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5 Tips for Scoring Big at Thrift Stores

  July 9

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thrift storePlease welcome my friend Alice, who I actually got to meet in real life! Alice is a personal finance and fashion blogger in Baton Rouge, LA. She blogs at Earning My Two Cents and What I Really Wear. Enjoy…

Thrift shopping can be a great way to save money and expand your wardrobe. Plus, it’s in vogue to say you got something at a thrift shop thanks to Maklemore’s “Thrift Shop” song. No more being ashamed of shopping for someone else’s clothes!

Of course, walking into a thrift shop can be overwhelming. Everywhere you look you see racks of clothes that are off season, out of style, and, quite frankly, old. And there’s just so much stuff jammed into the store! So, how do you get those great finds and items you will actually wear that are in style?

Well, you have to know what to look for and have patience to troll the racks. Here are some tips:

Bring a list

Shopping without a plan means I always bring home another black sweater. Seriously, how many do I need? Write down what items you need before you go to the thrift shop and try to make sure you browse those racks first. Need classic black trousers for work? You will find those there. Same with blouses, jackets, and summer dresses. Also, manage your expectations. You may only find one item on your list that you like at the thrift shop. If you don’t find something, try another store or another day. The inventory at thrift shops turns over often.

Have patience

As I mentioned before, you have to have patience to scour the racks. I shop with a list (see above) and go to those racks first. Starting at one end and wrapping around to the other side I flip through the hangars, looking for the item(s) I need. If I know I am looking for black trousers I can flip right past capri pants and anything that isn’t black. When I browse through racks without a specific item in mind, I look for colors and patterns that I like to catch my eye and scan through without having to look at each item individually.

Look for prints that are always in style

Polka dots, stripes, herringbone, chevron, plaid, tweed, brocade, paisley, animal prints, and geometric prints are always in style. Look for clothes in these classic prints and they won’t give away their age. I recently snagged a herringbone jacket at a thrift shop that is many seasons old but the classic print makes it look like I just got it off the rack at the department store.

Fit is key

Try on everything. Thrift shops will have clothes from this season, three seasons ago, and ten years ago. Sizes vary from brand to brand but also have changed much over the years. I have seen sweaters that are listed as a large that actually are today’s small. Vintage clothes are especially sized larger (thanks to vanity sizing everyone wears a smaller size than they did 30 years ago) or are sized in inches. Because of the size variety, I look through all the racks including the ones that usually aren’t my size and look at each item I like to visually size it up rather than looking at the tag. Then find the fitting room and scrutinize the fit. If a piece of clothing is cut wrong, lays weird, is too short, or just plain doesn’t fit, don’t get it. Even if it’s $3, it’s not a bargain if it doesn’t make you feel great and you never wear it.

Can you fix it?

Often you may find a great piece that is missing a button, has a small stain, or has some threads loose. When you find something you like, give it a good once over to check for any defects. If you find anything, can you fix it? Missing buttons can be easily procured at a fabric store and sewn on. Makeup stains from someone else trying it on will often wash right out. Loose threads may signal that the fabric is unraveling so check carefully. My recent herringbone jacket find had a small stain on side of the jacket that was not set in deep and a little soap and water scrubbed it out right away. Just remember, buying an item with a stain is a gamble that it will come out unless you can tell what it is. Make sure you still like the item and can hide the stain if it doesn’t come out. And if the item is ripped, has a large stain, or is becoming worn out, pass on it.

All in all, you can score big at thrift stores. You just need a little bit of patience and know how.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever found at a thrift store?

Thrift shopping can be a great way to save money and expand your wardrobe. Plus, it’s in vogue to say you got something at a thrift shop thanks to Maklemore’s “Thrift Shop” song. No more being ashamed of shopping for someone else’s clothes!

25 responses to “5 Tips for Scoring Big at Thrift Stores

  1. I don’t shop at thrift stores, but I do shop at children’s consignment sales and I wholeheartedly agree with bringing a list with you! Before I go, I inventory my little guy’s wardrobe and decide what I need to get for him. I can’t tell you how many great deals on clothes I’ve scored there. My favorites are the set of 3 barely-worn pajamas I grabbed for $3 each.

  2. I have taken to thrift store hopping out of financial necessity. I am amazed at how much I can buy for so little, and good brand names too. Shirts for $2, pants for $3. Entire wardrobes for under $20. I recommend thrift stores to everyone.

  3. I used to go thrift shopping all the time. I like going through racks and seeing if I can find anything awesome or something that’s a great deal.

  4. I’ve purchased a lot of my clothes from consignment stores. I’ve scored some amazing pieces with the tags still on! I have a hard time ever justifying the purchase of new shoes. They get worn out so quickly!

    1. True! I just found a great sequin dress new with tags on. I have a hard time finding good second hand shoes because they do wear out and often are not in good shape but sometimes I get great finds.

  5. I LOVE thrift store shopping but I think it is really important to look at the costs and compare them with what you could get out of a thrift store. It’s easy to feel as though you are automatically getting a deal because you are in a thrift store; however, just because the item was used before does not mean it’s a deal. I was in one in NYC and there was a shirt from H&M for $9, but I know that I could buy a NEW shirt from H&M for $9 so that isn’t a deal.

  6. Frankly speaking, I’ve never been to a Thrift Shop before. I’ve walked past them many times but never ever tried the used items before. However, I think I should give it a try. As I’ve never been to such shops, I’ve a couple of question. It’ll be nice of you if you help me out with them:
    1. How qualitative are the products?
    2. How frugal is it to buy them?
    These questions may seem stupid to you. As I’ve never been to this kind of shop, I’m a bit naive. So, can’t help asking. I really want to give these shops a try.

    1. Thrift shops are the same as wearing clothes out of your own closet again and again. The cost per wear is of course difficult to calculate but purchasing a lightly used (infrequently worn) shirt for a quarter of the price of a new shirt saves you a lot. The point is to get items that are of good quality and are not yet worn out. You can find many new or barely worn items at thrift shops and most shops will only sell items that are in good condition so most don’t have yellowing, stains, or rips. Of course, you should inspect clothes before you buy them to make sure they are in good shape. I always figure that if I wouldn’t buy it new, whatever the cost, I will pass on it.

  7. I always get so overwhelmed at thrift stores because all of the clothes aren’t exactly organized. But bringing a list definitely helps! You can save so much time (and headaches) that way!

  8. I love buying clothes that are animal prints because it’s always trendy. Having a list when you go shopping is very important, in that way you know what are you going to buy. It can help you to make an impulsive buying and can save you time.

  9. My thrift store tip is to rub certain Stains like you are scrubbing it out. Some stains almost turn powdery and you can tell they will wash out. Another is to keep a Tide stain stick in your purse and see if the stain seems like it will give. I generally only pick up items that appear brand new as you are searching through racks. There are so many items in thrift stores, that you don’t need to buy something that already looks old, something else will become available on another trip.

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