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The perfect gift may be a second-hand item

POSTED: December 6, 2011 1:30 a.m.

If nothing else, the Great Recession has taught most folks how to make the most out of their earnings.

Overall that applies to making big purchases, but why not let that lesson cross over to holiday shopping, too?

One way of saving a little money is by purchasing gifts from thrift and antique stores.

A well thought out second-hand find could earn you first-class points from the recipient — just don’t try to pass it off as brand new.

When searching for a gift, consider how recipients decorate or their interests: a vintage pie server for the baker, an old map of a traveler’s favorite destination, antique beer bottles for the amateur beer maker, perhaps.

One way to dress up your preloved find is by pairing it with another small item. A pretty candle holder at an antique shop can be paired with a few scented candles — even better if you can find ones that are made locally.

Scouring thrift-type stores not only helps you save a few bucks, it also presents you with the opportunity to support small businesses.

Want to shop second hand but don’t know how? Here’s some advice.

Be open-minded:

For some people, there is still an "ick" factor when it comes to second-hand shopping.

Someone’s eaten off these plates! Someone’s worn this coat!

Ease up.

Think: "I’m going to score a great find. I’m going to save lots of money. I’m helping to save the planet."

Do your homework:

Save yourself time and gas money by scoping out the sales before you hit the road.

Befriending a store’s staff is a must, too, if you want to score the best deals. Introduce yourself to them, and visit the store often. Knowing the person who prices things is, well, priceless.

Think kid stuff:

Toys are some of the most popular second- hand items people buy during the holidays. (What 2-year-old can tell a new toy from used?) Some thrift stores hold back a lot of toys just for the Christmas shopping season.

Haggle, haggle, haggle:

Even vintage and thrift shops will sometimes haggle with customers. But many people are willing to pay the full sticker price at stores run by charities.

However, if you think the person you’re buying for won’t appreciate or like something previously used — and you know who they are — don’t even bother.

Instead, consider giving your special someone a gift certificate for things they could use like pet sitting or car care services.

"We can email you a gift certificate so you can print it yourself, or we can mail it to you," said Kay Haynes, office manager of Car So Shine Mobile Auto Detailing.

"Our packages start at $35 and go up from there. The summer is our busiest time of the year, but we’re still going strong even though it’s the winter."

A gift certificate to a mobile car care company could be just the thing for the folks on your gift list who can never find the time to take their vehicle to the carwash.

"We have everything we need in our vans — from water, to electricity and chemicals. All we need is your dirty car," Haynes said.

"We go mostly to homes, but we’ve gone to workplaces., too. Wherever the car is located; our service area is anything within an hour radius around Gainesville."

Consider giving the gracious, holiday party hosts a gift card to a carpet cleaning service. After the celebrations are over, hosts want to be left with happy memories, not the headache of trying to figure out how to remove the evidence of the Swedish meatball-meets-beige-carpet incident.

Many people don’t think about hiring a photographer unless it is wedding season, but a gift certificate for a family portrait would warm the hearts of parents and grandparents everywhere.

If "World’s Greatest Dad" mugs have become more of a miss instead of a hit with the man of the house, think about stuffing his stocking with a gift certificate to a lawncare company. Who wouldn’t appreciate getting a break from pruning wayward limbs and raking fallen leaves?

"We are very much open to meeting with customers, taking a look at the project they have in mind and giving them a quote," said Marshall McIntyre, owner and operator of New Horizons Landscaping, which serves customers in Hall County.

Instead of a card for a specific task, New Horizons gift certificates are more a voucher for a given dollar amount, McIntyre says.

No matter which route you choose — gift certificates, vintage finds or boutique goods — put careful thought into whom you are buying for before you shop.

That’s particularly important because, unlike at the mall, you often can’t return a prepaid service or something you’ve bought from a second-hand source.

McClatchy-Tribune News Services contributed to this article.


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