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Secondhand holiday guide: Reuse retailers have you covered

There is no shortage of holidays and celebrations in the coming months. From Thanksgiving to Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Years, we have so much to celebrate! But regardless of which holidays you observe, many moving pieces go into planning them, from outfits to decorations to hosting necessities and more. While it sounds like a lot, that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to make the time feel special. In this Secondhand Holiday Guide, we will cover how and where to be a savvy, inspired thrifter by shopping secondhand for things like:
  • Seasonal decor
  • Gifts for family and friends
  • Holiday clothing
  • Hosting must-haves
  • And more!

Plus, we have a few tips for reducing waste during the holidays.

 

Tips for Secondhand Holiday Shopping

Before you even venture out the door for your holiday shopping at reuse retailers, it's best to be prepared. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A budget: Having a budget in mind – and sticking to it – is essential if you want to be a savvy shopper.
  • A gift list: You’ll want to go into your shopping day with an idea of what you’re looking to buy. A list helps you limit the number of trips you have to make and will help you avoid impulse purchases.
  • A plan: Once you have your gift list created, determine where you will go to find these items. For a full list of reuse retailers, visit the bottom of the Secondhand Holiday Guide for ideas.
  • Reusable mugs/bottles: Shopping can be tiring! Bring at least one for water, and another if you want a hot drink.
  • A healthy snack or two: To avoid getting hungry and perhaps making impulse purchases, keep yourself well-fed throughout the day.
  • A friend or family member: Bring another person along to keep you in a happier mood and talk you out of impulse buys (maybe avoid bringing someone who will encourage you to buy, buy, buy).
  • A mask: Before you venture out, don’t forget your mask, as you’ll need it to enter the stores. Reuse retailers are taking necessary safety steps to ensure you have a fun and safe shopping experience.
  • Patience: Holiday shopping can be a stressful time with so many people scrambling to complete their gift giving at the last minute. That’s also why we encourage you to start early before the holiday rush.

Our reuse retailer friends provide further insights by suggesting that you visit stores often, as assortments will change frequently. They advise you to take your time and look throughout the store for inspiration and ideas for gifts and decor. Endcap and store displays are great places to look for seasonal decor and inspiration.

Woman making a holiday shopping list

  

Seasonal Decor and Furniture

The holidays are right around the corner, which for many of us means decorating. You might have a few favorites you can’t wait to put up, or perhaps you’re looking to add new items to the mix. Seasonal decor is also a great way to change your home’s mood and set the tone for each season and holiday.

Did you know that you can find great holiday and seasonal pieces secondhand? Why buy brand new for something that will only be up for a month?

 

Seasonal themed decor

But what about decorating for fall, Thanksgiving, winter, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and other holidays? Here are just a few items you can expect to find for holiday and seasonal decorating:

  • Pumpkins
  • Turkey-themed items
  • Lighting (interior and exterior)
  • Vases and baskets
  • Decorative pillows
  • Pinecones and faux flowers
  • Seasonal or holiday-themed/scented candles
  • Snowmen figurines
  • Holiday-themed dishware
  • Fall or winter wreaths
  • Christmas villages and other unique vintage decor items

Like we said, these are just a few of the choices available to thrift shoppers. You can find whatever themed decor you’re looking for at reuse retailers and make your home extra festive this holiday season. Don’t forget to check those seasonal end caps and store displays at Hennepin County-area secondhand shops like Arc’s Value VillageHopkins Antique Mall, and Bethesda for inspiration.

 

Furniture

Looking for a cool bar cart, buffet, or hutch to kick up your holiday decor and add a unique piece that will get people talking? Visiting your local antique or vintage stores, like Paris Antiques and GiftsAntiquified, or Hopkins Antique Mall, will provide you with some great options for pieces unavailable in mainstream stores.

 

Want to dial up the atmosphere? There are many options that you might not even have thought of, such as refinished pieces that look like they might have come from Pottery Barn. The Vintage LoftWabi Sabi, and Hope Chest have you covered and will leave your guests asking where you got such great pieces.

 

Trees

Buying a brand-new artificial tree or decorative trees can be expensive, even if you wait until the end of the season to purchase them. Many thrift stores carry artificial trees and stock up during the season, so you’ll have a big selection even if you’re looking for an extra one for decorative purposes.

 

Gift Giving

What holiday guide would be complete without gifting tips? When it comes to gift giving, the saying goes, “It’s the thought that counts.” Well, what if you could put even more thought but fewer dollars into the gifts you give this holiday season? Your friends and loved ones will appreciate the extra thought you put into finding them the perfect gift. Plus, you’ll save money while reducing waste and the number of new goods produced, continuing the circle of reuse.

 

Start by rethinking buying new items and reducing the overall number of gifts you give. When you do buy new, try to resist the urge to purchase cheaply made items and instead spend your money on ones that will last. For example, plastic toys can break, but traditional materials like metal trucks and wooden blocks stand the test of toddler time. Look in secondhand stores like local thrift stores, antique shops, and consignment shops before buying new. More and more people are coming around to the idea of gifting this way. A recent survey found that nearly 50% of Millennials and those in Gen Z who responded were okay with giving a secondhand gift.

 

Here are ten gift ideas to get you started:

 

1. Picture frames and framed art

There’s no need to buy new picture frames when you can find perfectly good ones at your local thrift store. If you have kids, include a cute photo of them in the frame and give it to parents or grandparents.

You can also find unique artwork that friends or family members might enjoy – and make sure it has a good frame so they can repurpose it if they’d like.

2. Gift baskets or vases

Two items you’ll see pretty frequently at thrift or other secondhand stores are gift baskets and vases. But how do you turn these into gifts? Fill the gift basket with mystery novels for your brother or put together a basket of DVDs, popcorn, and candy for a movie night. This option also helps you avoid needing to use wrapping paper or gift bags.

The vase? Buy one and fill it with your recipient’s favorite flowers that you can find reasonably priced at your local grocery store. Not only will they get to enjoy the beautiful flowers, but they’ll also have a lovely vase as a keepsake. If fresh flowers aren’t an option, you can always find some faux flowers, leaves, etc. and make a nice centerpiece or decorative display.

3. Tech items

Are you thinking of purchasing a higher-priced gift for a friend or family member? Maybe your kid is finally old enough for a cell phone or a computer of their own. Rather than buy these items brand new, which we all know can be very pricey, you can find some great deals at local tech shops that allow you to sell, trade in, or upgrade devices.

Did you recently upgrade your phone, tablet, or laptop? Consider gifting the old one to your kid or another family member who would appreciate it.

Even if you’re not looking to spend a ton of money, you can still find some great options for gifts when it comes to tech. Remember that DVD basket we suggested above? You can find things like DVDs for the movie lover (especially older ones who are more likely to still have DVD players). You’ll also find stereos and much more for much less money.

Find great deals on tech items at places like:

Device Pitstop and Free Geek Twin Cities

Laptop as a holiday gift

4. Books and Comic Books

If you’re shopping for someone who loves to read, this is a great option to find quality books without paying full price. In fact, you’ll almost certainly be able to buy more books used vs. new. Got a comic book collector in your family? Help them add to their collection. You may even score a limited edition or hard-to-find title they’ve always wanted. Don’t forget, many places have gift card options that you can give to friends and family. They also sell inventory online, which would allow you to send books to those who don’t live nearby.

Secondhand Holiday Guide Tip: If you’re shopping for someone who loves to cook, explore some of the various cookbooks that used bookstores have available.

Shelves of books for holiday shopping 

5. CDs and Records

Do you have a music buff on your shopping list? Whether they’re into the classics or newer music, stores like offer rich gift-giving opportunities. Maybe your recipient has an extensive vinyl collection and you know just the record they’re missing from their collection. When they ask where you found it, they’ll likely appreciate it even more, knowing that you had to do a little treasure hunting to get the perfect gift.

6. Mugs

From plain, white mugs to festive or funny ones that you could fill with K cups or tea bags, you’ll often find no shortage of mugs when shopping secondhand.

7. Clothing and Accessories

Some stores have special sections that sell higher-end fashions or even garments and accessories with original tags still on them. If a clothing item or an accessory like a scarf or slippers still has original tags and doesn’t have any defects or issues, it might make for a great gift.

Another idea would be to gift someone with their own personal shopper. Arc’s Value Village offers a virtual personal shopping service! They will create a customized virtual shopping experience that is uniquely you, hand-picking a selection of clothing and accessories that match individual needs at a great price for a small fee. Maybe even provide them with a gift card to Arc’s to buy some of the items the shopper picks for them.

 

If you’re shopping for an athlete or lover of the outdoors, you can often find great gear for much lower prices when you shop reuse retailers. Plus, if the sports equipment or outdoor clothing you find needs a little TLC, Repair Lair can help.

8. Jewelry and handbags

Know someone who loves a good piece of jewelry? You can find everything from costume and vintage pieces to newer jewelry. There will be a variety of options to choose from, so you’re sure to find something your recipient will love to wear.

Handbags are also a great item to buy secondhand. You can often find designer bags for much less than if you bought them brand new. Or your recipient might prefer a nice vintage bag from an antique store. As is the case with clothing and other accessories, you may find bags with the original tags still on them!

9. Holiday or home decor

As we mentioned above, it can be expensive to build a solid holiday decoration collection. Why not help someone along with theirs by gifting decorative items? Secondhand stores stock them in abundance. For example, you can usually find tree ornaments still in their original packaging at less than half the original price.

Maybe you know someone who loves the lake. Some reuse retailers, like The Vintage Loft, have great sections of lake-themed decor, large and small. Or maybe you know someone who’s really into fall and loves to decorate for that season. Browse for fall wreaths or antlers. Whether it’s the lake, fall, or another theme, there’s something for everyone. 

10. Special, curated gifts

Know something specific your friend or family member would love that’s not listed above? You can find some unique, one-of-a-kind, or hard-to-find pieces at antique or vintage shops.

If none of these items speaks to you, another option to avoid buying new items is to give experiences. While not all experiences will be quite as budget-friendly, there are still affordable options that your friends and family – including kids – will love. A few ideas include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Ice skating or sledding
  • Indoor rock-climbing passes
  • Museum membership
  • Memory book
  • A meal kit delivery service
  • Movie night package

Snowman holiday decoration

Holiday Clothing

Outfits

Between the holiday gatherings, programs, and parties, whether virtual or in person, it can be fun for you and the whole family to dress up and look your best. You can also find other items and accessories to complete your holiday looks:

  • Dresses
  • Suits
  • Hats
  • Jackets/Coats
  • Scarves
  • Maternity clothing
  • Wigs
  • Jewelry

If you’re new to purchasing secondhand clothes and still aren’t too sure if you’re comfortable with it, at Hope Chest you can find brand new clothing with the tags still on it. You can also find affordable, stylish clothing at places like aLoomBethesda and more.

A young girl and guy wearing winter sweaters and hats

Ugly Sweaters

Ugly sweater parties have continued to grow in popularity. You can buy them new, but we recommend checking out the gently used options. After all, ugly is ugly whether it’s old or new.

Inspired Hosting

While the holidays can be stressful, especially during a year that we’re expected to keep our distance, we want this Secondhand Holiday Guide to be a reminder that they’re also a time of joy and “coming together” with friends and family, near or far. Maybe you’re throwing a small gathering, just having immediate family, or hosting a virtual get together. Regardless of how you’re celebrating, you can pull off a great event without overspending and overstressing. Here are a few savvy inspirations:

Dishes and table settings

Rather than go out and buy brand-new tableware with fall leaves or snowflakes to impress your guests, you can find great dish sets, plates, cups, and more when you shop secondhand. Sometimes you’ll find full sets still in the box that are like new. Or follow the advice of our friends at Hopkins Antique Mall and mix and match different dishes to make a fun display. You can also use the dishes you already have and add festive decor around them.

Speaking of which, who doesn’t love a good table setting? Make it a memorable meal with candles, placemats, decorative plates, pumpkins, leaves, flowers, cloth napkins, and napkin rings. All can be found secondhand. You can also find things like decorative linens that could be repurposed as a fun tablecloth.

Are you having trouble picturing it? Check out this video from Arc’s Value Village to help you with your holiday vision.

Table setting for the holidays

Furniture

Expecting a bigger gathering than usual this year, but don’t have the seating to accommodate? You can purchase extra chairs or even look at upgrading a room with some larger pieces to make sure you have plenty of space for everyone this year and beyond.

Tech

Does this holiday season require a bit of extra tech? Whether you’re having a Zoom holiday or just gathering around to watch old movies, tech items can be costly when you purchase brand new. And if it’s something you’ll only use a few times a year, it makes sense to avoid the sticker price. Places like Tech Discounts carry a variety of speakers and more to help kick your party up a notch. The following items are easy to find at secondhand stores:

  • Music players for listening to music
  • Speakers for speeches, singing, etc.
  • Extra TVs to watch the parade, sports games, or holiday special
  • Projectors/screens to view photos or presentations
  • Lights and other AV equipment

Other hosting items

Wondering if you can get more than just the big items when you shop secondhand stores? You sure can. You can also find:

  • Glassware
  • Bakeware
  • Wine accessories/glasses
  • Eating utensils
  • Cookware
  • Small kitchen appliances
  • Cookbooks
  • Cookie cutters

Secondhand Holiday Guide Tip: Planning to do any house projects before your party or holiday get together? Get what you need at Jerry’s Hardware.

Reduce Waste

Once the planning, shopping, cooking, and celebrating are over, it’s time to clean up. Did you know that Americans throw away 25% more trash from Thanksgiving to New Year’s than any other time of year? That means an extra 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million additional tons per week. Whether you’re hosting a holiday get-together or only wrapping gifts, there are small things that you can do to reduce waste during the holiday season.

Disposal Dishware and Napkins

It can be tempting to buy disposable cups, plates, utensils, or napkins, especially when you’re the one hosting. They make those holiday and winter designs so cute, and it just seems to make the holiday party that much more festive, simpler and convenient. But that festiveness and ease comes at a price. Most of those things aren’t compostable unless, of course, you’re choosing certified compostable products and have organics recycling. What’s more, you’ll still have to deal with all that trash at the end of the day.

Cloth napkins and washing dishes leave no trash to deal with in the end. And if cute designs are what you’re after, check out one of the thrift stores we listed above for some adorable holiday-themed dishware.

Holiday cups, plates and napkins that are reusable 

Wrapping Paper

Who doesn’t love a nicely wrapped present? It’s nearly impossible to avoid the chic and adorable wrapping paper during the holiday season. So Instagrammable! But did you know that most picture-worthy wrapping paper isn’t recyclable and is problematic for the recycling process? Most gift wrap that contains foil, glitter, or plastic is non-recyclable.

But gifts still need to be wrapped, right? Here are a few alternatives to try this year:

  • Use cloth wrapping
  • Choose a gift bag
  • Buy reusable decorative boxes
  • You can also wrap gifts in paper bags and tape crayons on them for kids to customize

Secondhand Holiday Guide Tip: If you just can’t resist regular wrapping paper, try to find plain paper, without glitter, plastic, or foil, and don’t ball it all up once the gifts have been opened.

No matter if you’re hosting a holiday, a party, giving a gift, or finding outfits for your family, we hope this Secondhand Holiday Guide serves as a source of savings, savviness, and inspiration. Happy shopping, happy hosting, and happy holidays!

 Wrapping a holiday gift with low waste paper

Retailer Resources:

Antiques

Antiquified
Hopkins Antique Mall
Paris Antiques and Gifts

Apparel

aloom Consignment

Furniture

Office Liquidators
The Wabi Sabi Shop
UMN Reuse

Home Improvement

Jerry’s Do It Best Hardware

Music

Down in the Valley

Specialty

Repair Lair

Sporting Goods

Play it Again Sports

Tech

Device Pitstop
Free Geek Twin Cities
Tech Discounts

Thrift

Arc's Value Village
Bethesda
Hope Chest

Now that warm weather has arrived – and with it, the desire to clean and declutter – this a great time to get serious about donating usable goods that are taking up space in your overcrowded home.