I’m notorious among my friends and family for being the world’s (or at least metro Detroit’s) best thrift store shopper. This is a distinction I cherish, and I’m proud to say that most of my and my daughter’s clothing, shoes, and home accessories come from local thrift stores. But bargain thrifting isn’t always as straightforward as you might think, and you need to be well-prepared for a day in the thrift store. Here are 7 tips for thrift shopping.
1. Make a List
If you don’t make a list of the items you need, you’ll end up buying things you don’t need, and that’s just a waste of money. For instance, in my day planner, I have a list of the items I want, a list of the items my daughter want, and a list of the items my boyfriend and his kids all want. If it’s not on the list, I won’t buy it unless it’s something I know I can fit into my wardrobe. Otherwise, if I buy that gorgeous suede skirt, but I don’t have anything to wear with it, I’ll end up searching for months to find the right top, shoes, etc. And there’s no fun, or savings, in that.
2. Dress for It
Prepare for a day at the thrift store by dressing for it. Dress comfortably, and, if the stores you’ll be shopping don’t have dressing rooms, in layers. For instance, wear a long skirt with leggings underneath, and flats, so you can try on jeans. Wear a tank under a cardi, so you can try on tops. And be sure you’re comfortably dressed, too, since you’re going to be spending a lot of time on your feet!
3. What’s the Policy?
Before you shop, know the thrift store’s policies. Do they accept exchanges or returns? Do they accept cash only, or debit cards, too? What are their hours? Which charities do they benefit? Do they have fitting rooms? These are all things you may want to know ahead of time.
4. Bring a Buddy
This is the key to a great day thrifting: bring a shopping buddy, someone whose taste in fashion you trust, and someone you know you’ll have fun shopping with. My best shopping buddies are my friend Michelle and my daughter. They’re both great at helping decide which sweaters to buy and which to put back, and which dresses look best, with which shoes. They both also love thrifting, but not everyone does, so make sure your shopping buddy is a fellow bargain-hunter.
5. Take Your Time
Be prepared to spend some time at each store. Some thrift shops are very organized, with clothing separated by type (jeans from dress pants), color (blue and black), and even by size. Most aren’t very well organized though, so you’ll end up rifling through an entire rack of jeans looking for your favorite brand and size. During my monthly visit to my favorite thrift store, I can spend up to two hours looking for and trying on items.
6. Check the Items Carefully
Before you buy any clothing items, make sure they’re not stained, pilled, ripped or torn. Check to make sure all of the buttons are on, and that all of the zippers work. If you’re looking at a pair of shoes, make sure the heels are firmly attached. I’ve made the mistake of buying a pair of jeans with a broken zipper… not a nice discovery to make three or four days later when I tried to wear them.
7. Know Where to Go
Ask around and find out which thrift stores have the best stuff, and which are a waste of time. I’ve saved myself and my friends a lot of time and hassle by learning that the Salvation Army at 16 and Gratiot is usually a waste of time, but the Community Thrift Store has the best stuff (but they’re cash only). And don’t be discouraged if your first couple of trips aren’t as successful as you’d like! You might have to become the go-to guru on thrifting in your area.
Follow these tips, and you’re sure to be the next big thrift store treasure hunter in your metro area! Or maybe you’re already a thrifting queen? Which of these tips do you stick to when thrifting? Or do you have another tip to share?
Top Photo Credit: TGKW