How to Shop at a Thrift Store


thrift storeIf you’re not in the habit of shopping at thrift stores, please let me bend your arm and encourage you to check one out.  I know that thrift stores sometimes have negative connotations, but I’m not totally sure why.   You can find some pretty awesome things at even more awesome prices.   If you’re into the vintage look, you’ll undoubtedly find some great house wares and clothing items.   Plus, you can afford to buy more when you’re getting things at thrift store prices.   You’re also actively participating in a form of recycling.   What’s not to love about all that?

You Can Take Two Approaches

First things first, prepare to be overwhelmed by all the items you’ll have to choose from.   Thrift stores vary in their size and organization, but it’s safe to say they won’t look like your local department store.    You may have to search a little to find what you really want.

Now, you can take two approaches to your thrift store adventures.   You can either treat it like grocery shopping and have a list of items you’re looking for or you can go in without any expectations. I prefer to go in without expectations.

If you don’t l-o-v-e shopping for the sake of shopping or if you’re concerned you might spend more money than you should, go in with a plan.   Knowing ahead of time that you need dinnerware or men’s dress shoes is a great way to stay focused and keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff.   If the items you need aren’t time sensitive, try again another day or try other thrift stores.   Thrift stores have a high product turnover.   They’re constantly receiving new donations and moving items from their storage, so you never really know what you’re going to find from day to day.

If you’d prefer to shop for the fun of it, then by all means, shop â˜til you drop!   Just try to go in without any expectations.   When you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll likely spend extra time just perusing or digging through an assortment of items.   That can take a lot of energy.   Some things will be like new, or (score!) even have the tags still on them.   Other items might have visible signs of some wear and tear.   If you keep an open mind you could potentially find some great fixer uppers or DIY projects. I personally love to scour for solid wood furniture

Stick To A Budget

No matter which approach you take to thrift store shopping, you should still set a budget.   If unbelievable deals get you as excited as they do for me, you’ll want to set some limitations before you go.  It’s also a good idea to take cash.   Some thrift stores, especially smaller ones, won’t take cards at all. Plus, you can better keep track of how much you spend that way.

Check For Quality

Once you inevitably find some items that you can’t live without, give them a good once over.   Look for holes, stains, tears, cracks, etc.   Clothes may be donated because they don’t fit anymore or just went out of style, but they could also be donated because they’re damaged.   A good thrift store will weed out the items that truly aren’t good anymore, but the items you buy should always get your stamp of approval before you take them home.

Find Out Who Runs the Place

If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask the store employees.   They are probably intimately familiar with all the store’s inventory and can lead you directly to what you want.   They can also tell you when new items will be put out.   Some places may even keep track of specific items that their customers are looking for and give you a call when the item comes through.

Ultimately, thrift store shopping is a great option for furnishing first apartments or dorm rooms, finding clothes for a specific and special event, or fulfilling a retro or vintage style.   You’ll save a lot of money and repurpose items that otherwise may have ended up in a landfill somewhere.   It’s a win-win situation all around.

So, have I convinced you? Are you going to give thrift shopping a try?

photo by Phillip Pessar

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Written by Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford is a freelance writer who currently lives in the Caribbean with her husband and spoiled pup, Julep. She received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech. When she is not writing for various personal finance websites, she enjoys sharing her frugal and fabulous adventures on her blog, BudgetBlonde.com.

Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford is a freelance writer who currently lives in the Caribbean with her husband and spoiled pup, Julep. She received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech. When she is not writing for various personal finance websites, she enjoys sharing her frugal and fabulous adventures on her blog, BudgetBlonde.com.

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