Not to get too Macklemore on you but…I do a little dance when I enter a thrift shop. I’m just so excited about all of the possible finds and treasures in there and the fact that I can shed that fear of, “I’m going to spend too much money” that I get when I enter a retail store. I feel like a kid in a candy shop. I feel rich! I feel like I may finally get to buy some of the brands that are usually beyond my price range. When I first discovered thrift stores, I went a little overboard. It felt like everything was basically free so, what was the harm in buying every little item that intrigued me? For starters, thing weren’t free. So, I found that, after I’d pop into a thrift store once or twice a week and buy everything I liked, I was spending an extra $200 a month or so…whoops! That adds up. It’s one of the not-so-smart ways I spent money in my twenties. Furthermore, I was buying a lot of duds, because the price persuaded me. Thrift stores are great, if you know how to hack them.
Skip it if it was cheap to begin with
If the item started at one of those mass-production stores where everything is already cheap to begin with, you probably shouldn’t buy it from a thrift store. I won’t name names on what stores I’m talking about but, you know the ones—their items only have a very short lifespan to begin with when purchased brand new. They’re practically rags by the time they make it to thrift stores.
Ask yourself if you’d get it brand new
Think, for a moment, in a vacuum. Would you purchase this item if it were brand new? If you could, let’s say, just have someone give it to you—brand new—and all you had to ask yourself was, “Do I love it?” would you take it? If not, then you don’t really love the item. You’re just wooed by the low price. Skip it.
Don’t get excited by the prices
Really, don’t get so excited by all of the $3 items that you buy literally everything that sparks your fancy. That’s how you get to the checkout and find you owe $80. How did that happen? First, collect the things you think you like. Then, sit down, look over everything, and edit down. Then do that once more before making your purchases.
Remember their daily deals
Remember that many thrift stores have regular deals like, all green tag items are half off on Wednesdays and yellow tag items are 30 percent off on Fridays. Maybe they have special $1 items on certain days.
Shop around the deals/hide things
Once you know their schedule, shop around it. If you find something you love that will be half off tomorrow, hide it. That’s right—get sneaky. Stick it in the drawer of an armoire that’s for sale in the furniture section and come back for it when it’s on sale.
Shop in the upscale areas
Not all thrift stores are created equally. The stores generally have donations from the residents in the nearby areas. That means that thrift stores near the nicer areas have that designer stuff. It’s worth it to travel to another borough to see what name-brand items one person considered trash, that you can consider a treasure.
Look for and avoid pilling
Look closely for pilling and moth holes. These can, unfortunately, just happen when an item sits for a long time in someone’s closet, or goes through the wash too many times. If an item has these, ditch it—it already looks old.
Don’t buy things you’ll “fix up”
Do not but oversized pants with the intention of hemming them or a dress with a hole in it with the intention of fixing it. You won’t get around to it, so that was a waste of money. Unless you truly love fixer-upper projects, you know these pieces will sit in storage.
Look for original tags
If you really want to bring home the good stuff and save time, you can scan those over-stuffed racks like this: just look for original tags. That means the person never wore the item. If there is any tag on there besides the thrift store’s tag, grab the item.
Don’t forget the jewelry case
This is an often-overlooked area, which is a shame because jewelry doesn’t go through nearly as much wear and tear as clothing, and you can find some true gems. You may find genuine pearls or gold, or just some really awesome costume jewelry.
Only buy brand-new shoes
Don’t buy used shoes. Just don’t do it. Shoes, like a car, drop dramatically in value the second they leave the lot (aka store). Shoes just go through so much wear and tear. Those at the thrift store tend to have worn-down heels, thinning soles, and other issues that will be problematic soon enough.
Make a changing room
A lot of thrift stores don’t have changing rooms and that’s okay: what they do have is a furniture section. Over there you may find one of those freestanding room dividers for sale, and they can act as a dressing room. And do try things on, since you can’t return things to a thrift store.
Check out the dishware
This, like the jewelry section, is often overlooked. Avoid anything chipped or stained, of course. But keep in mind that people often get plates, cups, and other dishware as gifts that they never get around to using. You can find a lot of brand new items over here.
Don’t ignore the clearance
I know the clearance section of a thrift store may sound shady, but sometimes it’s just full of last season’s items, and the store is turning over its inventory. Don’t overlook it. I found a designer dress that was once $170 for fifty cents on that rack.
Support a cause you admire
Don’t forget that thrift stores tend to benefit non-profit organizations, so find the ones you really care about and patronize those. Don’t forget that another way you can support is by donating goods, so when you plan a shopping trip, do a quick sweep of your home to see if there’s anything you’d like to donate.