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 AppGiphy
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 OccasionGiphy
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.
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 CardsGiphy
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.
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
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