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Thrift With Intent: What to look for, how to save money

Did you know that August 17, 2022, was National Thrift Store Day? News to me.

According to NARTS, The Association of Resale Professionals, there are currently more than 25,000 resale, consignment, and Not For Profit resale shops in the United States, with annual revenues of approximately $17.5 billion, including revenue from antique stores (13% of their statistics), according to First Research, a leading provider of Industry Intelligence Tools. That’s big business for what once was a thrifty shopper’s dirty little secret.

Based on experience, long-time thrift shoppers hunt with intent knowing that hidden in plain sight or buried inside the next box could be the find of a lifetime. But today’s thrift stores are also catering to a new market of price-conscious consumers looking for everyday items for less.

In a recent blog on MSN’s Money Talks News, Kentin Waits shares the “12 Things You Should Always Buy at Thrift Stores” based on his years of thrift store shopping. Whether you are an enthusiast, hardcore thrifter, or just someone looking for creative alternatives to paying full retail for everyday items, Waits’ Thrift Store Finds are worth your attention:

1. Jeans

Hands down, jeans are the best bargain in any thrift store, typically selling for $7.99 to $12.99 a pair. And although that may seem high for “pre-loved” denim, consider this: According to Statista, a consumer market research company, the average retail price of women’s jeans was $165 way back in pre-inflationary 2018. Think all thrift store jeans are junk? Think again. There are loads of high-quality clothes in thrift stores if you know what to look for.

2. Tools

Tools are go-to items at thrift stores. Not just circular saws and welding torches but basic tools everyone should have. Since much of what gets donated is older, it’s easy to find used tools that are well-made and that have proven their worth over years of dedicated service.

3. Totes, trays, and baskets

Why pay retail to organize your home? Canvas totes are handy for stowing items in the trunk of the car, packing for an overnight trip, and shopping at garage sales and flea markets. Trays and baskets are other go-to storage items. Trays are perfect for displaying cologne, organizing TV remotes, or storing craft supplies. Use baskets to store pet gear, pantry items, and bath towels.

4. Holiday decorations

Psst: When you pay less for holiday decorations, you’ll have more money to spend on gifts. Over the years, I’ve built a handsome collection of handmade Christmas tree ornaments — all purchased at thrift shops for about 50 cents apiece. And, like clockwork every year, I find a box of brand-new holiday greeting cards for a dollar or two. But why stop there? Thrift stores sell artificial trees, tree skirts, wreaths, and wrapping paper. Best of all, when you buy from charity-related shops, you’re helping to fund worthy causes. And that’s a good idea every season of the year.

5. Arts and crafts supplies

Thrift stores offer limitless options for artists and crafters. Besides old canvases that can be painted over, look for vintage photographs, wallpaper samples, fabric, yarn, pottery and silverware. With a little inspiration, nearly everything in a thrift shop can be reimagined and repurposed.

6. Dishware

I’ll say it loud and proud: “I buy all my dishes at thrift stores.” Sure, nothing matches in the strictest sense, but that’s part of the fun. Creative designers make an art form of setting tables with highly curated “mismatched” sets of dinnerware. Let your creativity take over, buying interesting pieces that fit within your chosen palette. Each plate, bowl, cup, and saucer is different, yet they all work together.

7. Perfume

Most major department stores donate their perfume testers so Look for the telltale missing cap. (Caps are removed so used bottles can’t be returned as new.) The best part? Many thrift shops aren’t familiar with high-end fragrance brands. Some bottles sell for $3 or $4 apiece.

8. One-of-a-kind items

Kids’ pinch pots with wild glazes, threadbare silk rugs, a stack of black and white snapshots — these one-of-a-kind items make our homes unique. And they can all be found in thrift stores. A few years ago, I stumbled upon a hand-painted image of a sleeping dog. It’s primitive but done with such care that I couldn’t pass it up. Today, that $4 find is one of my most treasured possessions. The lesson? Thrift stores are filled with the humble and handmade.

9. Books

Thrift stores are the perfect place to find contemporary titles and out-of-print editions for a fraction of the retail price. Pro tip: Thrift shops in or near college towns typically have better book selections. And at the end of each school year, the selection grows exponentially!

10. Vases and old jars

Keep a healthy supply of antique vases and glass jars on hand. Filled with a simple bouquet of flowers and greenery, they make a perfect hostess gift or anniversary present. Vintage vases sell for $1-$3 at most thrift stores. Old canning jars are even cheaper. I recently bought five blue-green Atlas jars for $2.00.

11. Cloth napkins

It’s time to rediscover the practicality of cloth napkins for everyday use. Not only do they eliminate the need for disposable napkins (a win for your budget and for the environment), they’re easy to keep clean. Just choose colors that can safely be washed with your other linens. Most thrift shops sell napkins in bundles. Expect to pay a dollar or two for a set of four.

12. Office supplies

Where else can you buy a box of business-sized envelopes for 49 cents or a stack of legal pads for a dollar?