How One Frugal Shopper Created a Lovely Home on a Limited Budget

published Nov 30, 2016
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(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

Tavia’s inviting home doesn’t sport any one specific style, and yet it perfectly shows off her personality. It’s full of well-made furniture and quirky accessories. It’s the kind of space you’d instantly be comfortable in.

Her home is impressive for all the reasons listed above, but it’s also admirable because Tavia didn’t spend a ton of money. She crafted this warm, lived-in home thanks to the frugal powers of thrifting. And she’s revealed where she does her best second-hand shopping, the items she always looks for and more.

Where do you do most of your thrifty shopping?

I do most of my thrifty shopping at thrift stores and garage sales, with consignment stores a close third. In Minneapolis, one of my secret spots is The Goodwill thrift store in the upper income suburb of Minnetonka. I also love the neighborhood-wide garage sales here. My neighborhood, Victory, has made a big tradition of this, with many people hosting sales at out of their yards and garages one weekend in spring, so that the entire neighborhood turns into walkable flea market. I found some incredible deals there this year.

Before moving to Minneapolis, I spent ten years living in Iowa City, Iowa and it’s still one of my favorite places to thrift shop. One of my favorite spots there is an unassuming corrugated metal building near the river called Houseworks. They have so many unique, original items for the home and the prices are so reasonable. No longer being able to go there every week makes me ache inside.

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

Do you shop with a purpose?

I tend to shop with some idea for where in my house I need to add something. I may have a basic idea, like for example, a bench to go under a window. However, I don’t shop with an exact idea as to what the bench should look like.

If you’re trying to find something so specific that it has to be a certain style, color, size, and material…you could be looking for that needle in a haystack forever. One of the design challenges in thrifting (and in my opinion what makes it so much fun) is being open minded and creative in how you are able to adapt found objects, and a build a vision from there.

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

Are there any things you ALWAYS buy when you find it at a thrift store?

I always buy books…they have a grip on me that’s powerfully tight. I look for first editions by certain authors and antique books that are in good condition. My vintage cookbook collection is especially large.

Any advice for what to be careful about buying when thrifting?

…buying furniture or home goods that are upholstered. It’s hard to know where unwanted creatures reside, like bed bugs or other critters that could hitch a ride into your home, especially if the previous owners had pets. Certain pieces of wood furniture can also be a concern…a friend of mine bought a used wooden booth set for her breakfast nook and luckily stored it in the garage at first. Before moving it inside, she realized it was full of termites!

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

Your best “deal” you’ve found yet?

This summer I walked into a thrift store in a South Minneapolis suburb and turned my head to the left. I saw a rare Ansel Adams photo print of Georgia O’Keefe right behind the checkout. Immediately, I ran over to it and saw the price tag of $7.00. Upon further examination, I saw that it was an officially embossed print from the Ansel Adams gallery. I have not had it appraised, but after looking at other prints online, would guess that its value is over $100.

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

The item you probably paid too much for but you couldn’t pass up?

Within the past year, I went to one of the trendy consignment stores in town that specializes in vintage items. I saw an old wooden sign from a food market and I really, really liked it. It was on sale, but still more expensive than I would have wanted. I think I paid about $50 or $60 for it, but I’m used to paying less than $10!!!

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

Read more of Tavia’s thrifting adviceHow to Leave a Thrift Store and Love What You Bought