HOW TO: Score Thoughful Christmas Gifts From Your Local Salvation Army
Read more from Danielle at xoVain!
When I got my driver's license at 17, my first road trip was to my then-boyfriend’s house, my second? Deep into the heart of the nearest small city to hit all 7 of its thrift stores.
It started first with clothes. Vintage clothing is more than a supplemental wardrobe option for me, my entire wardrobe is either vintage, was a gift, or is of my own design. Don’t worry, I still buy leggings, underwear, and socks new, I just try to avoid sweatshop goods. Kind of like a clothing freegan.
Soon after I started stocking up on records, books, shoes, jewelry, and accessories. My mom would poke fun, until she saw the epic scores that I would find.
Everyone’s favorite story is how I found an AUTHENTIC vintage Judith Leiber cream-python clutch bag, and paid a dollar for it. It was a hospital thrift store, and the volunteers were some darling octogenarians who hi-fived my score. I still have that bag, it is a reminder that we have been manufacturing goods for almost a whole century now, and there are plenty of things out there in great condition that not only make great gifts, but are affordable and environmentally sensible.
When it comes to the holidays, my inner anti-consumerist really comes out. Yes, I love stuff, possessions, trinkets and clothing, but I also am a guilt-ridden overthinker who constantly is worried about the world at large. So I scoff at Black Friday sales and skim the thrift shops until I check everyone off my list.
The things that people get rid of would amaze you. My BFF just scored an unopened Soda Stream machine for $12. You may need to get creative, and you may even need to supplement the gift with some DIY skill or a store-bought component or addition, but it’s the thought that makes it all the more magical, isn’t it?
You can find anything from a gag gift to a rare and delightful piece of clothing. Sometime I just see things and buy them for people, because what is $4 dollars when you could see your friend Susan rocking that neon white leopard cardi?
I try to be a good friend and a good stylist. When all of those people get rich and famous they will pay me the big bucks to shop for them. But shopping for close friends and family is a lot harder than finding a used cashmere sweater, you don’t want to seem cheap, but you also don’t want to set foot in a crowded store around the holidays.
Housewares and decor items are the clincher here. Things you find at Goodwill are sometime so so (insert adjectives like hilarious, cute, old-fashioned, retro, weirdly shaped, awesomely themed) that you couldn’t find a better gift.
You can find anything from a gag gift to a rare and delightful piece of clothing. Sometime I just see things and buy them for people, because what is $4 dollars when you could see your friend Susan rocking that neon white leopard cardi? I try to be a good friend and a good stylist. When all of those people get rich and famous they will pay me the big bucks to shop for them.
But shopping for close friends and family is a lot harder than finding a used cashmere sweater. You don’t want to seem cheap, but you also don’t want to set foot in a crowded retail store around the holidays. Housewares and decor items are the clincher here. Things you find at Goodwill are sometime so so (insert adjectives like hilarious, cute, old fashioned, retro, weirdly shaped, awesomely themed) that you couldn’t find a better gift.
Have a look at some gifts past and present. Some are theoretical, some are actual, I don’t want anyone to know what they are getting this year!
Kitchen items are a very very easy direction to go in. Sometimes a floral ceramic plate is the prettiest one you have ever seen, and who wouldn’t want to use it because you don’t have matching teacups? Good taste is about more than matching things identically, that is easy.
Identify the colors in someone’s apartment or house, and try to get things that fit in that general family instead of trying to nail an exact design or color. My mom has a country-style kitchen with rooster sculptures and baskets, so I don’t think the red glasses would look so good in her kitchen, but the boot? Ding ding!
That also makes a great gift for my frathouse living stepbrother, or your favorite bachelor. The hippie goblets look like something the Mommas and the Papas drank kombucha out of. Going for the outlandishly individual is key for fitting these treasures with their new home.
Books, records and movies are another great way to nail something really unique for the gift receiver. I found treasures such as Donna Summer, The Andrews Sisters, and the original soundtrack to "Aida." Damn! One time I even found a record of Satanist piano music. So strange, but too good to pass up. Upon listening, it did nothing to remind you of Satan.
My taste is that random; last week I bought Elton John and Beenie Man in the same transaction. With such a diverse selection, you can find a record for almost anyone! The same goes for books, sometimes you can find brand new bestsellers, cookbooks, and nonfiction, for less than ⅓ of the original price. I have acquired many entire series with patience, such as "Harry Potter," "Dark Tower," and all of the Sookie Stackhouse books.
Last but not least, scour the prints. Whether you want a kitchy cross-stitch piece or want to hunt for someone’s accidental donation of a pricey work of art, the decor section is oft overlooked and often the cheapest items. I have about 10 or so framed photos, prints, and paintings from years of collecting, and they are all charming and unique, clocking it at under $10 each.
Hell, you can even shop just for frames and toss what is inside! Painters can re-use the canvas, the price is right on this item. Lamps and candlesticks are another winner, you can find things both new and old, and usually in great shape. Most small electronics stores will also repair a lamp for about $10 bucks.
There is a silver lining to shopping at these stores, as if you needed one.
Aside from the recent surge in popularity that thrift shopping has seen thanks to pop music, it is a legitimate way to contribute money to the organizations that run them. Some shops are privately owned, some are for charity, others are part of a larger organization. When you shop at a non-profit or donate goods that are later sold at one, your dollars go to the programs that help others.
Another lovely bonus is the reduced harm to the world around you. One less bit of packaging in the dump, one less dollar in the pockets of those who are already plenty fortunate. Thrifting isn’t just sensible and affordable, it is a drop of good in the bucket.