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I absolutely adore thrift stores. I remember being five years old and strolling through the Army thrift store with my parents, oogling at all the treasures. Military thrift stores were particularly amazing since military families moved so much and did a lot of purging.

I fell in love with the seemingly endless mountain of new-to-me toys. My parents weren’t very well-off at the time, so I can imagine they loved my love of the thrift store, too!

Two decades later, nothing has changed. I still buy the majority of my possessions from thrift stores.

Any why not? For more than half price I get gently used items that function just fine. After two decades of thrift store loving, I thought I would share my lists of what to buy and what to avoid buying used at the thrift store.

Things I buy used

Clothes

I buy almost all of my clothes from my local thrift store. I used to blow money on new clothes at Kohl’s, but one shopping trip would set me back $200! Wanna guess what an equivalent shopping trip at the thrift store costs?

A mere $13.

buying clothes from the thrift store

I buy shoes, shirts, pants, dresses, and even bras at the thrift store. I know that shoes and bras are a little contentious, but I’ve been wearing them used for years with zero problems. It doesn’t appear that I’ve died from a staph infection yet.

You can use this shoe spray to clean thrifted shoes; a hot cycle in the washing machine with some homemade soap cleans the bras just fine. Hell, that’s how I scored some nice Victoria’s Secret bras for $5. 🙂

Electronics

I do like to purchase some electronics used. Of course, it has to be the right kind of electronic. I’m wary of used TVs and computers, since so much can be wrong with them.

I have, however, bought used game consoles, music players, a Roku, and fitness trackers. Obviously these are hard to find at a thrift store, so I usually opt to buy manufacturer-refurbished items. Often they’re as good as new product, but much more affordable.

If you do snag a manufacturer-refurbished item, make sure the manufacturer includes a reasonable guarantee to replace the item if it doesn’t work.

Books

I have no idea why on Earth I’d ever want to buy a new book ever again. I can swing by the thrift store or Half Price Books to find a great read for just pennies.

Unless a book is waterlogged, marked up like crazy, or has giant bite marks in it, it’s fair game to buy used.

A hyper-frugal option would be to borrow books for free from your library. I love doing this because it reduces the clutter in my home and costs me nothing except tax dollars.

buying used books at the thrift store

DVDs

I like buying DVDs used because they’re expensive, y’all!

I can’t believe that it costs over $20 nowadays to get a DVD at the store. Yikes! My local thrift store sells DVDs for $1 – $5 apiece. Granted, it’s not a great option if you’re looking for a specific movie, but it’s nice to build your collection.

I also like to rent DVDs for free from my library, too.



Video games

For those who don’t know, I am absolutely obsessed with the Pokemon video game. I’ve been playing it for over 20 years and I honestly see no reason to stop now.

The downside is that the new Pokemon games go for $40 apiece. That’s more than I usually care to spend on, well, anything.

Instead, I try to wait a few months after the game comes out to buy it used online. And guess what? Used games work just fine and sell for half price. All because someone opened the box before I did.

Crazy!

Kitchen supplies

I have zero qualms about buying used kitchen supplies. I’ve bought baking sheets, knives, platters, cups, and baking supplies from the thrift store for crazy-low prices.

used thrift store kitchen utensils

My only hesitation is that I probably wouldn’t buy wooden kitchen utensils since they’re harder to sterilize. But generally a hot cycle in the dishwasher should be perfect to clean everything before use.

Purses

I have destroyed every single purse I’ve ever owned. I used to daydream about fancy Dooney and Bourke purses, but then I got real. I put burgers and whole slices of pizza into my purses, for cripe’s sake. They don’t need to be nice at all.

I like to buy used purses at Clothes Mentor. They’re usually really stylish, high quality, and cheap. I haven’t paid more than $10 for a purse in years.

I do clean the purses with either a gentle cycle in the washer or by hand with sterilizing wipes. After all, how do I know the person who had it before me didn’t lick the inside of the purse?

Weird, but it could happen, y’all.

Things I will never buy used

As much as I love buying used items, there are just some things that I can’t buy used.

Underwear bottoms

I feel like this is self-explanatory.

They actually sell underwear at my local thrift store. Although they’re clearly overstock from a department store and come still with their tags on, I just … I can’t. I laughed out loud when I saw a Freecycle listing where someone was giving away used underwear.

I … y’all.

Beauty items

Used brushes or used beauty items of any variety are unsanitary, and often can’t be cleaned or sterilized.

If I can’t verify if a clearance eye shadow palette at Walmart hasn’t been opened, I don’t buy it. Used beauty products are a great way to get a nasty infection. No thank you!

don't buy used beauty items at the thrift store

Mattresses

I know plenty of people who are totally cool with used mattresses. I’m not one of those people.

I’m absolutely terrified of bed bugs, first of all. I’d hate to score a free roadside mattress and then spend $3,000 removing bed bugs.

And, to me, mattresses have that same “ick” factor as underwear bottoms. Worst of all, you can’t really deep-clean a mattress to truly sanitize it. Unless it’s been stored in plastic for its entire life, I pass on used mattresses.

Helmets

My thrift store sells used helmets in one huge pile at the back of the store. I used to think it was a great deal, until Mr. Picky Pincher reminded me that used helmets aren’t safe.

If a helmet has been in a collision or accident before you buy it, it’s essentially useless. You have no way of knowing what’s been knocked around inside the helmet, and the structural integrity (and effectiveness!) is at risk.

Buy a new helmet that you know will protect you.

Fabric furniture

I’m aaaaall about used furniture, y’all. Actually, for the first few years of my adult life, 50% of my furniture came from the garbage. I remember fondly scrubbing an old wooden coffee table to remove duct tape residue, loving the fact that I finally had a table to eat on.

i will never buy a used couch or sofa

Anyway, I know used furniture can be a great deal. I’m more suspicious of used furniture that’s heavily cloth, like sofas. To me, it’s the same issue as a mattress.

You don’t know who was on it, what they were doing, where the couch has been, what’s inside it, etc. I don’t buy anonymous cloth sofas from the thrift store, but I will gladly take them from people I know.

Earrings

Clothes Mentor sells really fabulous earrings. Honestly, I thought nothing of buying used earrings at first.

It wasn’t until my ear piercing got infected (not from used earrings, just from me being gross, I guess) that I realized we need to care for our piercings.

Would you want to put someone else’s belly button piercing in your belly button? Probably not. It’s the same principle for earrings.

If it physically goes inside your body, buy it new.

P.S. And even when you buy new earrings, always be sure to rub them down with alcohol or boiling them after buying!

The bottom line

I’ve learned something funny on my financial journey. Everyone’s comfort zone is different. While I’m comfortable buying used bras, other people probably think that’s insane. It all comes down to what you’re comfortable with doing.

I say as long as you’re safe and reasonably sterile about used purchases, go nuts! Buying new items is significantly more expensive and contributes to our damaging throw-away culture. Save your wallet and the planet by opting for used items when you can.


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