stores anymore, they seem to be pretty well picked clean where I live (and have been since before the recent depression), but I got some great antique stuff at the Salvation Army in Switzerland when I lived there (“Heils Armee”) – in Europe that stuff is junk from the attic, while here it’s expensive antiques! Woohoo!

  64. Treva says:

    My best luck in thrift store shopping is for my DD. I buy most of her jeans and cords there; I just can’t justify $10 or more for something she’s going to tear up. I only pay that price when I’ve hunted and asked the grandma’s and I *have* to pay that price.

    I popped into a thrift store just a couple of weeks ago hoping to score jeans for my DD and they were having a sale on women’s sweaters — $3 each. Since I needed sweaters and they were on my list I bought 3. I will need to buy a couple more, but I can get by if I don’t find any.

    One of my DD’s favorite outfits is a denim dress with flowers on it and turtleneck that has stripes in the same colors as the flowers. I paid $1 for the shirt and $3 for the dress and to make it work for the winter I bought a pair of $4 cable knit tights from a chain store.

  65. reulte says:

    Julie (#33) – then don’t buy beds or other wooden bedroom furniture. Still plenty of other things to find.

    I enjoy the thrill of the search. My biggie? Except for two school shirts, underwear, socks, one sweater and three pair of shoes I have never bought any new clothes for my boy. He’s seven years old and I’d guesstimate that his entire clothes budget has cost less $250. Currently – I’m on a leisurely search for game board pieces – chess, checkers, dominos.

  66. Steffie says:

    My girls get a new ‘party dress’ every year for their birthday. Velveteen is usually the material of choice, a few bucks and they feel very special. And I have never had to buy a Halloween costume in the store, I’ve been a ‘princess’ or ‘queen’ for several years now, never more than 10 bucks for an evening gown, usually in a really bright satin! Last year my man went as Frankenstein, 2 bucks for a big suitcoat, he is 6foot6 and he was the life of the party. In fact we saw some people from last year and they requested that he come as ‘Frankie’ again. So this year I will go as ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ We go to the thrift store every couple of weeks just to look around at the different stuff.

  67. Megan says:

    My family, especially my mom, has almost a magical talent for finding awesome deals at Thrift stores. Whenever I got out to Colorado to visit her, on the places we ALWAYS stop is the local thrift store. It’s something that my sister, my mom and I really enjoy. She’s always on the look out for neat gadgets and the like that people discard because the no longer need them, and my sister and I are always on the look out for neat clothes.

    Last time, I walked out with twenty or so items for about $45, including a beautiful crocheted over-shirt that gets me compliments every time I wear it. I get a little thrill out of the compliments I get on items that only cost me a few dollars. I also found two great pairs of leather sandals, Brazilian made, that fit me to a T. I wear a women’s size 11, which is why finding any shoes that fit me, anywhere, is always a joy, but even more so when they only cost $4 a pair. :D

    My favorite thrift store find, though, was a men’s leather coat, size large, that I found for $20. The only things wrong with it were that it was missing the zip-out lining (not really necessary) and the lining of the coat was starting to go (I replaced the lining for $60). I wore it for about two months, then I met my boyfriend (now husband), and gave it to him for Christmas. To this day, six years later, he still wears it. He loves the darn thing, and it’s still in great shape. Not bad for 80 bucks.

  68. lemniskate says:

    I grew up haunting thrift stores with my mom – even as a kid I could see how much better it was to get ten gently used things rather than just one new. Now, I take my son and we get toys I would never waste money on new, and when he gets bored with them, back they go to the thrift store. It’s also a great place to find those “one use” kitchen gadgets that you know better than to waste money on new. And books! I buy the kiddo tons of books, which he loves – and I love encouraging his love of reading.

    Lots of furniture, of course, and I have a love for cotton blankets, and I find them in good shape at the thrift store quite often (A good wash and a long tumble in the dryer at the highest heat and I’ve never seen a bedbug). The main thing I save money on is my son’s clothes. He’s got sensory issues and only likes elastic waist pants. While that’s not a problem with little kids, he’s over five feet and over a hundred pounds now. Track and sweat pants are fine but often a little too casual. But I can find them at the thrift store (and neither of us care that those plain, boring pants are “accidentally” in the women’s section, haha :D). Same with shirts. Button downs and polos and nice tees, I can be picky and find the lowest prices and still come home with good additions to his wardrobe.

  69. M E 2 says:

    Even though this OP was a year ago, I cannot believe no one commented on comment #15 from Christina which IMNSHO constitutes retail fraud. @@ That doesn’t make you frugal/thrifty, it makes you a thief! @@

  70. Julie says:

    M E 2 – I was thinking exactly the same thing.

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