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Buying pre-owned items at your local thrift store can bring you great bargains or financial disappointments. The next time you head to the local second-hand store, keep these lists of items in mind.


It’s easy to get swept up in bargain prices at the thrift store. You can find just about everything you need at a fraction of retail prices. Of course, just because an item is deeply discounted doesn’t mean it’s worth your money. So the next time you head to Goodwill, keep in mind this list of items to buy (and not buy).

What to Buy

The following items are worth the hunt if you can find them pre-owned. These can be fantastic steals at your local thrift store.

1. Books

While the selection may be limited, books at the thrift store sell for just a dollar or two, sometimes less.  If you’re not looking for anything in particular, you may be able to find last year’s bestsellers or a timeless classic. There’s usually a large assortment of children’s books, so don’t forget to pick up something for the kids in your life!

2. Baby and Toddler Clothes

Babies and toddlers outgrow their clothes faster than their clothes wear out. That means your local thrift store is likely to carry a large selection of these clothes in excellent condition.

3. Furniture

You can easily save hundreds of dollars by buying furniture—such as kitchen sets, coffee tables or wooden desks—at the thrift store.  Often, you’ll find unique pieces that add character to your home. Avoid anything upholstered unless you plan to repurpose it. Fabrics tend to hold on to odors, mold and insects.

4. Tools

“Let’s face it, a hammer is a hammer, and there’s simply no sense in buying one new for $10 when you can get one for under a buck at a flea market, garage sale, or pawn shop,” says Suzanne Kearns from Money Crashers. Tools that don’t have motorized parts, such as wrenches and manual screwdrivers, are always a safe bet to pick up at the thrift store.

5. Unique Home Décor

You never know what kind of fun and funky art you’ll find at a thrift store, from homemade, glued puzzles in frames, to paint-by-number art, to original oil paintings and wood burnings. Even if you don’t love the artwork, you may want to check out the selection of frames. New frames don’t come cheap and rarely have as much character as what you’ll find at the thrift store.

thrift store ideas

What Not to Buy

While they may seem like a steal, the following thrift store items are likely to end up in the back of your closet for years to come. Just decline the following purchases; we promise you’ll thank us later.

1. Metal and Nonstick Cookware

Don’t buy used pots and pans. According to Business Insider’s Megan Durisin, you never want to buy pots and pans from the thrift store. “The coatings break down over time, making them more difficult to clean and potentially releasing harmful chemicals.”

2. Baby Cribs and Car Seats

Cribs and car seats are essential for the safety of your child, so you’ll want to conduct extensive research before choosing one. Newer models are more likely to be regulated and don’t come with the risks of years of wear and tear. Manufacturers put expiration dates on car seats to ensure that their integrity can be guaranteed. “Nearly 10 million cribs were recalled from 2007 to 2011 before new federal safety regulations went into effect, calling for more rigorous testing and banning the manufacture and sale of drop-side cribs that caused at least 32 infant deaths. A hand-me-down from a yard sale or friend may not be up to the latest regulations,” says Josie Rubio of Deal News.

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3. Helmets

Not many people realize that helmets are designed to withstand only one impact before being replaced. Dropping a bicycle or motorcycle helmet on the floor just once means it’s no longer up to safety standards. Always buy new helmets to ensure the maximum possible protection.

4. Shoes

According to Maryalene LaPonsie from Money Talk News, trying to save money on shoes may end up causing you back and foot pain, especially if you’re buying used sneakers or running shoes. “Shoes often conform to their first owner’s feet, which can make them uncomfortable for you.”

5. Electronic Devices

Electronics purchased at thrift stores—such as TVs, phones, or laptops—are not covered by warranties, and chances are, they’re no longer in great condition. Why else would their owners ditch them?

With so many great deals, it can be hard to choose from the large selection at your local thrift store. To avoid putting your family members at risk while finding great deals, keep these lists handy while making second-hand purchases.

What are you favorite thrift store finds?


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