How Not to Overspend While Thrift Shopping

Posted On Monday, August 8th, 2011
Filed Under: How To, shopping, Thrift Stores, Thrifty Threads 365


Last week you guys had some great suggestions when I asked if and how I should continue my Thrifty Threads 365 challenge. A lot of you thought I should continue my thrift only wardrobe but set a monthly limit for my purchases. And that got me thinking about the cardinal sin of thrifting: overspending.

I know some people think, ‘how can you go over budget when everything’s so cheap?” But “cheap” stores are the prime location to go crazy and drop a ton of cash. You’re so enamored by the prices and awesome finds that you snatch everything up, whether you need them or not.

It’s kind of like when you go to the dollar store {for me it’s Dollar Tree. Isn’t that place amazing!?}. You may walk in with the intention of buying a few things but other goodies always catch your eye. And you end up with bags of miscellaneous items and you rationalize by saying ‘it’s only a dollar.” Well, those dollars add up. And it’s the same way with thrift shopping. Though I like to think of myself as a thrift enthusiast, even I’ve been guilty of this.

At the first Adventures in Thrifting trip, I purchased four brooches, totaling $32. Um, why the heck did I need that many pins? The answer: I didn’t. Though I think the prices were good, it was overkill. So far I’ve only worn one of the brooches.

I did the same thing at the Salvation Army coat sale last December. I copped five coats for $94. Definitely a steal but I didn’t even end up wearing two of the coats.

No matter how affordable something is, only buy what you need or will get serious use out of.

So the question is how do you prevent ovrspensding while thrifting? The same way you do at any store:

Set a Budget:
Not all thrift stores are priced the same but once you’re familiar with a location or chain, then you know how much to allot. For example, many of the tops, dresses and pants at Goodwill are $7-$12. So I usually budget $20 for a trip so I can get a at least two pieces. Whatever dollar amount you set, stick with it. Trust me on this one.

Make a List:
Also, it’s a good idea to keep a running list of things you want. The inventory at thrift stores isn’t predictable so you won’t always walk out with everything checked off your list. But eventually you’ll find most, if not all of the items. A list keeps you on track and from buying random items.

Would I buy this if it was full price?:
Ask yourself that question. Then ask yourself that question again. Like I stated, the lure of a low sticker price can be tempting. But if you’re only buying something because it’s cheap, don’t buy it. A top may only be $2, but that’s a wasted $2 if you never wear it.

Have you guys ever gone overboard while thrift shopping? How do you keep your wallet in check while shopping?

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7 thoughts on “How Not to Overspend While Thrift Shopping

  1. Thanks for the much needed tips! 🙂  I go crazy when I thrift shop.  When I try each piece on, I always ask if I really need it and will I really wear it.

    • Exactly! I have to ask myself at least three times, Patrice, do you want this? Do you need this? Can you wear this with other pieces in your closet? 

  2. Good post. 🙂 Very easy to overspend. I’ve started asking myself when I get something,   “Do I absolutely LOVE it?” I want a closet full of things I LOVE, so I try not to get things I feel just “ok” about. Sometimes, things slip through this “screening” but it’s helped me put some things back on the rack.

    • So true. You want to purchase pieces you can’t live without. Of course we all need basics, but it’s so easy to go overboard on buying “ok” stuff only because it’s cheap. I love that you call it a “screening” process 🙂

  3. Pingback: My First Weekend of Thrift Shopping Only!!! « healthymakesyousexy

  4. Definitely true.  My weakness is with tank tops.  Since they’re only like a dollar at Goodwill I always want to buy a million…but it really adds up.

  5. The “would I buy this full-price?” screening question has gotten skewed for me, since I almost never buy things full price even in department stores/boutiques. Here’s the question I came up with that REALLY helps me judge how much I actually like an item itself (as opposed to just liking the price):

    “Would I be excited — or at least genuinely pleased — to receive this as a gift?”

    That takes the financial element out the picture entirely, so I can focus on whether I’ll truly wear the piece or not.

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