“You are ALWAYS at the right place at the RIGHT time!” I get this comment a lot from friends and family, and I’ve thought a lot about its truthfulness. Am I just lucky? Do I have this magnet that draws me to the D.I. (Utah’s version of Goodwill) on days that they have great items?

My answer is simple. I GO to the RIGHT place (a lot) and HOPE for the right time.

Here is my guide to shopping at thrift stores:

#1. Go to the right places
In order to be there at the right time, you need to frequently go to the right places. In fact, these stores tend to be my favorite places. I have friends that say, “Every time I go to the D.I., I never find anything.” Here is my reaction to that attitude. How often do you go? The truth is, I go to the D.I. at least once a week. No kidding. I try to go more. If you increased your chances, the odds are in your favor. A lot of times I run into the store when my hubby waits in the car with the kids. I run in…I run out. In fact, if I drive passed the D.I. I rarely don’t stop. I figure if I’m already right there, it will only take 5 minutes to stop and check out the furniture section.

#2. Don’t get discouraged and give up.
I would guess that I go to the D.I. at least 80 times a year. Do I find items there every time I go, nope. But, instead of getting discouraged and say, “I’m NEVER coming back here.” I say look at it as a challenge and think, “I bet I find something next time.” In order to find gold, you have to go to the gold mine. (Do you like my analogy.) When someone takes items to a place like D.I., they no longer want them. The truth is, a lot of these items are GOLDEN to me. Especially the stuff that is OLD and has lots of character.

For example, these chairs were $4.00 each. I was instantly in love with them. I gave them a minor face lift, spent a few bucks on paint and fabric, and they are always a hit when people see them.
#3. Don’t know what you are looking for? Get ideas and duplicate it.
Not everyone has the ability to see an item and know it has potential. That is where you get an idea from someone or something and duplicate it. :) That is why we started All Things Thrifty, we WANT people to use our ideas.

#4. Have patience

If you have something in mind that you are looking for, be patient. This one is hard for me. I’ve been gathering dining room chairs for several months. I want all my chairs around my kitchen table to be different. But, I want them all to be full of character. Slowly and surely I search for these items. But, if you don’t have patience, you tend to buy something that won’t give you the end result you are going for. If you wait, you will find what you are looking for.

#5. When you find it, DON’T HESITATE… BUY IT!
If you hesitate to buy your item, it WILL NOT be there when you come back tomorrow. In fact, it will probably not be there when you come back in an hour. I have left the store many times and returned to find that the item I couldn’t stop thinking about was already gone. Even if you don’t have a way to get the item home, I would still buy it and come pick it up later. They can put a tag on the item with your name on it. All you do is pay for it and come back and get it when it is convenient.

#5. If the price is too high, ASK them to lower it.
This one takes a little bit of guts. I’ve done this several times, but I do it strategically. I’ve gone into the D.I. and seen an item that is completely overpriced. It sits there and sits there and sits there for weeks. The item may be cool, but I am not spending $75.00 on it. So, after a few weeks, they tend to lower the prices anyway. You can tell if an items price has been changed because they usually just put another sticker on top of the original sticker. So, when you find an item that has three stickers, you know that the price has been changed several times. This is an ideal time to ask for a lower price. You need to ask someone with the authority, but they usually agree that the item has been there for a long time, and they are glad to get it off their hands. :)

#6. Make sure the item is in good shape.
You need to thoroughly inspect your items to be sure that it is worth buying. I love the older items because they seem to be made well. If you are buying a chair, make sure that you sit in it before you buy it to make sure it is comfortable, do all four legs hit the floor…etc. If you are buying a dresser, check EVERY drawer to be sure that the hardware is in tact and that the drawers close and open properly. If you buying a chair to reupholster, make sure that the springs are in good shape. It only takes a minute, and it will be better in the long run.

#7 Don’t buy an item and let it sit in your garage…ha ha (OK this is a joke).
I’m telling MYSELF this! Don’t buy an item that you won’t use, or that you don’t need. This is my weakness sometimes. I am lucky because I can see the “vision” of items quickly. But, sometimes I have to convince myself to work on the projects that I already have before I get more.

#8 Have fun!
You may think I’m a total dork for including this, but for me getting a bargain is a TON of fun. Granted, thrift store shopping is not for everyone, and I get that. But, it is so much fun to get SWEET items for $4.00. I get butterflies (no kidding).

Maybe I’ll see you at D.I. now that you’ll be going more often. :)


  1. says

    You are so right about patience and vision. Without those two you may as well go shop in a big box store and spend much more for a lot less character 😉

  2. says

    I love these chairs and what you've done with them… simply stunning!!!
    I blogged a necklace I got for $5, I thought that was a bargain… I guess you beat me with this chair!

  3. says

    I'm the same way, I get butterflies when I find a good deal. I do get frustrated with the prices at D.I. I find the best deals at yard sales and on KSL. Thanks for inspiring!

  4. says

    It is a treasure trove … for sure!!! A few months ago I almost paid full price for a Pampered Chef Cookie press, but forgot to place my order. Anyhow, last week I came across one at the DI – in perfect condition for a few dollars!!! YAY! I don't go quite as often, but I always seem to find some treasure when I do! (and I love to always bring a bag of donations with me as often as I go!)

  5. Cottage Cheese Thighs says

    I would love to know which DI you go to – I wanted to make my own cupcake stand and they wanted $3 for one plate! I had better luck at the dollar store

  6. says

    Oh if only there were better thrift stores where I live! Please take a moment to check out my blog where there is something nice for YOU (well both of you really)
    Thanks for all you do! Love the blog

  7. Laura H says

    You are absolutely right! I have been searching for the "right" kind of matching baskets for a couple weeks. Finally some came in at the DI. They wanted $5.00 each. I ask the manager if I could have them for $5.00 for both. He said Yes!. Got them home and found price tags still on them for $36.00 each from another store. I'm still waiting on a great deal for some shelves. I can wait.

  8. says

    Oh you lucky Utah-ians. There are zero thrift stores in the DC area with $4 chairs. $75 too much for thrift store furniture? Join me at the Salvation Army here for a room full of $300 thrift store items. I got my dresser there about 7 years ago and considered myself lucky at $100 – half price. Woe is the East Coast thrifter…

  9. says

    I'm just finding this link because you linked to it from your most recent post in redecorating your $4 dining room chairs. I absolutely LOVE thrift stores! It's my absolute favorite place to visit! Like what you said, I go at least once a week, and on the days when they have 25% off days, and on holidays when furniture is 50% off. I get teased often by people that I am turning into a hoarder (ahem–your #7 tip, lol).

    And I NEVER leave without finding something. I just blogged about the awesome $12 table I found at the thrift store, that I am currently sanding down and plan to stain a red mahogany.

    To the person that said they never find $4 chairs here in the DC area, not true! I live in this area, and you would be surprised the stuff I score! It's addicting! :)

    Anyhow, check out my blog to see the table and the other awesome stuff I find!

    From House to Home

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