Michael is a frugal homesteader who enjoys sharing money-saving tips and DIY advice with others.
It goes without saying that you can save tons of money shopping at thrift stores. That's always fun. But the real fun in thrift store shopping, though, is in the hunt (i.e., looking for that diamond in the rough). It's a thrill to find that one thing in the whole store that will make the trip worth it. These 10 items may not exactly be "that one thing," but it's good to look for them every single time you find yourself at a thrift store.
1. Gardening Supplies
It doesn't matter if you see hand tools, full-sized tools, pots and planters, wheelbarrows, or whatever. It's well worth the time to stop and check it out to be sure that it's still in good working order. Check for things like wooden handles on tools don't have any cracks, plastic pots aren't starting to split, and any rubber that isn't dry-rotting. If anything passes all of your inspections, buy it to save yourself some money next time you are in the lawn and garden store.
Thrift store bookshelves are always littered with books on every topic under the Sun. It doesn't matter if you collect books or just plain like to read. Thrift store books are worth stopping to check out.
The tool selection at thrift stores can range greatly due to different policies. But even while bladed tools may not be available to you, punches, chisels, hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches, and files are all worth stopping to take a look at. Aesthetically, they usually need a little T.L.C., but you can usually walk out of the store with a perfectly functional tool for a very nice price.
It doesn't matter if you are looking for radios, game systems, alarm clocks, or computers. Your local thrift shop just may have what you are looking for. Most places will let you test electronics prior to buying them. If your store doesn't have a return policy, make sure to take advantage of this.
5. Maps and Atlases
Though they have been mostly replaced by technology, maps and atlases are still useful backup tools to keep handy. You will probably be able to find atlases in with the books, and maps may be there as well, but I have also found them mixed in with the paintings and while rifling through free and bargain bins.
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6. Dishes and Utensils
Unless I find something somewhere else that I really like, most of my dishes and eating utensils come from thrift shops. If you are buying ceramic or glass items, be sure to check for chips and cracks, and don't buy metal with rusty spots. If your items pass those two checks, buy them.
Even if you don't ride one, a bicycle is almost always a good buy from a thrift shop. If you can get ahold of them cheap enough they are good project bases to upcycle and flip for a little bit of profit. Or you could just put some elbow grease into it and give it as a gift or sell it that way.
Secondhand stores are awesome places to shop for name-brand clothing at a fraction of what you'd pay if you went to a department or clothing store. And if you look hard enough, you can find brand new clothing with tags still attached. They are also a good source of clothing to wear if you have an especially messy job that you need to do and would like to have something disposable to wear.
9. Emergency Equipment
Preparing yourself and your family for an emergency can be an expensive undertaking. Be on the lookout for things like flashlights, coolers, tents, battery-operated radios, and lanterns to save yourself a lot of money. Just be sure to check everything to be sure that it works properly and there isn't excessive wear.
Of all of the items to be purchased at thrift stores, furniture is where you will probably save the most money. Purchasing secondhand furniture will work out to cost you pennies on the dollar most of the time when compared to going out and buying something brand new.
Michael (author) from Indiana, PA on November 30, 2018:
Thank you very much Stephanie. I love thrift shopping and going to yard sales because you truly never know what you are going to find.
Stephanie Launiu from Hawai'i on November 30, 2018:
Your article was a nice reminder of what kinds of bargains we can find at thrift stores. It also reminded me to check out the thrift stores around me that I haven't been to in a while. I've been buying too many things for full price when I know, with a little extra time, I could have found them in a thrift store. And you're right, the fun is in the hunt. Thank you for a well-written article. Sharing on Pinterest and FB.