Thrift Store Shopping: What to Buy

A while ago, I posted about some certain items that I avoid while thrift store shopping.

Today I thought I’d post the things that I actually look for on a typical thrift store shopping trip, in order to stretch our dollars.

  1. Clothes for the Kids.  Kids outgrow clothing so quickly – it just doesn’t make sense to me to buy things new, unless I can get an amazing deal on clearance.  I just regularly keep an eye open for brand-name clothing in my kids’ sizes.  Here is a great post from a blog I read regularly with some tips on shopping for clothes for your kids.
  2. Party Decorations.  It is unbelievable the amount of unused party decorations people donate to thrift stores.  You might not get lucky enough to find the character decorations your kid wants for his/her party (but then again, you might!), but you can very often find unopened packages of colored crepe paper, balloons, banners, plastic tablecloths, etc. to use alongside a few character decorations you buy new.
  3. Kids’ Books.  Seriously, why buy books new when you can find them at 90% off or more – often in fine condition – at a thrift store?  (and to be honest, usually garage sales are even cheaper!)
  4. Kitchen tools / gadgets.  Your favorite spatula broke?  Vegetable peeler bit the dust?  Accidentally threw out your wisk?  Or, like me, you keep losing your 1/2 teaspoon?  You can find practically new, and if you’re patient, very high quality kitchenware at thrift stores for just a fraction of the cost of new ones.
  5. Craft Items.  Paints, yarn, knitting needles, plastic canvas, fabrics, crafting books, styrofoam shapes, rubber stamps, pipe cleaners, glue sticks, scrapbook albums, you name it.  We’ve bought all of that kind of stuff and more at thrift stores.  I have a stash of craft items that is just ready and waiting for the kids.  Much easier on the wallet this way rather than waiting until they need something and having to run to Michael’s to buy it.
  6. School Supplies.  Just like the craft items and party decorations, you can almost always find unused school supplies.  We’ve found packages of pencils, notebooks, and three-ring binders at thrift stores.  I love finding the binders because they are so expensive to buy new!

And depending on my mood and needs, I just might browse the furniture and the women’s clothing!

Do you have anything on your list that you typically look for at thrift shops?

(and p.s. – if you’re new to thrifting, here are my top tips)



In case any of you friends out there who live locally are thinking about couponing, I thought I’d share a couple of things I’ve learned so far.  I’ve been couponing for almost a year now.

  1. You CAN save money by couponing.  I almost never used coupons in the past because it seemed that even when I had a coupon for a name-brand product, the generic was still cheaper.  And I’m ok with generic!  However, the key to saving money is combining a coupon with a sale (preferably a buy one, get one type of sale), combining a manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon (stacking), taking advantage of stores that double coupons, and stocking up when an item’s price is at its lowest.
  2. You will be discouraged for a few months after starting.  Just accept that!  It took me about 5 months to really feel like I’d hit my stride and started saving money.
  3. You will need to shop at multiple stores.  I know, I know it seems like a waste of time.  I always thought it was!  However, I used to shop two stores every two weeks and buy all I needed for those two weeks (ie.,full carts!).  It would take me a whole afternoon of shopping.  Now I shop at two-three stores per week, but I only buy fewer items at each store.  So I’m really not spending much more time shopping than I was before.
  4. Make your grocery list based on what’s on sale and what you have coupons for.  I think even if I had made the change of just buying what’s on sale (without coupons), I would have saved money.
  5. In our town, generally Walmart matches (and usually beats by a couple of cents) the sale prices in our Tops Markets weekly ad.  You can use this to your advantage when you’re not earning Tops gas points by still using the Tops ad to determine what’s on sale and what you’re going to buy – then simply go shopping at Walmart.  It’s simple to get the price matched – just show the cashier the competitor’s ad and she can change the price at the register.
  6. Definitely take advantage of Tops gas points.  You CAN fill up two vehicles in one transaction to get up to the 30 gallon limit (even though the sticker on the gas pump says you can’t.)  Trust me, I asked the manager at Tops.
  7. I generally don’t buy things unless I have a coupon (with the exception of a few items that don’t keep well – like milk, butter, eggs, etc.).  If it’s not a necessity, it doesn’t get bought unless I have a coupon.  If it is a necessity, I make sure I buy it at the store with the lowest price.
  8. Set up a spot in your house for storage of items you stock up on.  I have a cabinet in my basement just for this purpose and I love it.  When an item is at it’s lowest price, and you’ve got coupons – bingo!  Stock up!
  9. Never buy a pillsbury refrigerated dough item without a coupon!!!  There are ALWAYS  coupons available for these!!  🙂
  10. I always thought that buying in bulk at BJs was the cheapest option.  But it’s not necessarily true, especially compared to buying something on sale at Tops with either stacked or doubled coupons.  Take your calculator with you to check!  The only ways I’ve gotten better deals at BJs is this – stack a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon, AND you can use a manufacturer coupon for each item in the package if they have individual bar codes.
  11. The Dollar Tree has Sunday papers for $1, but you have to get there at 9 am when they open or they’ll sell out!
  12. Always, always, always check your paper for the coupon inserts before you buy.  At the beginning, twice I bought papers and didn’t realize until I got home that the inserts had been removed before I bought them.  Boo.
  13. Start couponing with a goal of how much you’d LIKE to spend weekly on groceries.  It is tempting at the beginning to buy things you think are a good deal and fill your pantry… and overspend your “budget”.  Most likely you’ll find the item at an even lower price a few weeks later!  (this happened to me several times at the beginning).  To combat this, stick to your budget and bide your time as you get to know what are REALLY the lowest prices.  I recommend keeping a price list, where you list the date/store/lowest price you’ve seen on items you buy regularly.  This way you can be sure you’re getting the item at the lowest price.
  14. Here are some links to websites I like for coupon matchups (especially for you local readers!):

Tricia’s Frugal Finds – great Tops matchups and local savings info

Coupons for Your Family – I like the coupon database here!

For The Mommas – I use this site for CVS matchups

Cuckoo for Coupon Deals – great K-mart coupon matchups

A couple of these website offer great basic info on couponing – so also take advantage of it!

Have fun couponing!  Let me know if you have any specific questions.  I am definitely not an expert, but I might have wondered the same thing and tracked down an answer already!


Thrift Store Shopping Tips

A while back, I promised some tips on thrift store shopping.

Then I forgot about it.


But then I remembered.  Yay me!

So here are my tips.

  1. Scope out the thrift stores in your local area.  Know which ones tend to have more of the brands you like.  I really only started buying at thrift stores a few years ago.  Prior to that, I wasn’t really into name-brand anything because, well, I’m cheap.  But after having bought some stuff from thrift stores (for cheaper than I can get at Wal-mart!), I have a few brands I like and I keep my eyes open for those.  You can find anything at a thrift store!  Maximize your savings by buying things you normally wouldn’t be able to afford at full price!
  2. Most thrift stores have “sale” days – get to know when those are!  For example, my local Salvation Army Family Store has clothes & shoes 50% off on Wednesdays.  Some other thrift stores have frequent shopper programs – find out about them and take advantage!
  3. Don’t be afraid, especially when buying kids’ clothes – to buy off-season or at least at the end of the season for the following year.  Often these items are discounted even more.
  4. Inspect the quality of EVERYTHING before you buy.  Look for stains, tears, cracks, holes, missing buttons, etc.  Sometimes you’ll find something that’s minor and easily fixed, but sometimes not.
  5. Buy ahead.  If you know that you’ll eventually need an item (even if not right away), start scouring thrift stores right away.  Thrift stores are like garage sales – you may or may not find what you want on a particular day.  I’ve been looking for an Easter dress for my 11 year old for about 3 months now.  I haven’t been able to find anything that would fit her, that she would like, and that didn’t have spaghetti straps (is it just me, or are these inappropriate for 11-year olds?).  Then finally last week I walked into the Volunteers of America store and found not one, but three dresses that were what I was looking for!  For 3.99 each – and all were name brands.  Bottom line – be patient!!
  6. Be willing to travel.  We have three thrift stores and two church thrift shops locally.  And that doesn’t even include a used book store and a Habitat for Humanity Re-store!  (and I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting something else, too)  But there are lots more thrift stores within an hour’s drive.  Some of those have better quality clothing, but are also more expensive.  Some have more furniture than others, some have more clothing.  It’s good to be aware of this so that you can head to the right store when you know what you need!
  7. Know your price!  If you don’t know what something costs new, then you don’t really know if you’re getting a good deal!  Don’t assume that just because it is at a thrift store that you’re getting it cheaper!  Several times I’ve seen stuff that I know I could get cheaper new at Wal-mart.
  8. Try on the clothing (if possible) before you buy.  It’s so tempting to just go ahead and buy it because it’s so cheap.  But I’ve been burned by that so many times – and it adds up! – that now I rarely buy clothing without trying it on.
  9. Try on the shoes (BOTH OF THEM) before you buy!  I heard of someone who bought a pair of suede boots in nearly perfect condition.  She tried on one and it fit perfectly, so she bought them.  When she got home, she realized that she had bought two left boots!  And she cried and cried.  (OK, I admit, it was me.  I didn’t really cry, but I was soooo bummed because I had been looking for boots forever!)
  10. If you’re buying CDs – open up the case and make sure there is a CD in there, make sure it’s the right one, and then make sure it’s not scratched!!  (again, personal experience!)
  11. If possible, plug in electronic items and test them out before buying.

I’m curious, do you have any tips for thrift store shopping?  Please share them!

Happy Shopping!

Tips, Please!

I just started couponing about three weeks ago.

I’m focusing on CVS and groceries (between Tops, WalMart and BJs).

And I feel like it’s not going well.

I’ve bought papers.  They haven’t had all the coupon inserts.  (Lesson number 1 for me – don’t buy until you make sure everything’s there!!)

I thought I was getting a good deal at Tops.  Until I went to Walmart and saw that the prices were the same as the Tops sale prices!! 


Please, please, please.  If you have any couponing tips, let me have ’em!

Free Movies!

This is so awesome!  If you’re looking for things to do with the kids this summer… check this out!

Regal Theatres has a Free Family Film Festival this summer, with select movies showing free at 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  There are a couple of theatres in both Rochester and Buffalo participating.  You can see schedules at the following link:

Happy Summer!

Do U Send Christmas Cards?

I do!  I love good old-fashioned Christmas cards!  But it can be a lot of work.  And a lot of money if you add Christmas photos of the family!

Here’s a link to an awesome website I’ve been visiting a lot lately (and getting some great money-saving tips!).

But even better than that… click on the link below and it will tell you how to get 100 photo cards for free (well, you do have to pay shipping and handling!).

I’m so psyched about this deal because it is going to save me a lot of money this Christmas!  Hope it can help you, too!

TTAH Tuesday – Big Savings

Happy Tuesday!

Today is the first day of school, and because I’m enjoying my time alone with my littlest one, I’m going to make this short!

I found this website over the weekend and thought I’d pass it along to you.  It has great links to free stuff, online coupon codes, and links to printable coupons as well.

Try it out and save big!!