What To Buy and Not To Buy at a Thrift Store

Several years ago, I would read about other bloggers or hear from friends finding great deals at thrift stores. I would browse a thrift store myself and end up walking out empty-handed. I would think, 'my thrift store just doesn't have anything good' or 'how do people find such great things? I only find junk.' Does this sound familiar to you?

The secret has hardly anything to do with the thrift store itself. Sure, some stores have larger inventories or are more organized than others. However, treasures can be found anywhere. You just have to know how to look for them. After learning how to look past the 'junk' at thrifts stores, I am now able to score those great deals that I used to think I'd never be able to find myself.

Here's this week's rendition of Buy This, Not That: Thrift Store Edition

Buy This: Lamps with a classic shape. *Be sure to test any lamps before buying.

These lamps look perfect as is. However, you could easily paint these a fun color like eggplant or bright turqousie. Point is, they are a great classic shape and could work on an entry table, nightstands or a buffet. Once wiped cleaned, styled with new shades and placed in your home, no one would ever guess this were just $14.99 or thrifted.

Another Option-

Don't let the brassy gold scare you. With a modern drum shade and painted, it would be fabulous on a desk or in the corner of the family room. This would also be a great base to wrap in jute for some texture.

The key is to look for the potential of an item, not just at it's current state. Remember this thrifted lamp I bought a few months back?

I turned into this in about 5 minutes and under $15 (for new shade and spray paint):

Buy This: Fiesta Ware (or Solid White Plates)
Thrift stores are a great place to look for inexpensive dish sets. If you collect fiesta ware or white dinnerware, you can easily find random pieces to complete your collection.  Solid colored dishware is a good investment, as it makes it easier to match and to add to throughout the years.

I even used mismatched thrifted plates to create a wall display seen HERE-
Most of those plates were less than $0.50/piece. When I decided to do something different with this wall, I added these plates to my collection and use them as extra serving pieces.

Don't Buy: Mismatched Patterned Dinnerware that will (or should) look out of place on your table like this-

I do not advise purchasing patterned dish sets, as patterns can look dated quickly and may not work if you redecorate your kitchen or dining room.

Buy This Decor Accessory:
This colorful letter originally from Anthropologie was just $2 and would be fun in a kids room or a bookshelf.
Don't Buy This Decor Accessory: 
Unless you live in the boonies or are over the age of 75, this should not belong to you. Make people feel like at home in your house by the general feel of the environment. A dated hanging sign will make your house feel anything but sweet.

Buy This Picture Frame:
This brand new Pottery Barn Kids frame may not be your cup of tea at first glance with the painted flowers (or maybe it is). If not, this thick frame is made well and a great size. You could paint over the flowers and have a quality picture frame for just a few bucks.

Don't Buy This Picture Frame:
 Unless you want to scare off a potential date, do not display this frame.

Or Any of These:
Fake plastic rhinestones, flamingos and ceramic roses do not belong on adult picture frames. Enough said.

General Rules for Thrift Store Shopping

1. Stay Away from the Faux Plant Aisle 
The only thing worse than faux plastic greenery is old, dusty faux plastic greenery.

2. Browse the knick-knack aisle...carefully
The majority of the items are junk. However if you search carefully, you can find some great little items, like timeless milk glass-
 Look at this gorgeous milk glass display that could easily be replicated with thrift store finds-

3. Don't skip the fabric aisle. *remember to properly clean any fabric before starting your project
If you don't mind digging a bit, you can find great fabric scraps that can be turned into napkins or table runners. I thought the fabric above could make a great cover for an accent pillow.

*I wished I had followed by own advice, as I found this awesome lace fabric after I already finished my recent lace-painted dresser seen HERE. I actually like this thrifted lace pattern better than what I used.

4. Look for ways to re-purpose an item.
A simple basket like this-
Could be used to stash cookbooks on your kitchen counter like this from A Bowl Full of Lemons-

 5. Don't be afraid to dig.
Remember this Pottery Barn frame I posted above?
 Well, it was hidden behind this...thing:
6. Furniture is the best deal of all.
I find that my local thrift stores offer better prices on furniture than I can usually find on Craigslist. This old dresser was just $16.99:
With a little bit of primer and paint, it turned into this, details found HERE:
When I spotted this wooden file cabinet for $10, I thought it would make an excellent base for a desk:
Similar to the file cabinets I tuned into a desk HERE:

7. Feel good about supporting thrift stores. Buying goods helps your local community and keeps items from going to the landfill. Donating helps just as much.

I hope these thrift store tips helped. I am a huge supporter of thrifting, as it saves you money, helps save the environment by reusing goods and supports local communities and charities. Plus, you can find great one-of-a-kind items for your home. 
Hope everyone is having a fabulous weekend. xoxo, S


  1. Hey, you're shopping at "my" Savers! I've seen that pair of white lamps on my last two trips, and I keep resisting the urge to buy them. I can't believe they are still there. The shape is great, and I think they'd look pretty sharp with black lampshades. I might have to go back for them now. I feel vindicated that you see their potential too.

    1. Hi Heather, How funny we shop at the same Savers! You should definitely go back and get those lamps. I wanted them badly but have no place for them. Black shades would be gorge! I was also thinking navy shades with jute trim would work. Maybe I'll see you there sometime:)

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  3. Thrift stores can be hit or miss, but if you are willing to spend a little time digging, you can totally find some real gems!! Oh, and just FYI on the lamps - even if the wires are shot, you can easily buy a replacement cord kit at Home Depot for a few bucks. I did that recently with a lamp I bought at a thrift store and it works just fine. You can find tutorials on how to re-wire a lamp online.

    1. That is a great suggestion regarding re-wiring lamps! I have been hesitant to do that in the past, as I am not electrically-savvy. You make it sound easy though, so I'll have to attempt it:)

  4. Yay for thrifting! Which thrift store was this? I haven't been thrifting much in KC yet so I'm curious where the good spots are. :) I'm a huge fan of repurposing (I'm starting to accumulate a small collection of furniture just "sitting" in the garage and the basement, just waiting for some creative TLC) and can't wait to get my hands on some spray paint! lol I hope to run into you at another KC blogger meetup! :)

    1. Hi Ngan! This Savers is in Olathe off Santa Fe. However, I find most Savers to be well-organized. You may want to hit up the Waldo area. There are lots of thrift stores on Wornall, near 75th St. Repurposing is great; you can get a unique piece for a fraction of the cost. Hope to see you soon as well:)


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Comments from my sweet readers make my day! You can always email me at scsa25@gmail.com if you prefer as well. love, S