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Are You Ready To Go Thrift Shopping?

After lots of practice and stupid purchases, I consider myself a thrifting pro. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a successful thrift shopping trip.

It’s easy to find great deals but you’ll need to prepare before heading out- especially if it’s your first time. It can be like a competitive sport when your dealing with experienced thrifters.

Shopping at a thrift store isn’t as easy as going to a department store. It requires a lot of rummaging, patience, time and determination. You will also need a lot of energy, so I don’t recommend going hangry or under-caffeinated.

Stores can get crowded and most of the time things are not organized. Navigating through the racks can be overwhelming so here’s what you need to know before you make your trip. This is my first-hand experience on second-hand shopping.

Location, Location, Location

Go beautiful neighborhoods. Generally thrift stores in nicer parts of town have a better selection. I used to frequent the thrift stores on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and would find high-quality items that were barely worn, some with even tags. The stores were well organized and had a ton of designer stuff.

Start by exploring different areas and check out a few shops. Once you find the ones you love you won’t be able to pass by without taking a peek inside. Keep in mind, some of the big names stores will have better prices and sales but the smaller ones are less picked over so they may have better finds. If your out of town or want to discover more stores in your area check out the thrift store directory.

thrifting

Know The Best Time to Shop

If you want to beat everyone else to the right stuff, ask your local store when they get they typically restock. Bigger chain stores are restocking everyday so if you go early enough everything is still some what organized. You will get a chance to see all the fresh items that were put out the night before. Most people are donating to smaller shops on the weekend so by Tuesday all their new goodies are out.

Thrift stores have different types of specials and deals on various days of the week. Once you find a store, you like to see when they have their sales. Good Will and Salvation Army offer discounts of 50% on certain colored tags on certain days.

goodwill sale

I read a tip once from a Good Will employee that on Sunday between 10-12 is the best time to shop there because they announce the tag color that will be discounted for the week. They then start removing most of that color from the racks! This totally explains why I find it so hard to find sale items. You got to get there before they hide all the right sale stuff.

The holiday season is a time for giving and charitable second-hand stores see an influx of donations. Another plus is at this time most people are at the retail stores buying gifts so the thrift stores a bit less crowded.

With the new year just beginning, January is also an excellent time to shop because people are decluttering their homes for a fresh start.

What Are You Looking For?

Sometimes I like to just pop into a thrift store and wander aimlessly until I happen to come across a great deal, but if you are new to thrifting, I highly recommend having a game plan. If you know what you are looking for it is more likely that you will leave with items you’ll actually use instead of a bunch of random things that were just a good deal you couldn’t pass up.

Check out magazines and retail stores to see what’s trending. Bold colors, metallics, chunky brackets, whatever new look you want to add to your wardrobe for the season can probably be found at a second hand store for way cheaper. If your lucky maybe you will find a vintage piece that fits the current trend. If your on the hunt for designer pieces, know which brands fit you well and look for those.

What really works for me is to Pin fun outfits or designer looks I want to replicate so when I go to the store I know exactly what colors and styles to find. Look through your DIY and home decor projects too. You never know what you’re going to find.

the look for less

Keep your eye on the prize. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home with things that don’t work with anything I already own. That means spending more money to buy something to go with it. Look through your closet before you go to see if there are things you haven’t worn because you have nothing to go with it. Find an item to match and then you can finally wear it!

What To Bring

As little as possible. Stores are packed. Aisles are narrow. Many places just have only baskets, no carts. I usually bring a small cross body bag so my hands are free. You want to wear as little as possible too. You’re going to be trying on lots of clothing, and you might have to do it the the middle of the store. Stores sometimes don’t have dressings rooms or the lines are super long.

You’ll need a thrifting uniform so break out that unitard! Ok fine, tighter fitting clothing will work. I usually wear leggings and a tank so I can easily slip things on and off.

What if you want to try on jeans? Good question. Head to the skirt section, put on a long roomy skirt over your clothes. Then drop your pants. Slip the on the pair of pants you want to try on under the skirt. Drop the skirt and voila!

Bring your knowledge of fabrics and learn the names of different clothing designers. This way you can spot great quality items. If you see a brand that your unfamiliar with google it! I found a cute skirt once that seemed like really good quality but it was on the pricer end for thrift. I was unfamiliar with the brand and after looking it up I found out it was name brand and worth around $200-$250. You’ll eventually develop an eye for high-quality clothing and learn how to see potential in unique pieces.

Before you head out, know your budget. Just bring what you want to spend because it’s very easy to leave with bags full of stuff. Just because its cheap doesn’t mean you need it. Now, make your own fun thrifting music playlist so you can keep your energy and have fun!

thrift shopping

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  • Lindsay VanSomeren

    Great ideas, thanks! I like the price of thrift stores, but the ones I’ve gone to smell of potpourri and old ladies (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s not quite my scene). Regardless, may have to check out a few up-scale ones now!

    • Lindsay VanSomeren

      By the way, I totes thought of this music video when I read this!

      Macklemore Thrift Shop
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QK8mJJJvaes

      • Laura Fiebert

        hahah This is my anthem. I was so pumped when it came out! I hear ya about the smelly stuff. I’ve brought clothes home and no matter how many times I washed them I couldn’t get the old lady perfume smell out. Its gross. A sniff test is a must. You just have to find a good store near you and have patience to dig for the treasures. If you ever visit NYC I would love to go thrift shopping with you :)

  • kirsten

    Great ideas Laura! The items you’ve redone in the pictures look awesome!