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How (And Why) I Thrifted All My Christmas Gifts This Year

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If you're good at looking for treasure and you love unique Christmas gifts, I'll tell you how I thrifted everything for the holidays this year!

Thrifted christmas gifts.
updated on:
January 26, 2023

So by this point, no one is surprised when I say I love thrifting, right? I mean, it's kind of in the job description (I blog about all things vintage, hi!), but for some reason, I've always been hesitant to thrift Christmas gifts. And not for the reason you'd think.

thrift and gift

It's not because thrifting is more cost-effective or secondhand items are, well, secondhand! It's because I truly didn't feel like other people would see vintage things the same way I do - with a lot of excitement and admiration. I had accepted the idea that it's "normal" to go to the mall every Christmas, pick out a shiny new thing, and wrap it up with a big shiny bow.

Well, not this year! Let me tell you all about how I thrifted all my Christmas gifts this year - and how you can do the same.

This post is all about thrifted christmas gifts.

Like I said above, I was resigned to the idea that Christmas gifts were new. There's always the running joke about the funny aunt who re-gifts you her old half-used candle. That definitely gave secondhand gifts a bad rap! So every year, I would give new, even though the majority of the way I shop throughout the year is via thrifting.

It would result in me getting people the same combination of things and trying to stay in the rat race of buying expensive things. It would frustrate me how one pair of Alo leggings cost $130! I mean, where's the fun in opening that? Two seconds of joy for $130. It wasn't just the cost of things that was bothering me. I felt none of those gifts were truly personalized. Yes, new gifts can still be thoughtful, but nothing felt truly unique.

So that got me thinking...is it possible to thrift an entire Christmas list?

I knew that I had been refining my ability to find cool vintage treasures and score some awesome deals in the process. But I didn't know how to translate that into finding secondhand gifts for every person on my list. Sure, I could think of a million things in my eBay watchlist that I would love, but what about people who aren't as into vintage things?

I decided I wanted to find out. Let me take you through my process and what I learned along the way.

thrift and gift

The rules

First off, I laid a few ground rules for myself:


I would have a strict budget for each person on my list, and I would keep track of this budget by writing everything down and adding it up as I purchased things.

For my fiancé and I, we decided to team up and do $50 per person per person. So, $100 for each person on our list. Now, I believe you can do this at any price point, and we only really had intentions on getting gifts for our immediate families.

We didn't spend the maximum on everyone. We figured there have been years where we've spent more on some than others, and as long as each person is getting sort of an equivalent type of gift or numbers of gifts we found that staying under budget helps you put that money towards something else (wrapping, etc.) or just helps you feel good that you stayed within budget.

Offer on everything

There is not a single thing that I bought from Poshmark or eBay that I didn't put an offer on. And I got every item I purchased for lower than the list price. I talk a little bit more about how and why to do this is my post here. Basically everything that I could get the price lower on, I had more budget to buy them something else!

Make sure you're reasonable. If you're offering $10 on something that is $100, you're not going to get a response. But at the same time, don't be afraid to push it. I think I offered $75 on something that was $100 and we ended up at $80! Be strategic. They're probably going to counter so make it reasonable, but push your offer a tiny bit lower than what you want to pay. Negotiation 101!

Online is okay

Normally when you think of thrifting you think of going to Goodwill and sifting through every rack until your lips are dry and your back hurts. Just me? Ok I digress. Well, I decided that I would be allowed to buy from eBay & Poshmark, two of my favorite places to find vintage treasures. I just knew in my heart that it would take a superhuman amount of hours sifting through every thrift store, so I bought all my base items online. More on that later.

thrift and gift

No procrastination

Believe me when I say I am one of those people who is usually running out on December 23rd, trying frantically to get all my Christmas shopping done. It's not that I put it off because I don't care, it's because I do so much research yet refuse to commit. It just feels wrong to me to order something on Black Friday when I have barely just started thinking of Christmas!

But like I said, I decided to be strategic and order a base level of things online so my head wasn't spinning when I walked into the thrift store. That's why I decided all my main Christmas shopping would need to be done around December 15th, just in case of late shippers and whatnot.

I will note here that if you decide to try thrifting your Christmas gifts for this next year, be mindful that one of the challenges with this method is keeping track of all the different items that are being shipped to you. You can choose to do whatever level of online thrifting you want, just know that you are dealing with many different merchants and there may be delays. I try to buy from highly rated sellers, pay right away, and order as early as I can to do my part in getting everything in on time.

As a bonus, this ensures that I am relaxed and having fun the closer it gets to December 25th (something I have yet to experience!)

Semi-sustainable wrapping + extras

One thing that I have always left to the absolute last minute is wrapping materials. I'm always standing in WalMart with a pack of sticker tags and giant roll of wrapping paper (nothing wrong with it, just want to switch it up this year!) and I just have never been too happy with the outcome.

One of the fun parts of Christmas is admiring the pretty packages and how they're wrapped so this year, I decided that I would be more mindful about buying cool containers along the way that can double as wrapping and functional items.

For example, I found an amazing vintage sewing box at the thrift on 50% off day. I thought that it was such a cool double use container rather than the paper boxes that are immediately thrown away.

I also found some cool vintage boxes, vintage ribbon, and vintage cards. All for 50% off! I paid a fraction what you would pay in even WalMart!

Don't think too hard

One thing that I have been majorly guilty of in the past is thinking too hard about potential gifts. Will they use it? Where will they put it? Do they already have one? Will it just sit in their closet? Would they buy it for themselves? And so on...Well, truth be told it's important to think of those things to a degree. Obviously you have to spend some time on them, but after you do - stop thinking about it.

There have been so many times where I've been in a store agonizing over a decision just to get it wrong anyway! If I think it's cool and I think they'll think it's cool, I would rather trust my gut and go with that than overthink it.

If you like this post you may enjoy this post: Why Vintage Mules À La The 00s Are Back - Closet Essentials

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The process

I know that it seems like a lot of guidelines, but let me tell you how it went. I'll even tell you exactly what I got each person so you can have some ideas for the people in your life!

So I'm sure you can relate to this. I have some people in my life that I find extremely easy to shop for, and some people that I find slightly more difficult to shop for.

I could write an entire essay on why I feel guys are difficult to shop for in general - not just for girls, but guys shopping for guys too! It's not the guys' faults either (most of the time), they just don't have as many options out there.

My sister is the easiest for me and the guys in my life are probably the hardest.

So I wrote my list of people down and everything each person is into. Not just what they want for Christmas, but what they're interested in, what they've been talking about lately, things they've mentioned in passing, little funny jokes over the year; my favorite types of gifts are ones that aren't directly on a Christmas list, but something tangential. Like, something related yet pleasantly unexpected.

Ideally, you're crafting this list over the year, but I definitely hadn't. I tried to remember and take mental notes of every interaction. It sounds intense, but even little conversations can reveal a lot.

It gets easier the more you brainstorm!

thrift and gift

How it went

Overall I purchased about 8 items on eBay, 2 items on Poshmark, and took 3 total trips to the thrift store for gifts and wrapping for about 10 people. I thought it would take me way more trips, but because I had the supplemental items from the online thrifting I felt I had good anchor pieces and it took the pressure off finding things in store. I was able to just browse around and find extra items for people.

I found that I was able to stick to budget relatively well, but I definitely wanted to keep going out until the last minute because it was just so fun. I felt like I wanted to keep going and going!

I went to Savers for two of my trips and both times it was 50% off day! I sort of feel like Savers is a little overpriced at times so going on 50% off day made me feel like I could make my budget go farther. I went to one of my favorite Goodwills for the other day and it wasn't 50% off...but I was okay with that!

I definitely always take a long time in the thrift store on any day - but especially when I'm shopping for everyone on my list! I can spend up to 3 hours shopping! I know, it's kind of intense, but I honestly weirdly love it.

thrift and gift
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Caroline's gift box

It would probably take too long to explain all the stories behind every single gift I gave this year, but I'll go through one full example - the gift I gave my friend Caroline. Now, I will say that Caroline is one of the easier people for me during Christmastime. She just *gets* the whole vintage vibe. I'll make sure to give you some ideas for the more difficult people on your list later.

For Caroline, I started with one really cool idea. I was browsing eBay for vintage clothing and literally just stumbled across a vintage nautical style dress. The seller claimed it was a style from the 60s, but I'm not really sure there's any real way to confirm. From the photos, it looked vintage (zipper and clasp looked more substantial than modern styles). It had the most darling collar with white piping and white stars. Caroline loves stars so I thought it was perfect for her. I offered and after some back and forth I got a deal on it. Yes!

From there I had my base. The dress is definitely a highlight item, anything else in addition would just be a cool bonus. So off to the thrift store I went. When I go, I only have a general idea in my head of everyone's personal interests and styles. The rest is just browsing. I came across the most fabulous red leather jacket. It was all luck. And guess what? It was 50% off! Caroline loves cherries and I just thought it would be fabulous on her. I bought it and took it home. I also found a vintage padded heart box and some acrylic purple earrings that looked to be in good shape. Earrings and jewelry can be questionable, but if they look hardly worn I just give them a good sanitizing and they're good to go. Again, both were 50% off. I looked in one of my favorite sections for thrifting (the slips) and found a really pretty black and red heart silk slip dress. It was totally Caroline's style.

Keep in mind, I wasn't necessarily looking for things that were 50% off just to be cheap - I just figured my money could go farther and buy people more things if I found stuff on sale.

I also made sure to look in the Christmas section and the arts and crafts section. You know the wall with all the little bags? You can find the most amazing packages of ribbons for so cheap. I found some vintage ribbons in a bag that were 50% off. I think the bag had at least 8 ribbon spools and I paid maybe $3 for it? That's one of my favorite tips that you can use any time of the year. The Christmas section is also a great spot to find little bits and baubles to put on top of gifts. For example, I found a really cool red cardinal ornament to add to one of my dad's gifts because he loves them!

I also found some gold picture frames in a bag that were also 50% off. At this point you know how the story goes. I thought I could do something fun with those.

The final piece was a picnic basket that was in pretty good shape. I thought that it was a cute container to wrap the items in and it would last beyond the disposable packaging that you get on Christmas. It's always good to have containers for things.

thrift and gift

After taking all my treasures home, I cut the tags off and thoroughly washed everything. With all the other gifts I bought this was a pretty tedious process. But I wanted to make sure everything was sanitized and looked in the best condition possible when gifted.

I wanted to put together a pretty rudimentary collage of the inspo I had for the vintage dress I first picked out. I felt like it could help complete the vision and show the vintage inspiration I was thinking of when I bought the dress for Caroline. You can see how the nautical style was worn in the past. I got all the pictures from Pinterest.

Another thing I thought was fun is I picked a Timothée Chalamet photo from Pinterest and printed it to fit in one of the gold frames I found. He's one of Caroline's favorites.

I tied everything up individually with a different bow that I found in that grab bag I mentioned. It makes each part of the gift a separate opening experience. I put everything in the picnic basket and added a little bit of tissue paper. I also made sure to tie a nice pretty bow on the outside of the picnic basket so I didn't have to wrap it. Make sure to not double knot these bows so they're easy to open and save after the fact.

Was my thrifted Christmas successful?

Yes! I can tell you guys that everyone's reactions were awesome and I had multiple people tell me how much they loved their gifts. It was so much fun watching everyone open everything especially considering how much work I had put in - it was all totally worth the payoff. I think I'll do something similar next year!

Did I really thrift everything?

Okay...You got me. I didn't thrift everything. But I got pretty darn close. There were a few items that I just felt weren't the best secondhand. Some slippers, for example, and a new board game. I can count on one hand what I bought new but compared to what I bought secondhand it has to be less than 10%.

I thrifted a lot of the Christmas wrapping (a roll of paper, bows, boxes, and tags) but I still needed a trip to WalMart for some more wrapping paper and some curling ribbon.

I think overall it was still a success!

What did I get everyone else?

Here are some ideas for boys:

Vintage basketball jacket

Vintage silk bomber college jacket

Vintage Doc Martens

Vintage camcorder or camera

Vintage bandana

Vintage hockey jersey

Vintage board games

Vintage art

Here are some ideas for girls:

Vintage Victoria's Secret pajama set

Vintage necklace

Vintage tablecloth

Vintage embroidered pillowcases

Vintage tablerunner

Vintage tea towels

Vintage quilt

Vintage dress

Vintage hiking boots

Vintage sewing box

What are your thoughts?

Let me know if you guys would like me to expand on any of the gifts I got above. I'd love to help you find some thrifted Christmas gifts for your loved ones this next year!

Do you think you could ever do a totally thrifted Christmas???

This post was all about christmas gifts from thrift stores.

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