The art of thrift store shopping

The art of #thrifting (thrift store shopping)

If you have never gone thrift store shopping, you are missing out on one of the great joys in life! I think I first started hitting up thrift stores as a teenager looking for unique and vintage clothes.

It often is like searching for a needle in a haystack, but if you can enjoy it for what it is, rather than viewing it as an inefficient way to shop – it can be a blast. Oh and of course you have the pleasure of knowing you are providing funds for the charity behind the thrift store as well as helping out the environment.


While I do still peruse the clothes sections once in a while, the last couple years I have been interested in finding unique decorations and furniture. Two years ago we created a bedroom set from vintage pieces we found at thrift stores. We found a set of two dressers for $120. We found a nightstand for $25 (see picture to the right). And we built a headboard for the bed for about $40. We cleaned them all up, bought a can of paint, and voila – we had a matching bedroom set (that we loved) for about $200.

The art of #thrifting (thrift store shopping) /thrift-store-shopping-guide/

Make a date of it

A while back I wrote an article called 10 free dates your wife will love – and I didn’t have this on there as one of them, but I should have! Linda doesn’t like camping with me anymore because I made the mistake of taking her on a night when it got down to 40 degrees – apparently she is scarred 😉 , she doesn’t seem to like playing tennis with me anymore either, but she does like going thrift store shopping with me.

A date doesn’t have to have a dinner and a movie involved. Just the two of you spending time together seems to be the more essential component – right?

You can make the whole trip a treasure hunt to find that one special thing you have been wanting. Or you can make it a challenge to see who can get the most goodies for $10.

How to plan out a shopping trip

Since every thrift store has a different inventory and it may be a challenge to find what you are looking for at the first store, you should visit a few of them.

1. Go to and enter in your zip code.

Thrift store shopping directory.png
This will display the local thrift stores in your area nearest to you.

2. Open up a new tab with

Shop thrift stores using Google maps.png
Click the “Get Directions” link and then click “Add Destination” a few times. Enter your addresses in the “A Box” and copy and paste the thrift store addresses into all the other boxes.

3. View and adjust the Map

Google thrift store shopping map.png
Google will provide you with a map taking you to your destinations based on their proximity, rather than the order you entered them in. This is great because you don’t have to figure out the quickest way to visit them all, the work is done for you. If you want to remove a location, you can just delete one particular address and the map will adjust accordingly.

Our recent Goodwill trip

We just found another gem the other day (for $35) that I am excited about. We still need to clean up the hardware and give it a coat of paint, but I see some real potential…


Oh and I should mention that even if you aren’t into the vintage thing that I am, there are often contemporary things that get donated as well. You can also find tons of books, CDs, just about every electronic device created 5 years ago and earlier, lamps, wall art, decorations, kitchenwares, kids toys, clothes, and the list goes on – you never know what you will find!

Other thrift Store websites to check out: Salvation Army, Goodwill, ARC thrift stores.This article was originally published on 08-04-09.

Do you ever shop at thrift stores? Have you found any great bargains?

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  1. Bridget

    I LOVE shopping at thrift stores. Like you I started when I was a teenager, continued through the poor college years and still stop by every once in a while today. I fell in love with the bargains you can find in there. I love it when people compliment something I wear and I tell them it’s from Goodwill. It’s definitely worth at least one try if you’ve never done this before.

    By the way, I love your post on making money off of a blog. I’ve been reading it like the Bible for the past few days. Great information. Thank you for sharing!


  2. LG

    I just discovered your website and already love it! This post is great. I too love to thrift shop for furniture and accessories! I’m a vintage fan as well and love that I can transform something cheap with a can of paint!

    Thank you so much!

  3. Torrey

    I am a man and I really enjoy finding deals at local thrift stores. Sometimes its easy to go to a retail store when looking for items to buy. But I find when needing a piece of furniture, it’s rewarding to get something, refurbish it and see it in action. I just did that with a dresser for my newborn daughter’s nursery.

    Really enjoyed this article and the site.

  4. Linda

    I’d like to add that shopping for furniture is makes it really easy to shop at a thrift store because you don’t have to dig much. Everything is pretty well displayed for you to find and it’s easy to know quickly if it’s a hit or miss.

    That’s my tip for the day!

    Oh, and just to even the score, Bob tells me he won’t do things I want to do sometimes too. : P

  5. [email protected]

    If you have kids (teenagers in particular) shopping in thrift stores is a must. Bonus: you can turn your kids loose in the stores and let them brouse for what they want and you don’t have to tell them NO when they pick out a certain outfit because you know you can afford it.

    Not to self promote, but I have a decent post on the subject on my own website. My family and I hit thrift stores at least once a month to keep the wardrobes filled, which really comes in handy at this time of the year when families are or will be caught up in the back to school crush. We won’t be joining them.

  6. Bob, great post. I am completely into shopping second hand. I always check out the books.
    I wanted to suggest a second thrift store date idea. Allocate a budget ($10) for each spouse to buy an outfit for the other. Wear your new outfit for the rest of the evening.

  7. amy

    I would love to see how you fix up the desk. I had that desk in my room as a child and still have the desk stored away. I would love to fix it up and could use a good idea.

  8. Yves

    Thrift store shopping is great.

    As your pictures show, you can really find stuff that’s still in good/great shape.. and some of what you find really have character.

    I like Thrift store shopping, although I’m really not a big time shopper.

    But it’s a good idea for a date!

  9. kristen

    Just hopped over from the carnival! I love thrift shopping. Unfortunately there aren’t too many in my area. I have found some great items at a thrift called Savers. Nice housewares section

  10. angie

    I love to shop….well I’m a shopolic n being able to go to a thrift store is awesome. I can find many great bargains and spend little money…My friend recently told me about Goodwill stores having outlets..(look at for locations).you pay by the lb…such as 59 cents-99 cents or 1.29…its a true treasure hunt….the stuff is in bins and they change the bins periodoically…..I’ve found some really great deals in there-I bought a pair of shoes like nurses wear brand NEW neve rworn -I figure i got a $115 pr of shoes for less than a $1…I’m usually in there for at least 3hrs just digging thru all of the bins….but great bargains

  11. Julie @ The Family CEO

    I’ve shopped at thrift stores and also at garage and estate sales. My husband has come along with me on a few of these trips and he claims to enjoy it. 🙂

    I agree with you that a date doesn’t have to be dinner and a movie or something else that costs a lot of money. We enjoy browsing bookstores or even just grocery shopping together.

  12. Nate

    My wife would absolutely love a date to the thrift store! Thrift shopping seems to be something underrated. There definitely seems to be an art to it. While there are some things that should be avoided at all costs, you really can find some “treasures” lurking about.

  13. Randy

    I absolutely hate shopping and only go to the store when I have something specific to buy. The exception is the hardware store, the electronics store and the hobby store. Our local Goodwill used to have an electronics section. I picked up some small USB memory sticks when the local Target cleaned out their inventory. They were only 16MB (small by then-standard, tiny today) and sold for a couple of bucks. They were excellent for passing around individual files and for external backup of my Quicken data.

  14. Squirrelers

    I haven’t done thrift store shopping, though I do have an interest in getting some furniture on the cheap that I could work on and make into a decent set at a low price. Frankly, I’d like to check out thrift stores, just to see what kinds of offerings they have. I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

    I guess you could say that the current-day version of a thrift shop might be craigslist. That’s one place where I’ve purchased some items that have been quite a deal. This is a great source of quality, gently used items for kids.

  15. Matt Jabs

    Love this article Bob. I’m big into thrift shopping when I do shop, I just don’t shop much anymore. Betsy and I try to think of 2nd hand stores first, for everything we buy – it takes some purposeful brain conditioning but once you shift your mindset you’re golden. We are always amazed at the awesome stuff we can get while thrift shopping.

  16. Minda

    Never had much success looking for clothes at Goodwill. I’m kind of small and it seem all I can ever find is really big stuff. I do like shopping at places like Plato’s Closet and Black Bird Trader though. If you are small like me you might want to check out these stores.

    I’ve never shopped for furniture before because the places I’ve lived so far have been furnished. I’ll keep this in mind for when I need to.

  17. John

    I love thrift shopping, and I enjoyed your post! One thrift store I really like is called Savers (someone else mentioned it above). Their site is at The more thrift, the better! =)

    Power to the thrifters!!