Top 10 Thrifting Tips: How to Shop at Thrift Stores

thrifting tips for thrift store shopping

Gone are the days when thrifting at your local Goodwill or the Salvation Army is considered gross. Nowadays, thrifting is actually considered a cool thing to do. Let’s be real, what is cooler than finding a cute dress or unique pair of shoes for a couple dollars? Yes, most likely 99.9% of the items of clothing and accessories you will come across at the thrift store is used – but that’s why there are washing machines.
I personally used to think that buying people’s used clothing to wear was absolutely atrocious, but then I thought,

Okay, I literally donate my used clothing to the Salvation Army and there is nothing wrong with my clothes. I just don’t like them anymore. So I shouldn’t be so weirded out about buying clothes at the thrift store cause people probably donate them for the same exact reason I do.

It was mind breaking!
Okay, so your first time visiting a thrift store can be overwhelming. Racks of clothing, shelves of shoes, and retro CDS and records that you probably do not need are at the very back corner of the store. Knick-knacks line the homeware shelves and while your mission is to come out with some great clothing finds, there are so many potential treasures at the store you do not know where to start.

We have compiled what we consider the top ten tips for thrifting.

1. Less is More

If you are used to carrying a purse or carryall bag around, swap it for a crossbody or more shopping friendly bag. I always have a mini backpack on when I am shopping at the thrift store. There is no need for your purse or bag to get in your way as you are making your way through the jam-packed aisles of clothes.

2. Dress Comfortably

This may seem like common sense, but the last thing you want is for your feet to be sore because you opted for the stylish yet impractical heels. Gym shoes are your best friend because more than likely you will be making a couple of rounds through the store. Stores, in general, seem to either be too hot or too chilly, so try to dress in layers so you can accommodate to the temps.

3. Take Your Time

One of the biggest tips is to be patient. Sometimes people say they cannot find a single item at the thrift store. It may take a few walks around the store until you find something that catches your eye. In order to find very good things, you need to be willing to look for it. Do not expect to spend ten minutes at the thrift store. Be prepared to spend at least 45 minutes in order to make your way through the entire store.

4. Keep Your Eyes Open

Stores like Goodwill bring out racks of clothing to be put out on the floor. Try to be the first one at the racks because you will get first pick. Plus, it is way easier to sift through a rack than the entire store. Just make sure you are not standing in the way of the employee responsible for transferring the clothes on the rack to the main aisles.

5. Know Your Colors

Goodwill and Salvation Army have their items organized by different colored tags. There are the color of the day/week sales where merchandise tagged a specific color is 50% off.

6. Additional Discounts

Most stores offer student, teacher, military, and senior discounts that typically allow you to save at least 10% off your entire purchase. (Note: Goodwill no longer seems to offer a teacher discount).
Make sure to also ask employees about seasonal/holiday sales, birthday discounts, and rewards memberships – some thrift stores do offer those!
thrifting at Goodwill

7. Have a Budget

Perhaps the best thing about finding unique and vintage items at the thrift store is that they are marked down at a fraction of the price they were originally sold. That being said, it can be easy to pile your cart sky high with affordable items.
But take a step back and ask yourself if you truly need three 80s inspired tees, five pairs of shoes, and ten cute tops. By setting a budget (i.e. $10, $20, $50) you are a smart shopper and will be more likely to get more bang for your buck.

8. Inspect

Not everything you encounter at the thrift store is exciting. Some things may be stained or have a hole in them. Make sure to carefully inspect the items you have in your hands before putting them in your cart, and thoroughly inspect them before heading to check out.

9. Visit More than One Thrift Store

I have the local Goodwill that I shop at on a regular basis, but once in a while, I drive out to a few other local thrift stores and Goodwill locations for variety. Where a thrift store is located will determine what kind of things you will find. For example, thrift stores in cities may have a larger selection of vintage tees, where stores at affluent neighborhoods will have a larger selection of brand name items. So shop around for variety. Make a list of all the thrift stores you want to hit up. Invite some friends – make a day out of it.

10. Make a List

Try to have an idea of what you are looking for. You can jot down a list of a few things you are hoping to find, that way you know where to start once you are in the store. If I have a mental list of things I hope to find (i.e. black skinny jeans, work blouses), then I can prioritize checking out the pants and blouses aisles first and not get distracted by the dresses and accessories. After I visit my priority aisles, then I can go back and check the dresses aisle and the rest of the store to see what fun finds and unexpected treasures await me.

Bonus tip: Shop on Weekdays

Try as much as possible to avoid shopping on the weekends. Saturday morning may be the most convenient time for you to hit up the thrift store, but more than likely it is the best time for everyone else.

From personal experience, the stores are packed on Saturdays because pretty much everyone is off work and free to spend their day thrifting.

Try your best to visit the store after work on a weekday. There will be fewer people so you can peruse through the store.

Most stores also mark down their items or start sales on weekdays, so you also have a better chance of scoring good deals and great finds on the weekdays.

Thrifting has its up and downs, like any other shopping experience – don’t forget to keep that in mind.

It all comes down to being prepared, patient, and aware. Don’t take it too seriously. Head on over there to find a cute outfit on a budget, but let yourself wander through the books, CDs, and knick-knacks as well. It’s always fun to find a Backstreet Boys CD or some vintage games to take home along with your newest fashion finds. We hope these tips inspire you to head out to the thrift stores and start your thrifting adventures!

I'm Stephanie. Coffee lover, desserts baker, and excessive shopper. Because I love indulging in all three I'm always on the lookout for the best deals out there- and sharing them with people.

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