It’s not secret that I love the thrift store. It seems to come up a lot in conversation “where did you get that”, “how can you afford 5 kids”, “what do you mean you bought 7 sweaters yesterday” you get the idea. Something that’s always frustrated me about second hand shopping is the way it’s frowned upon for gift giving. In my house we give the kids second hand gifts all the time and it’s become normal for us but giving used gifts to family and friends still seems like a pretty big faux pas. The trend of upcycling has helped this effort tremendously but there are still many people who turn their nose up at offering a used book or vintage bowl. Crazy!

This year our family has committed to a mostly used or home made Christmas. For the kids’ teachers we’re shopping for gently used books for the classrooms and doing a mini tray of home made cookies (trays were also thrifted!) For my mother I picked up a couple used books and I’m always looking for vintage items to add to her collection. For the kids, well, kids stuff is incredibly easy to find. They definitely won’t be doing without.

Thrifting saves a lot of money. A ridiculous amount of money. I love giving so if I can give a thoughtful, nicer gift for the same price as the cheap crap I would have been able to pick up on my budget I’m incredibly happy. This was the biggest motivation for me to get started thrift holiday shopping but I am learning that it’s not all about the money.

Shopping used helps the environment. By recycling this holiday season you’re saving the environmental costs of production for that item, producing less packaging and waste, and keeping that product out of the land fill. In the month before Christmas household waste increases by 25% so it’s important that we take action to reduce our impact on the environment.

It’s good for the kids. Not only are we cutting down on excessive consumerism and teaching them important values of appreciation, we’re also encouraging them to use their creativity. My daughter loves to give gifts and after explaining that we are trying to make a lot she got right to work on an ornament for grandma out of her shell collection. They’re not exactly going to get a tonne less but I hope they are able to appreciate that a gift doesn’t have to come in a fancy box and stuff we worked hard on means more.

Some of your money goes to charity. Although not true for all thrift stores, even the definitely for profit Value Village donates a portion to specific charities. I can’t afford their price gouging so I’ve taken to shopping at Goodwill or the MCC Furniture Thrift Shops in Winnipeg. I don’t like that they’re run but religious groups, however, I would rather people helping others than not at all regardless of their beliefs. I know Goodwill has been under a lot of attack lately for their anti LGBT stuff but when I was in our local store during Pride they had a rainbow of clothing on their wall display. It can’t be all bad.

It makes for more interesting gift giving. Sure, we sometimes have stories about how we had to fight off a crazy lady for the last one, but mostly it’s “I went to the store and it looked cool so I bought it” or worse “ordered it off Amazon.” Sometimes we are not as thoughtful when we’re just trying to choose a gift because “we have to get them something.” I find that used shopping requires us to really consider the person and their interests because of the selection in stores. You also have great conversations about the item, especially vintage ones.

Hopefully by now you’re convinced to at least do some thrift store shopping for Christmas so what now?

Tips for easy thrifty gifts:

  • Start early. Starting during garage sale season is best but even starting now is better. You may need more time to select gifts.
  • Shop often. Thrift stores are constantly getting in new items and changing out their inventories. If you can’t find what you’re looking for keep trying.
  • Watch for sales. Even second hand places have sales and sometimes you can get really great deals. Subscribe to newsletters or Facebook pages to keep on top of it.
  • Look online for inspiration. There are lots of blog posts out there to give you ideas for thirft store items and projects.
  • Start small. Keep it within the family, or just your kids or spouse, or whatever your feel comfortable with. If you enjoyed it, add in more people next year.
  • Let everyone know what you’re doing. If you’re worried about people looking down on used gifts (as society tends to do) make sure you broadcast you’ll be buying from the thrift store this year. Site this or the hundreds of other articles online supporting your decision.
  • Ask for thrifted gifts. Encourage others to get comfortable with the idea of giving and receiving but requesting (but not demanding) that gifts purchased for you are recycled. Be specific when asked what you would like but still broad enough to make shopping possible for example: “I really like vintage table cloths, I saw quite a few at Goodwill last week.”
  • Donate what you don’t need. It’s important to give back to the thrift stores to keep the recycling cycle going so when you’re ready to get rid of something don’t toss it – donate. Sometimes they give you a coupon too.
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