Thrifting: First Hand Tips for Your Second Hand Finds

How many times have I received a compliment on my outfit and responded, “Thanks! I got it at Goodwill!”? And how many times have they replied speaking to their inability to thrift successfully? Too many to count. So here’s a blog post from a pro-thrifter.

My Granny has been dragging me to thrift stores since I could barely walk. It’s in my blood and if it were an Olympic sport, I’d win gold.

When thrifting, there are several things to keep in mind and watch out for. These tips aren’t applicable to everyone but can certainly make a day spent thrifting that much more efficient and successful!

When I thrift, I’m normally looking for myself. Occasionally, I will find vintage things I can resale on Etsy, but I rarely thrift with that being my only goal in mind. And because I’m so thrift crazed, it helps me to set boundaries, whether that be on things I’m allowed to buy or how much money I’m allowed to spend (let’s face it, I’m a hoarder. Your trash is my treasure.)

Let’s start out with the basics: what is thrifting?

Thrifting can be done at a thrift store (most typically, Goodwill), antique mall, flea market or yard sale. I collect lots of odd knick-knacks so I prefer antique malls, flea markets and yard sales. Yard sales will be where you find your cheapest items, but your selection will be more limited. Antique malls will generally be the most expensive. Thrift stores and flea markets are somewhere in the middle, price wise. Thrift stores will have more clothing of all kinds, but flea markets and antique malls usually stick to vintage clothing or newer boutique clothes. If you are aiming for vintage clothing, cheapest way to find that is a thrift store. Antique malls, etc., will charge more for vintage clothing because they know their value. Generally speaking, thrift stores price all their clothing the same. Local thrift stores or charity shops will have the cheapest clothing compared to a place like Goodwill.

Once you’ve decided what thrifting you’re going to do for the day, you need a game plan. I have a system when I enter a thrift store and I usually have a list of items I’m looking for. This list always includes dresses, t-shirts (desperate for vintage concert tees), canvases and other pieces of art, shoes (Dr. Martens) and bags (specifically Gitano overnight bags).

Once in the store, I usually hit things up in this order: household items, dresses, t-shirts, shoes and whatever else I might be looking for that day. If I’m at a flea market or antique store, I just go down the aisles and basically go into every single booth. You don’t want to miss something but do your scan quickly.

Another thing I will do to try and save money is when I see something I like, to think “How much would I pay for this?” and if I look at the price tag and it’s that number or under, I’m gonna buy it! What a fun game, am I right?

Also at yard sales, you can and should bargain! Yard sales are already going to be your cheapest option but if you can get what you want for even cheaper, what a DEAL?!

Additionally, be picky with what you buy. Check over your items (especially clothes!!) extensively. Seeing something super cute but stained is a bummer but it’s an even bigger bummer if you buy it and then realize it’s stained when you get home. And try things on if there are dressing rooms. Sizing on vintage clothing can be weird or the clothes you find can be stretched out and unflattering. Make sure you know what you’re buying! I’ve also found buying records or DVDs to be risky. Make sure they aren’t dirty or scratched.

It also helps me to visualize how I’m going to wear or use something before I buy it. Cheap prices drag me in but if I never wear it, it’s completely useless and a waste.

If I’m shopping for my Etsy shop, I always bring along my phone to Google items I find. One of my proudest moments of all time was finding $2 Doc Martens and reselling them for $50 on Etsy. Do your research.

Bring cash! A lot of smaller thrift stores and antique malls take cards but will charge an additional fee or require you to spend a certain amount of money. Cash is also a must for a flea market or yard sale. Small bills and change are best.

Thrifting is a blast. Look over every part of the store but also don’t spend an eternity going through everything. Don’t burn yourself out or become too overwhelmed. At the same time, don’t rush yourself and become discouraged if you don’t find anything. Some stores are good and some are bad and that will change week to week. Thrifting is a perseverance sport. Slow and steady. Stay hopeful. I find it best to scan racks and only stop when something catches my eye. I also generally tend to stick with my size if the store is sorted by sizes—it just helps with time spent in the store. But also at outlet stores, don’t be afraid to dig. Just make sure you wash your hands afterwards.

Thrifting is environmentally and financially conscious and a ton of fun. Make a day out of it with pals or go solo. I find it to be fun either way. It’s a good bonding activity between friends but also very therapeutic to have to find things you actually like.

Shop ’til ya drop, babes.

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