Shopping at a thrift store. You either hate it or you love it.
It’s not for everybody. I love it (but occasionally hate it). I’ve heard many comments over the years such as “I can never find anything good there!” or “I can’t believe you got that at a thrift store!” to even some questionable glances on if it’s sanitary or not.
Shopping at a thrift store as a kid can sometimes be not so fun, especially when all your friends are going to school wearing Hollister and Aeropostale. I once wore a sweater I got from a thrift store to school and a classmate said I looked like Pooh Bear. Oh well.
Obviously, this didn’t scar me. Maybe I was just super fashion forward back then? Hey, it could happen!
I like thrift stores because you can find unique items. I love the “thrill of the hunt.” And if you get the right item at the right day, you can’t beat $3 for something cool.
Whether you’re looking to improve your thrift game or you’re bored and have nothing better to do, read below for tips on how to successfully find clothes at a thrift store!
10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips
1. Go in with the right mindset
Some days you can’t seem to stop pulling items off the racks, and other days it took you 5 minutes to walk through the whole store. Go in with the mindset that “If you find something, cool. If not? No problem.” If you go in expecting to find a real Louis Vuitton vintage bag (I met someone this happened to), you are going to be sorely disappointed (speaking from experience).
2. Go often
The merchandise is constantly changing. It’s not like Target or other retail stores where they might put out new inventory every Saturday, for example. The employees are just constantly putting new stuff out all the time, so go often, maybe even 2 times a week if you’re really looking to score something cool.
3. Timing is key
Timing can make a huge difference. First off, you want to go early. I don’t know how many Goodwill dollar days I went to only to find the whole store picked clean by 11 am. Now I don’t even go to them because if you’re not there at 9 am, you might as well not be there. Dollar days or not, it’s always best to try to get there as early as you can.
Also, think about the season you are in. Meaning, if it’s summer and garage sales are in full effect, consider going to a thrift store bright and early on Monday or Tuesday. Most people are just going to give away what didn’t sell. Same goes for after long holiday weekends.
4. Watch the price
Thrift store shopping has gotten a bit more popular with this whole “vintage, hipster” trend. Because of that and depending on where you live, some prices can be outright outrageous for a used item. Just because you’re at a thrift store doesn’t mean it’s automatically cheaper. Compare it with a store you normally shop at. For me that is TjMaxx. I have to always go through a mental thinking process, “Would I buy this shirt for $12 when I got a new one at TjMaxx for the same price?” You gotta ask yourself the serious questions. 😉
5. Shop the tag
Even though most thrift store shops are raising their prices, they also have a different color tag sale each day. I’m thinking of Goodwill in particular. I went to Goodwill recently and everything that had a yellow tag was 50% off. This can dramatically lower prices. Some days I will only get something if the tag matches the sale of the day. Either way, this can make really nice items be at a super affordable price.
6. Inspect like it’s your job
Look over the clothes many, many times before you buy them. Look for stains, holes, rips, missing buttons, or broken zippers. Sometimes you try on the perfect item only to find it has a huge blue stain all across the front (I’ll miss you ZARA trench).
Unless your goal is to take rundown items and reconstruct them, don’t bother. It’s not worth the time and effort to fix an already used item. Though I guess this could have its flip side, such as if you found a “like new” item for only a couple dollars missing a button that you could put on in just 2 minutes. Then why not! Oh, and it might go without saying, but always wash your stuff before you wear it!
7. Try on everything
Even if it’s your size and it looks like it would fit…just try it on anyways. You’ll save yourself the disappointment from an item that you thought would look great, but then you hate the way it looks on you when you get home. Guess where it ends back up? Save that poor item a roundtrip and just try it on first.
8. Go through EACH hanger
I hope you set some time aside for this trip because it is NOT for the faint of heart. In order to get the most out of your thrift store trip, you have to put a lot into it. One being is to go through every single hanger. There are a couple reasons why you should do this.
One, stuff is in the wrong section all the time. The nice places are more organized and color coded, but you will always find stuff in the wrong section. Dresses are in shirts, skirts are in pants, etc. Secondly, sometimes the clothes are so jam-packed that you won’t be able to see everything if you just glance by. I would have missed a lot of nice stuff from hangers hidden all the way in the back if I didn’t take the extra time to sift through.
Oh, and don’t forget to look through the “return” rack by the dressing room. It’s like someone did half the work for you by already picking out the cute stuff. I was at Goodwill once sifting through the racks and there was this cute girl ahead of me pulling off all the stuff I wanted. How disappointing! But I kept an eye on her and when she got out of the dressing room I looked through her discard pile. Creepy or clever? You decide.
9. Go through EACH department
To echo #8 with items always being in the wrong section, there is always stuff in the wrong department too. I’ve found cool items in the maternity department and even the boy’s section. You never know what you might find. I found this gorgeous black beaded dress in the…guess…Halloween department! I could see how it could be a costume, but if someone was looking for a gorgeous, vintage dress for Homecoming or some other formal, they would have struck gold in the Halloween department.
10. Try on things that look different from you
Another way to find something unique is to not judge it on the hanger. Sometimes it takes trying something on to see it in a new light! But most of all, have fun! You don’t have to do it alone either, bring someone that enjoys it just as much as you do and it may be your new favorite thing to do on the weekends!
P.S- Here are all my finds on my most recent trip to Goodwill!
I find that the majority of the people that say they hate thrift store shopping is because they can’t find anything.