How to Shop at Thrift Stores
Thrift stores are an amazing resource for getting great, high-quality, unique and inexpensive clothes and other household items. Often, the offerings are perfectly good things that somebody else has outgrown or simply grown tired of.
- Find thrift stores and secondhand stores in your area. Big cities tend to have more of them but you can find these stores in just about any city.
- Decide why you are going. Are you just looking for cute stuff in general or do you have something in mind?
- Start looking. Some stores are more organized than others, after you have been to a few you'll know which ones are better than others. Understand the system if you can. You may find things organized by gender, type of clothes, color and size, or you may find just a mass of clothes and household objects. Start with the more organized stores until you become proficient at looking through clothes.
- Pick up anything that catches your eye and possibly try it on in the dressing room. If you don't like the idea of putting someone elses clothes on before washing them, buy whatever you think will look nice, wash the items at home, and re-donate them as needed.
- Don't forget the other items in a thrift store. If you need to furnish an apartment inexpensively, for instance, thrift stores can be an excellent source of dishes, pots and pans, and even furnishings. Don't forget to look for a good deal on an attractive bedspread to cover up a comfortable but unsightly sofa. You might even find that shopping in a thrift store is less costly than moving items or renting furniture. You also can find awesome decor for your room, like posters, pictures, trinkets and more.
- It might not all match, but that can be a great thing. Go for an eclectic look, instead. If you'd like mixed pieces to have a bit more unity, try painting, covering, or refinishing them.
- If you love to read, browse through the book selection. Used books are often very inexpensive, but many of the books found in relatively low-traffic thrift shops are beat up. Make sure a book isn't missing any pages before buyin it- a simple flip-through works well enough.
- Check out the accessories. You'll find belts, purses, luggage, shoes, hats, and even jewelry (usually the costume variety) at a fraction of their regular prices.
- Watch for bargains. Many thrift stores have sales or clearance racks to unload items that have not sold in some time. Also, keep a look out for store-wide sales, such as student discount day or others. Most thrift shops will have signs up for these events.
- Before buying an item, take a good look at it. Did somebody get rid of it for an obvious reason, or is it in good shape? Is it stained? Does it have any holes or tears that can't be easily fixed?
- Certain items, such as can openers, are very seldom donated unless they're not working.
- Clothing, by contrast, is frequently discarded simply because it no longer fits or flatters its original owner, or simply because it's last year's style. Do, however, look over it for obvious damage such as a stain or tear.
- If the Thrift Shop has a make-up or underwear section, feel free to bypass them without guilt. Many people aren't comfortable with wearing used underwear, and makeup my be incredibly old.
- As for music, most shops have lots of old CD's and records. Be forewarned, though- most of the music is awful. A good catch is rare, but make sure the CD isn't scratched or otherwise obviously damaged.
- Tailoring is generally less expensive than you would imagine. For men especially, there is no finer feeling than buying a Jos. Banks or Brooks Bros. suit for $10, having it professionally cleaned and tailored ($60-$100) and then walking around in $1000 worth of suit.
- Keep your personal style in mind. Thrift stores can be great for this because you are not limited to this year's colors and styles.
- Try thrift stores for your next Halloween or drama costume. You just might find a real poodle skirt, trench coat, or other treasure.
- Be creative and open-minded. Go with what's available and think about how you can work it in or adapt it to your needs.
- Some thrift stores have bag or baskets for you to put your stuff in, but others don't, so make sure to bring a big bag. Clothes can be heavy!
- Wait for people to compliment you on your finds. If anybody asks where you got something, you can reply, "I know this exclusive boutique in downtown."
- A quick way to size the waist of pants, skirts, etc. is to fasten the button or snap, then stretch the waistline between your belly button and your spine. If it reaches, it has a good chance of being large enough. You should still try the garment on for fit, if you can or want to, but this simple check will help you eliminate quickly those items that are certain to be much too tight or loose.
- If you know some basic sewing, you can plan to mend small holes, reattach a lost button, or take up a hem, but be realistic about whether you have the time, energy, and know-how to tackle such a project. You can even buy something and edit it to make it totally your own.
- Since they're plentiful and inexpensive, thrift store finds can also make great raw material for other projects, ranging from quilts to jeans you've torn yourself. If you're crafty and creative, the sky is the limit.
- Know what prices similar items fetch in retail stores and, by way of comparison, at garage sales in your area. Occasionally, thrift stores will misjudge something, and there's no point in paying retail prices for used goods.
- Thrift stores are a great source for children's clothing and toys, because kids often outgrow stuff long before they wear it out.
- Many of the same techniques apply to garage sales. Like garage sales, thrift stores can be great sources of bargains. Unlike garage sales, you have a wider selection in one place. Often the prices will be somewhat higher, though still much better than you would pay if you purchased something new.
- Look for hidden potential in items. Would an item be stunning after you clean it, polish it, work it into the right arrangement, or fix it up a bit?
- Be prepared to dig! Thrift shops are full of items and may are disorganized. Don't be discouraged by this, because if you dig, you can find some fabulous pieces.
- Have fun!
- At first, just go to one store at a time. Thrift shopping can be tiring.
- If people ask where they can get what you have, say that they can't. Stuff you get from thrift stores is almost always one-of-a-kind!
- Don't delay buying something that interests you. Somebody else may snatch it up while you're thinking about it.
- Because it's inexpensive, it can be very easy to accumulate clutter at thrift stores. Don't just look at the bargain; ask yourself whether you really need and will use an item. Clean out your closets periodically, too, and pass along the stuff you're done with.
- Make it a habit to wash thrift store clothing before you wear it. While most thrift store clothing is perfectly safe to use, you don't know where it's been, and it will help to remove any stale, leftover odors. Sterilize second-hand earrings by dipping them in rubbing alcohol and letting them dry thoroughly.
- Used furniture can contain lots of dustmites. Every piece of furniture that's been used has them, but depending on how old something is, it may be much heavier than it used to be.
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