It is no secret that thrift shopping is like treasure hunting. Shoppers who know their way around get the best items and a greater value for their money.
If you are a frugal person looking to get the finer things at lower costs, you need to learn your way around thrift shopping.
Knowing where to get your items, what to do in-store, how to select quality items, and how to find the real “treasures” will go a long way in enhancing your thrift shopping experience.
Looking to get started? Take this guide as your thrift shopping 101 to get the best value.
1. Set a Budget Before You Shop
Let’s be honest; while thrift shopping is a great way to save money, it is easy to go over your budget.
When you get to a thrift store, you will most likely bump into great, unique items you will fancy. With no set budget, you will likely bring more than you should at home.
Have a set budget, and strive to stick to it.
You, however, want to understand that thrift stores can be unpredictable. You will strike gold on some days, and will have to go back empty-handed in some. In whatever you do, always choose quality over quantity.
2. Explore Thrift Stores in Affluent Neighborhoods
You are more likely to find designer brand items at highly reduced prices when shopping in thrift stores in affluent neighborhoods.
It is not uncommon for people to land gently used designer items at a small percentage of their original cost. This is a great shopping tip for shoppers who want to dress lavishly or style their house affluently while still on a budget.
Shopping in affluent neighborhoods is also a great shopping tip for resellers. A lot of people go to thrift stores, get items at throwaway prices, and resell them at higher prices on their social media and sites such as Vinted and eBay. If this is a side hustle you see yourself doing, you should consider getting your items from affluent neighborhood thrift stores and pricing them higher in your resales.
3. Shop on Sale Days
Many thrift stores already sell their products at significantly reduced prices. However, if you want to save even more, you want to shop on their sale days.
On sale days, be sure to arrive early. Things move fast in thrift stores, so arriving early gives you a better shot at getting greater quality and unique items.
The people who always have unique thrift items would tell you that the best shopping time is on the days the inventory arrives and the day the sales begin, but always in the morning.
4. Inspect Items Carefully for Quality
Thrifted items have been used, so it is not uncommon to find some that are not in good condition. If you find a gently used item you like, well and good for you. You, however, want to avoid picking items that are damaged or have been overused.
The only time you want to consider it is when the damage can be overlooked or can be fixed easily. For instance, a blouse with a missing button is easy to fix. A designer leather handbag with a small, unnoticeable scratch can still be a great steal.
However, you want to watch out for tears, stains, and other damages that cannot be fixed quickly or that cannot be ignored.
When thrift shopping for clothes, you want to go in comfortable clothing that you can easily change in and out of. It is even much better if you can fit the thrift store clothes over the clothes you have on; a lot of the stores have no or limited fitting rooms. Remember, fitting is an essential step in assessing thrift store apparel.
5. Look For Unique Vintage Pieces
One of the advantages of thrift shopping is that you can find vintage pieces. Whether you are a collector, just a lover of vintage, or a reseller, you want to allocate enough time to run through every aisle in the thrift stores. You never know what hidden gem is waiting for you in the next aisle or the heap of products that are yet to be organized.
If you are shopping for women’s clothes, you want to be a little open-minded and check in the men’s and children’s sections, too. The men’s section is an excellent stop for anyone looking for vintage shirts, blazers, and oversized sweaters. Anne Krizova of Camino Adventures recommends that 90% of loose-fitting treasures and denim can be found in the men’s section.
6. Don’t Forget About Accessories and Shoes
Accessories are a great way to complement your outfit and make you stand out. Thrift stores can help you get unique accessories that would have otherwise cost you a lot more in the other stores.
The same applies to shoes. Finding new good quality shoes can mean spending a lot of money. However, thrift stores can offer you a unique selection of shoes that could last years. This is mainly for shoes worn frequently or that need strength, such as hiking shoes and work boots.
7. Check for Discount Sections
Thrift stores have hidden places that are not often overlooked. Take the chance that many other shoppers are not to make your experience worthwhile.
If you want to stay within your budget, do not ignore the discount sections in thrift stores. There is a misconception that discount sections have been looked through and through by other shoppers, so they would not have anything valuable. With this in mind, a lot of people ignore it. And even if it has been looked through and through, your taste may differ from other shoppers, and you can still find something you fancy.
Additionally, you want to look at the very bottom and top shelves. They are often overlooked and could just be hosting a treasure that would win you over.
8. Consider Alterations or DIY Projects
That floral grandma dress can be transformed into a cute sundress. The blue oversized jeans in the men’s section can be transformed into cute boyfriend jeans or shorts. The oversized vintage dress can be altered to create a cute two piece. The vintage blankets can create superb hoodies.
Alterations and DIY projects are something to consider, especially if you love the fabric of an item and not the style it comes in.
If you love the item yet it is oversized, do not leave it behind. Bring it and alter the size to fit you.
You will not only save money for doing these projects. You will get to tap more into the empowering upcycling hobby.
9. Follow Thrift Stores on Social Media
Thrift stores often use their social media pages to announce sales, in-store auctions, discount codes, stock clearance, and new stock’s arrival. If you are an avid thrift shopper, you want to know these important details.
Show up early to get the best deals on such days.
Some thrift stores also post nice finds directly on their social media platforms. If you are their avid follower, you could easily catch some lovely treasures before they find their way to the aisles.
Additionally, some thrift stores offer discounts to their top social media fans. Follow the pages and interact with their content frequently to enjoy such perks.
10. Bring Cash for Better Negotiation
For starters, some thrift stores accept only cash payments. Be sure to check this beforehand.
Another good reason to bring cash is to help you stick to your budget. It is no secret that thrift stores have excellent selections that can tempt any shopper. Bringing your card could easily have you spend more than your budget.
Also, with no processing fees, you can land better bargains when you shop with cash.
11. Visit Thrift Stores in College Towns
Thrift stores in college towns are among the best places to find great deals.
College towns typically host diverse populations, which means thrift stores in these areas tend to receive a constant influx of donated items, creating a dynamic inventory with a wide range of unique finds.
Whether looking for vintage clothing, stylish home decor, or collectibles, college-town thrift stores offer a higher likelihood of uncovering hidden gems.
Also, if you are looking to shop for trendy items, your best bet is in thrift stores in college neighborhoods. College students often donate or sell items still in style, making finding fashionable clothing, accessories, and furniture easier.
Additionally, you want to check out the shelves for textbooks and study materials. You could find them at throwaway prices in these stores.
Lastly, thrift stores in college towns are known for their competitive pricing, which can help you stick to your budget while still finding remarkable items.
12. Ask About Loyalty or Rewards Programs
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of thrift shopping. When checking out, ask your cashier about loyalty and reward programs. They can help maximize your savings and enhance your treasure-hunting experience.
By signing up for these loyalty programs, you can access exclusive offers, special sale events, and early access to newly arrived items.
Additionally, some thrift stores’ loyalty programs award points for every dollar you spend. Over time, these points can add up and be redeemed for discounts or free items. It’s like earning cashback on your thrift store purchases, allowing you to stretch your budget further.
13. Network With Fellow Thrift Shoppers
Fellow thrift shoppers can help you discover the ropes of thrifting more. They can help you discover new stores in town, remind you of sales day, and show you how to find hidden treasures while shopping.
Do you have that friend who always has unique and stylish pieces? Compliment them and ask them where they shop. If they are thrift shoppers, ask them to tag you along on their next shopping spree.
You can also network with other thrifters from online thrifting communities and events.
With such a company, you can discover more opportunities, such as vintage markets, thrift store openings, or clothing swaps.
14. Stay Patient and Persistent
Thrift shopping needs you to be patient and persistent. Finding something you want to bring home can take an hour. Take your sweet time slowly going through the aisles and the disorganized heaps of items.
More importantly, be ready to walk out empty-handed when you cannot find something you like. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t strike gold on your first trip. Consistency pays off in thrift shopping, so keep exploring and hunting for those budget-friendly gems.
Have a list of what you want and persistently visit different thrift stores to find what you are looking for.
You must also know thrift stores can be crowded, especially on sales day. Be persistent and patient even with the crowds; you will find the treasure you are hunting for.
15. Keep An Eye Out For Brand Names
Brand names can be costly until they find their way to the thrift stores. Instead of buying new items from your favorite designer brands, check out thrift stores.
You can find nice and lightly used brand-name pieces, especially in thrift stores in affluent neighborhoods.
Now, while searching for brand-name items, you want to be on the watch out for knock-offs, which are pretty popular in thrift stores, too. Find out how to differentiate knock-offs from original versions if you want to bag the real thing.
There is no problem with getting knock-offs. However, people who want originals, especially resellers, have to know how to differentiate.
Finding Hidden Treasures on a Budget
While thrifting in itself is already a money-saving venture, you can still do more to enhance the savings and quality of the items you get in the stores. The hunt may involve getting out of your comfort zone, but the saved treasures and money would be worth your patience and persistence.
Budget wisely, and take it as an adventure; it is a thrilling experience that will make your wallets happy all while contributing to your sustainability efforts.
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