Thrift Score! Thrifting for the Holidays? You Bet.

Really? I hear you asking. Thrifting for holiday gifts? Yes, friends, absolutely. It just depends on how you approach it. There is a huge push in Western consumer culture to buy something new, flawless, in the package (gee, who taught us that? The corporations perhaps?) but there is a lot of treasure out there. You can be green and reuse/repurpose, and stretch your gift-giving dollar as well.

There's a couple of ways to approach thrifting for the holidays, and I will talk about them shortly. One thing I will say, though, is know your recipient. Some people, for whatever reason, would probably never embrace an item that wasn't brand new, in the packaging (and returnable). Obviously, you will have to leave these people off your thrift score list. But do keep those in mind who have a "greener" mindset, or like funky, one of a kind things. I would be quite flattered if a friend knew me well enough to show up with some weird vase or a velvet painting that made them think of me, since I have been an eager thrifting beaver since high school. I like old, funky, loved things, and I am not going to find that at a department store.

 One way to look at holiday thrifting is as a supplement to other things you may be doing for/giving to people. I try to listen to what people are saying throughout the fall, leading up to the winter holidays. If you have a friend that has had a yen for a iron skillet or a wok, see if you can find one and season it for them. Combine this with utensils, flavored oils, or a cookbook, and you have a neat themed present. I was at a thrift store the other day and saw some boys playing on a piano--this would be a more-affordable way to fulfill someone's dream of owning a musical instrument. A piano could come with a certificate for a tuning, and a wind instrument could come with a certificate for a professional cleaning.

Children's items can be a great find at a thrift store. I once found a silver velvet Betsy Johnson dress in size 3T at my neighborhood thrift store for something like four dollars, which my younger daugter has inherited as a hand-me-down. I also find wacky leftover Halloween costumes and other items that make great dress up clothes. Odd items like costumes, dress up clothes, and dance outfits (leotards and the like) are often barely worn because the little buggers grow so fast. Can you think of any little children in your life who would be delighted to find a completely-unexpected horsie costume under the tree? I can think of a few.  

I support local thrift stores, used book shops, and all manner of stores that sell pre-owned goods, but I have to take a moment to mention Goodwill. They have a special place in my heart because of all the job-training they do and the people they help. I was at my local Goodwill recently and noticed that they now offer gift cards in any amount, which I think is so cool. A less-known secret about Goodwill is that they take items from certain department stores if the stores are unable to move items off clearance. BAM! Brand new, never worn items with tags on at thrift store prices.

Another approach to holiday thrifting is to repurpose items found there. Since knitters know that it is a myth that knitting is a "cheap and thrifty" hobby, people often look for other was to continue to produce beautiful handmade gifts for people. I have a friend who takes misshapen, out of style, or just plain ugly sweaters found at thift stores made from nice yarn, unravels them, and reknits them into the gift items she wants. Old frames can be painted or customized and filled with special photos of grandchildren or a trip that you took with a friend. Artist Sherry Wood took cloth-bodied thrift store babies and embroidered tattoos onto them. This is a wild project (I love it), and it makes me think of some of the creative possibilities available with used items. 

Good luck on your holiday hunting, and I'll see you in the racks!

Related Links:

Stacy made produce bags from an old curtain! Awesome. This makes me think that you could make people reusable grocery sacks as well.

Northern Cheapskate lists a billion ideas for repurposing items. Maybe this will give you some ideas.

Angela thrifts for Christmas sweaters and comes home with "12 Days of Christmas" glasses. Thrifting is a great way to prepare for a holiday party.

Magik Quilter makes groovy 1970's sheets into cool bags.

The Thrift Shop Romantic finds funky holiday decor and some history on her latest foray.

SJ also writes at I, Asshole and Uppity Women; she's the one at the thrift store hoarding Mrs. Roper muumuus and macrame plant hangers.

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