Save Hundreds With Amazing Thrift Store Finds!

Save Hundreds With Amazing Thrift Store Finds!

Redecorate Your Home By Thrifting Like A Pro

living room make over

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Is your home in need of a good makeover, but you don't have the budget to go on a massive spending spree? Well, you don't have to spend a fortune… with a little know-how, you can take seemingly ordinary thrift store finds and start turning them into beautiful pieces for your home.

Maybe you like that lived-in look that you can only get with antiques? But you also know that hitting up your local antique dealer would drive the cost of redecorating even higher.

Not a problem. You can find all the pieces you need for a fraction of what you'd spend at a regular retailer.

There's never been a better time to get into “thrifting.”

treasure chest

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Thrift stores, flea markets, and garage sales are potential goldmines.

Every so often, we read about some lucky shopper who uncovered a true antique, or a priceless work of art. Or found some classic prop from a movie (like the guy in Britain who unknowingly bought the $163,000 watch worn by Sean Connery in the James Bond film Thunderball).

We can't guarantee you'll strike that kind of jackpot, but we can show you how to create some amazing home decor. And who knows? You might just find a diamond in the rough while you're at it.

finding treasure chest at the bottom of the sea

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But we warn you…

Hunting down thrift store finds is highly addictive!

Seriously, you may find yourself having far more fun than you thought possible.

Especially once you know the secrets used by professional thrifters…

Thrifting 101

First, let's get you acquainted with the general rules of thrifting. Call it Thrifting 101. You may already know a few of these, so let's get started…

street photography

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Shop Frequently

The best home decor items don't often stay on the shelves for very long. If you're hunting for the best materials and bargains, don't try to do it all in one giant, six-hour excursion. It's better to make frequent, short trips to your favorite stores.

Think Cash…

The big chain stores will usually take credit cards. But sometimes the best finds are a little off the beaten path, at family-owned shops. Depending on your area, these stores may only take cash.

… But Also Charge (Your Phone, That Is!)

Make sure your phone is charged. We can't stress this enough! In this day of portable internet access, thrift store finds can be verified instantly.

If you think you have a real bargain on your hands, you can check one of many online resources (we'll visit those in a minute).

Your phone can also show you where stores are, what their specialties are, and can sometimes get you discounts with coupons (if you have the Goodwill App, for instance).

The downside? All that effort can drain your phone's power supply pretty quick. So make sure you've got plenty of juice in that battery!

charging phone

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Dress the Part

You may not give much thought to your thrift store shopping ensemble. But if you play your cards right, you could save yourself time and money. It depends on what your goals are:

okay lets do this

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  • Are you looking to buy furniture? Wear something comfortable, sturdy, and practical. Not every store will help you load that new side table into your car, and you don't want to tear up your favorite cashmere sweater in the process of lugging heavy purchases.
  • Are you looking for decor and fashions? Although this article is focused on home decor projects, you might also be planning to dip into the clothing section to see if anything catches your eye. If you're trying on potential new additions to your wardrobe, make sure your outfit is easy to take off and put on again. Otherwise, you'll spend all day in the changing room.
  • Are you a master of the art of haggling? Then you know to leave your Coach bag and your Manolo Blahniks at home. No one will cut you a deal when you're wearing those shoes… if you look like a million bucks, people will expect you to spend that way, too.

Get Inspired!

woman painting

IMage by artursfoto via Pixabay

Make a Pinterest board of home decor ideas. Seriously, this is the exact reason Pinterest exists. See what's out there.

Save interesting designs that will help you think outside the box. Even if you don't like a particular project, there might be a particular piece of it that you can use for your own work.

You might find yourself following the blog or YouTube channel of a particular thrifter. Study how your favorite DIY masters approach their decor projects, then elaborate on them by adding your own personal flair.

Pick Your Project, Make Your List

So, you've done your homework, and you're finally recovering from your massive Pinterest binge. You've picked out a few projects that you think will go great in your home.

But it's not time to run out and look for your thrift store finds just yet.

Now it's time to start thinking critically.

Pick your favorite project or two. Break them down into their individual components. Shift the thinking from “what could I make?” to “what pieces will I need?

Are you looking to repurpose a wooden stool and combine it with a few terra cotta pots to make a low-key planter display? Great!

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List out each of the objects that you'll need… the stool, the pots, plants themselves, and any paint that you might want.

You'll want to remember tools, too. For instance, someone might post a project that looks great… as long as you have a power sander. Make sure you've got the hardware as well as the ingredients!

It's best to focus on one project or one room at a time, until you get comfortable juggling a lot of projects at once. Make a list of items to buy, and your expected budget. Carry the list with you, or put it on your phone so you don't lose it.

Now it's time to hit the stores…

Know Before You Go!

flea market

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If it's your first time getting to know the thrift stores in your area, you will probably want to do a little online research ahead of time.

Some stores have a particular specialty. Goodwill typically has a lot of clothes, but will carry bargains in furniture and decor. Habitat For Humanity is all about the furniture bargains. Look at reviews or going a thrifters group on Facebook and see if there are any tips.

stalls on the road

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Then head to the stores you think will have the stuff on your list.

Pro Tip: if you live in or near a small town and there is a chain thrift store, definitely give it a visit. Sometimes small-town locations will get inventory sent in from other places, and they're usually less picked-over.

Pick Your Time and Place

In addition, less trendy neighborhoods may have more hidden gems, especially when it comes to decor. Artsy neighborhoods will have artsy patrons who pick the shelves clean, but there may be great decor deals sitting unused a few miles away.

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Don't go anywhere you feel unsafe, obviously. But don't discount a store simply because it's in a less-popular location. That might be just the reason it has what you're looking for.

Another Pro Tip: Once you know where you're going, make sure you time it well. Middle of the week is best. Weekends (and the days leading up to Halloween) will be way busier.

Find A Favorite

If you wind up with a favorite few stores, bring donations or sell items. Some places might give you a little bit of cash or store credit, others only accept donations, so be sure you know what you're agreeing to.

But this is a great shopping tactic as well. If you donate items to a store, it's a good way to get to know the staff. Then see if they have any suggestions. Find out what day of the week the store brings out new merchandise. Or ask when they will mark items down.

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Play the Long Game

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As you start to shop more, you might find that perfect item that you don't have a use for yet. Don't feel like you have to hold back just because it's not part of your current project. If a piece truly strikes you as interesting, you may find a use for it later.

Once again, just warning you... once you let this bug bite you, you're not going to want to give it up...

Let's Make A Deal!

two men doing high five

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Sometimes you might find that perfect item but it's more than you want to spend. Check and see if there is any flaw, craw, or scuff. Sometimes you can talk the clerk down on price if there's a defect.

Sometimes, they'll already have taken that into account. On top of that, not every store will haggle… it depends on the company policy. If the salesperson won't (or can't) give you a break, don't get upset.

Instead, ask if they mark down items eventually, or if there will be a sale or coupon soon. When you come back, you might be able to get the deal you want.

Now, let's take a look at our projects…

Vases & Glassware

Are you looking for vases or glasses? Pretty much any store will have materials to help you get started.

When looking at glassware, heavier glass is often a sign of superior quality. Be sure to look online and familiarize yourself with brand marks You might find something valuable that you want to resell instead of repurpose!

Most of the vase or glassware projects don't require that you shell out for the good stuff. But you do want to make sure that you get it home in one piece.

If you're looking to get several pieces, consider bringing along some paper towels or a laundry basket with clothing to wrap your haul… just in case the thrift store is out of packing materials that day.

DIY Project #1 - Color Vase Display

It's time to get our hands dirty! (Or more accurately, painty.)

This is a simple project that most folks will be able to do without breaking a sweat. Still, it's a good intro to the system of repurposing thrift store finds into home decor. The later projects will get a little more challenging.

children doing art

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You're going to need…

  • Glass Vases
  • Paint (any color)
  • Water
  • Paintbrush
  • Sponge
  • Paper Towels

Clean out your vases. Then put just a spoonful of paint and a couple drops of water in each one. Swirl it around in the vase (you can pretend you're swirling a glass of fine wine if you like, just don't drink it.)

Coat the inside of the vases evenly. Then stand them on their heads on the towels so that the excess paint drips out. After the paint dries, check and see if another coat is needed.

Use the sponge to wipe up any loose drips. Although you can't fill these with water, they can make a beautiful display, and are an eye-catching way to add a splash of color to a side table or mantelpiece.

Frames & Mirrors

picture frame

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You can get some pretty fancy frames at thrift stores. Some may need a little work in terms of paint or repair, but these are great pieces for any number of projects.

First off, ignore what the frame contains. Who cares if you don't like the picture? Who cares if the mirror is tarnished or cracked? (Unless you're the superstitious type, but hey, you didn't crack it…)

A good frame can be used to hold a picture, a mirror, or to provide a visual outline around another object. If you find a bunch of frames that go together, use them in tandem to create a more ambitious display.

Here's one of our favorites. It's just one item, but it's a little more of a challenge…

girl with silver face looking in the mirror

Image by pixel2013 via Pixabay

DIY Project #2: The Chalkboard Mirror

chalkboard mirror

Image via Pxhere.com

This next project is a great way of creating a distinctive message-board that you can put in your room, a hallway, or common room. If you picked a small enough frame, you could also glue magnets on the back and stick it on your fridge.

You're going to need…

  • A Framed Mirror
  • Spray Paint for the Frame
  • Primer (if keeping the glass)
  • Chalkboard Paint

First, you're going to make sure the frame looks the way you want it to. Paint it whatever color you want it to be, and let the paint dry before moving on to the next step.

glass art

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Second, if the glass is broken or cracked, you're going to want to ditch it. Remove the glass parts carefully from the frame, and toss them. If you're keeping the glass, then cover it with the primer. This will get the mirror's surface ready for the chalkboard paint.

After that, you just cover the glass of the mirror with chalkboard paint, let it dry… and voila! A stylish-looking piece that is also functional as a message board.

Furniture Thrift Store Finds

antique furniture

Image by 27707 via Pixabay

Of all your thrift store finds, furniture may turn out to be the most fun and most rewarding.

First off, do plenty of research! The larger the piece, the more hassle it's going to be to move, so make sure you get something you want. In many thrift stores, all sales are final. Some may only take a return for store credit.

man in a costume

Imgage by Hermann via Pixabay

So especially if it's a big piece, make sure it's something you know you want and can use. Don't launch into a massive project repurposing a giant dresser… only to find that it's two inches too large to fit in your bedroom.

Make sure you know the exact dimensions you're dealing with and you've got them handy and written down.

Measure twice, cut a deal once.

Come Prepared

In addition to your notes, bring color samples and a tape measure. You might know the dimensions in your room, but you also might want to double-check the piece itself at the store.

With furniture, there is lots of variety. One general rule is that (as with glass) heavier is often a sign of superior quality. Hardwood will weigh more, whereas if the piece is covered in veneer, it is going to be more cheaply made (and lighter).

measuring

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thrift store finds

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There are some websites out there to give you some reference points while you ship. Kovels are both easy to use and have tons of info.

DIY Project #3: Suitcase Table

suitcase table

Image by Stacie via Flickr

This is a bit more involved than the previous two projects, but it's still fairly simple. We're going to create a small side table out of table legs and a suitcase.

This is a fun piece that's also practical, as it gives you a table that can also hold items!

You're going to need…

  • • Old-Fashioned Suitcase with Hard Surface and a Flat Top
    • Table Legs
    • Four Top Plates
    • Screws (and a drill)
    • Particle Board

The first thing to do is to find the perfect suitcase. Suitcases make great thrift store finds, and you'll usually have a few options at any shop.

luggage or suitcaes

Image by Tama66 via Pixabay

Set the suitcase flat, and open it up. Cut the particle board to fit flat against the wall of the suitcase, which would rest flat against the bottom.

Measure and drill holes in each of the four corners of the bottom of the suitcase, and then attach the top plates and the legs.

There are a number of variations on this project, but this video captures the basic idea:

The other great thing about this project is that it's versatile. Don't want a side table that comes all the way up to your hips? Just use shorter legs on the project and you'll have a smaller version that's coffee table height.

Build Your Skill Set

Practice a few repair or craft skills that will work for the projects you like best. Let's say you have a lot of dining room and living room projects that involve working with wood. The more ability you can acquire with your woodworking skills, the more confidence you'll have when buying a piece that needs a little extra love.

repairing the chair

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Just as if you were shopping for a lot of clothes, it would help to be great at alterations.

Do you have a signature thing you love? Maybe it's projects that involve glass, maybe it's taking apart picture frames, maybe it's creating interesting containers for plants. Whatever it is, the more you do, the better you'll get.

Money-Saving Tricks Of The Thrifting Pros

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Goodwill can be difficult to find as that's a popular one, but there are frequently others.

Common Thrifter Errors… And How To Avoid Them!

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There are a few ways that people new to DIY decor can make mistakes early on. One is to dive into building a project without reading or understanding the instructions.

If you don't understand the instructions for creating a particular piece, odds are that there's another version of it somewhere online, and that's the one that will wind up making sense.

So try finding a couple of different explanations and see if that clarifies it. Maybe there's a video that makes it all much more apparent.

ordering coffee

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It's easy to get carried away by the thrill of finding a good bargain. But don't spend money on items you don't want and won't use or resell.

Just because a particular piece is a good price doesn't mean you should be the one to buy it. Otherwise, you're just spending cash on something that will gather dust, and that mentality is what pushes people into starring roles on Hoarders.

It will also drive your budget up. Save those pennies for the items you really want!

After all, the whole point is to turn your home into the best possible version you can, at a price that fits your budget. There's nothing to be gained by buying things simply to buy them.

Dream Decor

dancing

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After a few of these projects, you may discover yourself coming up with increasingly ambitious ideas. You may even start dreaming about them.

After all, you're starting to get pretty good at this whole DIY decor thing. Scouring your local shops for thrift store finds, haggling with the clerks. A few of them even know your name by now.

Thrifting can be an addictive habit. But it's one that saves money, enhances your creativity, and makes your home more “you.” Totally worth it.

So enjoy your new digs. Invite some friends over.

Soon they'll be checking out your creations, picking your brains, and asking when you're going to start your own blog… or a YouTube channel… or could you maybe just type up a few instructions they can share on Pinterest…

We did warn you.

man dancing on top of the table

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