Lovely Undergrad's Top 10 Tips for Thrifting & Antiquing

I love antique stores, thrift shops, and other vintage-selling establishments of the sort.  These places are filled with unique furniture, storage solutions, decor accessories, and interesting finds.  I frequent my favorite ones often and am always looking for new places to scavenge.  ...But I have to hunt for antique and vintage stuff while sticking to a 20-something budget and lifestyle.  So whether you're just about to graduate high school, in college, a recent grad, or a young professional... I've rounded up my Top 10 (plus 1 bonus) tips for finding goodies for a small space on a small budget.  Enjoy!

(Above Photo By Alexis O'Connor via StockPholio.com)

1. Go with a pal who adores the old, the aged, the chippy, the nostalgia of eras past just as much as you do.  While going alone may be therapeutically relaxing, it's ultimately far more satisfying to have someone to laugh with over the curiosities and oddities around every corner.  Sisters, girlfriends, moms, and grandmas are ideal.  Unless he loves antiques/vintage/retro as much as you do... or can put up with being dragged around the store... or you don't mind being badgered to leave, steer clear of bringing along boyfriends, brothers, and dads.

2. Eat first. Thrifting on an empty stomach leads to impulse purchases, hoarding, and cutting your trip short.  Eat a big, filling, delicious meal full.  Indulge in carbs.  You'll be working it off and walking it off as you thrift.  Barbeque, Chinese, and Mexican food are ideal choices.  While candy may seem a good idea at the time, it is not filling enough and the sugar-high is too short lived.  Sugar-highs may also induce early antiquing highs (see #11).  An early antiquing high may leave you overwhelmed, overwrought, and overtired before you're even a fourth of the way through the store.  So forget the KitKat.  Coffee is a go.

3. Don't look at what something is.  Look at what something could be.  Spray paint, ModPodge, decoupage, paper, acrylics, glue, sparkles, soap... with a little imagination, elbow grease, and tender-loving-care, trash becomes treasure.  Need inspiration?  Troll Pinterest, do-it-yourself blogs, and decor magazines for hours the night before.  It's like cramming for a big test.

4. Know what you're willing to pay.  Know this going in.  Would you spend $150 on a typewriter when you've seen similar typewriters at other shops or online for a mere $40?  Would you dish out $17 per Ball mason jar when you've snatched them at garage sales for $2 each?  Would you pay $5 for a skeleton key when they're a dime a dozen at a hole-in-the-wall small town shop?  No, no, and no.  When it comes to opening your wallet, stick to your guns and your gut.

5. Set yourself a limit.  It's all too easy to overspend when you're snagging deals left and right.  Have a figure in mind before you step foot in the door.  Allow yourself $25, $50, $100. Keep the number in mind at all times.  If you must, give yourself a ten dollar leeway...  If you find you just can't stick to a budget, reeeeally limit yourself.  Leave the debit and credit cards at home.  Take out only the amount of cash that you're allowed. 

6. Fill up your arms/basket/cart.  Just because you set a limit, doesn't mean you have to totally limit your possibilities.  If something really calls out to you, pick it up.  Put it in your basket, add it to your cart.  Carrying it around isn't committing.  Carrying it around helps you define whether it's an impulse desire or not.  Thirty minutes later, you might not be so interested in the object.  Or thirty minutes, you still might not be able to take your eyes off it.  Time tells all.

7. Edit.  Obviously loading up your arms/basket/cart unreasonably beyond your limit is a no-no.  Don't just add, add, add.  When you find something you like, compare it to what you've already loaded up on.  Do you like it more?  What would you trade for it?  If it really strikes your fancy, swap something out of the cart for it.  If everything your basket is more appealing, put it back on the shelf.

8. Keep your stuff with you. At some larger thrifting establishments, the workers so kindly offer you a little paper number in exchange for holding your items at the front counter.  It frees up your hands, your basket, your cart, and your mind.  Sooo convenient, right?  Conveniently for them.  For you, it's the old out-of-sight-out-of-mind trick.  You'll have trouble sticking to your limit and editing what you really want versus what you really might not.

Photo By Emily Carlin via StockPholio.com

9. If it's common, average, easy to find elsewhere, available aplenty... Don't be afraid to say "No," especially if you're sticking to a tight budget or space constraints.  You love blue mason jars, but you don't need twelve.  Two or three will suffice until your next trip.  Same goes with electrical insulators, skeleton keys, old books, vases, etc.

10. If it's utterly wonderful... If you're swooning right there in the aisle... If it's giving you decorgasms as you gaze upon it... If there's some mysterious, magnetic force working on you and disabling you from even walking away from the magical item... Don't be afraid to say "Yes."  It may be extravagant and superfluous, but a splurge is necessary every now and then when you fall head-over-heels in-love with something.  If you know you'll regret not buying it, make it work.  Put everything else back.  Give up going out and dining out for the next several weeks.  Vow to sell some of your own things.  Eat Ramen noodles for the next three months.  Some things are meant to be.  And some of those things require sacrifices.

Bonus: Enjoy and beware the antiquing high.  No matter how much you've had to eat.  No matter that you forced yourself to only carry a $20 bill in your purse and left debit/credit cards at home.  No matter the limits you set, the prices you're willing to pay, the editing, the refusal to let that nice old man hold your items at the front desk... the antiquing high can strike anyone at anytime.  You may not feeling it coming on. 

But alas! the plethora of projects, the trash begging to be made-over into treasure, the shelves of junk, the crushed velvet of vintage furniture, the caning, the retro silhouettes of MidCentury Modern credenzas, the childhood toys, the industrial objects, the typewriters, the mason jars, the keys, the tool chests, and on and on and on... It will all catch up with you.  And soon you'll be floating rather than lollygagging up and down every aisle.  Enjoy the rush.  Giggle with glee.  Gasp and sigh and swoon.  But keep a cool head, pace yourself, and when you come down form the antiquing high you'll experience a great calm as if waking from a pleasant dream or induced hypnosis. 

Happy thrifting!


Junk in my Footlocker Trunk said...

I agree with #4, but might I propose an amendment? It not only helps me to know what I'm willing to pay, but also what I'm willing to buy. It's easy to go thifting for a certain item only to end up with a basket full of other great knick-knacks I found along the way. I set a monetary budget, but also an item quantity budget.

Anonymous said...

I went antiquing the other day and I had this list in the back of my mind! My problem was I had something specific in mind that I was looking for. That's pretty much never a good idea and the best way to set yourself up for disappointment.

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