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The Rules of Thrifting: 12 Ways I Save $$$ (and You Can Too)

Are you ready to brave the thrift store? When it comes to thrifting, there is a method to my madness. Let me teach you my ways.

Shop The Fitting Room Rack

You’re not the only one looking for a sweet deal. Let someone else do the work for you! They already dug through five million racks to find the right stuff. I always go to the fitting room rack first to look for things that didn’t work for others before they get shoved back on a rack never to be found again.

Consider Alterations

Just because something doesn’t fit you correctly or has a slight imperfection, doesn’t mean you have to leave it. If it’s a great quality item that needs a quick fix, it might still be worth buying. You may be able to haggle down the price a bit too.

Hems can be altered; buttons can be added, and zippers can be replaced, but only if it’s a great deal. Don’t buy a Forever 21 Dress for $5.99 and then pay ten bucks for a hem.

Think About Refashion

I learned how to sew (kind of) and enjoy it, so I like to experiment with altering myself. I buy ugly, frumpy, really cheap pieces that no one wants (not even the grandmas) and transform them into something new. Sometimes I fail miserably, but this one was a success!


If You Like It Grab It

Anything you like, grab it and don’t look back. It probably won’t be there when you return. Someone else will scoop it up while you’re thinking about it. I’ll admit, I have stalked people and waited until they put something down so I could swipe it up.

Try On Ev-er-y-thing

Even if you have to wait 20 minutes for a dressing room while someone tries on mountains of clothes, you must make sure what you are buying works for you. Don’t buy anything that you haven’t tried on, no matter how cheap it might be.

Sizes vary widely between brands and even by decades, so you never know how something will fit you. I’ve bought sizes ranging from 4-10. Most things have been washed, so even though you wear a small, a pre-shrunk large may work. Occasionally I find a brand or style that unexpectedly looks great. No matter what, if you like it, try it.

Examine Thoroughly

You know what sucks? Getting home after a successful shopping trip to find your new skirt that was such a “good deal” actually needs a new zipper. Maybe not such a good deal anymore.

I recently bought an awesome dress and when I got home, realized there were sweat absorbent pads stuck to the inside of the dress that left a weird glue behind that I can’t get off! Who wants sticky crap in their armpits, not me. Thrifting fail….

Check Washing Instructions

I don’t typically dry clean, but when I do, the items usually live at the cleaners for months. They hate me. You also don’t want to pay $3 for a silk blouse if you have to pay $5 every time you wash it.

Be Creative

One of the things I love about thrifting is discovering something that might be overlooked because it seems useless and then finding a new purpose for it. Think ugly painting turned kitchen chalkboard.


You Have To LOVE It

Don’t let the super low prices make you go home with crap you don’t need. It’s either the most amazing thing in the entire universe, or it’s a hard NO! It’s that simple.

What to Buy

  • Quality Fabrics & Designer Brands– If you buy wool, silk, leather or cashmere, you’ll make out like gangbusters.
  • Ceramic and Glassware– Moving into your first apartment and need to stock your kitchen? Look not further. You can find gorgeous sets of dishes and glassware for super cheap. One place setting of lovely china can go for $100 a pop. Get an entire set for less than half that.
  • Books– If you’re looking for the next new book to get your nose into, there is no reason to pay full price. Looking for something specific and don’t feel like digging through piles of dusty books? Check out Thrift Books.
  • Kids Clothes– Babies grow up fast. So quick, that they sometimes grow out of their clothes within weeks. Buying super fancy, new and expensive gear for your kids is a big waste of money.
  • Kitchenware- Go for cast iron and pyrex in good condition.
  • Maternity Clothes-Just like kids clothes, you’ll outgrow it and not get much wear out of it, unless you’re a Duggar.

What Not To Buy

  • Cheap or Worn Out Shoes- Besides falling apart, buying cheap, broken in shoes can end up causing you foot or even back pain.
  • Upholstered Items/Bedding– If it can’t be washed, just leave it. You don’t want to bring home more than you bargained for, like bedbugs or vintage pee stains.
  • Underwear– This is common sense. Just, ew.
  • Makeup– Sometimes I see cosmetics or other beauty products still sealed, but you don’t know how old they are.
  • Metal and Nonstick Cookware- The coatings break down over time, potentially releasing harmful chemicals.
  • Plastic Containers- Plastic is porous, so it can absorb gross smells, and god knows what else. Just don’t.
  • Anything With Stains– The dry cleaner probably can’t get that stain out. It’s likely in the store because the original owner already tried.

Still Worth It

Don’t be put off by these rules. Is thrifting more time consuming than buying traditional retail? Yes, it is. But it’s cheaper, it’s more fun because it feels like a quest, you can find one-of-a-kind items, and you won’t look like a clone of everyone else. Know your budget, know what you’re looking for, and know the rules of thrifting. Happy hunting!

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