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You Must Get In On These Thrift Store Shopping Hacks

Life & Travel

I'm not someone who has many addictions (other than the ones in my writer's bio). But if there is something that I definitely know used to get out of hand for me was my fixation with thrift stores. The clothes (and other items) are cheap. The findings are oftentimes one of a kind. And, since everything in the store is used, thrifting is great for the environment.


That's great 'n all, but the (other) problem that I used to have was that I didn't know how to make the most out of my thrift store shopping experience. Although I've always had a pretty good eye, I didn't realize that I could save a lot of time and even more money if I applied a few tricks.

Know better, do better. Through a little trial and error, I now know how to thrift store shop with the best of 'em. I promise that if you apply even half of these tips, you'll enjoy thrifting so much more than you probably already do!

Download the Thrifty Pickers App

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I have my favorite thrift stores (most real thrift store shoppers do), but as Music City continues to grow, it's hard to keep up with all of the ones that are popping up. One way to find thrift stores that are in your own city is to download the Thrifty Pickers app. It's currently got 12,000-and-counting national listings.

Also, a site that provides a decent amount of thrift store listings is Thrift Shopper. Oh, and if you'd prefer the convenience of buying (and selling) locally online, Offer Up is a cool app. Mercari is too.

Be Willing to Drive Kinda Far

A thrift store hack that a lot of people sleep on is this: Don't assume that going to a store in the middle of a major city means that you're going to get the best selections. The truth of the matter is if you're intentional about going to smaller towns, you'll probably end up with the best stuff.

The reason is because they typically don't get enough merchandise from their community to stay afloat, so bigger cities will ship some of their extra stuff in. Because of this, it's not uncommon to find designer items or things with the tags still on them.

Dress for the Occasion

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Something that thrift stores don't have an abundance of is dressing rooms. Plus, most people will break the rules and take at least 10 items of clothing in one to try on which could take for-e-ver. One way to work around this is to go thrifting with a tank top and a pair of leggings. That way, everything will be "snug enough" for you to try things on, on top of your clothes, whether you're able to get a dressing room or not.

Ask Management What Day They Restock Items

There used to be a time when I went thrifting so much (two times a week, easily) that I would get frustrated because I wouldn't really see anything new. If you can feel my pain, the way to not waste a trip to your own store is to ask management to tell you the day they restock new stuff. Most stores do it at least once (if not twice) a week.

Get Kids’ Clothes. Don’t Get Swimsuits.

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I don't have children of my own, but I do have two goddaughters and tons of love nieces and nephews. There are a couple of websites where I like to get them things but, since kids grow so fast, I also like to get items at thrift stores too. The clothes are cute and really affordable.

As you're perusing the aisles, here's a word of caution. Please avoid stuffed animals and car seats. If you've ever seen how a little one acts with their favorite stuffed animal, you can just imagine why that's a no-no. As far as car seats go, since the manufacturer is supposed to upgrade them every couple of years, chances are, the ones that are on thrift store shelves are already outdated which makes them a total waste of money.

As far as what you should absolutely avoid buying at thrift stores? Underwear and swimsuits. I won't lie, you'll probably see some cute bras and bikinis there, but since you have absolutely no idea who wore them before you (or what their hygiene was like)…well.

Avoid the Weekends

This one might be a no-brainer but it's still worth reiterating. The weekend is when everyone and their grandma is out in the streets, so if you go thrifting midday on Saturday, all of the good stuff will probably be picked over. Your best bet is to go on a Wednesday. It's quieter, less crowded and usually some restocking has happened by then.

Cop a Few Gift Cards

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Every little bit of savings helps. That said, a website where you can buy (and sell) gift cards is Raise. If you use it to get a gift card to Goodwill, you'll automatically save an additional five percent.

Remember That Vintage Runs Small

I really like vintage clothing. Back when I was between size 5-6, copping some vintage threads was no big deal. Now that I'm a size 10, well. Let's just say that I own a lot less vintage items than I used to. That's because, unfortunately, vintage clothing tends to run small (because there weren't a lot of "us" being major fashion designers back in the day). So, if you see a pencil skirt or cashmere sweater from the 40s that doesn't fit, don't take it personally. It probably doesn't fit anyone over 100 pounds. SMH.

Tip: If you do happen to find a vintage piece you're able to rock, you can research the label by going here.

Use Cash

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Even in this day and age, the reality is not all thrift stores take credit or even debit cards. Even if they do, there's a chance that they may require a minimum purchase before you use them. This is one reason why using cash is best. Another reason is because if you've got $50 in your wallet, that is basically your spending cap.

Cash is a good way to keep you on a budget. When rent time rolls back around, you'll be glad that you put yourself on one.

Become Buddies with the Employees

It's a good idea to be nice to employees anywhere you go, simply because you're a kind person. But I'd be lying to you if I said there aren't immediate perks that come right along with consistently engaging sales associates at thrift stores. At my absolute favorite store, I became cool with a few cashiers and it wasn't long before I was getting at least an additional 50 percent on things I purchased. Not every once in a while; every time.

Talk to Yourself

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Remember how I said that I used to be a thrift store shopping addict? At one point, things had gotten so ridiculous that I had to tell myself that even if I could get 10 great dresses for $15 a pop, I don't need that many. Half would sit in my closet for months on end which ultimately means I still wasted money. That was crazy since the entire point of thrifting in the first place is to save money.

One way you can avoid having 30 sweaters hanging up in your closet is to ask yourself things like, "Do I really need this?", "Do I already have something similar to this?" and "What occasion would I actually wear this?" If once you ask these questions, all you can say to yourself is, "I dunno. I just like it", rethink if it really is a good idea to get it.

Hint: If you know there's a chance you won't wear it within the first three months of owning it, it's probably best to leave it right where it is.

Take a Friend Along

Whether you'd like to have some company on the way, you want someone to thumbs up or side-eye you while you pull from the racks on or you'd prefer to have an individual to be on the lookout while you're trying on clothes in a back aisle, thrift store shopping is so much more fun if you take a bestie along.

Fun, sales and flyness. It's what thrifting is all about. Why do it alone?

Featured image by Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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