Thrift Shopping 101

Posted On Thursday, December 16th, 2010
Filed Under: How To, shopping, Thrift Stores

Though I’ve been an avid thrifter for about two years now, thrift shopping can be intimidating for beginners. The crowds. Racks upon racks of unorganized clothes. It can be a bit overwhelming if you’re used to shopping at a “regular” store.

I’ve offered up thrift shopping tips before {like here and here}, but below are a few pointers specifically for the thrifting novice. If you’ve never stepped foot in a Goodwill, Salvation Army or other local second hand store, check out the simple tips you should keep in mind before you go.

Just Browse

I normally tell people to head to the thrift store with an idea of what they’re looking for. Just like with any shopping trip, you can pick up tons of random, unnecessary items if you don’t know what you want. However, if you’re a newbie, just browse on your first few trips. This takes the pressure off of having to find specific items. You never know what the inventory is going to be like so trying to fulfill a particular list can lead to major frustration. Just have fun and browse. If you find something, then great, but if not, there’s no pressure.

Don’t Shop Big Sales

Major warehouse or coat sales {like the Salvation Army sale last week} are super hectic. People push, shove and get verbally aggressive when there are super savings to be had {just think of it like Black Friday shopping}. This is not the environment for the newbie. I repeat: if you’ve never thrifted before, a major sale should not be your first time. Ease yourself in and take it slow. If possible, go to your local store on a weekday. You’ll get a feel for the layout of the store and it will be less crowded.

Bring a Friend

I’ve suggested this before to all thrift shoppers. When you have a buddy, you’re kind of like a tag team. But you shouldn’t just bring any ‘ol friend. The person should:

  • Know your style: If they see something you might like, they can throw it in their cart for you and vice versa. You can swap finds afterward.
  • Be patient: Second hand shopping can be time consuming and discouraging, especially for first timers. A good thrifting buddy will keep you in good spirits, and having great company always makes everything less daunting.

People constantly ask me how I score such great finds during my thrifting trips. I remember being so freaked out during my first Housing Works warehouse sale, which was about three years ago. I was so overwhelmed that I walked out after 10 minutes. With a little bit of time and patience, you’ll be a thrifting pro before you know it!

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10 thoughts on “Thrift Shopping 101

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Thrift Shopping 101 | Living Fly on a Dime --

  2. Another misconception by nonthrifters is that every thrifting trip brings in stellar deals. This is a myth. For the most part those stellar deals don’t come without a price (searching). I always encourage thrifting virgins to browse casually (and with an open mind). Start out searching for 10 minutes and then work your way up. It takes baby steps. There are tons of things to look through and it will take some time. I’ve found some of the best bargains while at Goodwill/Salvation army (DVF dress $5, Prada $10, Anthropologie $2), but it doesn’t happen like that EVERY single time.

    It’s always good to make a friend with an employee or manager at your favorite store. Find out when they get their shipments in. This doesn’t apply to me, but one of my friends is such a frequent visitor of her local Goodwill that they know her by name; subsequently, they actually attempt to hide things out for her and then give her a call when goodies arrive!!

    It’s also important to note that Goodwill gets MAJOR goods from Target. I don’t even shop Target’s “designer” clothing line instore anymore. Lela Rose, Erin Featherston, Tucker, Gaultier, etc. are in my possession by way of Target’s mass donation to Goodwill.

    Sigh. I love thrifting!


    • Great tips Chandra! I’m a “seasoned” thrifter and I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve left a Goodwill empty handed. It happens!

      And I never realized how many Target items Goodwill has until I visited a location in NJ. I snagged a Zac Posen dress with the tags still on!

    • Actually Goodwill buys salvage and overstock from many different stores including Target. It is not a donation but commercial purchases to help fill out inventory.

  3. Target donates to Goodwill. I jsut started thrifting and already came up with a BCBG dres, turned down Cole Haan, and Mizrahi, found some jewelry that looks like the new LV link jewelry, PLUS I found all that I was looking for (clutch purse, pleated skirts, belts and jackets), all in 2 days! I love thrifting!

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  6. I always suggest using a list, your wardrobe can get pretty scattered unless you know what colors, sizes & styles your looking to add to your current collection!

    Oh, and having a super-savvy Thrift shopping friend ALWAYS helps! My motto is: Buds Spot Duds!

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