Thrift Your Gifts This Holiday Season

In this season of celebrating the blessings of life and love, it can be easy to get caught up in the rush of indulgence and consumerism. Perhaps you feel the pressure of offering something both thoughtful and useful to those you hold dear? It is natural to feel inclined to also give when you are receiving, but gifting doesn’t have to be so stressful and complicated, nor so expensive.

During this season of giving, it’s important to remember that gift buying is twofold: not only are you finding a gift for someone special, but you are also making a gift of support to the business—or corporation or non-profit—from which you purchase said gift. In an era where online shopping is so accessible it’s nearly effortless, it becomes more difficult to put your money where your mouth is, as the well-known saying goes. I know what I’m getting when I click “Complete Order” but how does my “order” make a difference in society? Who sees the money I spent? Where is it going now that it’s not in my wallet anymore?

Of course, buying local when possible and feasible is advisable and arguably more responsible. If you must buy new items, buy local; support your local economy, your friends and neighbors, and those who believe in and stand by their craft. If you’re up for a challenge this holiday season, take this one: Challenge yourself to focus your holiday shopping at a local secondhand or thrift store.

Here are a few reasons why I believe in thrifting for gifting this holiday season:

1. Supporting a local business generally supports a community of those in need.

Most secondhand/thrift stores (though not a privately-owned boutique vintage thrift store, unfortunately) function as non-profits and donate proceeds to a greater cause. In a quick Google search for those secondhand stores around, you can find out which ones support what cause. Habitat for Humanity Restores are a great example of a secondhand store that gives back to the community at large by helping to build homes within the store’s vicinity.

2. Supporting a local business makes me feel better about spending money.

When I purchase secondhand items from a business that returns money to the community, I feel like I am giving doubly. I found a gift to give a friend, and my choice to shop at a thrift store means that the money I spent also goes to a person or organization that needs support more than big box stores and Internet giants.

3. Selecting a gift forces creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

Before entering a thrift store, it’s not always possible to have a precise shopping list, and exploring what is available can lead to original and innovative gifts. Lots of secondhand stores carry a variety of items that can be assembled into a gift, as well, which the gift giver/assembler can personalize in unique ways.

4. Save money!

Buying new items is expensive in part because of the novelty and the packaging. If you can go without those two factors, it will save you money, and that is COOL. And besides, the best cast iron pan or pair of jeans is broken in anyways, and a really good coffee mug never goes out of style.

Need some inspiration before you take on the challenge? Here are some ideas you can take with you when you seek out your local community thrift store:

  • Repurpose a funky frame with a special photo of a memory with someone
  • Select a unique vessel (old teapot, shoe, vase, or mug) to use for a plant or DIY terrarium
  • Grab a scarf or tie to wrap a smaller present or use as a ribbon
  • …Or, purchase wrapping items secondhand!
  • Gather a batch of books for the baker, gardener, artist, builder, or avid reader
  • Pick up some stylish fabric scraps to use as “wrapping paper”
  • Create an original themed gift basket with a secondhand basket:
    • Coffee lovers basket: two thrifted mugs, spoons, and napkins (then add a bag of coffee from your favorite local coffee roaster!)
    • Soup for two: two soup bowls, a wooden spoon, oven mitt, tablecloth, napkins, candle with holder...whatever you may find (then add a bag of Bob’s Red Mill soup mix)
    • Tea for two: two teacups and saucers, teaspoons, and a teapot, a pair of gloves or earrings, or other something proper (then add a box of your favorite tea)
    • Crafter’s basket: any selection of art supplies you may find…great for a creative kiddo, beginning knitter, or for a new hobby
    • Gamer’s basket: cards, poker chips, dice, or other board/peg/family games you may find
    • Handy[wo]man’s basket: a selection of tools, screws, nails, brackets, hinges, or other items for a DIY project
  • Pick out a fun sweater or a hilarious costume item for a jokester
  • Choose an outfit for a friend for a certain occasion or with a theme (favorite color, head-to-toe jean, or a flash forward summer get-up)
  • Find an item to embellish in your own way: a mirror, lamp, picture frame, shirt, belt, hat, bag, etc.
  • Rework some old jewelry into a pin, hairclip, headband, or other alternative
  • Collect a few fun stocking stuffers: a strange kitchen tool, a hat or scarf, or other little accessory


Once you identify a local secondhand store with a mission and/or purpose you support, go with an open mind! You never quite know what treasures you may find waiting, and may even find a gift you didn’t know you wanted to give to someone. Some items may have a ding, chip, or stain that can disappear with a little love and innovation, and some may be brand new anyhow! Gift giving may not be as simple as opening a package that arrived on the front porch and tossing the pre-wrapped item under the tree, but it will certainly be an adventure. And, I’ll bet that those thrifted gifts that are bursting with thoughtfulness and creativity will go remembered for a good while...