Twelve Tips for Thrifting

People have often told me, “you’re so good at thrifting! I’m just not that good at it…”

Enter major eye roll here!

Anyone – did you hear me? I said ANYONE! – can be good at thrifting. It just takes a little practice and a lotta patience.

With the holidays just around the corner (whaaaa? How is it November already?!), now is the perfect time to dive into the thrift shop fun if you haven’t yet before! Take a look at your gift list this year. (It’s okay, I haven’t made mine yet, either.) What on there could be purchased secondhand? Clothes? Shoes? Toys? Books? Sports gear? Kitchen items? Yep, you can find it all at the thrift shop!

Yes, I know, you could also buy it new and have it in two days without ever leaving your house! But let me tell you why you should set aside your convenience for just a minute and reconsider where you buy. For one, thrift shopping will save you money. (Woohoo! That’s not something many of us are used to this time of year!) For two, thrift shopping is much less damaging to the environment. That sweater you’ve been looking for? It already exists – no need to buy it new! That toy your kid’s had their eye on? Yep, it’s been used a few times and discarded – why let it go to waste?! And of course, you’re going to further help the planet by reducing your carbon emissions and plastic waste when you opt to shop in person rather than pay for shipping!

We’ve all heard it – small businesses need our help right now. And that doesn’t exclude your local thrift shop. So come on! Let’s go treasure hunting together!

My TOP TIPS for thrifting like a boss:

  1. Know the difference between thrifting and consignment.
    • I don’t want there to be any surprises here! Thrift shopping and consignment shopping are two different things. With consignment, retailers buy gently used clothes from shoppers and then resell them. With thrifting, clothing is donated, so you never know what you’re gonna get! There is more hunting involved in thrift shopping, but that’s the fun of it!
  2. Search your area for the best thrift stores.
    • There are plenty of chain charity shops – Goodwill, Salvation Army, Value Village, and others through local nonprofits. Test them all out and decide which one is your spot! Don’t be fooled – most people are tempted to think that the stores in the wealthiest areas must have the best stock, but it’s the small town shops that often get looked over and are left with the best items! Once you pick your place, ask the staff if they have a specific restocking day. This can help you plan out your shopping days so you’re not arriving after everything’s been picked over.
  3. Have an idea of what you’re looking for…
    • …but don’t be too specific. It’s good to have general needs in mind (sweaters for winter, tank tops for summer, dresses for special occasions, pants for work, etc.) so that you don’t waste time meandering the entire store. Thrift stores typically organize their clothes by style, so that makes it easier to find what you’re looking for. However, avoid being too particular about brands or styles and try to keep an open mind. If you’re not entirely sure what you’re looking for, look online at sites like Pinterest for outfit and home inspo!
  4. Where something simple that can match with a lot.
    • Black leggings and a simple tank may be the perfect outfit for thrifting! You want to be able to try things on easily and picture them going with other items in your closet. Plus, layering is a must as some thrift shops don’t have any dressing rooms. You may find yourself stripping down right there in the middle of the store! And don’t forget your comfy shoes and your cross-body bag so you can be ready to hunt hands-free.
  5. Ignore sizes and gender – shop all the sections!
    • This is my favorite thrifting tip! You cannot – repeat: cannot! – limit yourself to one size or section of the store. Thrift shopping is not like shopping at your go-to department store – there’s such a mish mash of brands that you never know what you’re going to find! For instance, if you’re looking for a chunky knit sweater for winter, you may find that an XL fits you perfectly even though you normally where a M. Or, you may be searching only in the Women’s section when there’s a beautiful array of chunky sweaters waiting for you in the Men’s section. Get creative here! An oversized t-shirt can make the perfect mini dress, or a lovely skirt could be tailored just a bit to fit you right. Bottom line: have an open mind and don’t let sizes hold you back.
  6. Check for stains, tears and odors before purchasing.
    • Disclaimer: thrift shops don’t wash their clothes before they put them out on their floor! That means the laundering will be up to you. Typically, clothing sorters won’t sell items that have damage to them, but sometimes this can be missed. Some of this damage might be easily repaired – deodorant marks? An easy wash can take care of things. A small rip along the seam? Easily mendable! Scuff marks on shoes? Get your buffer ready! However, there are some things that can’t be fixed. Pit stains, large holes, and cigarette smoke are among the usual suspects. If you find a damaged item that is beyond repair, save your money and put it back. But, if you think it’s an easy fix, ask for an even bigger discount for the damage!
  7. Get over the gross factor.
    • The clothes may be dirty, the store may be dirty, you may leave with a weird smell about you. Leave your best clothes at home and pack your hand sanitizer. You’ll be fine, and after a wash cycle or a wipe down your clothes and furniture will be too!
  8. Check labels for brands, materials, and care.
    • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you never know what you’ll find while thrifting! You may find a high priced or beloved brand, which could be perfect for holiday gifting! Sometimes you may even find a new item that still has its original tags. Certain stores like Target donate their unsold items – clothing and other – to Goodwill. That means you’re getting a brand new item for the charity shop price! It’s also important to double check what your item is made of and how to care for it. For clothing, natural fibers are safer than synthetic one’s, and I try to avoid things that are dry-clean only. For furniture, real wood is more durable and longer-lasting than laminate.
  9. Practice visualization.
    • In a thrift shop full of junk, everything blends together. Look at each item individually and picture it in your own house. Can you picture those candle sticks on your fireplace mantle? How do they look there? Can you picture that jacket hanging in your closet? Will you pull it off the rack and wear it? This is one of the reasons why thrift shopping is better with friends – it’s helpful to get a second opinion!
  10. Be patient and persistent.
    • There’s hardly anything more stressful than sorting through thrifted items when you’re crunched for time! Make sure you go when you have plenty of time to spare. And along with that, be persistent in your time there! Some thrifting days, you may leave the store empty-handed while other days you find an abundance of treasures! Don’t be discouraged on the days when there’s nothing – it takes time to find the treasures and you never know – your next favorite item could be donated at any point in time! (Like my leopard print dress pictured above!) Shopping off-season is a great hack for finding the least picked-over item. Clothing of all seasons is donated at all times, but it’s not always being purchased! Look for your winter wardrobe in the summer heat and visa versa.
  11. Set a budget.
    • Thrift shopping is cheap. But, even small priced items can add up quickly! If you need to, set a limit of how much you’ll spend when you go. If you struggle to stay within your boundaries, bring a cash fund and only use that for your buyinh.
  12. Ask about discounts!
    • Once you pick your store, ask the employees if they offer any discounts! Some shops have sales on certain days of the week, while others offer discounts for seniors, military, teachers and the like. And if you bring in donations, a lot of times they will give you a coupon for shopping in return! And of course, don’t forget to bring your own bag – they may or may not offer you a discount for this, but either way it’s an important way to reduce your plastic waste!

There you have it – my best thrifting tips! Not so intimidating now, is it? With a little patience and some hunting, you can find so many treasures! Are there any tips that I left out? I’d love to hear about your thrifting experiences!

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