Vintage and Thrift Store Shopping for Gifts

Did you know National Thrift Store Day is a holiday?  If you like a good treasure hunt, get ready for this out-of-the-box green gift giving idea.

Shopping vintage stores and thrift shops is one of the greenest ways to buy something special for those you love. Think about it – buying used means you’re eliminating the need to consume new resources, saving energy and water (that would otherwise be used in the production of something new), keeping useful materials out of the landfill, and buying locally. Plus, shopping secondhand is usually far cheaper than buying new.  Another example of how going green can save you some green!

Shopping for green vintage gifts is a skill I’m still working to refine, but I have many fond memories of hunting for one-of-a-kind dolls with my grandma.  This is one of the hundreds from her collection of dolls she made, bought new, or found used and made new dresses or accessories for:

Vintage Doll Vintage and Thrift Store Shopping for Gifts

Unlike shopping new, vintage stores are often crowded and disorganized, filled with one-of-a-kind items. That means it will take a little more time to find just what you’re looking for. But with a little patience, you’ll enjoy the hunt and feel good about your green gift giving choice.

Here are some tips to help you along:

  • Take a list: Before you head out to scour the vintage stores, make a list of the people for whom you need to buy (hint: it’s a good idea to buy for more than one person at a time – you never know what you’ll find even months before you’ll need it!). Write down the recipients’ interests, hobbies, clothing sizes, favorite music and colors, and other preferences. This will help you focus when time is a factor.
  • Buy desirable items: Whether buying new or secondhand, it’s always a good idea to purchase those items that will be desired by or useful to your gift recipient. A green gift is one that will get lots of use for many years. No one wants to receive a useless or unwanted item that will need to be re-gifted, recycled, or tossed out.
  • Inspect and test:  Be sure to examine every item to ensure it’s clean and functional. Check seams of textiles items, plug electronics into a socket and try them out, and flip through books to make sure all of the pages are there.
  • Combine items: Sometimes the perfect vintage gift will come in many separate parts. For instance, if you’re buying a housewarming gift, perhaps you’ll go with a kitchen theme. This may mean buying cookie sheets and muffin tins from one store, and mixing bowls and a canister set from another.
  • Mix new and old: Sometimes you’ll find the perfect skirt for your daughter but won’t be able to find a matching top. Mixing new and old is certainly legitimate if the ideal matching set cannot be found at the secondhand store. Do your best and give yourself grace when vintage shopping isn’t the complete solution.
  • Look for green gift wrap ideas: Don’t forget to keep an eye out for secondhand gift wrapping ideas. Wrap kitchen items in tea towels, clothes in handbags, and school supplies in backpacks. Or look for fabric (old skirts or quilts, for instance) and ribbon to make your own gift bags.
  • Green gift tag: If your recipient is new to thrift-store gift giving, help them appreciate the eco-friendliness of your consumer choice by adding a green gift tag explaining the benefits of buying secondhand.
  • Thrift store gift cards: If you’re totally stuck for what to buy your recipient, go for a thrift store gift certificate. To personalize it, take a few pictures of some inspirational items to intrigue the recipient and get them excited about spending the thrift money.

Above all, go with an open mind and an eye for creative repurposing. You’d be surprised how many amazing finds you’ll discover when you’re not restricted by conventional shopping concepts!

Green gift giving via thrift stores usually ends with a little clean-up once you get home. Secondhand clothing and linens should be laundered, kitchen items scrubbed clean, and ornaments dusted and repaired if necessary. Then you’re ready to wrap and go!

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  • Tiffany C.

    I love your tip for mixing old and new! If you have those friends/family members that don’t quite get vintage/antiques, mixing something with a little history w/ something cool works fabulously! 

  • Lori Alper

    Thank you for all the fabulous tips! I love shopping for antiques, but don’t find a lot of time to do it. There are so many great stores around me and I would really like to invest the time for finding some cool pieces-for gifts and for me! I have found some interesting lamps in the past. Thanks for the reminder about green wrapping paper. I like to use old newspapers and magazines. Old fabric is a wonderful idea!

  • Victoria Gazeley

    Nice tips!  I used to shop vintage a lot and found some beautiful things both for gifts and myself.  I haven’t done it in a very long time, though – but my mother is an absolute master at finding exactly what someone is looking for when she’s out at second hand stores or thrift shops. I just let her know what I’m looking for and voila, it usually shows up within a couple of weeks.  I told her she should start a business… ;o)

  • Elvie Look

    What a great idea! We don’t have nice vintage shops here, but in the nearby city there is a Value Village and many I know shop there. I will comment on something they have I love, and they say they got it a The V-V Boutique! Thank you for the list, that really helps and I am going to do that next time I go to the city shopping! 

  • Amity Hook-Sopko

    I also like to imagine what kind of life these objects had before.  I can make up quite an interesting story.

    Your mother should start a business ;)   I hear from people all the time
    saying they’d love to find more thoughtful, unique gifts but they don’t
    have the time.  

  • Anonymous

    We love shopping at Vintage and thrift stores! Great places to find unique one of kind items…get formals and accessories at a fraction of the price AND you will never show up finding someone else wearing the same thing! Great post!

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  • Mallory

    Vintage & thrifted items can make such fabulous gifts if you put a little time and effort into it. I like the idea of mixing old and new too – what about some beautiful vintage dishware, filled with a couple bars of handcrafted soaps? Affordable and better for the environment than a crappy gift basket from Bath & Body Works or something.

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