My Best Thrift Shop Find Ever

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Today, Frugalites, I will take you on a fond walk down memory lane. I will share memories of my best thrift shop find ever.

As a regular thrift shopper, I am often in the local thrift shops looking for practical items. Just last week, I had to stop in to my favorite thrift shop to buy a pepper grinder. But my best thrift shop find ever is nothing like that: it was not practical at all. In fact, it is something that I would have never imagined that I would buy. Until I saw it. Seeing it changed everything.

Thrifting in the early 2000s

I can still remember it like it was yesterday…except it was more than 20 years ago. Money was tight. I only bought clothing on the special 50% off sales offered by a local thrift shop. I will admit to fellow Frugalites that I had already scoped the store the night before, and I was one of the first in line the next morning to scoop up my treasures, coffee in hand. I had seen a couple of pairs of shoes that I needed and a few other items. The moment the store opened, I rushed on in and got as many of my pre-shopped items into my cart. (No, I did not hide them anywhere, but no judgment on those that did!)

Then, the fun began: my browsing time! Back in the day, glorious deals could be had on these days. The shopping was for savoring. The deals! The DEALS!

I was there, in the midst of the feeding frenzy of full aisles and frazzled shoppers with overflowing carts. I was in my element!

I meet my dress

I was walking the dress aisle, not looking for anything in particular. And then, I saw it. Something must have caught my eye – the unusual colors, the incredible texture. I grabbed the hanger and pulled it out. I gasped! It was a dress made out of hand-woven woolen fabric! Incredible!

Hello there, my new friend! The dress had cap sleeves, a scoop neck, and was made of absolutely striking hand-woven wool fabric. The fabric was a medium grey, but wool strips of yellow, pink, and blue were woven into it. Even these strips had varied textures. I don’t know how they did it! Breathtaking!

My first instinct was to check if it was fully lined – a sure confirmation of the quality I was sensing. Yes, fully lined with a nice stretch fabric. Aha! It won’t be itchy. Excellent! It was a good size. I held it up quickly and assessed that it would likely fit me. It was then that I thought to look for a tag.

Then I look at the tag…

I gasped again! This dress had a custom designer label from France! I looked around to make sure no one was getting ready to grab this goodie out of my hands. With the 50% off sale, I am sure that I paid no more than a few dollars for this treasure.

How I wore this dress

For the first 15 years or so, I wore the dress strictly as a dress, with tights. I had a pair of black Italian leather heels that laced up. Yes, I had bought them at the same thrift shop. I still have them and wear them for any dress occasion. They look like real old-style shoes that my great-grandmother wore. I would often wear it with them. For more of a sixties go-go look, I would wear it with black tights and my black dress boots. Lots of fun!

The dress had a slight challenge to it. It was wool (warmer fabric) and was fully lined (made it warmer), but it only had a bit of a cap sleeve (left my arms bare). I would mainly wear it in shoulder seasons, early spring and late fall, with bare arms. In winter, it was great to wear with a dramatic light fabric wrap in black. In the shoulder seasons, I would sometimes wear it with a black lace sweater. Because the colors in the dress were so dramatic, I would always wear black accessories with it.

As I got a bit older (keep in mind I bought this when I was 30) and I had, ummm, gained a bit of weight, I started wearing it more as a tunic. (It was quite a short dress!). Leggings had also gained in popularity, so this transition simply made sense.

What this dress did for me

I know this might sound strange to say that this dress did something for me, but I do believe it’s true. At the time I found this dress, I was going through a very difficult time in my life. Health difficulties had impacted my ability to earn, and money was tight. I had just got a new job and needed to look the part: professional. This dress was so beautiful. I always got compliments when I wore it. It made me feel like a million dollars and like I could rise to the challenges I was facing.

I had never owned something from France that had a custom designer label! I am not a materialistic person, but the special history of the dress made me feel special. At a time in my life when I was struggling, it was something really nice that I owned. It was like a friend who says to you, “You can do it! You’re special!” For these reasons, I kept this treasure for many years.

When I said goodbye to my treasure

There did come a day when I decided to say goodbye to my treasure. If I had a daughter, I would have passed it along to her (if she would have it! Ha ha!). Quite honestly, the dress just no longer fit the way it used to. As well, I had moved away from the city where wearing things like this used to make sense on a daily basis. I was now on my homestead and milking cows in a barn. I needed coveralls and work boots.

So, I simply donated it to a local thrift shop. I just love the idea that some young woman with a good eye for fabrics might have gasped in delight at the sight of that hand-woven fabric, just as I did over 20 years ago. I like to think that my dress is still out there today, getting compliments and making someone feel great.

Does this remind you of something?

We are Frugalites because we shop, well, we shop WELL! In your own history of thrifting, is there one item that stands out for you? Was it a practical item, or something less practical and unexpected, like my dress? Please tell us about your own favorite thrift shop find in the comments below.

About Colette

Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. She has just launched her website, Half Acre Homestead. Colette invites you to stop by and visit this work in progress! Coming soon in 2022 is her exciting new online program. Interested in Resiliency, Preventative Health, and Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Housing (to name a few!)? Stay tuned for more details!


My Best Thrift Shop Find Ever
Picture of Colette


Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient.  Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, "Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture." Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!

28 thoughts on “My Best Thrift Shop Find Ever”

    1. Hi Clay, WOW!!!! I best that will last you a lifetime. Do you use it for stir frys or something else???? What a great find. I’m smiling as I write this. Thanks for sharing your best thrift shop find with all of us!

  1. So I actually have a few that I have gotten over the years that were true treasures I did not necessarily need but purchased & then eventually rotated out older to downsize.
    First was my beautiful 2′ glass/crystal tabletop lamps with shades that I found matching set $10 & then later similar one $5. We bought house built in 1897 (or older) that had very few overhead lights. I had few small tabletop lamps but nothing as nice as the ones I found. Ended up selling old/small lamps at garage sale which paid for new lamps.
    Found beautiful round 2 tier side table made out of oak wood with pink & white swirled marble top (from Italy stamped on marble). I already had side mahagony side tables (from my grandma) that I ended up giving to my daughter when she moved out (with agreement that she gives back if ever gets rid of them). I also already had marble top (stamped with made in France) coffee table (that used as kids table with kids chairs (15 years between youngest & next oldest). That table was sold at garage sale along with kids chairs.
    The price difference ended up being few dollars.
    I later found charming almost new swivel cream colored Ethan Allen style living room chair $30 (valued at $350). It was similar color to my recliner (have had 20+ years) that everyone fights to use. I ended up selling my solid oak rocking chair (almost 30 years old) last year (because downsizing & moving).
    Lastly, I found vintage Coach leather handbag that looked new for $3 at goodwill. Never used! Don’t know how that one got by the staff, valued at $250-$350. I didn’t need purse but had always wanted a coach handbag. My best friend was so amazed as she paid hundreds for each of hers. I am yet to use it as I take good care of my handbags & the last for decades. I’m looking forward to using at outings as my regular purse if finally showing wear.
    Each of these treasures are truly treasures in my life & home. And enjoy using for many years.

    1. Hi Regina, Thank you so much. I enjoyed reading about your treasures. My favourite was the oak and marble top side table. Oh….my…..goodness! What a find! It is so fitting that it is Italian marble, too. I can just imagine those swirls of pink in the white marble. I sometimes have a feeling that these treasures would like to be where they are truly appreciated. For that reason, I am sure that your treasures are happy with you! Thanks for sharing your best finds with all of us!

  2. Last week my wife and I found a Wonderwash brand new, and it had a yellow tag so it was 50% off, making it $10 and it usually goes for $70 on Amazon. Best practical find that wasn’t clothes.

    1. Hi Justin, Hurray! Gotta love finding off-grid laundry capability for TEN DOLLARS!!!! That is a rocking hot find. I’m sure many readers are drooling to read your best thrift store find today. Thanks for sharing that!

  3. It’s getting harder lately to find great deals as more people shop thrift stores for the sole purpose of resale. However federal tax laws recently changed dropping from 20k & 200 transactions using third party vendors to $600 for reportable income. Disclaimer, based on recent news, I’m not a tax professional or a reseller of goods.

    1. Hi T, I do agree. Prices in our local thrift shops have skyrocketed in the past few years. Like Regina mentioned below, sometimes a great find is something that gets past their pricers for some reason. Thank you for letting people know about these federal tax law changes: something to keep in mind! Much appreciated to hear your thoughts on this.

      1. I agree and still shop as I enjoy the challenge! The latest is a heavy duty ceramic mixing bowl set in great condition for $10! I’m a regular donator so the community also benefits, win all around!

  4. I had been watching for a good Corningware coffee percolator for months. Imagine my surprise after about 6 months, finding not one, not two, but THREE within a week of each other! Yes, I DID buy all of them! I gifted one to my sister-in-law who is also an avid coffee drinker. So if you are looking for something specific, be patient!

    1. YAY!!!! Grammyprepper, when it rains….it pours….Corningware!!! Good for you for buying all three and being so generous to share one of them. I have often had this same experience…right now, I am trying to find some overalls (jean or any sturdy fabric) for milking the cows. No sign yet, but I sure hope I find THREE of them!!! I enjoyed your great story and encouraging words for other thrift shopping Frugalites. Thanks so much!

  5. Our local goodwill has been rather overpriced as they have learned to check online prices for many goods. They also buy ‘lots’ from major retailers and charge less than retail but more than I am willing to pay for some items.

    1. Hi Grammyprepper, yes, it is sad to see how high the prices are in our local thrift shops. I do agree with T that many people are now shopping and looking for items for resale. Thankfully, our local thrift shop in a nearby village is run by a committed group of people from a local church and they price low and will give to those in need. Best of luck in your thrifting!

  6. My best thrift store find to date has been an All American 925 pressure canner. I was in my local Salvation Army about 8 years ago and I’m in love with glass bakeware so I’m always in the cooking/baking section, when lo and behold I see a box on the floor. Looked like it had hardly been used and the price was out of this world….only $19.95. I just about fainted as I had looked at my local hardware store a few weeks before and they were around $400. I still feel warm and fuzzy every time I think of this fantastic bargain.

    1. Hi Kate, I think I might have almost fainted, too. WHAT A FIND!!! I think many readers would also be ecstatic to find a canner like that. It is amazing how we can recall that great feeling that comes with a bargain like that. I hope it’s been super useful to you since then and for many many years to come. Thanks for sharing a truly inspiring find with all of us!

      1. It’s been seeing weekly use and in the summer even more. I can year round depending what’s on sale. Today I did 7quarts of pea soup. Tomorrow or Saturday it’s the same, but potatoes. Love living frugally and really enjoyed your article.

        1. Hi Kate….OK…..WOW…..I am in awe! Doing the Frugalite happy dance in your honor. I am quite certain that your pantry is a thing of splendor that would make any Frugalite’s heart beat faster! You’re truly an inspiration. Keep on cannin’!!!!!

  7. I have no particular item to note. I will say it made me feel good that you donated it, hoping someone else would enjoy the dress as much as you did. Too often we don’t think enough about others.

  8. My romp through my local thrift store (less than two blocks from my house) let me stumble across two poorly labeled stainless steel boxes. One was about the size of a large desktop computer and its mate was about twice that size. The set was marked at $15 and the checkout clerk had no idea what this mystery gear was. I didn’t tell her.

    When I got it all home I found that the plastic fan blade was broken but the factory in Nebraska was very much in business. Once I got a replacement fan blade and a user’s manual for it, I had a working water distiller (and its companion water catch and storage tank) suitable for a small eatery, a medical office, or even a home kitchen. It solved the growing problem I had with a worsening lake water algae taste in the city water (that I knew about) and some problems in later years about unregulated bad stuff (like pharmaceuticals). No need to worry about regular water testing for drinking and cooking water or surprise stopped up water filters .. or questionable local politicians. Not bad for some twenty years of service so far.


    1. Hi Lewis, Incredible! What a find! With twenty years of service…..less than a dollar a year. What a great story. Thanks for sharing that for all of us Frugalites to bask in its glow!

  9. Except for food, socks and underpants we shop exclusively at the local church thrift store.
    Clothes are always 2/$1, shoes and purses $1 – I buy only high end name brand so $160 shoes, $40 t-shirt, etc. hang in my closet
    But the best buy was a $200 office chair for $10 – mine was actually taped together on the seat and arms and when one of the casters wouldn’t roll it was time for a new one – I waited 6 months before one came in and since we visit every week, the manager put it aside for me in case I wanted it. Maybe the best part – all proceeds go back to the community to help homeless, those affected by catastrophic health, home repairs for the elderly, hurricane relief.

    1. Hi Bellen, What a wonderful story of how your office chair came to you. Other Frugalites are still shopping at local church thrift stores that still have the original MEANING of thrift store in mind. I am so happy to hear that yours is so kind and thoughtful! Similarly, our local church run store actually keeps a list of the needs of local people in a little book. If something comes in that a local person has expressed a need for, it goes to them. Just yesterday, I went through my closet and took a bunch of stuff to them. It wasn’t a lot, but I know it will go to those most in need in our local community. Thanks for sharing your heart warming story, Bellen!

  10. A dress from India, acquired via barter. I loved that dress! And I love thrift stores. Every one of my dogi (martial arts uniform) came from one. The lack of a school logo actually suited me in its Zen simplicity. Used book stores are another place I love! The second hand market rocks. I get stuff at a bargain price and provide jobs for those who can’t hold other jobs, such as the developmentally disabled. Pride and dignity all around! Yay thrift stores!

  11. I had been looking for a china cabinet. I use my mom’s china for everyday when I downsized and got rid of 2 sets of dishes. I could not bear to part with them–a service for 12 with all the serving pieces. I have her round dark oak table with 5 chairs but the hutch had seen its last days by the time I got it.
    I was thrifting in our local hospital benefit shop and there it was! $75 but the lady there said the owner was willing to come down. $50 ! It’s a beautiful piece of furniture, well made and cared for. Our minister’s wife was there, and she volunteered her husband and neighbor to deliver it to us.
    The other night I served a dinner party on mom’s china, at her table, with one of her recipes, and I had the feeling she was smiling from heaven. Then I put the cleaned up dishes and serving pieces in my new hutch.

  12. I love old sewing machines. One day at the the thrift store I was able to buy a1960s-era Montgomery Ward sewing machine, lid included and also the original booklet/guide for $10.00. It had been marked $40, but it was marked down 75%. I used it for years until my widowed brother gave me his wife’s pink 1950s Atlas.

    1. Hi Carla, That is a fantastic thrift store find. Good for you! I love that the original booklet was also there. I think that’s pretty rare. I think those old era sewing machines are likely built better than the modern ones. I have fond memories of listening to the sound of my mother sewing on her old Singer. I hope your Atlas lasts forever for you! Thanks you sharing these great Frugalite memories.

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