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What to Buy & What Not to Buy at Thrift Stores

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I am all about finding amazing deals from everyday retailers. However, the reality is that with a family of my size I simply have to include buying used into my buying habits. The thing is, it is way more chic to buy used from thrift stores than when I was doing it more than 15 years ago. As someone who has lived on a budget and been pinching pennies for more than 20 years now, I have mastered what seems to be every trick in the book when it comes to saving money.

I have learned a few ins and outs of shopping thrift stores over the years. I’ve made some amazing purchases, and I’ve also kicked myself when I should have known better. That’s how I’ve come up with a playbook of what to look for and what to steer away from.

Wondering what to buy and what not to buy when shopping thrift stores? Here are my discoveries.

thrift store

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Adult clothing

When it comes to adult clothing, you can find some super nice stuff. In the nicer thrift stores, especially, I think your chances of finding some stuff with the tags on is certainly possible and perhaps even likely. I think there are those who go out shopping without trying things on, those who enjoy shopping just for the idea of shopping, and those who might tend to over-shop who don’t realize how much they’ve bought during a shopping spree until they get home. These people all need something to do with the things they’ve over-purchased, and I think in most cases, they bring it to their local thrift store.

Kids clothing

With kids clothing, I find you have to be a bit more discerning as they are often more worn than adult clothes, but there are still some treasures to be found. When looking for kids clothing, just be sure to check for stains, the condition of any elastic, and of course look for small holes as well. I don’t find brand new kids clothing all that much, but it can happen at times.

Kitchen items

Do you need some new mixing bowls, baking dishes, or serving platters? If I do, I always head to the thrift store first. I can almost always find these things at whichever thrift store I’m going to.

Various odds and ends

When you need to replace something like a broken coffee pot (not your coffee maker), your glass microwave plate, or a mixing bowl for your mixer, check the thrift store. Often these replacement items are costly to order directly from the company, but yet they often seem to be floating around thrift stores. If I need a piece or part to a smaller appliance, I always check there first. Sometimes I get lucky.

Adult books

This I totally understand because I am a book-a-holic. Someday my house could very early become overrun by books because I love them so much. Even I take mine to the thrift store when I am decluttering them.

Kids books

The thrift store can be a treasure trove for books for kids as well. The great thing about buying kids books at a thrift store is that you can constantly rotate books in and out of your home. This way you can keep them new and interesting for your kids. Really, there is no need to ever hang on to kids’ books for very long. Keep their favorites and rotate the rest out and in using your local thrift store. Your kids will LOVE it!


You can find some really cute necklaces and bracelets at the thrift store. I’m personally not comfortable buying used earrings, but you may even be able to find those there if you’re good with it. Every time I’m in the thrift store, I always look through the jewelry before leaving.

Furniture to restore

If you have the ability to breathe new life into things, you can find amazing pieces at the thrift store. Dressers, kitchen tables and chairs, and even bed frames can all be great things found at the thrift store. You can create some of your most beloved pieces by starting at the thrift store.

While these are the things I have done well with at the thrift store, there are also things I’ve learned to kind of stay away from. Again, at least in my experience.

Of course there will always be exceptions to these things, but for the most part, I find these are things I usually want to pass on at the thrift store.


Whether for kids or adults, I just haven’t had good luck with shoes. It could just be me, but the shoes I find are generally quite worn. I wish this weren’t the case because keeping my kids in shoes gets very expensive, even when I am getting a great deal on them.


Unless the box is clearly sealed by the factory, chances are you will find pieces missing, even if you are honestly told they are all there. This could even be because someone opens the box right there in the store and one falls out, but I learned to stop buying puzzles at the thrift store based on my experience.


Similar to puzzles, there are often pieces or parts missing from games. It could be that there is one small part missing that keeps the game from being able to be played. Generally, games are just too risky to buy at a thrift store.

These really are the only items I can say I’ve not had good luck with at thrift stores. You’ll notice that my list is much longer for the things I do buy at thrift stores.

This means you really should get to know the thrift stores in your area. In many cases, there is no reason to buy new on the things I’ve given the green light to on this list, at least not without checking the thrift store first. In all honesty, thrift stores can be a really chic place if you know what you’re looking for!

Looking for more on shopping? Try reading:

What To Buy at Aldi’s (and what not to buy)

15 Essential Grocery Tips For Feeding My Family of 8 for $250 

15 Frugal Tips For Feeding a Large Family

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