This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on a link and choose to make a purchase I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. See our disclaimer/disclosure policy for more information.

The Best Thrift Store Christmas Gifts

The best thrift store Christmas gifts that look amazing, your friends and family really want and cost you oh so little! Win, win, win!

You love to give gifts and they love to receive gifts but you can't let it break your bank. Learn how to give fabulous gifts that they will truly love while keeping your pennies in check!

The Best Thrift Store Christmas Gifts - The Thrift Store

First and foremost before we start off on our thrift store shopping journey is the fact that not all thrift stores are equal and that some days of the week are better to go shopping at them than others.

Go on local forums in your neighbourhood and find out what thrift stores people really like. I found a thrift store about a 30 minute drive from our town but the price and selection is so phenomenal that it is well worth the trip for me.

Many thrift stores have much less selection on Mondays because they have been shopped through the weekend and they haven't had the time to put out new (old) stock. Ask one of the staff members when the best time to shop there is. Often thrift stores have sale days when the merchandise is up to 50% off.

Next you need to know how to turn something that looks a little down and out into something spectacular.  I have found many items at thrift stores that just needed the tiniest amount of TLC to turn them into treasures!

I often found my best received gifts were the ones that merged with something else. A lovely bowl would be nice, but a lovely bowl filled with mixed nuts,  pot pourri, or candies would be considered spectacular! A teapot would be lovely but a teapot with a selection of teas and a beautiful antique spoon would take it over the top. 

I made my bread and butter in the antique business by spotting gems along the junk. Here is my list of tricks of how I breathed life into my finds.

The Best Thrift Store Christmas Gifts - Glass

Pass these by it they are chipped or cracked and avoid glass ware that is fogged, this usually happens to decanters or perfume bottles that had their tops put on while there was still water in the vessel. You can't get rid of this fog as it is etched into the glass.

Glassware is very easy to spruce up, just wash it gently in warm soapy water and let dry. When something has had decades of dust and crime settled on it then you might have to let it sit in water for an hour and give it a bit of a scrub.

Never dump glass or ceramics in really hot water as you can crack it, especially if it was cold before.  If it is an intricately carved, or cut, glass or crystal piece then use a very soft brush (old tooth bush) to scrub it clean. To bring a real shine to glass you can buff it with a glass cloth (a soft linen cloth that shines glass) or if it is not a food serving item use a glass cleaner.


Great glass to look out for? Small heavy glass ice buckets always seem to be in thrift shops, maybe because people might not know what they are used for. 

Pair it up with a set of tongs or, as shown here, a interesting stir stick or Cocktail Mixers

I am always buying glass and crystal vases because I love to give gifts of flowers to my family and friends when we are invited over for dinner.

I buy seasonal flowers and arrange it in the vase. This is especially great at Christmas as they use the flowers as part of their Christmas decorating. Any sort of red flower is appropriate and surprisingly red roses are quite inexpensive from the grocery store!

Keeping with the bar theme, how about a crystal decanter for someone who wants to have a beautiful bar display? I am seeing decanters for about $20 at the thrift stores (and less at garage sales) but they do get snapped up quickly. Pair it with a bottle of some great rum or whiskey and you have a very sophisticated gift.

The Best Thrift Store Christmas Gifts - Ceramic

You should pass by any ceramics that are chipped or cracked. Ceramic dishes and serving plates  you can wash in warm water and buff dry to remove water spots.

If you find an antique or vintage ceramic piece that you absolutely love but it has brown  marks on it you can take a chance with it if it is cheap enough and soak it in warm water with 1/2 cup of Borax. Peroxide will also remove some of these stains but never use bleach as it damages the ceramic even more.

If you have to remove stains then this items should only be used decoratively as the glaze is damaged.

In every thrift store you will walk into you will find teapots! Modern, vintage, antique, they are all there. We are going through a tea revival and so many more people are drinking tea these days. Add a variety of new teas that you think they might enjoy and you have a thoughtful gift.

As mentioned above beautiful ceramic bowls can be filled with Pot Pourri, candy or nuts. Or if you have found a great mixing bowl fill it with the ingredients of your favourite recipe! (the image used is from my book Make Inexpensive Gift Baskets that Look Expensive).

A platter that matches either their dishes or kitchen style looks amazing when filled full of delectable Christmas treats. Cover it with cellophane wrap with ribbons on the end and then wrap it up in Christmas paper! 

The Best Thrift Store Christmas Gifts - Fabric

Anything made from cloth has to be examined minutely for stains, tears and odor. If there is a stain in the fabric then you are taking a real risk as you might not be able to get it clean. Often in the antique business I would spend hours on a piece of fabric, believe that I had got rid of the stain and then have it"ghost" back on me. (Fine napkins and table clothes were notorious for this). Depending on what the fabric is you can try Oxiclean or other bleach free products.

Find out what the fabric is made of first before you try cleaning it. Silk is easy to clean in cold water with a gentle hand wash detergent but will disintegrate if you use bleach.

If you find a tear on a seam line it is easy to repair but any holes or rips will be noticeable no matter how good of a seamstress you are. 

Odors can be remove from a great deal of fabrics by simply washing them unless that odor is from fabric softeners. (I HATE fabric softeners.) You might have to wash something a dozen times and leave it out to air for days on end to get rid of the odor of fabric softener.  For other odors if you have washed it once and it still has a lingering odor then wash it with 1 cup of vinegar added to your detergent and place it outside to dry.

The best way to perk up any item made from fabric is after you wash it starch it to give the fabric back some firmness and body. Spray starch is easy to buy and use and can make cotton clothes look like new. (Do NOT starch silk.)

Good quality table napkins are always showing up at thrift stores. Many people don't use them anymore but if you have anyone on your gift list that does, these can be snapped up very inexpensively!

You can look for fun unusual colors or ones that have quirky embroidery on them. Depending on if they are elegant or casual I would pair them up with candles, seasoning mixes or a cookbook.

Scarves are readily found in thrift stores and the older ones that are smaller sizes make the perfect size for pillows!  Fascinating designs and some wonderful fabrics. If you are lucky enough to find silk scarves they make a luxurious gift. Depending on where the pillow is going you could pair it up with a luxury tea, scented candle or book.

16 inch Throw Pillows Inserts and with a bit of sewing you have a unique gift.

If you have someone on your Christmas list that loves the romance of vintage clothes then look for anything that is made with good quality materials such as silk, cashmere and wool. Retro purses were made from a mix of fabrics, some synthetic and some natural. The metal fabric in the purse above is a good example and the faux alligator purse behind it.

The Best Thrift Store Christmas Gifts -
Silver, Brass, Copper, Stainless Steel

Everything made from metal has a metal cleaner. 

Make sure that anything you buy that is made from metal does not have any deep scratches in it. You need to check that silver plated pieces don't actually have all their silver worn off, if they do no amount of cleaning will bring back the shine. 

Never buy any metal that looks like it has pit marks (they look like scars or pimples in the metal)  as the metal itself is damaged. Brass and copper can look stunning shined up but make sure that you have a good cleaner as items that have been uncleaned for years will take time to shine up again. 

Stainless steel really isn't stainless and can get water marks or rust marks on them. A grit type cleaner can be used to buff out these marks but if the  stainless steel has a mirror finish it will lose it.

There is a variety of silver cleaners on the market but my favourite has always been Twinkle Silver Polish because it doesn't have any harsh odors to it.

Beautiful modern metal picture frames can either be given with a photo in them already or if you don't have a photo place in a quote that would have meaning to that person.

Brass sticks can range in styles from ornate to contemporary and sleek. Pair them with a set of candles and you're good to go.

Silver plate is readily available in thrift store. While this is a butter dish it can easily be repurposed as a decorative container to hold a number of things. Line the inside with a bit of fabric and it can become a jewelry holder in the kitchen where they can keep their rings while they clean up.

It could be a very pretty holder for pill bottles on a bedside table, or even to keep your keys in so they are always in one place but out of sight. 

The Best Thrift Store Christmas Gifts - Plastic

Plastics are the one item that I will only buy if in perfect condition because once plastic is stained, scratched or discoloured there isn't much you can do to bring them back to life.

That being said there are plastic items out there that were never used and then donated right to the thrift stores. These are the items that I look for and am thrilled when I find vintage plastic items in perfect condition. You can find them as well as long as you keep your eyes open.

I know that there is a difference between Bakelite and Plastic but I lump them together for this. (Many Bakelite pieces were later produced in plastic.) And while collectors look for Bakelite pieces I still find them in thrift stores.

Ahh... we are back to the bar.  Know anyone who wants to be a secret James Bond? This full vintage bar set was very cheap and yes, I know that I could sell it for a lot but it was absolutely perfect for someone on my Christmas list! Barware has become extremely popular with bar carts being shown all over Pinterest.

What could be better that to match it up with Vintage Cocktails: Retro Recipes for the Home Mixologist

These faux bone and wood cutlery pieces are often found in small sets, I was lucky to snap up 6 of the small forks (these are plastic). These are perfect to give with a mix of jarred olives, onions and pickles. This is a style for anyone who has a rustic decor or a cabin in the woods. 

The Stainless Steel Steak Knives can be paired with an amazing steak sauce and the faux horn forks could be matched with stainless steel steak knives to complete the set.

I find a surprising amount of unused plastic bowls at thrift shops and I like using them as the base for gift baskets like this one. Pair it up with a baking cook book (also found at thrift shops, see below) and some baking implements and you have a fun fabulous gift. (photo from my book Make Inexpensive Gift Baskets That Look Expensive). 

The Best Thrift Store Christmas Gifts - Jewelry

There is just so much jewelry out there made from so many different materials it is a bit hard to give general advice not knowing if what you have is a 1960's sterling silver art piece or plastic beads on a chord.

Never dip jewelry in water as it can ruin the finish of cheap metals, loosen stones and cause rust. If you are not sure what you have do a bit of research on the internet.

Solid metal pieces like broaches or rings can be cleaned in a jewelry cleaner or gently with mild soap and a soft brush.

Bead necklaces sometimes have to be re-strung as the original string can get very dirty and is almost impossible to clean. There are replacement clasps at almost any bead store so if that is the only thing that is holding you back consider buying the piece.

Any jewelry made from copper, brass or aluminium can be cleaned using the appropriate cleaner. Most fashion jewelry is made from a mix of cheap metal that once stained are almost impossible to clean.

Also avoid buying any jewelry that is missing stones since it is extraordinarily difficult to find good replacements. If you love part of the piece then why not consider making it into something else. The beads from two different necklaces can make one stunning necklace or a single clip on earring can be made into a ring using a ring blank from a jewelry making supply store.

This semi precious stone and brass necklace, new with tags on only cost me $2.99! When you find an amazing deal like this then you need to splurge on the presentation. 

Buy a Jewelry Gift Box to gift it in.

One of my favourite Christmas gift tricks is when I am giving gifts to a multitude of people (in an office, groups that I belong to) I will give every a version of the same thing. I try to match their personalities and it works out very well! Bracelets come in all sorts of designs, styles, materials etc! 

Again make sure you have a great Jewelry Gift Box to put it in.

The Best Thrift Store Christmas Gifts - Books

Books are an amazing deal at thrift stores, especially coffee table books. If you can find one on a subject that your gift giver is truly interested in, it is a wonderful gift. Hobbies, cooking, historical, fiction, and more are available. 

The Cupcake Book that is showing on the bottom left side would be great paired up with really fun cupcake liners, especially if you can find seasonal ones for each holiday. 

Biographies could be paired up with something special about the person such as a book on a golf celebrity could have a set of really good golf balls as part of the gift,  and a gardening book could be paired with some gardening tools.

The Best Thrift Store Christmas Gifts - Your Best Deals

You need to keep your eyes open at thrift stores and your mind moving. There is so much good stuff out there you just need to make sure what you are buying them is something that they would truly enjoy! Your best deals are when you find something and you know, " They're going to Love this!" Pairing it with another gift will make it special and memorable.

Don't forget to wrap it well! Learn How to Wrap Gifts Like a Professional to take your humble gift to the next level!

Want to learn more? Try these posts....

My ebook Make Inexpensive Gift Baskets That Look Expensive is now available! Read more HERE

Enjoying this article? Get more great reading. Sign up for the More Style Than Cash Newsletter!