Thrift Stores Shopping Tips

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.



Author

By , on Jan 16, 2011
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{11 Comments}

  1. Mike @ debtdewd:

    Lynnae,

    Good tips. I love thrift shopping for random items of clothes. Depending on the area, you can definitely find clothes for work, personal, parties, etc.

    Lots of people underestimate the quality of items that can found at thrift stores.

    Plus, it’s always a good time when you go because you don’t have the anxiety that goes along with making a purchase you have to think twice about because of a potential higher price.

    Mike

  2. I have to agree with overbuying. Before, I tend to hoard on sale items and things from thrift stores. Then I won’t use these things. Instead of saving I was actually wasting money.

  3. kathryn turner:

    Hi, I am a 60 year old autisic woman, and have upcycled things for over 40 years. It was the only way for me to make money that was comfortable for me. when you said to pass on furniture that was smelly or dirty, I beg to disagree. I have found alot of beautiful quality furniture that was free or cheap as heck due to the condition. I allways set the furniture on my patio and soak it with the hose, and rinse out all the spray on soap out of it. then I take a liquid detergent, like Dawn…or gain and a toilet brush and get busy. I have never had a bad experience from this. it also is good to give a final rinse with downey. the couches dry in two days, as well as over stuffed chairs. most good furniture is quality fabric.

  4. NCN:

    One thing to look for at thrift stores are balls and bats for kids who are playing recreational t-ball or baseball. I coach a little league team, and often pick up an extra glove or two during winter, for the kids who don’t have them.

  5. Mary:

    Agree. Here, a lot of stuff in the thrift stores is from estates, or closing out homes enroute to a nursing home… good well cared for items. – Totally agree with this post.We also have that. I was written about this problem here

  6. Robin Martin:

    Shopping at thrift stores is something I need to look into more. I have always had the impression that everything was just “junk.” But after reading this article it has brought me to a newer understanding. Thanks for that.

  7. Yes, you can be an impulse buyer in thrift shops – becaz if you don’t grab it it will disappear!My husband sometiems thinks my buys are frivolous – but I have a VERY NICE wardrobe, which I put together on very little. Sometimes when we mall walk, I take him up to counters & show him that the oxfords I paid $5 for are almost $200 in the store! Or that the $7 jacket would be @ $40.

    Do I need these things to brave the elements? Mostly no – but as an actress/musician living in L.A., I feel I have to keep up with the current styles & so on.

  8. Ryan:

    I think the last point you made was the one I have the most difficulty with. Since there as so many low priced items it’s easy to get carried away and fill your car up with stuff you’ll never even end up using.

  9. I use thrift stores to look for clothing for work – I’ve gotten a nice Brooks Brothers blouse that retails for $80 for $6.00 and brand new shoes for $4.00. I also got a nice Ann Taylor suit for $5.00! Most of the compliments I get are on my thrift store finds. Having a good eye for quality is the key and shop around. I know of some ‘expensive’ thrift stores and some that are more reasonable. I also go by smell. If I walk into a thrift store that smells like someone’s dirty laundry basket, I leave……

  10. Very interesting article. I personally love thrift stores myself. Most of the time when people my age (22) shop at thrift stores it’s meant to be a fashion statement and they seem to intentionally buy stuff that is in poor condition so people know they bought it a thrift store.
    I’ve always thought that was kind of cheesy. I actually go there to find super nice stuff that people are surprised to know I got for so cheap. Some of my nicest button up collar shirts, styled just like the ones you find in a trendy mall store for $20 or more, were found at my local Goodwill for like $4. If more young people could get out of the “it has to be brand new and from the mall” mentality, they’d be surprised at how often they can find similar clothes at their local thrift stores.

  11. marci357:

    Agree. Here, a lot of stuff in the thrift stores is from estates, or closing out homes enroute to a nursing home… good well cared for items.

    Remember to look for alternate uses for what you find also… If a dress grabs you because of the fabric, think what you can do with a $1 piece of beautiful fabric. Kids PJ’s or robes out of adult Pj’s or robes – or make them stuffed animals.

    A lot of new items can be found also – and saved for gifts. No one needs to know where you bought it…. altho my family is well aware of where I do most of my shopping – garage sales and thrift stores :) And they have learned to do the same.

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