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Design & Style

How to Thrift Shop: 11 Essential Thrifting Tips

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 21, 2020 • 3 min read

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Thrift store shopping takes patience and self-control, but you can find some of the best items at consignment shops like your local Goodwill store or the Salvation Army. There’s a strategy to becoming an efficient thrifter, and if you do it often enough, you can end up with great finds at much lower prices than you would at a standard retail store.



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11 Thrifting Tips

If you love thrifting new clothes and are looking for shopping tips to help you find your next great buy, check out the following list:

  1. Sell before you buy. Selling a few items that you are no longer using can help you save money for your thrifting and create storage space for your upcoming purchases. You can sell your items online or at a consignment shop before you load up on thrift store finds.
  2. Find out the store’s specialty beforehand. You can make the thrift shopping experience much easier if you know what the store carries. Some thrift shops specialize in clothing or toys, while others will have a wide array of furniture or home décor. Before heading out, find out which store stocks more of the specific items you’re looking for, and search there first.
  3. Dress appropriately. Many thrift stores don’t have fitting rooms, so you might need to wear something you can easily slip secondhand clothing over to try on. Secondhand stores usually don’t offer refunds, so you want to make sure your clothing fits before you buy it.
  4. Give yourself a clear goal. Thrift shopping should be about finding things you need, not meandering around looking to collect items. Take note of the things you already own, then make a mental list of the things you’re looking for. If you need to, take pictures with your smartphone to help you remember what you have and what you want.
  5. Get your items tailored. One of the few disadvantages of thrifting is that you may find the perfect piece, but it may not fit properly. This can be an easy fix: If it’s a quality find, take it to a tailor. Or, if you’re confident in your sewing and hemming abilities, you can attempt a DIY tailoring job to make your item fit just right.
  6. Know when the stores restock. Most stores are busiest on the weekend, and many quality goods may be gone by then. Pay attention to when your local thrift stores restock new items and try not to wait too long to check them out.
  7. Avoid impulse buys. Thrift stores may have low prices, but it can start to add up if you buy enough items. Set a budget and leave your cards at home. Taking a cash-only approach will help you stick to your list of needs and help you avoid overspending.
  8. Learn how to discern quality. Consignment stores can offer designer brands, vintage items, or other high-end quality pieces with low price tags that you can find if you know what to look for. Natural materials will often be of higher quality than synthetic ones. Shoes made of 100 percent leather usually have the words “Vero Cuoio” marked on the bottom, which is the Italian phrase for “true leather.” Blazers with linings and wool-blend coats will also be more expensive items than other materials. Get familiar with high-quality tells to discern which items will be worth the money.
  9. Scan the aisles. It’s easy to get caught up searching for great, inexpensive buys at the thrift store, but part of your strategy should be to search quickly through the aisles to avoid spending too much time in any one store. Train your eyes to scan along hangers or shelves to spot particular color palettes or other items of interest quickly and efficiently.
  10. Haggle. You can sometimes negotiate the price of items that are broken or damaged. If you find an item worth salvaging, try haggling the price down with the sales clerk to make it even more affordable.
  11. Shop off-season. Like with retail stores, the best time to buy seasonal clothing is when the demand is low. Shop for jackets and boots in the summer, and look for sundresses and sandals in the winter.

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