Apparently the American wallet is aching to be taken out for a spin and a slew of people have decided that thrift stores are the best place to do that. I haven’t been to a thrift store in a while, but this weekend I decided to walk down to one while waiting for my oil change. I expected it to be quiet and empty. Boy was I surprised!

The place was packed. The aisles were jammed with stuff. I saw whole families inside. And it wasn’t even a very nice thrift store. It was somewhat messy and cramped. But that didn’t stop these bargain shoppers!

Toys
There were several families with small children at the thrift store. The toys were piled on top of the clothing racks, but I saw several kids toting “new” toys. None of the toys were in terrible shape, so I’m guessing it’s a great place to get a recently hot toy that some other child doesn’t want anymore.

Books
There was a decent selection of books, some of them hardcovers in excellent condition being sold for $2-$3. I saw a few kids in this section, too, looking for the Lightning Thief series.

Clothing
There were several parents in the children’s clothing aisles. If you’re going to buy one thing at a thrift store, this is a good choice. Kids grow out of their clothes so quickly that you can find trendy stuff at bargain prices. Just make sure you check the elbows and knees for wear and examine it for stains. Missing buttons are easily replaced.

Depending on your area, you may also find amazing clothes for adults, including designer clothing and expensive shoes at bargain prices.

Dishes/Home Décor
They had a variety of dishes in decent condition priced $1 and up. I saw platters, fancy wine glasses, matching plates, and some glass knick-knacks. If you’re hosting a party and want real glassware, a thrift store is a fun place to pick unusual choices on the cheap. Recent grads and college students – this is the place to stock up on everything you need. All your friends will have cast-offs and thrift store finds, too, so you’ll be in good company.

TVs/Electronics
I was surprised to see a decent selection of small TVs. They weren’t flat screens, but they’re good options if you need a TV for a guest room or workshop. Some of them may need a digital converter box, so make sure you can turn it on and get an over-the-air signal if you don’t own a box or have cable.

Fabric/Sheets/Comforters
I know from a quilting friend that thrift stores are very popular among quilters and crafters looking for vintage bed linens or unusual fabrics. I saw tons of comforters, sheets, and tablecloths. I even saw what appeared to be several yards of purple organza – perfect for a little girl’s costume. If you’re a crafter or need some inexpensive fabric for any reason, this is the place to go.

Wedding Dresses
I won’t say these wedding dresses were the most fashionable I’ve ever seen, but most of them were clean and in good condition. If you want to make your own dress, consider hitting up a thrift store first. You can use the beads and lace to rebuild the bodice. You might be able to use the skirt and train without too much modification. You’d pay hundreds of dollars for this fabric at another store, so make the most of a thrift store bargain.

Furniture
This particular store was too small to have a significant furniture section, but I once found a microwave stand at a thrift store. Well, actually, it was just a small rolling cart, but it was $10, so I bought it for my microwave. It’s now my “bar.” At Thanksgiving, it was my rolling buffet because I didn’t have enough room on the table. Larger thrift stores are great places to find dressers, couches, and other furniture if you’re willing to put a little work into them, or are a college student on a budget.

If you need to shop, but don’t want to spend a lot, check Yelp for reviews of the local thrift stores and then hit up the largest one. You might find an amazing deal on exactly what you need. I don’t remember Saturday morning, though. That’s apparently the time to shop.

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