Thrift Store Shopping 101 {+ DIY Projects too!}

I love thrift store shopping. I go into a thrift store and just get a rush looking at all the items that need new homes or a little TLC.  My girls love it too. Here is what my shopping cart usually looks like…

IMG_1972These are my girls during our last “thrifting” trip.

As much as I love looking for a good deal, I know not everyone loves the thrill of the thrift store hunt.  If you are avoiding thrift stores and just buying items brand new, I’m here to tell ya – you are missing out! Thrift stores can be a treasure trove of one of a kind items. So, I’m going to give you a few starters when it comes to thrift stores and show you a few VERY SIMPLE projects you can try out on items that are most likely in a thrift store near you!


1. PLAN. Go in with a plan. Have a few ideas in mind of what you are shopping for. Either something you need, or just something you can repurpose or make. {Check out Pinterest or just use my suggestions below if you can’t think of anything just yet.}

2. USUAL SUSPECTS. There are items that will *always* be in thrift stores, so let’s start there. I’m talking about glass anything {vases, mason jars, etc}, picture frames, dishes, home goods – odds and ends like silverware, pots, drinking coasters, wooden cutting boards, vintage sheets, books, etc.

*BUT IS THIS ITEM JUNK OR A TREASURE?* Good question. I don’t have the answer. Remember, a lot of times items you find in a thrift store are old and will never be made again. Take for example this awesome metal file folder holder ::


I scored this for $2. It was so unique and “one of a kind” – I just had to have it. I love using it to store items, and it looks cool on my shelf. I think also the idea of “junk” or “treasure” is in the eye of the beholder.

3. BUDGET. I usually only take cash {a lot of thrift stores only take cash FYI}, and I won’t spend more than that. Honest, I typically only spend $5-8 per visit – if that.

4. HAGGLING. Some thrift stores have price tags. Some don’t. Stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army have set prices on things. If you see very obvious damage or something missing, it’s okay to ask about a discount. But remember you are in a store full of old stuff – it’s going to have some wear and tear. I personally don’t like to “haggle”, but if you feel comfortable doing so, just remember to be reasonable.

5. SALE DAYS. Most thrift stores have sale days. Let’s say every Tuesday all the “yellow” tag items {clothing maybe} are half off. Every store does this a different way. {Trust me, I tried to get a concrete list to bring you and it’s nearly impossible.} So sign up for the mailing list in the thrift store near you so you can have an idea of the sales.

6. FLIPPING. Some people actually make a lot of money “flipping” thrift store items. This means you buy something at a thrift store and resale it. {May include fixing it up or something.} Furniture is a big one when it comes to “flipping.” Believe it or not, so are books.


I found this 1942 Emily Post Etiquette book, and I paid 25 cents for it. I quickly did an Amazon search and found the book selling for $35-40 bucks. Once I got it home and opened it, I found newspaper clippings from the 50’s and other notes in the book. What a treasure! I had to keep it.  But if you were into making quick cash, check out the book section at your local thrift store.

7 FINDING a store. A lot of the bigger chains of thrift stores have websites that show the locations and even list the specials. The smaller stores do not.  Here is a list of a few places in the Houston area to get you started ::


Salvation Army

Sand Dollar Thrift Store

Family Thrift Center

Also, The Thrift Shopper lists popular thrift stores in different areas around Houston too!


Here are a few projects you can do in about 5 minutes with thrift store items…

DIY Tray Revamp This wooden tray was $1 at Goodwill. All you do to repurpose this is cut fabric to fit the sections on the tray. Use Mod Podge to stick the fabric to the wood and also to seal the finished project. {Scrapbook paper would work great too.} You can also spray paint the wood ahead of time, but for this project I wanted to keep the wood natural. Right now, I have my jewelry thrown into various drawers, so I’ll use this tray to organize things a bit inside the drawer. But the options for use are really limitless!

DIY Picture Holder

I got this small candlestick holder for 25 cents. This is so fun and simple! Just spray paint the candlestick, add a wine cork, and bend a paperclip around to stick in the top of the cork and hold a picture.  Voila!

DIY Picture Coasters

I’m not sure why, but I’m always running across coaster sets at the thrift store. These were $1 for the set. Let’s make them into a cool picture display! First, print out pictures on regular printer paper {not photo paper}. Put a very thin layer of Mod Podge on the coaster and then lay the picture on top. Once dry, put another layer of modpodge on top of the picture. The key here is A VERY THIN LAYER of modpodge. This is not waterproof, so it can’t be used for drinks. But it would be awesome for a little display on the coffee table. People love pictures and showing off their kids, and this is the perfect way to do it!

DIY Frame

Picture frames are super cheap in thrift stores. I got this one for 50 cents! Instead of the usual spray paint, I used chalk paint to color this frame. It gives it a more antique look and turned out great! You would probably spend $10 for this frame in a retail store.

So, all together I spent $2.75 at the thrift store for these items ::


And using craft supplies I already had around my home, I turned them into these cool projects ::


I hope these ideas have given you a jumping off point for your first thrift store trip!

I have also become obsessed with finding old thrift store belts and turning them into awesome vintage bracelets. The simple DIY directions are here :: DIY belt bracelets. {Really, it’s so easy!}

Do you have any other “thrift store shopping” tips or cool projects you have been working on? Let us know!



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