Ask the Readers: Do You Shop at Thrift Stores?

By Ashley Jacobs on 5 March 2013 (Updated 12 March 2013) 163 comments
Photo: Orin Zebest

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Varun, Christie, and Elena for winning this week's contest!

Shopping at thrift stores is a great way to spend less on the things you don't mind buying used, like clothes and home furnishings. And if you're lucky, you might even find some hidden gems — vintage records or out-of-print books, anyone? Then again, not all thrift stores are stocked equally, and for some people, the nearest thrift store might still be too far away for regular trips.

Do you shop at thrift stores? What do you usually shop for, and have you ever found something you didn't expect? If you don't shop at thrift stores, why not?

Tell us whether you shop at thrift stores and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Guest's picture
laurie

I love thrift shopping and seek out thrift shops in every town I visit. Regular scores in include cashmere sweaters, Lands End all wool sweaters, and name brand/high cost tops. Husband just got an almost new Eddie Bauer heavy water resistant parka for $8! I don't do pants there as I'm difficult to fit and don't have the patience. Other favorites are vintage serving dishes, wine glasses, etc. for pennies.

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Tina in NJ

I shop at thrift stores occasionally. I have so much stuff, I'm usually dropping off donations when I go. But I do look around to see if there's something interesting while I'm there.

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Amber

I shop at thrift stores for most things. It's frugal and good for the environment! Also, I mostly patron Goodwill stores because of their work with the disabled. My brother is both mentally and physically handicapped from a car accident 3 years ago and I like knowing that my patronage will help support him to get a job when he is old enough.

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Marjorie

Yes, I shop at thrift stores and always have. With 3 kids close in age this has saved us a lot of money. We have found amazing deals as well as just basics. We have a fall job with a local Renssaince festival and thrift stores have provided basic skirts and costumes that we have to wear saving us hundreds of dollars.

Marjorie

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Andrea C

I want to love thrift stores, but I rarely find anything great in the way of clothing. Maybe I'm just going to the wrong place? Books, on the other hand...I find piles of them at thrift stores every time!

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Mary Happymommy

I haven't shopped at a thrift store, although as a kid we used to shop garage sales and I remember getting my whole 4th grade wardrobe from a yard sale.

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B.

Definitely. If you can get over the idea of wearing other people's clothes, and there's a good store in your area, there's really no reason not to. I love the treasure hunt feeling, and secondhand stuff is often way cheaper without necessarily compromising quality. Especially if you supplement with some new items, most people have no idea that your clothes are secondhand. I can't think of any one item that stands out as an amazing find, but I will say that some of my best pairs of jeans, silk shirts, and sweater dresses have come from thrift stores. I'm fortunate to have quite a few where I live.

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Nancy

I shop at thrift stores occasionally. These are some of the items I look for: Work pants for my son (who works at a paint store). Hats, scarves, and other items for grandchildren to play dress up. Books, games, and puzzles. Right now I am keeping a look out at the local used furniture store for some lamps for a bedroom, but I haven't yet found ones that suit my vision of the room.

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Tyler

I shop at thrift stores mainly for sports coats and other Sunday best items. They tend to hold up extremely well, last a long time, and are very affordable.

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Fragolinka

I do shop at thrift stores, if fact unless it's personal item 80 % of my clothes comes from the thrift stores. However, only my friend know it. Anyone who looks at me from outside could never never told. I wear good brands jeans and cashmere sweaters, I wear beautiful dresses with fancy shoes. My handbags and belt collection not only is quite large but it is mostly leather. I am addicted to thrift shopping, I love it so much.

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Olivia

Absolutely, yes. I am a sucker for round vintage serving bowls, especially in cobalt blue and periwinkle. One sister likes dandelion yellow (Harlequinware) dishes. My uncle has me on a quest for small ceramics and oddities to use in his artwork. It's great fun looking for others if they express a want. Then of course clothes and household items. When the kids were little our thrift store was a huge boon. Now that we're older it's still a great place to find stuff. The idea of $50 for a pair of jeans gives me the shakes. However, my best finds were unrelated to any of those things and happened unexpectedly. 13 cards of Victorian buttons for $4, and a tramp art frame for a quarter. You never know what will show up. It's not just economics, it's the thrill of the chase.

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Maureen A

I haven't shopped at thrift stores much because one of the first things I changed when I started being more conscious of spending was reducing the number of times I shopped & the number of stores I visited. Now I try only to shop when I need to buy something particular. This means I don't always buy at the lowest price because I miss those seemingly serendipitous great buys but it seems to have reduced my overall spending. But I am now ready to start scouting thrift stores because I want to reduce the overall amount of money I spend on clothes. Hmm, so that's No I don't shop Thrift stores but Yes I plan to soon.

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Christie

Absolutely!! I can't imagine how much people spend if they don't shop at thrift stores, especially for kids' clothes. They outgrow them so quickly and hardly ever wear them out. I also buy things for myself. We have a budget of $20 a month for clothing per person; you would have to save up for months just to buy one sweater! (And we need a lot of those where we live!) I'll shop at resale and thrift stores, thanks.

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Toco

Yes! I do shop at thrift store.
But at only at our local goodwill.
There are few thrift store in the town where I live,
But goodwill has beyond great selection.

I wish they had more good stuff constantly.
Most of the time just old stuff.
Sometime shockingly good stuff,such as $200-$300 stuff for $5!

I don't buy something crealy used stuff.
They carry over stocked items from retail, or whatever the reason brand new item ended up at their rack.
So either brand new, used but close to new condition stuffed.

I love finding the deal, so when I found incredible price item makes me super happy.

And their price is so low, I dont feel guilty so much.

I wish they carry more good stuff consistently !

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KF

I don't shop at thrift stores much anymore. There aren't many good ones near my house. In the past I have bought clothes.

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Buffi

I've gotten to where I buy nearly all my kids' clothes at thrift shops. They are growing so fast and my boys are so hard on clothes that I just can't justify paying more than about $5 for a pair of pants that they MIGHT wear five times!

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amanda t

Thrift stores are the only place we shop

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Barbara Z

I love to shop at thrift stores. Knowing which stores carry what helps. Some handle quite a bit of furniture and I picked up two Lazy Boy recliners that were in super condition for $50 each. The store was trying to move the furniture as they get so much from estates.

When I am looking for office type clothing, then I go to a different store. I find that the church thrift shops and Hospice shops get a better quality over Goodwill, but I have also found great bargains at Goodwill.

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wendy

I shop at thrift stores all the time. I love being able to afford brand name items at a much discounted price!

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Cathie

Of course. I shop the thrift store near my job on Mondays during my lunch hour. They have 1/2 price on three color tags, and 1/3 off all other items, storewide. Just yesterday I bought my husband a brand new pair of jeans (orig. tags still on) and three perfect condition polo shirts (one with orig. tag.) I spent $15. I can't imagine not shopping thrift stores.

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I shop at my local thrift shop because I like supporting it. They are very involved in our small community offering grants to small businesses and funding important causes.

It's a small shop. I like to walk around and look at everything. I recently picked up an almost new purse for $2, some books, and an unopened bag of filler so I can make a couple of small pillows.

It's like a treasure hunt! I love it.

Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

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Bob Wilcox

One of my favorite moments with my daughter was at a local Thrift store. She had a basket with some clothes that she picked out and she was excited to show us her finds; she run up to her mother and me and ecstatically saying, "I love this store." It was even more fun when she was trying on clothes and she was trying to decide which item to buy over another item when I said, "just get them both." Her smile was big when she ask, "seriously?" I do not remember the price but I think the two items in question were each $1.68.

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beccaod

I love thrift stores! They are pretty much the only place I shop!

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Nade O

What have I found??? What HAVEN'T I found? I walk around shaking my head wondering "how could people get rid of these things?". The beauty of thrift stores, is you can take a chance on unique fashion, a real statement piece in home decor or jewelry, and I might have bought a watch or 2 or 40 (my weakness)!! It's much like trying something in the reduced grocery bin - you take a chance since it's a fraction of the full price, and you fall in love with it...only in this case, it could change your persona or the look & feel of your home. And it could be just that ONE piece of anything, that really puts a smile on your face or gives you confidence, each time you wear/see it.

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GuestTruc

I haven't really shopped much at thrift stores.....not for clothes, anyway! Occasionally for random furniture items (like a table to use as a TV stand).

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Victoria R.

If I am in need of something, I shop at thrift stores before I go to regular stores. I normally thrift shop for clothing, jewelry, books, pet items, household items and furniture. I also make money by shopping at thrift stores...I have found many high quality articles of clothing at thrift stores at cheap prices that I either would not wear or would not fit me and I re-sold them on Ebay for a profit. Like the Duggar family always says: "Buy used and save the difference!"

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Trang

Going thrift shopping is fun--my best deal ever was a brand-new, $5 pasta maker that was made in Italy. :) We usually shop for board games, components for costumes, and knick-knacks.

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lostAnnfound

Yes, but not as much as I should or would like to. This is one of my "goals" for 2013, to shop more often at the local thrift stores instead of running out to the nearest mall when we need something, be it clothes, curtains, or whatever.

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Tiffany Schmitt

I love to shop but I don't like the guilt that comes with spending a butt-load of money on items at regular stores...especially when it seems that most of the merchandise is of inferior quality and extremely overpriced. It's amazing when you can stumble across at a thrift store...I shop these stores for books, clothes, furniture, candles, decorations, picture frames, dishes...and have found an amazing amount of quality items for a fraction of the price. I would say about 75% of my wardrobe, 30% of my furniture, 80% of my dishes, and 60% of my decorations come from thrifting. Not only is it a way to save money, it's fun to hunt for items, you end up with unique things that not everyone else has, and you're being more environmentally friendly by re-using items others have discarded...talk about an all-around win! : )

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Elena

I don't shop at thrift stores because I don't like to use second hand items

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Elisha

I do shop at thrift stores. I've had great success finding furniture and decor that way. I've found some really wonderful items that have added so much to my apartment. Thrift stores are great.

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Kristine E.

Heck yes I shop at thrift stores!! A lot of things there are brand new anyway~

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Elisha

I do shop at thrift stores. I've had great success finding furniture and decor that way. I've found some really wonderful items that have added so much to my apartment. Thrift stores are great.

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Jamie

Of course! The necessity of it rubbed me the wrong way when I was little (also, the smell of my mother's favorite Salvation Army store was unforgettable). I got back into the habit in college for clothes shopping on my own (my mother helped me sparsely outfit my first apartment from flea markets and community yard sales - some of the things I'm still happily using 10 years later).

I usually go for clothing, but I've also taken to searching for cool vintage rocks glasses lately. Some best/unexpected finds: awesome long leather trench coat and a surprising amount of good condition Ann Taylor Loft clothing.

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Mel

Yes! I love thrift store shopping! Sometimes I find great name-brand pieces that just need a good wash and other times I find items that need TLC, but for the price, it is so worth it!

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Natalie

Love thrift stores! I just scored two pair of Editor work slacks for $5 total!
there are a couple I frequent for work clothing, and a few others for wall art.

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Lacey

I actually went "antiquing" this weekend! I love shopping at thrift stores, consignment shops, estate sales, and the like. Not only is the jewelry and clothing you get often original, but it's a lot more justifiable to buy a shirt to redesign/repurpose when it's only $3 versus $30.

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PT

Yes! I often shop at thrift stores. Most of the time I look for shirts.

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Kate

No, I don't shop at thrift stores. I havent had good luck finding quality items without stains, holes, or other noticeable wear in the past, and as a student I think the time spent sorting through everything could be better spent on other tasks.

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Catherine Robinson

We have shopped at thrift stores for a number of years. We mostly buy clothing and household items (things to use in the kitchen). I have found some amazingly fine pieces of clothing for myself--Coldwater Creek, Talbot's, etc. All were in very fine condition. We also find excellent knit shirts that have scarcely been worn for my husband. Once I found a plastic bag of REI water bottles (BPA free) for about $2. Very exciting! I also found a beautiful hand painted butter dish, which I got for about $5....maybe $7. cross

Guest's picture

I shop at thrift stores all the time. It you visit often you can get clothes, books, and other items for cheap. The key is to go often to get the good stuff before its gone!

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Nancy B from Many LA

I love thrift stores! I find some good bargains; I'll buy clothes, books, housewares, etc...

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Hannah

I sometimes shop at thrift stores, but most of my clothing shopping is at recycled clothing stores such as Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads Trading Company. I also live in Portland Oregon so I shop at a lot of vintage stores too. I like having the selection sightly weeded out by someone, and I often find the deals are just as good.

Guest's picture

Yes, I shop at thrift stores. Usually I look for t-shirts and button-down shirts in my size, but I once got a very nice sport coat for only $5 too.

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BreeHat

Yes I do and I love shopping at thrift stores. And I gotta win this.

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cheri

Sometimes.. My son needed a black sports coat for his band concert. Rather than buying a new one that he may use a handful of times, I found one at Goodwill for $4. I also found a black tie for $2. I figure that I saved close to $100 on that purchase.

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Warren

I used to when there were better shops where I lived 5 years ago. Depends on the area and quality.

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Angela

We LOVE thrifting! We even have a section of our website dedicated to promoting thrift and consignment stores. We have two little boys and see no point in buying clothes, toys, etc. new when they're going to abuse and ruin them anyway--that's part of being a boy! I've been thrifting all my life and introduced my husband to it almost 14 years ago. Now whenever we need anything, we usually either go to thrift, consignment, or pawn shops! :)

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Heather

I shop at Goodwill often. My top 3 things I look for are jackets, books and picture frames.

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Emily Nagle

for everything! I usually check thrift stores first when I need to buy something, and then if I can't find it after a while I'll go to a regular store.

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Varun Narula

Yes, usually for clothes. In a few instances, the clothes have turned to be of good quality and value for money purchases. All in all, its worth the time spent at these stores.

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Rose

I love thrift stores! We have a habit of checking thrift stores when we travel on vacation! Our souveniers are from there or flea markets and are mostly desert plates or small bowls. I also check the bedding section for sheets to make rugs with!

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Christina W

Love them. I was at one yesterday and bought two brand new items, still had the tags!

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Rizalyn Vargas

I love thrift store shopping! Most of my cardigans are from there. I find Goodwill to have the higher "quality" home goods and clothing. Here in Washington, DC, I love frequenting Frugalista (Mount Pleasant neighborhood).

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guest

i shop at thrift stores all the time! It is my favorite thing to do on rainy or otherwise "yucky" days. i try to go when I know they will have a 50% off day, so I save even more! My best buy recently...an almost new Kenmore gas dryer for all of $45 dollars. It works like a charm...and I needed it desperately!!

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Jeanne

Of course! For clothes, thrifting is the best. I love remaking pieces I find into custom threads.

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Rhonda

Yes, I shop them all the time, even when I travel for my job. The best find was a Louis Vuitton messenger bag for $20!

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Love&Light

I shop at thrift stores for clothes. I have been a few different sizes over the past four years and thrifting saves me a lot of money. I shop with a goal. For example, my last trip was to find work pants and business casual short sleeve shirts. This keeps me from becoming overwhelmed.

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Alison Watson

I love to shop at thrift stores. People get rid of so many nice things! I just rescued a 2qt Le Creuset saucepan. The handle on the lid was very loose, which might be why they donated it. I fixed it with a screwdriver, and paid $2 for a practically new pan, which would have cost around $100 in a store.

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Guest

I shop at thrift stores regularly! I love the hunt, and the amazing feeling I get when I find a true gem (like a set of porcelain kitchen canisters) for a bargain price. I'll buy practically anything at a thrift store, I've even purchased underwear (though it did look brand new). I also love the fact that most of the items I buy, especially if they're vintage or older items, are truly one-of-a-kind and I won't see any of my peers wearing it around. Thrift stores are simply great, and I'm glad that some people just "aren't into wearing other people's clothing" because that means there is more for me :)

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Melissa Williams

Yes. I shop at thrift stores. It is usually the first place I look when I need clothes for my kids.

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Mel

I shop for clothes, accessories, and quilting material. Sometimes I find things that have never even been worn.

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Diane

I do shop at thrift stores for some items, such as a nice blazer for me, or suit coats for my sons. I like to look for things that people generally don't use much before getting rid of them. I also look for items like unusual vases or bowls. My sons found a nice set of golf clubs at Goodwill! We're still looking for another set. We like to go to Goodwill stores in nicer neighborhoods where you'll find better quality items.

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Shari C

Absolutely! I shop resale first.

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Yvonne davila

I think the only thing I don't buy at thrift stores are: underwear and food. I most often shop for clothes; however I look at everything.

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C.j.

Yes I surely do shop thrift stores especially for books and clothes. I haven't had much luck furniture wise since many here don't take couches and such because they don't want risk getting bedbugs but I've found a lot of name brand clothes at the thrift store for way less than $5

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Virginia Tharp

YES I DO ESPECIALLY BEING A MOTHER OF 8 CHILDREN, YOU WOULD BE SUPRISED AT ALL THE BARGINS AND THE CLOTHES MOST TIMES ARE LIKE NEW CONDITION :)

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jeannine s

I shop at thrift stores. look for kids clothes and clothes for me, purses (found a brand new vera bradley once that I love)

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Nicole

I love shopping at thrift stores! You can find amazing finds at affordable/cheap prices!!

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Someone's Mom

Oh, yes, I do. It saves money and natural resources. The fabric was already made and sewn together. People have to be employed to sell the garments. Everyone wins.

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Day

i love thrift stores!! best find? $10 Bosu ball!!

Guest's picture

I love thrift stores, and go to one regularly. We've gotten several chairs there over the years. I get a LOT of the kids' shoes there -- hey, they're both under a year and a half at this point. At the price of new shoes for kids, I'll take all the almost-new ones I can get at 75 cents each. :)

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Thrifty Writer

I've shopped at a thrift store once - it was a buy the bag deal, and I walked out with a long bubble coat, two sweaters, a top and a scarf. I wore the coat all last year and part of this year - I need to get the zipper fixed before I wear it again. I wear one of the sweaters, a lambswool Uniqlo cardigan, and have to make the other sweater (a cashmere Lord and Taylor) into a cardigan. The shirt that was too small for me (it was a warehouse free-for-all, so couldn't really try it on) I gave to a friend who was delighted with it. The scarf is a simple but pretty one that I occasionally wear.
I haven't been back to this place since, just because it was quite the scrum - I got the coat because a volunteer saw me looking at coat and threw me one that worked. I've checked out a couple of thrift stores since, and I find that while you might find something great, you have to have more time and patience than I have.

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MR

Is anyone else afraid of bringing home bed bugs?
The only thing I've found at thrift stores is materials for DIY/art projects.

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Lisa Lotti

I shop at thrift shops sometimes, but it actually depends on the shop. I have found some cool ones in Berlin and Hamburg, but there are also some shops that just sell smelly and ready-for-the-bin stuff. What I like about thrift shopping is the overall idea of re-using things: We as a "consumption-generation" consume and throw away so many things after a short time that it makes me happy, that still some people care about re-using things and recycling old stuff.

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Susan D.

Well, I hate shopping in general so no, I don't go to thrift stores. It's not that I won't get second-hand items, but I'll look online if I need specific things, new or used.

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Kelli

I don't shop at thrift stores because, at the ones in my area, I've never seen anything all that great that I need/want that is a really good deal. I also admit I am kind of put off by the cleanliness level of the shops I've been in and the items I've seen.

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Guest

We love shopping at thrift stores. Lately we are looking for vinyl records, like someone else said it's the thrill of the chase. We also pick up computer accessories, clothes, kitchen items, books and other items. I really do not enjoy paying full price for things that I can find used and in good condition. I think that if I ever win the lottery(which won't happen since I don't play) I will still shop at thrift shops!

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Donna

I have been shopping at thrift stores for more than 25 years. In the beginning it was a necessity because my young struggling family needed to stretch our precious dollars as far as possible. Over time, it became an ethical thing. First, I can't stand the thought of living in a disposable world where perfectly usable items are discarded simply because something with a newer motif or color comes along. Second, I work hard for my money and would like to keep as much of it as possible, in my own pocket. I would also be remiss to fail to mention what an absolute thrill it is to find that buried treasure - you know the one - that I have been searching for.

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Rebecca B. A. R.

I love to shop at thrift stores. I usually look for books, but also check out the clothes, furniture, home decor, and all sorts of other things. I have at least 7 shops that I really like to go to, but usually a regularly shop at only 3.

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Bethany

Oh, yes, We get clothes there and also since we have tile floors in the kitchen we often have to get coffee mugs there. I also like to puruse the books, but seldom make a book purchase.

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Lori P

We love to shop at thrift shops around our town. We have even been known to look for them on vacations. We buy clothes, books, furniture, dishes, decorative items, baby items and collectibles.

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Guest

Yes, I shop at thrift stores for clothes.

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Betty D.

I don't shop thrift stores because there aren't any good ones in my area. In the nice weather, I make out great at garage sales.

Guest's picture

Hell ya I shop at thrift stores, they've been my friend for over 30 years now. I just love that you never know what you'll find. Being 6 foot tall woman my chances of finding something in my size is slim, but I find enough cool one of a kind stuff to make it worth while. The savings and supporting local business are the icing on the cake!

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Raina

Yes, just went to Goodwill yesterday and scored a bunch of toys and children's books plus 2 custom-made men's dress shirts for a sewing project. Total spent: $19.97

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Mary in AZ

My best friend and I thrift regularly. She finds fancy designer dresses for cruisewear at $12 each. We call it treasure hunting - you never know what you'll find. I got a pair of petrified wood bookends for $3. My friend bought a nice walker for $10, cleaned it up and sold it on Craigslist for $80.

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Happy Love

It's been a while since I've shopped in a thrift store, but I tend to avoid shopping in F2F stores in general. I tend to buy my second hand items from eBay instead.

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MELISSA HANSSON

Heck yes. More than half my wardrobe is from thrift or consignment shops.

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Rusty

Love shopping at thrift stores. Goodwill is a favorite of mine. Clothes and kitchen items.

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Therese

Yes, I do, and my favorite time to shop at thrift stores is on vacation. I can find lots of unique items at prices I can easily afford. It's really fun to see what different places have :)

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Sandy

I have found many amazing deals!!! It is just one of the many ways I use to be a good steward of my resources.

I Love Thrift Stores!!

Sandy

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Tabathia B

I don't really shop thrift stores, I usually stick to the children's consignment shops

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Catseye

I thrift shop occasionally, when I'm looking for something specfic that I'm reasonably certain I can get there. Last fall, I bought a roller suitcase for $10 at a thrift shop. I needed it because I was flying out of state and I rarely travel. Didn't want to borrow a suitcase because I didn't want to be responsible if it was lost or damaged.

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Guest

Yes, although of course some are better than others. There are 10+ within 5 miles of my house. One I avoid because everything is dirty and/or smells of cigarette smoke. Another is too highly priced- $5 for a used baby t-shirt from Target? No thanks. But a few have some real treasures.

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ashley

I used to but I am trying to pay of some debt so now I don't and the last time I stopped by a thrift store there was a bunch of crap. When I was in college I lived in a much richer county and their thrift stores had great stuff all the time. I guess that's the secret if you're looking for the good stuff.

Guest's picture

Absolutely-I'd be crazy not to! It's like buying a used car vs. a new car...once the tags are off, the value is down.

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DT

Some of my friends and relatives think my shopping at thrift shops is second class. But I say that if you have ever eaten at a restaurant, someone used the plate, sliverware and glassware before you. If you have ever stayed at a hotel someone has used the bedding before you and the spread may not even have been washed since you were there.

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Marcie Lynn Florance

I like to frequent the same few shops over and over at least once a week or even every few days. Make friends with the sales people, let them know what types of items you are interested in. They can call you when some new "goodies" come in that are to your liking! My best bargain was a five dollar brand new JanSport backpack-- we have taken it everywhere! Plus, JanSport has a lifetime guarantee and we have yet to tear it up!! I also collect Fire King dishware and you can find a bargain once in a while... bring cash, go alone, and take your time!