Extreme Thrifting: Birthday Edition

Some of us have the thrifting bug worse then others. I definitely have an advanced case. Which is why, when Lydia’s first birthday approached, I left her napping with her daddy and hauled the rest of my crew to the local thrift store to birthday shop.

I wanted to get her a doll–I guess that’s traditional first birthday gift for girls in our family. There’s plenty of baby dolls around the house–Sophie Baby and Jilly, Kirsten and Isaac–but Lydia needed one that was her own. I could have gone to Wally’s World, but I like the thrill of the hunt better.

Plus, who wants to spend $12-$15 when you can spend $2?

Our thrift store packages up the mounds of miscellaneous toys and stuffed animals into clear plastic trash bags and labels them “Girl” or “Boy” for $2 each. Our goal, as I explained to my minions (8, 5, and 4 years old) when we entered the 50 ft. toy aisle, was to find a bag with a medium sized baby doll with plastic head and cloth body.

There was one catch: you’re not aloud to open the bags. And though they use a clear-ish plastic bag, the packages are all double bagged, providing a rather foggy view of the contents.

We began, me searching the top shelf, the minions on the two lower shelves. They immediately began calling my attention to various “treasures” that caught their eye.

Rule Number One of Thrift Shopping: Stay Focused.

I told them we were only here for a baby doll. I looked over a bag and only saw a shaggy, hot pink teddy bear and a worn out Barbie. I moved on, but my 8 year old over-achiever reached for the top shelf and yelled, “Mom! I found one!”

There in the bag I’d passed over was the exact doll we were looking for. Your basic plastic baby doll with no frills. She didn’t even have a dress–just a sewn on jumpsuit. Plus, she looked brand new. She was the perfect candidate for a makeover.

After a little more browsing (when in the thrift store, one must always check the skirt aisle for maxi skirts. It’s Company Policy), we headed home. The kids were all excited about the huge bag of toys we were bringing home, but their minimalist mother gently explained that we wouldn’t be keeping most of it. I actually left the bag in the car when we got home, and I didn’t sort it till they were all asleep that night.

There were indeed some treasures that made it past my definition of clutter. A pink ball Lydia would love. Some colorful Post-It note stacks, a box of colored chalk, and an entire collection of beach toys (sand castle forms and buckets and shovels!). There was even a net bag for the beach stuff! I set that aside for a future beach trip, and chose a little something for each of the other children, then dumped the Barbie, the pink teddy bear, and the assortment of plastic junk into the trash. We had definitely got our money’s worth!

I do have to report that Mr. Holden simply watched this whole process as it played out on the kitchen floor. He’s loves thrifting but I think even he thought this was a little extreme.

I sterilized the baby doll and left her to dry out of site and headed to bed. Next morning, while the Birthday Girl took her morning nap, we finished the baby doll’s makeover.


I ripped off the cheapo headband that had been sewn to her scalp, leaving her with a clean palette for the fashion statement we wanted to make. Then I took an old dress of Claire’s that had a lovely lace hem and, measuring the baby doll’s torso, cut out a simple bodice, two sleeves, and a skirt. Because I was using an existing skirt with the hem and trim already finished, it only took 30 minutes to sew up a sweet little frock that turned our thrift store special into a potential heirloom.


When sewing doll clothes for small children, I usually sew the dress to the doll’s body. Only when my girls are old enough to dress and undress the doll do they get removable clothing. I finished hand sewing the dress closed in the back and then let the minions wrap it up for their sister.

When Lydia got up from her nap, we opened presents.


The ball was a huge hit.


Lydia “kissing” her new baby.




Lydia loved her birthday presents…and her thrift-addict mama had got her fix.

Do you ever birthday shop at thrift stores? Do you think I need intervention?

5 responses to “Extreme Thrifting: Birthday Edition”

  1. Lauren Avatar

    You are such a clever, caring momma! I admired these pics on Instagram, and they’re even better here! She’s got the hugest smile on her face :0) Well done!

  2. Natasha Metzler Avatar

    So, my husband goes to auctions all the time– like, for work, since he buys and sells farm equipment. And just this past summer I realized that these auctions are OFTEN household auctions.

    Let’s just say that we ended up buying a huge lot of “stuff” for $1 and then sorted through it to pull out all this beautiful wooden doll house furniture. Our girl’s birthday is in a couple weeks and we’re doing the same thing– “remodeling” an old (free!) dollhouse and filling it with $1 furniture!

    So, yeah. You’re not too extreme.

    1. Trina Avatar

      you had me at “dollhouse”. Pretty please share your own story of God providing through thrifty channels so I can see pictures of this beauty?
      Auctions. They are dangerous places for me. LOL Once I bought a world war two parachute at an auction. Once we bought a house. It’s the ultimate thrift fix, and dangerously addicting.

  3. Jessica Avatar

    I not only birthday shop at thrift stores and yard sales, but also do most of my Christmas shopping there as well. You are not crazy. My children are actually still ok with this even at 8 years old.

    1. Trina Avatar

      Yeah! I’m not crazy! lol Actually, I know my own mother bought many of our gifts second hand, and we valued them for the effort she put into finding them (and keeping them hidden for months!) as much as if she had spent loads of money.
      I think it’s time for me to start thinking about Christmas. At the thrift store. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *