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Perfect Christmas Gifts on a Budget

Published by Shiela Galban

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Finding the right gifts for someone who has everything—or can afford to buy it—can be challenging. Plus, it’s becoming even more important to reuse, recycle and go green. The challenge can be met with a little creativity and a lot of dedication.

Start With the Most Difficult People on Your List

Also, start early; the right gifts take time to find. There’s no guarantee that everyone on your list will match up with thrift shop treasures, but many who are closest in your life will. This is because you know them. Be a detective. Find out from your daughter what her favorite pair of designer jeans are—the brand, the size, the style. Have a son in law who absolutely can’t live without a certain discontinued style of name brand shorts? And what about your husband, who loves that special brand of button front shirts in the wrong-side-out prints, but doesn’t want to spend a fortune for them? Everyone has a friend who loves silk, or cashmere, or a certain bohemian style. You can use that information to find the perfect gifts.

Map Out Thrift Store Locations

Due to zoning preferences, second-hand stores are often grouped near each other in small towns or big cities. This can make intensive shopping more convenient. If you can afford to drive to shops in more affluent areas, there’s a good chance the merchandise will be higher quality, with more brand names available. But if price is the most important thing, stay away from boutique versions of stores. Many charities divert the highest quality donations to pricier establishments, hoping to attract interior designers and other high-end shoppers. This is also true of stores that advertise antiques on consignment.


Don’t Expect Merchandise to be Pre-Sorted by Size

In some major charity organizations, and others that emulate them, color is the criteria for sorting. Yes, all the women’s jeans are on one rack, but plus sizes will be interspersed with juniors, and you’ll have to look at every label to find the brand and size you want. If you are savy with a tape measure it can help to have one along. Every now and then something in otherwise new condition will be missing a size tag. Depending on the store, dressing rooms and mirrors may be in short supply.

Can’t Find the Right Item?

Don’t give up. If you are looking for women’s jeans, check the men’s jeans. Charities may be staffed by volunteers who mean well but get things mixed up. It’s worth a look. If it’s still not there, and you’ve searched several stores, consider going for quantity instead of quality—round up everything in the right size with similar style and comparable brands—giftwrap a dozen such items; add a note saying you hope one or more of these is close to the mark. That way, the person has an opportunity to try other styles without spending all day shopping and trying things on. Consider online versions of swapmeets or auctions, where, with a good search engine and the time to look, you might get lucky.

Go For Novelties

Brass, silver items and painted china are sometimes reasonably priced in thrift stores. Hopefully you are lucky enough to have a collector on your list. Children’s books and music often make up a large section, again it takes time to find something in new condition. Marks made by the store can spoil an otherwise perfect gift, however. How about a spice rack? You can buy herbs in inexpensive bags and fill the jars yourself! Look over the coffee mug section, for one or a matching set. Shop for novelty lamps, belts, bags, and costume jewelry, and don’t forget things for kids to dress up in—they aren’t just for Halloween!

Go Ahead, Get More Than You Need

You’ve found a bargain, but aren’t sure…at these prices you can afford to make a mistake. Many stores have return policies but you might not want to bother, especially if the proceeds go to a worthy cause. You can also afford to get a little something for yourself without guilt.

It’s All in the Presentation

If necessary, launder and iron your purchases. Folded inside tissue and a shirt box, secondhand gifts gain respectability. Your hard work and devotion will be appreciated. Don’t try to hide the fact that the gift came from a thrift shop, however. It could be embarrassing to get caught in a lie.

The main ingredient for gifts that come from second-hand sources is time. The hours spent in looking for the perfect gift represent a unique investment. Best of all, family members and friends will appreciate that you care about what is important to them.

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