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Young woman shopping using thrifting tips

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Many people are changing the way that they shop, and they aren’t paying for conventional retail pricing anymore. During the pandemic, CNBC reported that an estimated 25 percent of American malls might close by 2025. Malls are a great place to get a warm pretzel and catch a movie. But there is one thing that malls are not: the place to find a bargain. And a bargain is exactly what consumers want. According to the National Retail Federation, 89 percent of shoppers get their goods from discount stores and outlets—and thrifts stores.

It just doesn’t make sense to pay full price these days. And true bargain hunters know that the best, unmatched deals are at the thrift stores. However, while there are some things that you should consider buying second-hand, there are some you should never buy used. Here are thrifting tips to hack a second-hand store.


Consider: (Most) Furniture

Empty classic brown kitchen and dining room with rectangular rustic breakfast kitchen island and living room in front

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Furniture like end tables, coffee tables, nightstands, bar stools, kitchen tables, and ottomans are great to buy at a second-hand store. By the time these make it to a thrift store, they cost barely a fraction of what they once did. And, it’s easy to tell what kind of condition furniture is in with a simple eyeball test – or by sitting on it, pulling out the drawers and using it as you normally would. Considering that some furniture can cost hundreds if not thousands at retail price, second-hand is the way to go.


Never: Beds

Welcoming Empty B&B Bedroom

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You probably don’t want to buy a bed second-hand because you can’t be sure it hasn’t picked up bed bugs. Plus, it can take a while for issues to show up with a used bed. At that point, you’ve already paid for movers to bring the giant item into your home. And if you get it at a thrift store, you won’t get any sort of warranty or enjoy a return policy.


Consider: Kitchen Appliances

Coffee is brewed in a Turk on a gas stove, on fire. Making coffee for breakfast. A Turk for making Turkish coffee, in the kitchen at home or in a hostel. There is a bright mug next to it. Do it yourself. Home life.

Source: Aleksandr Zubkov / Getty

From toaster ovens to blenders to crock pots, kitchen appliances are great things to pick up from second-hand stores. This is especially true because many people receive these items as gifts, never use them, and drop them off untouched at a thrift store. Sometimes you can find brand new, still-in-the-box espresso machines, electric mixers and more at second-hand stores.


Never: Shoes

Close-Up Of Clothes Hanging On Rack

Source: Ol’ga Efimova / EyeEm / Getty

Shoes, like cars, lose most of their value the moment they leave the lot…or department store in this case. Even lightly worn shoes have already been through quite a bit. Your footwear supports your entire body, so it’s important to only buy shoes that are in great condition.


Consider: Wall Art

A woman is hanging a large picture on the wall

Source: Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty

You can find some incredible artwork at second-hand stores. Sometimes people donate items that they don’t even realize are valuable, so you never know when you’ll find a real treasure. If you were otherwise going to go to a big box or retail store, second-hand is definitely the way to go, since chain stores only sell replicas. Unless you were going to buy a piece directly from an artist, just thrift your wall art.


Never: Bathing Suits

Bikini hanging from clothesline

Source: Tetra Images / Getty

Bathing suits are very intimate. For women especially, if you think about how up close and personal those bottoms get with your, well, bottom, you just want a fresh bikini.


Consider: Tools

Cropped Hand Of Woman Holding Hammer Against White Background

Source: Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush / EyeEm / Getty

Tools like hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches and saws are great items to buy used. These durable items are usually in top condition, even when they’ve done a lot of work. Meanwhile, new tools can be expensive. And if you don’t do a ton of handy work or DIY projects, paying full price for these tools doesn’t make sense.


Never: Tech

Working on laptop

Source: LeoPatrizi / Getty

When it comes to items like smartphones, tablets and laptops, if you want to buy used, go with a verified refurbished option either directly from the manufacturer, or through companies like Amazon that guarantee the purchase. Second-hand stores do not verify that these items work properly, and even when thrifted, they can still cost a couple of hundred dollars that you won’t get back if they aren’t functioning.


Consider: Sporting Equipment

African woman tennis player playing on indoor court

Source: Luis Alvarez / Getty

From tennis rackets and shin guards to surfboards, sporting gear is a great bargain when thrifted. It’s particularly smart to thrift these items if you’re new to the activity, and aren’t sure you’ll stick with it. You can lean into the newer, pricier gear once you’re more dedicated to the sport. But for beginners, thrift stores are great places to grab the gear and accessories you need to get in the game.


Never: Safety + Medical Equipment

An empty wheelchair in the living room of a house

Source: Magove / Getty

Safety and medical equipment such as wheelchairs, blood pressure machines, walkers and even scales should not be purchased secondhand. The slightest malfunction in these can lead to significant consequences. And it’s not always easy to detect these during a brief inspection in the store.


Consider: Instruments 

Group of classic musical guitar instruments on display in a music shop. Classical vintage acoustic guitars or instruments made from art wood hanging on a rack in a new indoor local store.

Source: Dean Mitchell / Getty

If you’re thinking of learning to play the guitar, flute, keyboard or cello, see if you can find one at a thrift store. These items bring in a high price tag when new, but lightly used instruments still deliver excellent sound along with a deep discount.


Always: Books

Ancient Books On A Wooden Table , Literacy And Knowledge Concept

Source: Kitipong Theantaworn / EyeEm / Getty

If you only read a book once, then paying full price for it doesn’t make much sense. And if you’re mostly buying books to fill up a library for decorative purposes, buying used is the way to go. Second-hand stores are also great places for coffee table books and journals.

RELATED CONTENT: 5 Tips You Should Know If You Want To Start Thrifting

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