"I furnished my entire bedroom in French Provincial," says Marlene Gruett of Orange. "I collected it piece by piece, and it all matches."
She has a bed, dresser, mirror, night stands and a desk and chair.
"People walking into my bedroom would never guess it all came from Goodwill stores," she says. It cost her less than $200 for the entire room.
Helen Bickel of Buena Park has found many household bargains over the years in thrift stores.
"I found a Persian rug for $80, which I resold for $400," she says. "I bought some wicker-seat wooden ice cream chairs I use in my kitchen."
Finding a bargain on good secondhand furniture is a great way to furnish a room, says Liz Elrod of Yorba Linda. She bought a solid walnut entertainment center for $100 and a gold velour tuxedo-back sofa for $75.
"The only thing wrong with (the sofa) was some of the pleats were not stapled at the bottom," she says, something she easily fixed herself.
At the Veteran's Thrift Store in Garden Grove, there are typically 40 couches and love seats in stock as well as many upholstered chairs and dining room sets. Couches cost $25 to $110, hide-a-beds are $40 to $125, living room chairs are $10 to $60 and dining room sets are $45 to $300. When there's too much in stock in the furniture department, there's a 50% off sale.
The secrets seasoned bargain hunters reveal are that shoppers need to know what they're looking for or can recognize quality when they see it, and they simply have to be in the right place at the right time. The best time to shop is after the store has put out new material.
The Bargain Box in Huntington Beach closes on Mondays to restock, and on Tuesdays it is swarming with regulars who know the routine. Salvation Army stores receive five deliveries a week, "but they restock every day from the back room," says David G. Boyd of the Salvation Army Stores and the Adult Rehabilitation Centers of Orange County.
Boyd says the Salvation Army route trucks take everything to the main warehouse, where it is sorted, repaired, cleaned and divided among its 12 Orange County stores, "unless we feel a certain item would sell better at a certain store."
The Salvation Army has a rule that items must be displayed in the store at least 24 hours before employees can buy it, to "make sure the customers have the first option," says Boyd.