Tips for thrift shopping

3 Tips for Thrift Shopping Success

The words “thrift shopping” can conjure up different images for different people.

Some thrift for the thrill of finding a great bargain, while others may just love older and vintage items. Some thrift because they simply don’t have the budget for brand new.

And some have never really thrifted at all, either out of intimidation, or simply feeling skeeved out by the idea of wearing “used” clothes and owning “used” items.

However, thrift shopping can be a great way to score quality items, both “new” and vintage while saving you some cash. It does take patience, dedication, and luck to score those awesome finds, but it’s well worth it.

As someone who enjoys browsing around Goodwill and stopping by yard sales, I’ve sifted through my share of crap in order to find those hidden gems! When I do find them, it feels like I struck gold.

Who can resist an amazing deal and knowing that you’re making use of something that could have otherwise ended up in the trash? This is why thrifting is so worthwhile.

To help you find those diamonds in the rough, here are 3 tips for thrift shopping success:

Take your time when browsing

Fast fashion is so convenient today, not only because of the low prices but also because it’s so ubiquitous. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a cheap retailer in most urban areas. That makes it incredibly easy to find what you want in a hurry. Unfortunately, that isn’t always great for your budget, and it’s definitely bad for the environment.

Successful thrifting takes much more time and effort than simply grabbing cute clothes off the racks at Target.

The chances of walking into a Goodwill and immediately finding a great item is pretty slim, so do be prepared to wade through jammed racks full of unattractive, ill-fitting items before hitting the jackpot.

I have a lot more success finding gently used clothing items for my kids than I do myself these days, and that’s probably because I spend more time searching for things for them.

Take your time and go through the racks carefully. If you have something in particular in mind that you want to buy, like for example a cozy fall sweater or a warm cardigan, hit those racks first. Otherwise, you may get burnt out and give up before you’ve even looked in the right places.

Read More: 5 Ways to Dress Kids for Cheap

Look for labels and brands

When people want to get rid of unwanted clothes and household items, many don’t take the time to see if their brand name items are worth something today. Instead, they simply toss it into the donation bin without a second thought.

One person’s trash becomes a thrifter’s treasure! If an item catches your eye, be sure to take a closer look at the label. You just may score a brand name item for a few bucks.

Some thrift stores like Goodwill have gotten savvier about looking for labels, especially with clothing and handbags, and then marking those items up accordingly. If you’re not sure if you’re actually getting a good deal, do a quick online search. You may be able to get a better idea of what a particular label or vintage item is going for.

In my experience, many smaller local thrift shops don’t differentiate between items and just put everything out on the shelves for a reasonable price. They can be a great place to score a high-end brand for super cheap.

In addition to looking at the labels, carefully check over any item you’re considering buying. Many stores don’t offer refunds or returns, so you’re buying as-is and are stuck with it. For clothing, check along seams for tears, look for small holes, pulls, and stains.

When buying household items, check carefully for cracks, dents, knicks, etc. If you’re buying an appliance, lamp, etc, ask to plug the item in and ensure that it’s in good working order before you buy.

Give every store a chance

Most people think of Goodwill and the Salvation Army when they think of second-hand stores.

While both of these retailers are good places to support, there are also tons of independently owned second-hand stores that are worth your time. In fact, I’ve found that some of the most interesting pieces and the best prices are offered by smaller shops.

Don’t skip over that small consignment shop in a strip mall just because it doesn’t look like much from the outside. There’s a pretty good chance that something unique is hanging on the racks or hidden on a shelf. I usually find the best stuff at these random, smaller shops.

Other places to look for thrifted goodies are local church sales or community free stores. A free store opened up near us a few years ago and it’s a great place to drop items off and find something cool.

Join a local free-cycle or swap group on Facebook. In my area, we have community yard sale groups as well as swap groups. Those are great places to look first if you’re searching for something specific.

With the amount of like-new clothing items that people cycle through quickly in today’s fast fashion, instant gratification world, thrifting is a smart option for conscientious consumers. With a little time and effort, you can find hidden treasures among the racks of your local second-hand store. Happy hunting!

Do you go thrift shopping, or do you have reservations about buying used clothes and housewares?

18 thoughts on “3 Tips for Thrift Shopping Success”

  1. Pingback: Topics We’re Talking About: Getting Thrifty Up in Here

  2. One of the best things my mom ever taught me was to be a thrift shopper. Growing up places like the GoodWill, Second Time Around, and other boutique type thrift stores were where we would spend much of our time hunting for good clothing. When we did venture into a store our family always looked at the clearance center first.

    Today I have adopted the saying “It’s not on sale until it is 50% off and then you still really have to need/want it before you can put it in your cart.”

  3. I would say most of my recent purchases have been thrifted – definitely all the better brand stuff, since I can’t afford those new at retail price! Most of my favourite pieces that I can think of off the top of my head are all secondhand finds.

  4. Great tips! I love thrift shopping. Seriously. I LOVE IT. So I go around every couple of weeks or so, and spend an hour rooting through the stores to see if there is anything I would want to buy, or anything I can make a profit off of selling. I do have a 1 for 1 rule to limit my purchases. If I want to buy 1 thing, I have to have 1 thing I’m willing to get rid of. It keeps my closets from becoming too full, because I will literally never get rid of a shirt unless it’s 8 years old and no longer resembles anything close to a tshirt.

  5. Brandy @ Busted Budget

    I work in a resale store and can say that a lot of my clothes come from there now. The prices are just too good to pass up and I’ve found some really good brands there, too!

  6. I don’t always go shopping, but when I do I prefer Thrift Stores.

    I really don’t do that much shopping anymore, but I find myself going into the thrift store every once in a while to see if I can find a gem. Haven’t found anything in a while, but it keeps me busy for a few hours.

  7. I used to frequent a store called Savers, which had gently used clothing as well. For some reason, there weren’t many Goodwill stores where I used to live. Unfortunately, clothes that have already been washed and dried tend to not fit me correctly. If any of my tops shrink, they’re goners, so I have to monitor them in the dryer. Thankfully I don’t shop for clothes very often, so it’s not a budget killer!

    1. I’ve heard of Savers! Wish we had one around here. All we have locally are Goodwills, so we have to drive out of town to find more interesting shops.

  8. This is a great list! I am a devout thrift shopper and I think my #1 tip is to scout out stores in wealthy zip codes–they have the best clothes. You’re right that it pays off to be patient and comb through the racks!

  9. Shannon @ Financially Blonde

    I love thrift shopping and when I plan to go, I always make sure that I budget lots of time so that I can take my time to find the right items. The other thing you have to be careful of is buying anything just because you think its cheap because you are in a thrift store and not a department store. I was in a thrift shop where they sold a used H&M t-shirt for $9; however, I know that H&M sells new t-shirts for this price or less.

    1. Oh yeah, sometimes places mark up prices so much that I know I can find it for cheaper on sale racks in regular stores. Great tip- You really do have to watch out for that!

  10. John @ Sprout Wealth

    Great tips Lauren! We do a fair amount of thrift shopping, especially for clothes. The looking for labels point is a big one, especially for kids stuff. It can get so expensive when you factor in how long they’ll wear things. We can often find name brand items at a significant discount, which can save us a bundle as we can usually use it for another kid as well.

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