Thursday, April 29, 2010

Creative thrift store shopping

Ready to go to the thrift store or a garage sale? Put on your creative thinking cap first.

Sometimes second hand shopping is a lost cause when you can't find what you want or think you want. Those times, just a change of viewpoint can make things look altogether different.

Cast in point: Some time back I went looking for a new vase. I needed one for the table. Nothing fancy but nothing ugly, either. I looked and looked and didn't find a thing, so I gave up. (When I say I gave up, it doesn't mean I went to a retail store and paid full price for it; it means that I quit looking and did without for awhile.)

A few weeks later I was browsing a garage sale table with nothing in particular on my mind when a copper teakettle caught my eye. I suddenly envisioned it filled with fresh daisies - and voila! my new vase was in front of my eyes for a mere twenty five cents.

Looking at things creatively sometimes means seeing them for what they are and not for what they seem to be. The teakettle seemed to be a container to heat water on the stove. It really was just a container, period. A container that could be used for anything that would fit.

On the same wavelength: Sheets are big pieces of material. What do you need? A tablecloth? Curtains? Material for a new dress or shirt? There it is.

A coffee cup can hold celery or carrot sticks at dinner, or it can hold flowers or a small houseplant. It can hold pens and pencils, short knitting needles and crochet hooks or any number of things.

A pretty book that you don't even want to read becomes a door stop or a booster seat for a child.

It doesn't have to be what it looks like it is. It can be just what it really is... a container, a solid rectangle, a sheet of material.

Creatively... do you shop like that?


  1. Actually, today my family and I did shop like that. My 16-y.o. needed to make a project about the holocaust. We went to the Goodwill and found a men's shirt that she could easily paint stripes on to resemble the uniforms worn in concentration camps. I didn't have any scraps of yellow material to make a Star of David patch, but we went to the toddlers' clothing section of the same thrift store and found a piece of yellow clothing that would work just as well. Saved us a trip to the fabric store!

  2. Hmmn..what you just said about garage sales is so true!!Sometimes it feels as though Im just sifting through useless stuff at some garage sales but I guess thinking creatively would shift my perspective on what to buy. Cool stuff.

  3. Yep, that's what I mean! See it for what it is. :)

  4. FrugalCollegeKid, we've become so accustomed to seeing things in certain roles that sometimes it takes a little work to see them for what they really are.

  5. I think shopping creatively is such a fun think to do. At out look highstreet there are 3 charity shops - I guess that is what you would call a thrift store. There is a big trade in the UK in charity store for books. Many people go to these places to get second hand books rather than go to a big book store.

    I love all the crazy things you can find that other people have thrown away.

    Being frugal can be fun!

    Fru xxx

  6. You're right, Frugaller. Being frugal can be a lot of fun!

  7. I know...I know....some of us are still in winter weather(we know you guys are tough!) and we are only beginning to approach warmer weather but being of the frugal mind that I am don't forget to look for your Christmas gifts at yard sales and thrift stores. Well why not? This is the time of year when we are most relaxed just browsing so why not be on the look out for those gifts? My daughter picked up a beautiful gravy boat just this weekend for only $3.00. She is envisioning it on her Mother-In-Laws table gracing those special dinners she has ever Sunday! Why not think about what your list for gift giving is and as you leisurely browse try to find what it is that would make your gift special. Forget the rush and rumble of trying to buy gifts at marked up prices just to have something under the tree in December instead as you look and browse you may find those perfect gifts and decorations too at a fraction of the cost! Save your money and when the cold weather makes you turn your collar up again this Fall you'll have a warm glow in your heart knowing you've taken care of business painlessly as well. Don't forget that as the fruit of summer comes into bloom you can make your own jellies, jams and sauces for gift giving next season. Why not?

  8. Good advice, "Anonymous." I shop for Christmas and other gift giving occasions year 'round.

  9. Such excellent ideas! There are so many creative treasures to be found in thrift stores and at rummage sales! I'm addicted to the search, but have to limit myself!! I love to find great fabric in thrifted skirts. If the style is right, there is a lot of usable fabric and often, there is a lining that can also be used. Linens, cottons and silks that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive if purchased new on the bolt can be had for a couple of dollars. And I don't feel too bad cutting into them as they are cheap and used.

    Wool skirts can also be purchased for a fe dollars and cut into strips to be used for rug making.


  10. Good examples, Bette. If you're knitter or crocheter, you can sometimes find hand made sweaters than can be taken apart for the yarn, too.