Dating and Relationship Advice

The holiday season is upon us—at least, that's what Home Depot wants us to think. But with the twinkling lights and peppermint flavored drinks come major stressors as well. Namely, "what am I going to get my boyfriend/girlfriend/FWB/SO for Christmas?!!!"

Some people have turned to thrifting to find unique and affordable gifts for their partner. And why wouldn't they? It's quite satisfying to browse through rows and racks of used goodies to find a piece that works, and it's far more environmentally-friendly than shopping at Target every week.

However, there are a few key rules to thrifting for the perfect gift. Here are the ultimate dos and don'ts to buying your special someone a present from a secondhand shop.

1) Do: Choose Something That Ages Well

And no, I don't mean a well-balanced Bordeaux. Vintage editions of books, antique clocks, and fashion accessories like handbags and sunglasses tend to maintain their character through time. Oftentimes the second-hand quality of these items only adds to their personality, and makes you think about where they were before they came into your possession.

For our one year anniversary, I gifted my partner a special copy of T.S. Eliot's book of poems from 1909 to 1962 that I purchased from Thriftbooks for $50. It had a navy, leather-bound cover with a delicate gold engraving and was the perfect gift for a poetry enthusiast.

2) Don't: Prioritize An Item's Label Over Its Condition

You might be thrilled to find an authentic Gucci wallet from your local thrift shop for under $30, but you should pass on it if it's stained, ripped, or just in generally poor condition. Designer labels aren't a substitute for high quality. When you're choosing a present for someone, you should imagine those initial moments of them ripping open the wrapping paper and finding the gift. Will the item look nice? If not, I'd pass.

Thrifting is half about the destination and half about the journey. When you're thrifting to gift, it's probably a little bit more about the destination... but you should still have some fun with it!

Thrifting online and thrifting in-person both have their perks. The former makes it easy to find exactly what you're looking for, but the latter lets you see exactly what condition the item is in. Plus, no shipping fees.

For online consignment shops, I prefer eBay and Poshmark. While I appreciate that online marketplaces like The RealReal authenticate all of their consigned clothing and use a relatively standardized pricing system, the difference between the retail cost and the used cost is a little too close for comfort. For instance, The RealReal's suede UGG boots mostly run in the $95 - $115 vicinity, but that's also how much you'd pay for them at an UGG outlet store.

My favorite thrift stores in New York City are Beacon's Closet, the Housing Works in Gramercy (but really, any Housing Works) and the Goodwill on the Upper East Side. I admit, however, that I haven't really explored the Brooklyn scene yet. And I heard it's good.

4) Don't: Freak Out

You've been searching and searching for weeks. Now it's the second week of December and you're still coming up empty. Don't keep thrifting until it's too late to ship something from * gasp * Amazon. If it's slim pickings and you've started seeing the eBay logo every time you close your eyes, it's time to call it quits. Order that Moleskine notebook, buy that North Face jacket, purchase those fluffy socks. A generic, on time gift is way better than no gift or late gift.

5) Do: Think About The Person

Everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum of "even my depreciating assets need to be new" to "I get all my underwear from Goodwill." If your person won't even consider buying a used car, they probably won't like a used sweater, no matter how soft and adorably retro it is.

In my opinion, unless you're ABSOLUTELY SURE that your person is A-okay with thrifted stuff, I wouldn't buy them used clothes. You can't really return or exchange them for a different size and you don't know how cool your person is with wearing something that still has a stranger's smell all over it.

So there you have it—the five dos and don'ts of thrifting a gift for your special someone. Just follow these tips and you'll find the perfect present in no time.