Thrifty Giving: 12 Tips On How To Holiday Secondhand

December 15, 2023

We need to normalize gifting thrift. With budgets tight and our planet in need of a break from the overproduction of new goods, thrifting gifts is a mindful and cost effective option.  If this is a new concept to you, it can feel like difficult new territory to navigate. The key to gifting something thrifted is to use the same principles we should be using when purchasing new items.  

  • Have you put thought into the gift you’ve selected?
  • Is it something that will be used and loved by the receiver? 
  • Is it something you yourself would be happy to receive?

If you are interested in gifting thrift this holiday season, but are at a loss for ideas, I’ve come up with 12 gift ideas that can all be found at your local thrift shops. —Jen Pistor

  1. Holiday Mugs: This year for Christmas, my oldest daughter wanted to gift a little something to the girls in her ballet class.  I thrifted each of them a cute, vintage, Christmas Mug of the same style.  I purchased little individual packs of Hot Cocoa to slip inside along with a couple of other treats.
  2. Glass Jars: There are so many cute glass jars available at the thrift shops. Some holiday themed, and some not.  I picked up a cute, simple one with a lid.  I’ve washed it and filled it with Christmas Candies as a gift to our neighbour.
  3. Records: My Husband and I have a decent record collection that we are always adding to.  I found some real vintage gems for him this year. 
  4. Vintage Books: A couple years ago, I found a fantastic vintage, true crime book from the 60’s.  I got it for my Brother-in-Law and used a thrifted t-shirt I found for him as the gift wrapping. This year I fell in love with the incredible collection of vintage gardening and cook books that were available.  There were also books all about plants and herbs.
  5. Kids Books: It always surprises me to see how many brand new, never cracked open kids books there are at the thrift stores.  I found all three of my girls a little stack of books I know they will love.  All of them are in brand new condition.
  6. Pottery: You can find some beautiful pottery pieces when thrifting.  A few years ago, I bought my sister this stunning large ceramic bowl that came with all these extra pieces.  After asking around, I realized it was a small, indoor fountain.  I bought a new hose and pump for it and it worked perfectly. My sister loved it and it looks beautiful in their home.
  7. Vases: For a host gift, I love to buy a vintage little vase and fill it with some fresh florals. Milk glass is something I always watch out for, but any little glass or crystal bud vases with some detail works great.
  8. Candles: I have luck almost every year finding boxes of brand new taper candles.  For a little gift or as a gift topper, tie two tapers together with twine, raffia, or ribbon and adorn it with a little piece of fresh greenery or holly.
  9. Baskets: One year for the kid’s teachers I made gift baskets. I thrifted the baskets and filled them with pears, pomegranates, local coffees, thrifted tapers, and a little Christmas ornament from a local maker.
  10. Stocking Stuffers: For a cost effective way to buy some quality items to pop into stockings, thrift is a great way to go.  Items I’ve thrifted in the past and for this year include; brand new, hand knit slippers for kids, books, stationary, coasters, candles, new rubber stamps,  and wooden toys.
  11. Linens + Kitchen Items: So many people don’t use cloth napkins anymore so the thrift stores often have several bundles of brand new ones. I found some gorgeous embroidered, linen ones a couple years ago that I gifted.  You can also find a good assortment of placemats, table cloths, and table runners.  I picked up a crocheted dish towel for my Mom’s stocking.  I also grabbed a couple of brand new festive trivets. This can be used for hot pots or for a serving board.  Add cheese, candles, jams, or anything else to it for a lovely gift. Another great kitchen item to thrift is a cake pan which you could fill with baking ingredients and a recipe. 
  12. Bags, Jewelry, and other Fashion Items: If shopping for these items at the thrift shop feels too daunting or if you have something specific in mind, check out online resellers.  Whether it’s an app like Poshmark or ThreadUp or a curated shop like Elizabeth O. Vintage or Barefoot Contessa, you are bound to find some really special pieces to gift.

A few other things to look for when you’re at the thrift shop to help you with your gift giving: 

  • Tins: perfect for gifting baking or other homemade items
  • Gift Wrap: Every year I grab a brand new roll of gift wrap from the thrift shop.
  • Christmas Cards: There are always boxes upon boxes of holiday cards to choose from.  I grabbed a brand new box this year for only $1.99.
  • Unique gift wrap: I have used everything from scarves, to t-shirts, to stockings to wrap up gifts.  There are hundreds of each of these categories hanging in the thrift shops.


  1. Colleen C

    December 16th, 2023 at 1:29 pm

    These are some great ideas. Our local Buy Nothing Group is also full of brand new, gift condition items at this time of the year. There are lots of ways to gift from the heart & still save $ & the planet!

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