Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is it Okay to Buy Gifts From the Thrift Store?

Personal finance blog Get Rich Slowly asked readers: Is it okay to buy a Christmas gift from a thrift store? For us thrifters the answer is a resounding "YES", but it's it's easy to forget that consumers still stigmatize second-hand shopping as something tacky or dirty.

Brace yourself, here's some reactions from the thrifting non-believers:

“Eww. No.”

"I think I would be slightly offended by a thrift store gift..."

One word. Bedbugs. They’re back in a big way. I do not get anything from thrift, vintage stores that can’t be properly sanitized. Purses fall into that catagory so I wouldn’t be happy with a used handbag no matter how nice.

i guess i’m spoiled but i would be horrified if someone gave me used thrift-shop purses and would probably spend the rest of the day crying (i get a little too upset over poorly-chosen gifts sometimes). my first thought would be if money is that tight that you’re gift shopping in thrift stores instead of proper stores, why couldn’t you have gotten something less expensive but new?

I've given second-hand gifts to thrift store haters (like the ones above) to rave reviews using the rules below. Many still have no idea these gifts were from the thrift store. Good thing they don't read this blog!

Thrift Store Gifting Rules:

Everyone has a different philosophy on what is okay or not okay to buy second-hand for themselves and for gifts. My rules are simple and practical.

  • Useful Treasures: Only buy what will really be treasured and/or used. Be creative.

  • Avoid chipped/damaged items: Friends/Family might not appreciate chipped plates.

  • Presentation: Clean up your gift and present it well, small details make a huge difference. 

Must Read: The Elegant Thrifter's regular Gift of Thrift posts are creative and inspiring.

Is it okay to buy gifts from the thrift store? Where do you draw the line?
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  1. i only gift items from thrift stores when i know for certain that the person is ok with it and we've had the conversation beforehand. most people know that i shop at thrift shops, and i know their position on the whole thing.

    what's interesting to me is the comment about it being about money. it's not always about being "thrifty" or finding things for less. there are simply some items that you can't find in conventional stores -- and hunting out that item for someone is a great gift, in my opinion. anyone can go to a store and buy new stuff, you know? :)

  2. Almost all my gifts that I give are second hand, always.

    I have been a member of "The Compact" since 2007, which is an international buy nothing new movement. I do break it now and then at this point, but surprisingly less than you would think.

    I am *loving* this blog, and am bummed out that I'll be in the dentist's chair today instead of Goodwill.

    Go thrifters!

    Katy Wolk-Stanley
    "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without"

  3. ana: I forgot to elaborate on that important point. Lovers of vintage won't care if you paid .10 cents for something or got it for free if you get them that valuable treasure you can't get elsewhere.

    For example, my friend knew I paid $4.00 for the vintage owl planter pictured. She even commented on the post about it!

  4. Katy: I need to join that pact. I'm bored to tears with retail shopping these days, sometimes there's temptation but I think I'm ready to take the buy nothing new plunge!

    Thank you for your comment and the kind words, they mean a lot!

  5. I've never bought a thrift gift before, but only because I've never done much thrift store shopping until now. This year, people are getting a lot of thrift store items... if it's cleaned up nicely, they won't need to even know about it to get offended. We are scraping every penny we have for Christmas shopping this year, literally. It's either thrift and dollar store gifts, or nothing.

  6. My kids are big into "saving the earth" so when I give them thrifted presents, I tape on a green "recycled" sign on top of the wrapping paper. Makes the gift come with warm fuzzies. ;)

  7. Hubby & I went to 2 thrift stores & *horrors* 1 retail store for video games they sell used. We bought all our gifts 2nd hand, & they r great!! PS. This yr we only bought for children & MIL (who lives w/ us). Had dinner, games & visited w/ all other family). We rnt stingy, but money is tight & we rnt going into debt to please people who have all they need or want anyway!! Love reading ur blog & getting all these great ideas!

  8. That last person...the one that cries over bad gifts? Yeah, I'd be crossing her off my list!

  9. Both of my sisters will be getting thrifted gifts this year...and I know they're going to love them!

  10. Barbara: I keep finding something new to laugh at in the last one. I like how she says thrift stores are not proper stores :) More thrifted treasure for us!

    Bounty Huntress: That is really cute! Seriously! I was obessed with "saving the earth" in elemtary school (that propoganda was everywhere in the 90s- suprised modern kids stilla dhere to it!) I would have loved "recycled" signs on my gifts.

  11. Jeanette: Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and go with retail. I bought new art supplies from my family and a new tron toy for my dad. If I could have thrifted for these things, I would have!

  12. I've bought my BF's father thrifted gifts two Christmas in a row. He looooves the Dallas Cowboys so I just stay on the lookout for unique, vintage Cowboy stuff. He loves it! Instead of buying my sister a new owl necklace from like, Forever 21, I just dig at Goodwill and I'm sure to find the real deal. It must be in perfect condition and wrapped up super cute!

    Like Ana said, most everyone knows I'm thrifty and I love vintage so they almost expect my gift to unique and quirky.

  13. I buy so many of my gifts from the thrift stores. I am all about quality and vintage and not about cheap new retail. My friends and families know this. Not to say I don't buy some new items but not if I can help it!

  14. What an awesome post! I'm so glad I came across your blog!!

    It's a fine line to walk giving thrifted gifts, but I have given thrifted items to my close family and friends. Like you've mentioned, they appreciate a special and unique gift regardless of the money spent.

    I'm a new follower of your awesome blog :)


  15. Yes, it is perfectly reasonable to buy gifts from Thrift Stores and my whole family does it. Especially books....we are a family of readers and are always on the lookout for new releases and old faves. Vintage finds that evoke childhood memories are favorites, too. Plus theme gifts which can be hard to find in retail stores. Presentation, quality and a personal connection matter the most. Thrift on!

  16. YES, it's okay to buy thrift! I don't buy clothing (except for my kids, they don't care), purses or shoes but I often find things that I have never seen retail. It must always be something memorable, fit the recepient's personality and not broken. Last year though, I broke the clothing rule and found a gorgeous vintage mink coat that I gave to my mother. It was a total hit and it only cost me $30.00. I could spend the same amount at a retail store but the gifts are either not useful (and returned or re-gifted) or completely forgetable. I hate that.....BTW, I am having my first linky party, show off your vintage or thrifted gifts here! http://craftygeordi.blogspot.com/2010/12/it-comes-from-heart-linky-party.html

  17. i love getting gifts from the thrift stores! if i bought someone a clothing item i would just wash it. i don't think i would give a thrifted item to everyone on my list but i know there are tons that would love it!


  18. I love thrift stores. I would consider giving a "thrifty" gift to someone who was into vintage stuff. But I probably wouldn't do it otherwise.

    I wouldn't mind receiving one, though, as long as it was something cool that I could use!


  19. I do a combination of thrifted gifts, etsy purchases, homemade gifts, and gifts from regular retailers. I try to put a lot of thought into each gift, and I think it matters more what it is than where it came from or how much it cost.

    For our kids, we have a new system this year. They each get something to play with, something to wear, something to read, something homemade, and something thrifted. Though their books and stocking stuffers came from the thrift store, too.

  20. Love the excerpts from the thrifting non-believers! I'm glad they feel that way- More junk for us!!
    I purchased my first thirfted Xmas gift this year for my dad- a beautifully framed vintage photograph of his favoriite vacation spot. I'm excited to be giving something thats truly one-of-a-kind!

  21. The adults in my family dont mind too much but the kids are the worst. Everything has to be new, trendy, branded, and shiny. So ridiculous! If it doesnt have brand X it's not right. I am totally into budgetting and I really dont want to participate in the whole materialistic nature of Christmas so I prefer to make something or buy something cheaper but personalise it. At least that way they have something personal :)

  22. I think you're definitely preaching to the choir here. =) But yeah, there's always going to be people who won't accept the "thrifted gift" idea. We sort of play it by ear - if we've spoken to the person, relative or friend before about thrifting, and they know we go a lot, then there's a chance they'll get a thrift gift. We don't ever get kids thrifted stuff though.

    Oh also, I think the idea of getting something handmade, but "new", say on Etsy or some other vintage online shop or fair, seems to go over "better" with the peeps that look down on thrifting. One good thing is that I'd feel better supporting a local artist or crafting person. As does them receiving something from an "antique" store - I know, what's the difference really? Semantics...

  23. I only thrift pressies for people who have interest in vintage/retro items like I do, then I know the gift will be received with enthusiasm and appreciation for the thought that went into it. I bought a friend a vintage boxed record set of the Nutcracker ballet in a beautifully illustrated box complete with story book for a friend's daughter's first birthday, because she had named her daughter Clara after the little girl in the Nutcracker, she loved it :-)

  24. I absolutely thrift for gifts. I feel like I can get someone an item that's just for them that they wouldn't be able to buy at Target. I read about a deal online where you could take this pledge saying you wouldn't buy anything new (except socks and undies) for one year. The purpose is to recycle and give mother nature a big thumbs up. I'm all about thumbs ups, so I've internally taken the pledge. I'm around 3 months into it and so far so good. I even found a great pair of brand new vintage tube socks at an estate sale! The kind with the great horizontal stripes!

    But I digress... thrifting is good for the universe. If someone needs something from Ross, they can pick it up for themselves!

  25. I totally would LOVE thrifted gifts, as I shop there for most of my work, casual wear now. I wash it, so what's the big deal? LOL I wear NAME brands thanks to the Goodwill! I also have several designer purses due to thrifting. I have totally shopped the Goodwill this year for gifts - books for my 3 yr old nephew, a Mudd shirt for my 12 yr old niece, a 'new' designer purse for my son's gf. Yep, lots of thrifty gifts will be under my tree. I HATE going to the mall anymore and it's HARD to pay retail.

  26. Fortunately, my closest family and I all shop at thrift stores and give thrifted gifts these days. I will admit to being upset a few years ago over some thrifted gifts from my mother. It wasn't the fact that they were thrifted so much as they were items I didn't find useful and I was more upset over the fact that she might not know my tastes as well any more. (It's one of the reasons I blog, to keep her up to date.
    So I say yes, thrifty presents are great as long as they are bought and given with care. Just checking items off your list with random filler from thift stores is not cool.

  27. monogirl: I always put a LOT of thought into what the gift recipient will want and use, whether the item is from the thrift store or not. Otherwise, it's a huge waste.

    Sherri: Heck yes, it's damned painful to pay retail and even shop retail once thrifting becomes a habit. Now when my 10+ items rings up at around $6.00 while thrifting I feel like I'm splurging. :)

  28. Flo: I saw you have excellent luck AND taste with your vintage finds. Vintage tube socks in the package; I covet!

    I want to take the buy-nothing-new pledge. Retail is boring :)

    ...But can we buy new art supplies occasionally?

  29. Thrift store? BAHAHAHAHAHA! I'm giving my kids something I found on the curb this year! :)

  30. I cannot even wrap my head around the mindset that it's better to have something less nice that's new than something nicer/originally more expensive that's gently used.

    Everyone in my family thrift-shops, so they all appreciate thrifted gifts. We don't buy for many others, anyway, so it's mostly a non-issue for us.

  31. Van - I don't include buying something handmade as part of my pledge and since art supplies would be used to make something, I think it can be justified. =)

    This thread is awesome and Lisa's post made me fall off my chair laughing! Sometimes the curb is kind!

  32. I sometimes find great things in thrift shops. Some items are brand new, others may be old and used but still fabulous! Yes, I give thrift shop finds as gifts. But not to the woman who only wants her gifts to come from a "proper" store!

  33. Great post, Van. Personally, I haven't had any problems weith secondhand-gifting since practically all of the people I'd be shopping for appreciate green living/vintage/upcycling/one-of-a-kind/goofy gag gifts. I don't really go into thrift stores with the mission of finding said things for these people, per se. Sometimes these things just happen to be there while I am and I happen to buy them. This Christmas I found a Pillsbury Doughboy plush with his original tags still hanging. My sister will love it! I just wiped him off with some diluted disenfectant. (Then again during flu season, may be we should be doing this regardless, right?)

    Good advice as always, Van!

  34. I do buy vintage stuff for friends fairly often and think they appriciate the effort of me hunting around for something a bit more unique and original, but I don't tend to so much for family as they are more in the 'presents should only be brand new' school of thought!

    Love that kitsch owl planter in the picture by the way! :)

  35. I would personally love a gift from the thrift store...but most of my family/friends...not so much. It would have to be the perfect thing, and I couldn't tell them where it came from! ;) But...man I have found some treasures. Last week...1958 made in Japan Snoopy ornaments. EEEEK! 99 cent bag of ornaments turned treasure. :)

  36. Trina: vintage snoopy ornaments! lucky swag!

    Jackie: Us thrifter types tend to gravitate to others who live the lifestyle. Makes gift shopping easier!

  37. Out for a mid-week hop...following you now. Come by Lucy's when you get a chance.

  38. Love that I found this blog. I have already purchased a few thrifted things for next Christmas. Hmm after reading all of these posts, I may go totally thrift/revamped gifts next year. Love the blog and the porn references crack me up. Just call me a junk drunk!!

  39. I love when people buy thrifted for me....some of my all time favorite gifts that I still treasure! But I only buy thrifted (or gift handmade) to people who I know will appreciate. I rarely even buy new for myself, but during the holidays I splurge for those who I know will be offended if I don't.

  40. I wouldn't even be friends with the girl who cries over "poorly chosen gifts" (implying the used == poorly chosen? Better to buy some shiny *new* retail crap?), much less give her a gift!

    Me and my boyfriend exchange used books in pretty much every occasion. Most of my family and friends would probably be o.k. with used furniture and art, but I guess they're a bit squeamish with used clothes and "smaller" items -- but I'm not fond of giving clothes as gifts anyway.


I love reading your comments. Thank you for adding to the discussion! I always reply to any and all questions.

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