Decorate on a Budget: Best Ways to Strike Gold at a Thrift Store

Evelyn Long

Sep 6, 2023

decorate on a budget - antiques on a shelf

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Thrifting is an eco-friendly way to outfit your home. Using repurposed goods saves the energy and raw materials needed to produce new ones, resulting in fewer items in landfills. Your local thrift store is a veritable treasure trove, with finds galore to help you decorate on a budget. However, it’s unlikely you’ll strike gold from a few random stops at establishments that raise your interest on your way home from work. You need a systematic approach. 

While there are no guarantees you’ll walk away with a prize, you can increase your chances of finding the perfect coffee table book — or the furniture itself — by following the right strategy. Here are the best ways to shop at a thrift store and decorate your pad on a budget. 

Master the Online Marketplace 

The internet has changed the shopping experience. While it’s unlikely that you’ll stumble across a $10,000 dress before anyone else on the web recognizes its value, you can get a head start on your home furnishing shopping. Use Google Maps to plot a course, researching each shop briefly before you go. 

This method saves you time, frustration, gas and emissions by letting you browse online. Even if you can’t select specific items, you can get an idea of what each store near you carries. There’s no point starting your crib shopping at a place that doesn’t stock home furnishings. 

Furthermore, you might find what you need without ever leaving your house. The following online marketplaces carry secondhand items at discounted prices and may offer limited protection if the deal falls through: 

  • OfferUp: This peer-to-peer app lets you buy from locals, negotiating directly with the seller on price and pickup arrangements. 
  • Facebook Marketplace: This platform connects you to your friends list and their network. You have more items to choose from, although some might ship from a considerable distance. 
  • Craigslist: This oldie but goodie lost traffic when it took down its personal section, but it’s still a good place to find secondhand furnishings and decor — or get a jump on area yard sale action. 
  • Nextdoor: Signing up for this app links you directly with your neighborhood and for-sale listings of people near you. 
  • eBay: This nationwide platform offers the joy of bidding, although your goods may ship from anywhere. 

Make Friends at Your Local Shops 

Many thrift shops are small, local and independently run. Some serve as storefronts to raise profits for various charities, such as Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and the Paw Prints chain supporting the Humane Society. That means the people who work there are locals, often volunteers and nearly always passionate about their work. 

Take a few moments to share a pleasant conversation. You might get involved more by signing up for a volunteer shift or two or donating items to the cause. You help ease loneliness and build a sense of community while getting the inside scoop on up-and-coming pieces that may interest you. 

For example, it’s not unusual for estates to donate the deceased’s remaining belongings to their favorite charity shop. Your local establishment could give you heads-up of when they expect a hefty donation from such a source, letting you time your shopping trips when you’re most likely to strike gold. 

Choose a Central Theme 

Decorating on a budget is much easier when you unite your home’s look around a central theme. It might be quite broad — such as a southern Florida coastal or cozy country cottage — but identifying common elements makes it easier to find a bargain. 

This hint meshes well with getting to know your local shop owners and associates. Once they understand what you like and hope to accomplish, they can recommend items or even set aside donations that will pique your interest. 

It also helps you plan your attack. Once you choose your central theme, you can look for inspiration before you shop. Some good places to peruse include: 

  • Architectural and home design magazines
  • Niche blog sites dedicated to your taste and style 
  • Popular media, like movies and TV shows, featuring settings that inspire you 

Spend Some Time Antiquing 

Have you ever watched “Antique Roadshow?” It’s fascinating to learn how they value and price various items, and the show has inspired more than one person to take to thrift shops in hopes of striking gold. 

Spending time antiquing can influence your decor choices and vice versa. For example, you might fall in love with the sleek, minimalist lines of Hering Berlin plates and bowls, but they would look awfully out of place on a country-cottage checkerboard tablecloth. Maybe your thrift shop gold isn’t all designer dinnerware, but the rest of your decor should offset your prize.

You can also research what antiques are worth money online. That way, if you spot thrift shop gold, you’ll know to snag it. Even if it doesn’t fit your scheme, you can resell it on eBay and use the proceeds to decorate on a budget. Some great resources include: 

  • Kovels: This is the bible of pricing guides for antiques and collectibles. Basic membership is free, while premium costs a fee. 
  • This is a hot online pricing database. All three membership tiers require a fee. 
  • This site specializes in vases. 
  • David Doty: This is a good resource on carnival glass. 

Research What’s Hot

Home decor is much like fashion. Some styles blaze onto the scene but quickly disappear, while others are more enduring. However, what was old invariably becomes new again, with a funky updated twist. 

You can improve your chances of finding thrift store gold by researching what’s hot in home decorating trends. For example, bringing the outdoors in is one of today’s most popular design ideas. That oversized planter could be just what you need to house your focus and create a seamless line from your patio to your sliding glass door and the family room behind it. 

Did you fall in love with decorating on a budget with thrift store finds? You could transform your hobby into a lucrative side hustle with a little marketing and moxie. Start small, helping friends design their homes on the cheap, then build a website and begin advertising your services. 

Decorate on a Budget with Thrifty Home Decor

Thrifty shores are ideal for striking gold when you want to decorate your home on a budget. A little savvy will help you find the perfect pieces for less, increasing your sustainability quotient while keeping more green in your wallet. You’ll take pride in your home and create a signature style that best uses secondhand chic.

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