Money Saving Tips

The Best Gifts You Can Buy at the Thrift Store

The Best Gifts You Can Buy at the Thrift Store
Written by Irina Vasilescu

The minute that you see retail stores have a winter wonderland theme on their window displays, that’s as good a sign as any that you are late with your holiday shopping. If you still haven’t created a list of people to give presents to, you should get started on the task right away.

Aside from making and checking your list, you should also take your budget into consideration. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is relying on their credit cards for all their holiday purchases – and not distributing their gift-giving expenses throughout the year.

You won’t want to disappoint loved ones by skipping on your gift-giving obligations, but you don’t want to spend the better part of next year paying off all your debts, either. An excellent way to manage your expenses is to look for possible gift items for loved ones year-round. If you were unable to do so, you can simply manage your extra funds and know where to look for practical yet meaningful presents so you would not have to spend so much.

Why Buy from Thrift Stores

An example of how you can keep the gift-giving costs down is by shopping for the items you need from thrift stores. There are numerous benefits from doing so.

Buying from thrift stores let you support the local economy aside from helping you save money. There are even local thrift stores which support charitable organizations, so a percentage of every dollar you’ll spend will go towards a good cause. Most items from thrift stores are second hand or slightly used, so you can also reduce your carbon footprint by buying from them.

If there is no thrift store within your vicinity, all you have to do is go online. Aside from the usual suspects like eBay and Amazon where you can buy second hand goods, you can also check out the auction sites of Goodwill. Here, you will find a collection of custom jewelry, designer handbags, vintage household items, musical instruments, etc. is another site where you can get similar goods at discounted prices.

What are the Best Holiday Gifts from Thrift Stores?

Let’s say that you have already found your haven of low-priced goods from a brick-and-mortar or online thrift store. What are the actual items that you can buy from thrift stores which make for ideal holiday gifts? Take a look at the following list:

The Best Gifts You Can Buy at the Thrift Store

Records or Books

What better way is there to spread the holiday cheer than by adding items to the collections of those who you know are big bibliophiles or music buffs? From thrift stores, you can purchase old books – even first editions if you are lucky – and add them to the collection of the people who are very important to you.

You can check out titles from both online and brick-and-mortar stores. As for music records, you can also get them from thrift stores at a gem of a price. To make sure that you are getting vinyl records from bands that the recipient likes, ask him or her for recommendations if you are starting your own musical collection.

Christmas décor

If you’re a bit late in putting up your Halloween and Christmas decorations, check out the really cheap stuff that you can buy from thrift stores. You can find Christmas balls or Christmas tree ornaments still in their original packaging at more than half the original price off – especially if you’ll do your shopping really close to Christmas. All the items that you can buy from fancy department stores for $150 can easily be bought from thrift stores at well under $50.

Costume jewelry

To sell their costume jewelry collection, thrift stores merely pack handfuls of random jewelry into small plastic bags for you to sort through. If you have a niece or a sister who loves to wear fancy and costume jewelry, you can simply pick up a bag of goodies for her. Or, you can look for individual pieces – some of which might need minor repairs or a bit of cleaning.

If you’re the crafty kind, you can even use the random jewelry collection yourself and recreate them into stunning, unique pieces. You won’t have to spend as much and you can rest assured that the recipient will surely appreciate your gift.

Random china

Yet another common item that you will see from thrift stores are huge collections of china. For your mom, why not spend some time putting together a shabby-chic group of mismatched yet still coordinated dinnerware for that vintage feel? If you have friends who love to cook and entertain, a set of vintage trays, plates, serving dishes, even cutleries can be given as holiday gifts.

Framed posters

A very common item sold in thrift stores is a framed poster or a random picture. Don’t mind the picture when buying but do look for unique, unusual frames which you can give to loved ones as a holiday gift. If you dislike the picture, you can simply remove it and repair or repaint the handmade wooden frame. These make for the perfect personalized gifts if you will insert a picture of your loved ones inside the frame.

Vases or gift baskets

Another item that you’ll find in abundance at thrift stores are vases and baskets. When going to your mom’s for Christmas dinner, buy her a beautiful vase from a thrift store which you can get for as low as $3. Fill it up with her favorite blooms and this makes for the perfect holiday gift.

For your sister-in-law who is a big movie buff, put together a basket of cheap DVDs, microwavable popcorn and candy. You can even turn baskets into beds for friends and family with pets simply by adding an old towel as a lining inside, then writing the name of the pet on the outside.

Knitted items

The holidays occur during the coldest months of the year, so knitted clothes or accessories make for the perfect gift. You can simply hand-knit these items yourself and give them as presents to loved ones. Or, you can check out whatever is available from thrift stores. You’ll be surprised at how many beautifully crafted blankets, mittens, hats, sweaters, afghans and table cloths you can find at very affordable prices.

Kids’ toys

Even if it’s not the holiday season, you can rely on thrift stores to provide you with a fresh collection of toys for the kids. Children would not care whether you are buying brand new or second hand toys for them. As long as the toys are clean, safe for kids and functional, you can buy them at really cheap rates from thrift stores.

Also, instead of buying your kid one big-ticket item, having a collection of smaller toys at cheaper prices will give you the best value for your money.

Up-cycled cashmere sweaters

If you live in a ritzy or big city, a brand new cashmere sweater will cost you practically a fortune when bought from a store. There are plenty of thrift shops which sell these luxurious garments at a lower price – and the items are just slightly used. If you’re lucky, you might even find one in pristine condition which does not need any cleaning at all.

Once you find a color and size that suits the recipient of your gift, you simply need to hand wash the garment with soap. A fabric conditioner which is specifically formulated for natural fibers is a great item to use. Otherwise, simply wash the cashmere sweater with mild baby shampoo. For ones where the color is already faded but the fiber quality is still good, all you need is a do-it-yourself dye job or you may have to sew on a few new buttons.

Non-thrift store gifts for the holidays that will still save you money

What about the items which you cannot get from thrift stores – but still make for the perfect holiday gift items? If you’re a high school kid who would like to give your parents something meaningful for the holidays, how about coupons which they can use whenever there are extra chores that they want you to do around the house?

If you’re a working mom who loves to bake or cook, you can simply whip up your speciality dishes and give them as gifts to loved ones during the holidays. Printed, framed pictures still make for the perfect gift despite the popularity of social networking sites like Instagram or Twitter. Gifts that you crafted or made yourself are also personalized and do not cost that much to make.

By simply using your imagination, you can come up with perfect gift items for your loved ones this coming holiday season. Whether it’s handmade, store bought or purchased from a thrift store, what is important is the thought behind the gift which is spreading the love and the holiday cheer. It would help a lot if you will wrap the gift item in beautiful packaging – even recycled ones will do – so that the present will even be more appreciated by the recipient.

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About the author

Irina Vasilescu

Irina Vasilescu is our money-saving and DIY expert and also the editor-in-chief as she's always on the lookout for the latest online deals.


  • I love grabbing framed posters from thrift or drug stores from time to time. The prices are often comparable or better than department stores, including Walmart, which is often surprising to the average person. Drug/thrift stores don’t always cost more than other stores, despite popular wisdom on the topic.

    • Drug stores seem to circulate flyers a lot in my area, and for some reason they’ll have some ludicrous deals when it comes to every day items like topical creams and other personal hygiene items that you’re probably accustomed to getting in bulk from retailers like Costco or Walmart.

      It’s definitely worth checking the flyers out for some random items that you may need that they’re putting on sale.

  • You have a listed a lot of great stuff here that you can find at a thrift store, but I know a few more, at least from the thrift stores around here. You can often find really nice linen napkins that you can use to line a gift basket. I have also frequently found full-size unused products from places like Bath and Body Works for a fraction of what you would pay retail. Another great find is Mason jars, just buy new rings and lids and you can make great jar gifts for your friends and family.

    • Mason jars are always a great and unique way to present gifts, and there’s definitely a lot of things you can do with them. I’m glad you’ve pointed them out, and some thrift stores often have them for pretty cheap…definitely at a lower price than you’d pay at a regular department store for brand new jars, that’s for sure.

      • I’ve found some pretty neat older jewelry boxes that work very well for smaller objects as well. You can sometimes find nice ones that are gilded with mother of pearl which really gives it some character. If you’re the handy type, you can also strip and revarnish to really bring out some of the colour.

  • I think these are all really nice suggestions. I always think that it’s the thought that counts. However, always try to make sure that the gift you’re getting for the person ends up actually being useful. If the person you’re getting the jewelry box for doesn’t usually wear jewelry, then you’ve just wasted you money and given something to your friend that they have no idea what to do with.

  • I love thrift store shopping but I rarely find something to use as a gift, as is. Instead, I find things that I can use to craft or upcycle into a unique and beautiful gift item. I’ve taken apart old jewelry, made pillows and quilts out of cheap clothing items and other fabrics I’ve found, and even refinished furniture items found at thrift stores.

    • This is exactly what I do! One of my favorite things to do is upcycle fabrics and outfits. There’s tons of really nice fabrics with unflattering cuts that are cheap at thrift stores, so I’ll buy a few and re-hem them, turn them into bags, or alter them some other way. Making bags and phone cases or things like that always seems to go over well.

  • It’s nice to see that there are others who appreciate thriftyness as much as I do. I absolutely love thrift shopping and while I don’t want to give people cheap used gifts – there are often items that you find here that are vintage, collectible and insanely cheap. You never know what you will find at these stores and it’s always worth looking.

  • I love thrift stores. Since I have minimal income I can’t seem to save enough money to buy items that i really want so I turn to do my holiday shopping at thrift stores. They are really cheap and as you have mentioned, it is lesser or even half the price you see in department stores. However, you need to have the critical eye when you shop for these cheap finds. The person to whom you’re giving this to must not realize it. The last time I bought a stuffed animal for my friend’s birthday, it was really cheap, and she loved it.

  • Cashmere sweaters and the like are always a hit with any fashionistas on your gift-list. However, one shouldn’t just go clothes shopping at thrift stores for the holidays, one should go year round! I can’t think of how many times I’ve found vintage jeans or even some designer products on a random tuesday in a thrift store. Most of the time they only require minor cleaning, a bit of buffing and some polish.

    A few tips for the uninitiated. Thrift shops have their best stuff when the seasons change. Nicer areas usually have better thrift shops. And finally, popping into your local thrift shop multiple times a week increases your chances of finding better things.

  • Great list. I hardly go to the Thrift Store these days. When I did go it was for books and clothes. It is an excellent spot to get stuff to help with decorations though or even to add items to a gift. I have seen a lot of records and random china as well. I considered getting my mom a nice teacup from the Thrift store it looked new but I didn’t make it back in time.

  • I often visit thrift stores and consignment shops. Just today I drove by one of my favorite thrift shops and saw some great lamps. I need a lamp for my sewing area so I will be stopping in there to see what all they have.

    I agree with you about the jewelry, I often pick up pieces, even if they are broken and repurpose them into new pieces. No one has to know where the parts came from, the new pieces look very modern, I get ideas from store catalogs.

    The other inexpensive thing I find at thrift stores are curtains. You can do so much with curtains, I have cut them up and used them for pillow backing, I have used them for actual curtains, and I have used them for craft projects like rug looping. I always wanted to do a crazy quilt, I know that the thrift store would be a good source for some fabrics. The one near me has close out yarns, since I knit this is a great find.

  • I love thrift stores too so read this article with interest. You can often find new-looking goods there – after all, they only end up at the thrift store because they were not getting used by the original owner. I wouldn’t mind being given a second-hand gift – if it was something I wanted then I would be delighted!

  • I’ve gotten so many good books second hand. Many of them hardly look used at all and no one would know where you got it when they receive it as a gift. Shopping thrift stores isn’t being cheap, it’s just making the most of the money you have. I’ve also found wonderful tea cups at thrift stores for very little and they make excellent gifts for older ladies especially.

  • The picture frame idea is a really good one. Our local Goodwill seems to always have a big selection of artwork, but I never thought about focusing on the frame instead of the picture inside it. This would also be a good tip for mother’s or father’s day. You could help your child with an art project such as a painting or drawing, and then frame it to give to their grandparents.

  • I’d love to pick up books or records at thrift stores and use them as gifts, but they have the unfortunate characteristic of, well… Looking used. And a bit cheap, sometimes.

    Clothes, on the other hand, sometimes look quite new, so I like that. It’s possible to have great finds in second-hand stores and it’s great because you’re not expected to leave the price tag on the item you’re buying anyway!

    Also, it is probably THE best place to buy kids toys because of not having to worry about price and environment. Definitely agree with this one! Kids don’t mind as much if it looks already used, too!

  • There are some thrift stores close to where I live. I always look at the book sections and occasionally I see some books I like. I usually don’t buy any books but I might if I looking for a present to give someone. I also wouldn’t mind buying china.

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