4 items you should consider buying at thrift stores

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I was introduced to the art of thrifting a few years back when I was going through a rough patch and desperately needed attire for an interview.

I had frowned at the thought of shopping at Goodwill, Salvation Army or any other secondhand store. They were loaded with cheapskates, dusty fixtures, outdated clothing — and they smelled weird. Or so I thought.

To my surprise, the first Goodwill I visited was massive and full of irresistible deals. I landed a designer suit, blouse and accessories for around $15. And the kicker? The place had a pleasant aroma!

After that initial visit, I was hooked and decided to explore similar establishments for deals. Following are four types of items you should consider buying at your local thrift store.

But first, an important tip: Set a budget before you go. Even at a thrift store it is possible to overdo it, and it is tempting. So if you decide on $25, leave the plastic at home and only carry that amount of cash to the store. Once you've reached your limit, promptly head to the checkout counter. No exceptions!

1. High-end apparel

Quality has improved at thrift stores. Few try to sell every donation they take in. Instead, teams of volunteers or employees inspect incoming items to determine which are fit for sale. In most instances, the dregs are returned to the donor or passed on to another charitable organization.

You are likely to find used, high-quality clothing items that are going to serve you better and longer than cheap new things. That new bargain blouse might be stunning on the hanger, but one wear and wash will be enough to send it to the nearest trash bin.

An added bonus: You won't have to worry about pushy salespeople hovering over you, encouraging you to buy items you don't need just to fatten their commission.

2. 'Funky fashion' items

Have you ever spotted a spunky item you'd like to try, but you have reservations because of the price? Well, thrift stores offer this option, minus the buyer's remorse.

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If it turns out that the colorful dress, oversized pair of earrings or leather purse no longer tickles your fancy, you won't be stressed out about it if you only spent a few bucks.

Or you may discover you just landed a treasure. A former co-worker was in desperate need of collared shirts for work, so he picked up a few from the Salvation Army. One of them happened to stand out because it was extremely bright. Upon further examination, we discovered it was a Lacoste shirt worth $70, and he got it for $1.75!

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Books 

Used bookstores are a dying breed. But if you have one nearby, you might want to see what your book collection would garner there.

Otherwise, there are dozens of websites that can help sell your old titles. These include big names such as Amazon and Half.com.

To find out how much your books are worth, head to BookScouter.com, which lists the going price on more than 40 websites. However, you’ll have to go directly to Half.com to look at its prices.

Recent college textbooks and popular hardcover books are your best bets for making some money. With paperbacks and older books, you might be better off donating them to a local thrift store and taking a tax deduction.

Photo credit: Getty

Movies and video games 

Half.com and Amazon are also good choices for movie and video game sales. You set the price based on the condition, and wait for the right buyer to come along.

Another online option for clearing out old movies, CDs and video games is Decluttr. You input the titles you have, and the site gives you a tentative price. If the price sounds good, ship your items to Decluttr and it will cut you a check.

For an offline option, check with video game chains such as GameStop and Play N Trade. They buy used games and, in some locations, used movies. Pricing might vary, but at least there is no shipping hassle involved. 

Photo credit: Getty

Collectibles and antiques 

If you have a truly valuable antique or a collection of highly prized items, you’ll likely get the most money through an auction house. Look for one that specializes in your type of item to ensure it is able to attract the right buyers.

If you have antiques or collectibles that aren’t quite auction-house caliber, look for an antique store that might be interested in either purchasing them or selling them on consignment.

You can also test the waters with eBay, but unless it’s an item with a devoted following, your auction might get lost in the millions of other listings. Try listing with a “Buy It Now” price or using an auction reserve if you’re hoping to get a specific price.

Photo credit: Getty

China and dishware  

Even good-quality china and dishware can be difficult to sell for any significant amount of money nowadays.

Replacements and the International Association of Dinnerware Matchers will buy china and dishware. These options might offer the easiest way to get a decent amount for your china. Of course, these sites are going to turn around and sell it to others for a significantly higher price.

If you want to cut out the middle man, you can try selling on eBay. But, as with antiques and collectibles, your listing can get lost in the competition. First, research closed listings to see the going rate for your particular brand and style of china. Then, consider selling individual pieces rather than the whole set to maximize your profits. 

Photo credit: Getty

Sports equipment

Some resale shops such as Play It Again Sports specialize in used fitness equipment. The shop might purchase smaller items such as bats, balls and protective gear. Larger items, such as treadmills, might be sold on a consignment basis.

You can also turn to Craigslist for sales of sports equipment. If you do sell on Craigslist, be sure to follow some simple safety precautions. Meeting in a public place is preferable to having someone come to your home.

However, if you are selling something large like a treadmill, you may have no choice but to have the buyer come to your home for pickup. In that case, try to move the item to a garage or entryway to limit access to your house. Also, have a friend — or big dog — home at the time of the exchange.

Photo credit: Getty

Musical instruments

Unfortunately, most old pianos, pump organs and the like are a dime a dozen, and you’re lucky if you can give them away. However, little Johnny’s old clarinet might have some value.

Before selling an old instrument, your first stop should be the local music supply store. It might cost you a couple of dollars, but ask whether the store can give your instrument a once-over to clean it up, check for any defects and estimate a value. Then, ask if they sell instruments on consignment.

If not, Plan B is to contact local school music departments and let them know you have an instrument for sale. Band teachers might be happy to pass along the word to families in the market to buy.

Finally, if neither of the above options work for you, try posting to Craigslist. To avoid getting caught up in a scam, stick to local transactions paid for with cash or money order for an exact amount.

Photo credit: Getty

Furniture 

Unless a piece of furniture is a valuable antique that might be of interest to an auction house, you are likely to come away with the most money by listing it on Craigslist or in your local classifieds.

When selling through a classifieds site, price a little higher than what you’d like to get. Many buyers like to haggle. As a starting point for pricing, you can use this furniture calculator to determine how much your piece has depreciated.

However, be aware that the depreciated price isn’t the same as the fair market price. Depending on your area, you can end up selling practically brand-new furniture for 50 percent off.

If you’re not keen on selling direct, you can also look for a consignment shop to take the furniture off your hands. 

Photo credit: Getty

Electronics 

There’s no shortage of ways to sell old electronics. You can use Craigslist, eBay, a retailer buy-back program or one of the internet’s electronics trade-in sites, such as:

How much you get and how you are paid will differ from site to site and program to program.

If you have outdated or nonworking electronics, read our article on “9 Ways to Profit From Broken Electronics.”

Regardless of how you sell an old electronic device, don’t forget to wipe the hard drive of any personal information first. 

Photo credit: Getty

Everything else 

Finally, we come to everything else: the kitchen gadgets, the toys, the knickknacks, the picture frames and all the rest.

Except in rare cases, most of this stuff is, sadly, not going to fetch much. These are the items that are primed for your yard sale.

Even better, if you don’t need quick cash, load everything up and take it to your local thrift store. In some areas, the thrift store will even pick up your boxes of unwanted treasures. Then you get a tax deduction, plus the good feelings that come with a decluttered house and the knowledge that your stuff will be used to help others.

Photo credit: Getty

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3. Clothes, toys and athletic gear for children

Children grow way too fast! I wish I'd listened to the countless warnings during my first pregnancy so I wouldn't have spent so much on items my son didn't even use.

The second time around, I didn't let history repeat itself. The bulk of little brother's apparel is either handed down from big brother or was purchased at the thrift store. We happen to live close to a consignment shop that hosts $1 days twice a month, and it's not uncommon to spot designer labels — from Calvin Klein to Polo — on the racks. Also included in that promotion are toys, many of which are very gently used.

If you're searching for cleats or other athletic apparel, be on the lookout for those as well. Or, try secondhand sporting goods stores. I've been able to save as much as 75 percent on athletic gear and equipment by buying used.

4. Home goods

If you desire to decorate your home in a way that stands out — and doesn't look like a spread from the furniture store's weekly circular — here's your chance. Best of all, you won't empty your wallet.

Along with the decorative items, thrift stores also sell high-end bedding, kitchen utensils and furniture. On a few occasions, I've purchased Pampered Chef pans for pennies on the dollar. But my most memorable purchase from the Goodwill was my luxurious leather office chair for a whopping $30. (The suggested retail price was $495.)

What treasures have you landed by thrifting? Share them by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

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