woman thrifting

I started thrifting when it wasn’t cool…

I got my prom dress thrifting at Salvation Army. It was $19 and straight out of the 70’s at a time when we were still trying hard to forget the 70’s. There are some dresses that are timeless. Take the little black Audrey Hepburn dress, for example. I have one of quality I’ve worn for decades.  It made its debut as at a fraternity formal and stuck around long after. It guest starred at corporate Christmas parties, went to weddings, and even chaperoned a couple proms. It’s classy and elegant, timeless. Slap on some pearls and for all you know, I could be a Rockefeller.

The $19 prom dress was not that dress. It should’ve been made into a table covering.

“Where’d you get your dress, Salvation Army?” wasn’t a compliment back then. Today, it very well might be, because thrifting is cool.

Thrifting isn’t what it used to be…

Maybe it’s the terrible economy or that we’re concerned about the environment, but the perception of thrifting has totally changed. You don’t have to be embarrassed to go to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or your local consignment, no stigma attached. If you haven’t gone thrifting since your grandmother dragged you to a flea market when you were five, you should try again!

Top reasons to go thrifting

You’ll get ideas

Just walking around gives me ideas for decor, costumes, outfits, and projects. Some things there are butt ugly (like my prom dress) but there are things that are retro-cool and coming back in style.  It gets me thinking, when I don’t buy.

If I see another person on Facebook Marketplace overcharging for “mid-century modern” furniture (translation: “I’m cleaning out my dead aunt’s attic.”), I might barf. But, it’s true–it’s all coming back into style, and you may just a deal at a thrift store.

You’ll save some serious cash

I needed a little table for my living room.  I found a few I liked in stores for a couple hundred dollars each. Before buying, I went to the thrift store to check and see. I found one I liked for thirty bucks. It was old and dusty, but fit my decor. I polished it up with a dark wood polish, and it’s beautiful. My coffee’s on it right now.

By training myself to give the thrift store a quick check before I buy larger ticket items, I often save big.

You can stock your new house, apartment, or classroom… for pennies on the dollar.

I know I tell you not to spend your paycheck on your job. But, if you’re going to ignore me and decorate your classroom, thrifting is the way to go. You can create room zones, comfy reading nooks, and cafe-table learning stations by thrifting.

If you’re setting up a new apartment or buying a house, you can put a big dent in your furniture and decor budget at the thrift store, without compromising your personal style. Even a few accent chairs or wall hangings here and there will save you money.

The kitchen is the biggest place I save.  I routinely find top-quality things people just didn’t need anymore–everything from cooking utensils and Corningware, to seasoned cast iron pans.

You don’t need to go to William Sonoma for a cheese grater, I’m telling you. You’ll find one at your thrift store.  Even if you want specific dishes, pots, or items, you should still check your thrift store before you buy. I’ve found discarded pieces from my sets, and exact items I’d been looking to buy. This happens a lot.

One man’s trash really is another man’s treasure, and if you know where the “good” shops are, that’s even more true. When people upgrade their stuff, they often consign or thrift their old things. Sometimes, it’s exactly what I wanted and two quality levels beyond what I think of as my top end.  Checking thrift shops is always worth a try.

“Vintage” is sometimes better quality

For things like furniture, cast iron pans, and Corningware this is especially true. Old-style Corningware has a “Corning” stamp on the bottom. It was made in Corning, New York and could be used in the oven or on the stove. I cook a lot, so that matters to me. Today, Corningware in stores is for microwaves only.  So, I hunt down the old stuff in my patterns at thrift shops. I have two broken lids–that I replaced in thrift shops.

If I go to Bass Pro Shops or Amazon, I can get a nice cast iron pan for anywhere from $25-$200. I can get a thrifted one for a couple bucks–and it’ll already be seasoned and ready to cook on. New cast iron pans aren’t the best to cook on until they’ve been “seasoned” and oiled properly. This takes time. For this reason, I asked for my grandmother’s pans.  People down South, where cast iron is king, specify who’s getting these things in their wills–it’s serious.

Up here–you find them a dime a dozen in the thrift store. Grab yourself one!

There will be crock pots (old ones have better temperature distribution in my opinion), sauce pans (if you know how to spot quality, you’ll get a good one), pyrex bowls and measuring cups, and dishware that may even fit your collection.  Since I’m a big fan of cooking gourmet from scratch (check out the recipes!) get yourself some vintage cookware today.

“They don’t make it like they used to” is true for things like furniture, too. I hate particleboard. It’s all over the furniture section of Target and Walmart, but I often find wood in thrift stores. Just because a wood piece isn’t your color or looks beat up isn’t a reason to rule it out. A little bit of sand paper and a can of spray paint or stain goes a long way.

It’s good for the environment

I love keeping things out of the landfill, especially since I learned the truth about recycling (most “recycling” is never recycled). I go through great lengths to gift, repurpose, or donate things I can’t use. A lot is really good stuff, but I don’t need it.

If other people are keeping their stuff out of the landfill, too, that gives us all a chance to trade stuff and save the planet. Thrift stores are a good hub for this.

It’s good for the community

Many thrift stores benefit charities. Shopping there is my way of helping the people who are helping others.

Even consignment stores give me a feeling of doing good–someone’s making some money. We all need money. When I buy consignment, I’m supporting a person who’s working hard to keep things out of a landfill.

You can also “thrift”–and make money

Poshmark and ThredUp are two online clothing marketplaces where you can support the thrifting ecosystem while still getting an online shopping feel. Poshmark lets you sell your items, too.  And, many “Poshers” resell thrift store scores, so using Poshmark supports thrifting all around.

ThredUp is a donation site. They’ll send you a bag, and you can send what you normally would’ve dumped at your Goodwill. But, if it can be listed in their store, they’ll pay you something for it. If not (if it’s too far out of fashion or doesn’t meet their upper-end criteria for sales) they’ll donate it for you.

You can make money to clean

Thrifting isn’t all about buying–it’s about getting rid of clutter and junk in your life. If you don’t need something, don’t keep it around. Consign it and make some cash. Thrift it. Set it free!

Thrift first, shop later

Whether you’re hitting up consignment stores, estate sales, Goodwill, or online thrift shops, try thrifting before you buy. Keep track of your savings for a year just for fun. Even if you don’t save enough to buy a new car, you’ll score some good quality items and save some items from the trash, which is a win-win for everyone.