8 Tips for Smart Thrift Shopping

I was planning on going to a thrift store sale on Monday and writing a blog post about my findings, but I ended up not being able to go. Since I’ve been itching to write about thrift shopping, here are a few tips I’ve learned about it over the years!

1. Triple check items for stains, rips, cracks, and other imperfections. 

It’s easy to miss small stains or holes in clothing if you don’t examine it closely enough. Look at it before you start carrying it around so that you don’t forget. Oh, and smell clothing as well. I know that sounds weird, but if you smell anything beyond the typical thrift store smell, you may not want to buy it. Make sure to also examine glassware for cracks and chips, as they can be easy to miss at first glance. Quickly flip through books before purchasing them. I don’t mind pen and highlighter marks (I actually think it’s cool to see what someone else found important), but you may not want those marks.

2. Know what you want/need when you walk in.

This isn’t like a grocery list, because you can’t guarantee that thrift stores will have exactly what you’re looking for, but having a general game plan is important. I typically know the sections I want to visit and what I could use more of. For example, last time I went, I specifically looked for dresses, flannels, and jackets because I knew my wardrobe would benefit from more of those. I also looked at the kitchen items for my future apartment.

3. Only buy items that are on sale.

I know it’s a thrift store, so things are cheap already, but I’m always about getting the best deal possible! Most thrift stores have some sort of sale every day of the week, so it’s important to know those before you start shopping. My favorite thrift stores (City Thrift & Red Racks) have 50% off everything sales at least once a month, and that’s typically the only time I go. My mom scored a small table for 49 cents the other day at Goodwill because it was a certain color tag. SCORE. Proud of you momma.

4. See the potential in items. 

Most people don’t clean their stuff before giving it to thrift stores, which means it may not look like it’s in the best condition when on the shelf. This doesn’t mean it’s not worth buying! I’ve purchased countless kitchen items that needed a good scrub, but looked brand new after I washed it! My mom constantly buys furniture that looks old/dated/banged up and re-paints it to look flawless. A lot of people bypass perfectly capable items because they are dirty – that’s your chance to give them a second look and figure out if they’re really worth it or not.

5. Don’t be afraid to dig. 

Thrift shopping is not easy. It takes time and muscles. It requires sifting through racks and racks of clothing only to find a few items that you *might* buy. It also requires digging through shelves to find out what’s behind all of the stuff that no one is buying. It’s a bit of a hassle sometimes, but it’s worth it! (Mini tip: Bring a friend to make it more enjoyable!)

6. Try everything on (yes, everything). 

Even if you’re 100% certain that it’s your size and you have the exact same one in a different color at home, still try it on. You never know, and a lot of times people take clothing to thrift stores because it fit weird. I’ve made the mistake of not trying on something as versatile as a rain jacket, and getting home only to realize that it doesn’t fit the way I thought it would. Trust me on this tip – you’ll thank me later!

7. Don’t try to buy everything at thrift stores.

I will always recommend thrift shopping, but I will NEVER recommend trying to fill all your needs with gently used items. Things I don’t typically buy at thrift stores include athletic apparel, jeans, shoes, intimates, blankets, bathroom items, pots & pans, and cloth furniture. I hope most of those are self-explanatory. 😉 There are still ways to save on those items, maybe just not at thrift stores.

8. Look over items again before you check out. 

This is a MUST. I always do this before I purchase my items. I examine each item one last time and ask myself, “Will I really use this?” It’s easy to get caught in the trap of buying something just because it’s cheap. No matter how cheap something is, it’s still not worth it if you’re not going to use it. If you’re not 100% certain you want it, don’t get it.

I hope these help you! The art of thrift shopping is definitely something that you learn over time – and I’m still learning! Let me know if you have any tips that you want to share with me!

Thanks for reading!






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