This weekend I went shopping at the thrift stores with a friend. You can find great bargains at thrift stores, but you can also waste money easily. What are the secrets to rockin’ the thrift stores? Read on!

Shop With an Open Mind

Though there have been a few times I’ve walked into a thrift store with a list and found what I needed, those times are few and far between. More often I find bargains on things I’m not searching for – things like a cool sweatshirt that will fit my son next year or a book I’ll need for homeschooling down the road.

The most successful thrift store shoppers just browse. They keep their eyes open for things they’ll eventually need at bargain prices. And if they see a good deal, they snatch it, because tomorrow it may be gone.

Know Retail Prices

At one of our stops over the weekend, my friend saw a scrapbook kit priced at $10. Now I, not being a scrapbooker, thought that $10 was rather expensive. But my friend is an avid scrapbooker and recognized that the kit was a great price.

She didn’t need more scrapbooking supplies, so she passed on the deal, but by knowing regular retail price for scrabooking kits, she recognized a true bargain.

The same holds true for whatever you’re buying. If you’re after books, how much do they sell for at garage sales? Amazon? Used bookstores? Make sure you’re not overpaying.

Use Your Five Senses…Or at Least Four of Them

When you’re browsing thrift stores, be observant. Feel fabric. Does it feel like it’s quality? Another friend once told me she likes to run her hands along racks of clothing, feeling for quality fabric. When she feels something that feels right, she pulls it off the rack to check it out.

Look carefully at any potential purchase. Are there stains? Holes? Missing buttons? Some of these things can be fixed, but it’s best to know it’s there before you pay for it.

Use your sense of smell, especially when buying something that can’t be washed. If a piece of used furniture smells badly, you may not be able to get the smell out, no matter how much Febreze you use. Can you live with it? If not, pass.

Finally, listen, especially when buying toys or appliances. If something rattles when it shouldn’t, it may not be worth your money.

Set Limits

Finally, bargains aren’t bargains if you overbuy. Yes, that sweatshirt might look great on your son. It might be of good quality. But if your son already owns 20 sweatshirts, he doesn’t need another.

Don’t become addicted to bargain hunting. Know when to stop. Finding bargains is all about paying less for things you will use. If you can’t use it, you’re wasting your money.