Thrifting Tips Part Two: My Top Ten Thrift Store Shopping Tips

I hope you all are having a wonderful week. I am certainly enjoying the longer days and the scent of magnolia in the air. There’s something about Spring that makes me want to refresh everything. From my desk at work to my home decor and especially my wardrobe. The good news is, I can do that without breaking the bank by shopping at my local thrift stores and consignment shops. And, as you know from my first post in this series, buying used clothing is better for our planet for so many reasons!

I have been an avid thrift store shopper for nearly a decade now. I’m all about the thrill of the hunt and I love finding unique pieces (classic enneagram 4). Most of my favorite pieces in my wardrobe came from a thrift store.

thrifting tips: my top ten tips for thrift shopping

I’ll admit, I wasn’t always great at thrift store shopping. In the beginning, I would purchase things that I didn’t love “but it was only $1” . I would go in without a game plan and get completely overwhelmed. Those days are long gone now and I am sharing all my best tips with you today to help you avoid some of those same pitfalls.

Thrift stores not your thing? That’s totally fine! Check out the first article in this series, “The best places to thrift online” to score some major deals without leaving the couch.

I want to begin with this advice: not all thrift stores are created equally. I typically have better luck with bigger chain thrift stores like Goodwill versus smaller ministry stores. However, that’s not true everywhere and you never know when you will come across a gem. Do a little research online and remember to take bad reviews with a grain of salt. This will give you a great starting point. Check out all the thrifts in your area over time and decide which ones best suit your needs. If I went to every thrift in my area every time I shop, I would waste so much time and be super overwhelmed. I’ve narrowed mine down to 2-3 favorites and typically skip the rest.

The best places (geographically) to thrift depend on what you are looking for. If I am looking for clothes, I will go to thrifts that are closer to metropolitan areas. I had amazing luck when I was living in Charlotte, NC and would hit several stores along the edge of uptown. Figure out the “ritzier” areas of town and find thrifts close to it for great deals on fancy clothing brands.  
On the flip side, if I am looking for vintage or furniture, I like to stop in more rural areas. I have found some of the best vintage stuff in tiny little towns.

thrifting tips: top ten thrift store shopping tips

Once you’ve found your favorite stores, use these tips to utilize your time wisely. It’s very easy to spend and hour or more in a large thrift store -trust me.

1. Have an idea of what you’re looking for. This tip helps me so much! I keep a private pin board on Pinterest with things I would like to find at the thrift store. It keeps me focused on what I am there for and helps me avoid grabbing things I don’t really need.

2. Touch everything on the clothing rack. You never know what treasures are hiding on a crowded rack. I have found some of my most treasured thrifted pieces hiding between two bulkier items so many times! It is very easy to miss things when you’re only looking at the rack.

3. Ignore sizes. Especially if you’re shopping for vintage. I am a 5’2” 100 lb gal and my favorite pair of denim shorts is a size 8. They’re vintage and they fit me perfectly. If I had only glanced at the tag, I would have assumed that they wouldn’t fit. Which is why my next two tips are important.

4. Wear something comfortable and easy to slip in and out of. If the store has a dressing room, it’s a good idea to try things on. Wearing something easy to take on and off will save you a lot of hassle. Some people are horrified at the thought of trying on clothes at the thrift store, but the reality is -if you’ve ever slept in a hotel bed or used a cloth napkin at a restaurant and survived, you’re totally fine trying on thrift store clothes.

5. No dressing room? Know your measurements and bring measuring tape. Measuring tape is super helpful not only for clothing, but also for furniture items. I keep a running list in my Notes app of dimensions for furniture items I might need.

6. Bring some hand-sanitizer. I have never, ever in my years of thrift store shopping been grossed out by any item they put out (they are typically great at vetting their items), but I always sanitize once I get back in my car.

7. Bring your own bags or skip the bags all together. Most of the time, thrift store merchandise bags are crappy anyway, so bring your own! I typically skip the bagging if at all possible. It makes for a faster checkout and it is a small step toward a more sustainability.

8. It depends on your stores, but typically thrift stores will have a “color of the week”. This means that pieces with that color tag are 50% off. Do not go hunting for these colors for a good deal -this is an easy way to buy stuff you don’t really need. Instead, look for pieces you need and then be delighted if it happens to be the color of the week.

9. In my experience, going to thrift at the beginning of the week (usually Sunday or Monday), is the best time to grab stuff that is the color of the week. Our Goodwill changes their color every Sunday, so that’s a great time to go and get some color of the week items before they have been picked over. Not all thrifts do this, not even all Goodwills do this, so don’t be afraid to ask someone that works there.

10. Patience. This is the most important tip I can give you. Sometimes you will go in and find absolutely nothing. Sometimes you will go in and there will be screaming children. Sometimes you will encounter a cashier that is having a bad day and be short with you. I once had to save a small child from being shut in an automatic door because his mother was too busy looking at the lingerie rack to keep an eye on him. Seriously. It’s important to remember that there are people from all walks of life at the thrift store. 95% of thrifts I have been to are non-profit. So, typically, the employees are paid minimum wage. Practicing empathy and patience is essential.

Bonus tip!  Donate your used items to the store. If you find a thrift you love, help them out by donating your unwanted items. Some thrifts even give you a coupon if you donate!

I hope this post will help you find some great deals at your local thrift store. Find anything good? Let me know in the comments here or on instagram. I keep my instagram followers updated on all my finds in my stories. Come get inspired and connect with me there :)

My next post in this series is going to be all about thrifted home decor finds! Let me know what you want to know about in the comments or on insta ;)