Frugal nirvana at the thrift shop.

thToday is National Thrift Store Day, which I’d forgotten. Strictly by coincidence I wound up discussing secondhand shops with my younger great-nephew, who is far more stylish than I.

B waxed rhapsodic while describing the leopard-print winter jacket he recently got at Value Village. Just $8 to be both warm and cool at the same time.

He also recently bought some really high-topped Converse sneakers (think “mid-calf”) there, along with a T-shirt emblazoned with cartoon sushi and a simple summer frock.

(B is a gender non-conforming kid who’s been wearing “girl” clothes full-time for several years, although his older brother explained to me that there’s no such thing as girl clothes or boy clothes.)

He loves the variety as well as the price. Where else is an 8-year-old in Anchorage, Alaska, likely to find affordably priced black Dr Martens boots of shiny patent leather black with pink stitching and laces?


Personally, I’m built for comfort, not for speed. It’s been a couple of years since I bought any clothes for myself, other than a short-sleeved blouse ($2.99) for a conference and a $4.99 pair of new-to-me jeans, both acquired at Value Village. Then again, I spend most of my days in sweatpants and T-shirts.

Despite our wildly disparate fashion senses, my nephew and I fit the same profile of the majority of secondhand shoppers. According to a recent survey by the Savers chain of thrift stores, 76 percent of Americans hit la segunda for two reasons:

  • The price is right.
  • It feels like a treasure hunt.

About four in 10 shoppers cite the importance of finding “unique items.” I believe that’s where B’s leopard jacket and black-and-pink Docs come in, although those could also be considered treasure-hunt spoils.


This is not a sponsored post

Nearly three-fourths of those surveyed (73 percent) enjoy the “sustainability” factor. Some 46 percent of shoppers seek out recycled or sustainably produced products outside of thrift stores.

That was one of the things I mentioned to B today: “I like the fact that these things are getting another chance to be used instead of just being thrown in the dump.”

His mom takes her two kids to Value Village all year long, which jibes with another survey factoid: More parents than non-parents (86 percent vs. 71 percent) shop at thrift stores.

And I learned something else new: Virtually all children’s items (99.5 percent) are priced below $9.99 at Savers thrift stores (which includes Unique Thrift Store, Savers, Village des Valeurs and, yes, Value Village).

Just read back what I’d written and realized that this sounds like a sponsored post. It isn’t. Savers isn’t paying me to write about its 330 stores. I really do like Value Village stores that much. You find the darnedest things there and the prices are definitely right, especially if you go during the periodic half-price days.

Yes: half-price sales at thrift shops. Frugal nirvana. Sometimes you can even get it in leopard.

Readers: Do you shop at thrift stores and if so, do you buy only for yourself or for others? What’s your best-ever find?


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  1. I know you aren’t quite there yet, lol. But FYI at least in our neck of the woods Tuesday is senior day and 25 percerntvoff everything. Thursday is membership day-yep the now have preferred cards.

  2. Holly S

    We got Savers about a year ago. I am highly NOT impressed. poor quality stuff priced WAAAAAY to high.

    However, I do reguarly shop (esp on 0.69 Saturdays) at my 2 local Salvation Army stores and a few times/year at Goodwill.

    The last thing I bought new is a pair of black Reeboks. I MUCH prefery my shoes & underthings new.

    • Donna Freedman

      That’s too bad about the Savers in your neighborhood. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the stores in Seattle and Anchorage.

      Just remembered a thrift store (now closed) in Seattle that offered “10 Cent Tuesday.” For a while my daughter was buying baby outfits for a dime and re-selling them on eBay.

  3. Cindy Brooks

    I frequent thrift stores for myself, my home, and my grandson. Best find ever…We were taking a younger grandson to Disneyland. I bought a like new amazing stroller for $5 and saved $84 on rental fees. We used it several times after that, too!

  4. LOVE, LOVE thrift stores!! I usually shop them for re-selling, though. It’s amazing what people get rid of.
    For my best score: I bought a pen for 99 cents and sold it for 20.00. (I’ve had better flips from garage sales.) I wish we had a Value Village; it’s Goodwill, Salvation Army and St. Vinnies for us.

    • Donna Freedman

      I bought some stuff from the St. Vincent de Paul in Seattle, including a clock radio for 39 cents (it worked just as well as a new alarm clock) and a lot of canning supplies. No branch here in Anchorage, but there is a tiny thrift shop down the street run by a Catholic church that I like popping into now and then.

  5. Cathy in NJ

    On vacation last week we stopped in a thrift shop, where we bought a super cute leopard pajama with a hood and ears. My daughter is going to wear that for Halloween and PJ day at school.
    A great find at a veteran’s thrift, Red, White and Blue, was a polo shirt from the hotel we honeymooned at. The shirt was perfect and $3.99. It cost $80 in the hotel gift shop. Nice souvenir a year later.
    Over the years I have bought tons of thrift shop clothes for my daughter. When she outgrew everything about every 9 months, jeans and shoes especially, thrift shopping was the only way to keep on budget.
    Around Central Jersey there are some 1st rate consignment shops, Greenstreets, church based thrifts, Goodwill, Veterans thrift and of course the Salvation Army.

  6. I have always donated my unwanted stuff to thrift shops because “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure”! I must admit that I had my first shopping experience last week when my bff says do you have a problem if I stop…I find some of the nicest name brand clothes for little to nothing ~ I say, I am gamed your driving. I scored with 2 mid size corelle bowls for .79 each. At the Corning Store they sell for $7.99….I felt like I just saved a million bucks on something I needed 🙂

  7. My new to me house is being furnished from Thrift Stores. I have the dining table of my dreams, seats 10 with all the leaves for $19.99. Matching oak chairs are being picked as I see them. Even when we go on a trip, I do a little thrift shop research and find at least one in the area.

    • Donna Freedman

      I like going to thrift stores in other towns (that “treasure hunt” thing again). When my niece brought the boys to see me in Seattle she bought dozens of things from Value Village (and the Dollar Tree) to take home. I was amazed how much she was able to stuff into her suitcases — but then again, Alaskans are very good at both packing and shipping.

  8. Linda G

    I very rarely shop thrift stores for several reasons. First, in my college town, they are scoured clean of anything “cool” as soon as it comes on to the floor. Secondly, I’m a very leggy 5’10” and need longs/talls in most things – something that very rarely shows up at thrift shops. Finally, we have SO many in our town of 108,000 (I think there are at least five true thrift shops, four consignment stores and several more that are “frugal find” kind of places) that no place is a one-stop shop – in order to find something good, you probably need to go to ALL of them.

  9. I used to love thrift stores (and consignment stores) and still shop hem with my husband when we can. I refuse to shop Goodwill, though, since I learned that they pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage to work in their stores.

    I broke my streak last year when I desperately needed some new pants, but for many years, just about all my clothes aside from socks and underwear were either hand-me-downs or bought secondhand. I seemed to have a magpie eye for finding really striking clothes and jewelry and creating distinctive outfits.

    I love thrift store prices, but I also love saving things from the landfill and feeling like I’m making a difference for our planet. A lot of times, older stuff is of higher quality and lasts longer.

    I can’t narrow down a single “best” deal, but we often score 100% cotton sheets and tablecloths, and occasionally even find linen. *So* much nicer than synthetics!

    • Sherry, thanks so much for that comment about Goodwill. I had no idea that was their practice, and I will not be shopping there any more. Great post, as usual, Donna!

    • Donna Freedman

      I’ve found wool sweaters (which last forever), good-quality jeans (which last for quite a while), nice coats and sweatshirts, an office chair, a couple of file cabinets, kitchenware and, of course, tons of books. One of my favorite Christmas gifts to give was a still-shrink-wrapped puzzle of a detail of the Sistine Chapel ceiling: Priced at 69 cents, it became mine for 35 cents on half-price day. The person who received it had no idea of its provenance.

      I looked up the info on Goodwill paying sub-sub-minimum wage to disabled workers and that was pretty disappointing to me. When I worked at the Anchorage paper I did an article about a young man with Down syndrome who worked at a supermarket, creating take-and-bake pizzas all day long. He said his friends out in the Aleutians were envious of him because he had his own apartment and a job and a social life (dances and parties at The Arc). I bet they were.

  10. Jeannette Cockroft

    I love thrift stores and live in a retirement town with at least a dozen of them. I buy all my professional wardrobe in these places-and that includes silk blouses and a wonderful two piece silk dress that with alterations and dry cleaning cost me about 50.00. Love it!!

  11. Susan in AK

    Yes I shop at thrift stores for myself and my grandchildren. My best find so far is a copper mixing bowl, $150, for $2.50.

  12. jestjack

    In this neck of the woods Goodwill dominates. And sadly their prices have went up accordingly. Many times you can buy an item new at Kohls cheaper than at Goodwill….true story. I have purchased cargo shorts in the past to work in but lately….”slim pickings”….

  13. I am a frequent thrift store shopper. I was thrilled when they opened a new one just down the road from my house.

    I needed some new forks to replenish the supplies in my office (I hate using plastic forks and many of my metal ones have wandered off over the years). So I headed out and found a huge bag of mostly forks, a few knives and spoons and three actual silver spoons! They were filthy and needed a good soak and cleaning, but are in heavy use now. Honestly, I think they are better quality than those that I use in my home…

    While I was there, I found enough shirts to do a “back to school” wardrobe update for myself, some new gym t-shirts, and a really nice dress jacket. I even picked up a couple of cotton dresses to wear around the house for the rest of the summer (they are cooler than shorts for me).

    Now if I can just find a good winter coat. Apparently my current coat makes me look homeless…

  14. Is it a need or a want

    recently Goodwill did an advertisement where they stated up here ( Canadian city) they run as a non profit with fair wages.
    I shop at one close to one of my children’s school along with a Value Village in the neighbourhood. VV prices are higher and they contract with charities for the charities to phone and gather the donated items They are a for profit store that a family in the U.S. started.
    On the other hand though it is more time consuming I choose to do my donations to Thrift store run by volunteers for a variety of causes I would support. Some of the thrift donations go to a few programs that assist in furnishing ( homes, goods and clothing) to individuals on assistance or with marginal supports.

    • Donna Freedman

      I don’t know how Value Village works in Canada but here in Anchorage some of the proceeds go to The Arc, which helps people with developmental disabilities.

      And interestingly, it’s Goodwill whose prices went way up in Seattle. When its new store opened not far from where I lived I was very excited, but found that I was paying surprisingly high prices for used items.

      In either case, though, I enjoy giving items another shot at usefulness.

      Thanks for reading and for leaving a comment.

  15. LOVE LOVE LOVE the thrift store! I think I shop more than I donate 🙂
    My best finds have to be, redid my guest bathroom last year – the accessories/ decor was all “thrifted” from local shops for less than $20 – when people compliment the decorating style (none of it matches, but it all ties together) , i tell them it’s “thrift store chic”!

  16. seadevi

    It’s fine to shop at Savers and Value Village, but I no longer donate items to them since hearing about how they mislead the public & pocket profits that should go to charities: http://www.mi-reporter.com/news/305759221.html

  17. I have been a devoted thrifter for years. I started thrifting right out of college when I needed suits and other professional attire on a limited budget.

    I have had so many great “scores”..I had several St John knit suits each retailing for over $500 each. One was brand new, from the previous season and I paid $6!

    However I think my best deal was the brand new, still with the price tags, Ungaro dress. Original price was $1700!!

  18. Jennifer B

    I love my local thrift store! I shop there for everyone, you never know what you will find. I have picked up china pieces to make candles for my MIL, Halloween costumes for the family, CDs, furniture, etc… I have a one-year-old so it has been a lifesaver for children’s clothes and toys.

    My favorite finds have been an antique beer stein for $1 and a children’s onesie/hat set with the cutest monster design for $0.80. My little one had horns for months!

  19. Make Do Mom

    I have to give a shout-out to Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. They have the best stuff at great prices and super volunteer workers. I’ve recently furnished two rooms very nicely for next-to-nothing prices. My best find is a very gently used Clayton Marcus sofa for $70 that came complete with a quarter under the cushions. (grin)

    • Donna Freedman

      I’ve bought stuff from the Anchorage Re-Store. It’s a true treasure hunt. Recently DF bought a 40-gallon trash can for $1 and turned it into a rain barrel. My friend Linda B. bought furnace flashing and made jewelry out of it.

    • I agree! The Habitat ReStore in my tiny Florida town is the best.

  20. I’ve been buying clothes and books at thrift stores since high school. It had the added benefit of driving my mother wild, since she didn’t like my choices (men’s shirts to wear with jeans). But I think men’s shirts are often of better quality fabric, and the thinnest, coolest shirts I’ve ever had were all made for men. And when they cost no more than two dollars, it’s hard to worry about how much I’ve spent on my wardrobe. I guess I was dressing for downward mobility back then. Or gender equilibrium, maybe. Even now, I occasionally find a wonderfully thin cotton shirt at a thrift store to wear in summer.

  21. Cakester

    I love thrift stores! When I visit my aunt, who lives in a bigger city than I, we go to all the thrift stores. Incidentally, thrifting is also her hobby. Recently I got some GRE prep books, only a year older than current, for $1 each. My favorite score ever was probably a designer purple silk blouse.

  22. Holly S

    Forgot in my previous post:

    My late DH was a thrift shop NUT. Wherever we went he always found the flea markets, charity resale stores & Salvation army.

    Best ever find was my DD2’s XMIL. DD2 & now XDH were taking their 2 y/o son on his first cruise. XMIL found an ENTIRE toddler size tux for elegant night for him. He ctually was able to use it on 2 cruises 18 month apart.

  23. Jacqui B.

    My teenage daughter and I shop Goodwill about once a month. Her fav finds have been a Walt Disney World sweatshirt and a t-shirt from the Broadway show Wicked (which she wore to school yesterday). Each was only $3-$4!

  24. I don’t buy many clothes at thrift shops because I dislike “the hunt” for clothes, but my dislike extends to non-thrift stores too. However, I love the thrift store for almost everything else, like furniture and appliances. I have a sofa bed from SalVal and a toaster oven. I ended up not using the toaster oven much, so back to SalVal it went. That sofa bed has given many a guest a good night’s sleep. My sister finds many toys at church bazaars including a mermaid and Buzz Lightyear which delighted my nieces.

  25. My local favorites are Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, and a store run by a Christian school in town. Our Goodwill stores are overpriced (and no half price days!) – not like what I remember from my teen years back home.

    It’s hard to pick a favorite score. I prefer to thrift for most clothes as it’s just as hard to find things I like as in full price shops, but I can justify the cost of experiments better. 🙂

    Also, it’s garage sale season. Is that a thing in Alaska?

    • Donna Freedman

      Garage sales are definitely a thing in the summer. I’ve gone to a community-wide garage sale this year, where I scored a bag of books for $2, a seemingly new “Zombies Just Want Hug” sweatshirt (birthday gift for my nephew), and an assortment of small things (origami book and paper, doll-sized tea set, et al.) that will become small gifts or stocking stuffers. I believe I spent $8 all told.

      Lately I haven’t been buying much of anything anywhere, but I do like browsing at garage sales/thrift stores every now and then. It’s that treasure-hunt adrenaline rush — treasure, of course, being in the eye of the beholder.

  26. My best score was a book, Liberace Cooks, for $2. Which I then sold on the net, for $39.

  27. At this point, most of my closet is full of clothes that my friend, H, gave me after cleaning out her own closet. Most of my shoes are from her too. A dozen other favorites are things my mom or mother-in-law bought for me. The rest are items I bought myself at Goodwill and the resale clothes shop near my house. I have purchased retail clothes for myself about 6 times in the last 3 years and it’s been undergarments, a couple of blouses on super sale, and a swimming suit. I’m a huge fan of thrift stores! Huge!

  28. Kristin

    I certainly do shop at thrift stores, mostly for myself, sometimes for my nephew and husband, often for housewares and miscellaneous stuff. Just this past weekend at a 50% off “back to school” sale at our local Rescue Missions I bought a blazer and two tops, all new with tags, plus a skirt and another top that did not have tags but were still in excellent (probably not worn more than a couple of times) condition, all for $23!

    My best ever find….may have been an Oneida Silver teapot for $6. Probably turn-of-the-20th century. Or a Syracuse China teacup for 35 cents. Gee, I wonder if anyone can figure out where I live…..

  29. Just found your site Donna and I am looking forward to reading more.

    I love thrift stores and I frequent them when I can. It can become a little out of hand if we don’t remember not to buy things we don’t actually need just because they are cheap.

    Just my thoughts. Enjoyed the post.

    Laura Beth


  1. When good deals become hoarder bait. - Surviving and Thriving | Surviving and Thriving - […] Frugal nirvana at the thrift shop […]

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