NaBloPoMo #25: Thrifting Tips Tuesday


So the big present-giving extravaganza holiday is approaching us (at least, it's approaching those of us who choose to celebrate it). And I have one piece of priceless advice for you in that regard:

Thrift your gifts.

Yes, it is OK to give thrifted gifts. It's not rude, it's not cheap, and it's not gross. It is frugal, environmentally conscious, and thoughtful. And anybody who thinks otherwise can pretty much bite me.

Now, let me back up and say that I do have a different threshold for thrifted gifts than for non-gift thrifted items. I want thrifted gifts to either a) be new; b) look new; or c) be something so cool it doesn't matter that it isn't new. I don't, for example, generally gift thrifted clothing unless it has tags on it. However, one year I got my mom three much needed sweaters--one Eddie Bauer, one Land's End, one Ralph Lauren--all from the Goodwill, all new with tags. If I didn't tell her they were thrifted, she never would have known the difference. This year, I am giving Mark's mom a gorgeous antique Irish linen table cloth, which I got at the bins. It isn't new, but it is in wonderful condition, and for something like that, I'll make an exception to the new rule.

There are some big advantages to thrifting gifts. Clearly, it can save you money. Possibly more importantly, it reduces the time you have to spend in retail shopping centers this time of year. You're also able to find things you might not otherwise find. However, it is much more work than buying new. I've been looking for Christmas gifts on my thrifting trips all year long. If you want to get each person on your list something that will really knock their socks off, and get it used, you are going to have to put in the hours.

Here are a few tips for thrifting for gifts:

  • Start early. This is going to take some time.

  • Take a quick look at anything you see that is new with tags/packaging. Not everything will suit someone on your list, of course, but everything is worth a second glance.

  • Have a list of who you need to buy for, but not necessarily what you want to get them. You will have to be flexible.

  • Make use not only of regular thrift stores, but of used book stores (my step dad's presents always come from here!), consignment shops, etc.

  • When you are deciding how much to get someone, the thrifted price isn't important. Don't feel like you have to give more gifts just because you are giving thrifted gifts.

  • Accept to begin with that you will likely not be able to thrift for everyone on your list. Sometimes, you just can't find something thrifted, or you want to get something specific and it isn't available. That's fine. The idea here is to cut down on buying new stuff, not necessarily stop it completely. Do consider handmade and local gifts for those you aren't thrifting for, though, for the most economically and ecologically responsible holiday shopping.

  • Never underestimate the value of wrapping. A collection of things that are just "eh" unwrapped can be transformed into a great gift with a little creative packaging.

  • If available, swap! Have you thrifted something that you can't use or gift, but someone you know can? Swap it for something they've thrifted, or something they've made, that you can use. A lot of my gifts have come to me this way this year, and I'm so stoked about it.

Looking over my gift list this year, I think I've got about 1/4 thrifted gifts, 1/2 handmade ones (either by myself or from swapping), and 1/4 still to buy for. I haven't bought anything new yet and don't plan to. That makes my holidays pretty damn happy.

How about you? Are you thrifting any gifts? What would you think about receiving thrifted items?


I think I've only ever been given thrifted books - however, I prefer them to new books, generally, as long as they are in decent shape. I also give used books quite regularly.

Otherwise, aside from regifting (often of gifts my students have given me to people who will like them more than I), I don't believe I've ever thrifted a gift.

If there were thrift stores here, I'd give it a try. One of these years, I guess.

Usually I don't do thrifted gifts because I'm worried my family thinks I'm cheap or that it's dirty (silly, I know). I did once give my brother, who is a huge hamburger lover a thrifted t-shirt from Burger King (it said "home of the Whopper") just as a joke. He loved it!
If I would find the perfect thing for someone I would get it, but only if I knew they were looking for it anyway. I wouldn't mind getting a thrifted gift at all, as long as it's really something that suits me and not thrifted out of laziness. :-)
And I guess it would work well to keep things that could be a gift separate throughout the year and get it out in December. Usually you run into things when you're not really looking. Or at least that's my experience. If I had to find gifts now with so little time I don't think I would find anything good. :-)


I go to garage sales all year, and I can usually spot the items being sold that were received as a gift. We even have a saying at our house: "If there were no gifts, there would be no garage sales." Love your gift guidelines! I hope people will come to realize that anyone can walk into a store and buy something, but a good thrifted gift took more thoughtfulness and creativity.

I always thrift at least half of my children's Christmas gifts every year. I am able to find some very unique and special things and my kids don't know the difference and wouldn't care if they did. I occasionally give other people thrifted gifts, but only those close to me that I know appreciate them. I'd never give certain people in my life thrifted presents because I know they would be grossed out and think I'm a cheapskate, rather than see the thoughtfulness and care behind the gift.

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