Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thrift Store Shopping Tips

I absolutely love shopping at thrift stores. I think there is something primal about the hunt. I know I get a rush from finding the perfect article of clothing or home decorating accent. I went through a furniture phase and added to my previous and current homes (along with the help of Craig's List). And lets not forget, I'm about a cheap as they come. Or as I like to say, "Using my resources wisely". 

When I go thrifting I like to make it an all day activity. I know, not everyone has that luxury - even I don't most times, but it is my preferred way of shopping. Kind of like a drug binge (not that I know what that is like ... but hey, I watch Intervention).

So here are a few of my shopping tips, even if you only go to one store:
  • If at all possible, leave the kids and husbands home. They just slow you down and ask questions like, "but do we need it?"
  • Using a maping software (like Google Map) and determine your route from store to store. You don't want to waste any precious time trying to figure out where to go next, or the best way to get there.
  • Make sure you bring water and snacks. Thrifting is hot and tiring work. Why go somewhere and eat out - that just takes away money for possible finds.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Take a purse with a long strap so you can wear it across your body. It keeps it safe and close at hand and keeps your hands free.
  • If you can, try on clothes at the store. Most of my local thrift stores have no dressing rooms and a no return policy.
  • Learn what the store's return policy is. 
  • Double check that the item works, all buttons are there, the zipper zips, etc. before you purchase it.
  • Wear a t-shirt that fits close to the body. You can try on blouses and jackets over it easily.
  • If you are hard core - wear a skirt so you can try on pants underneath and lift the skirt and check them out. I haven't been able to bring myself to do this.
  • If you can try on clothes at the store, make sure you are wearing easy on and off clothes - pull on shirts without buttons, comfortable pants or yoga pants, and slip on not tie shoes.
  • Leave your jacket in the car, even in freezing weather.
  • Go with a friend, you can cover the store twice as fast.
  • When looking for cloths shop smart. Without taking the item from the rack first look at colors (I will only wear cool colors, no horizontal strips, subdued prints), then fabric type (no polyester) then the style of the item (fitted, not loose and floaty for me) then if it meets all that criteria then pick it up and look at the size, label and overall look (designer here we come!). You can power through racks of clothing quickly.
  • For furniture have an idea where you will put the item before purchasing it. Difficult with great buys I know, but unless you can return it later don't bring it home to sit it in your garage.
  • Make sure what you buy can fit in your car or there is a hold and pick up policy. 
  • With home accents, my most favorite part of thrift store shopping, try to keep some guidelines in mind.
  • Paint covers a multitude of sins
  • Is the style consistent with what you currently have going on in your house?
  • Do you need or just want the item? (Neither is bad, it just allows you to budget a little better).
  • Do you have a possible place for the item? Bringing it home to sit in the basement is not a good use of your money. You could be buying a better and more useful thing at the next store!
  • The item doesn't have to be used for its intended purpose. My friend Alison uses a cute baby changing table with wooden details as a stand for her multitude of  hand made quilts. (It was my idea - great huh?!)
  • I ask myself, "Is this $5 (or whatever) worth of cute?" Some things are cute but outside of what I want to spend. It's OK to put it back and walk away. 
  • There are bargains to be had, just look. I found a $4200 mink coat for $25 in fantastic condition. It unfortunately didn't fit me and Alison is now the proud owner. If only I knew I could have the coat resized ..... 
  • And last but not least, it's OK to buy nothing. Some days you come back empty handed. You can shop again another day.
  • Check out The Thrift Shopper.Com for listings of thrift stores in your area you might not be aware of.
Do you have any thrift store shopping tips you'd like to share? Do tell!


  1. I love the thrift store tips. The long strap on the purse is my favorite!!

  2. LEAVE the husband [in my case boyfriend] at home:) LOVE that.
    how they just follow you around like a lost little puppy [but an annoying puppy, rather than cute] eyeballing every little thing you pick up. Making comments about how ugly, or wasteful, or whatever...UGHHHH drives my insane.

    I also liked that you said to pack a snack. Me and mom always go out to eat. BUT, we don't eat until we are completely finished with our shopping therefore by the time we eat we are starving half to death and deserve a nice yummy scrumptious sit down restraunt.



  3. What a great list of tips! Makes me want to go out hunting, er, shopping.

    I'm a new follower from Friday Follow, I hope you'll stop by and follow me back-


  4. Some great tips! I absolutely LOVE thrift store shopping and would go every day if I could! I try to go in there with some ideas in mind about what I'm looking for. But I also try to keep an open mind and stay in a creative mindset in case something pops out at me and sparks my interest. My secret tip for clothes: some stores don't have mirror to try things on, but I usually go in the back by the furniture and use glass doors from wall units or cabinets because you can kinda see your reflection!


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