Given my love for DIY crafts and re-purposing leftovers, it should come as no surprise that I’m an avid thrift shopper. I love hunting for good deals and find it almost painful to buy something new at full price. Now there are a few items one should definitely not purchase at a thrift store: underwear, running shoes, pillows, mattresses… However most clothes and household items are perfectly fine to purchase gently used. Often secondhand finds are more distinctive and unique than something off a department store shelf. I’m protective of my vintage pie pans because I know they’re one of a kind.
While I’m all about sporting secondhand duds, some of my friends have been reticent to tip toe into this world, which I can understand. It can be overwhelming to walk into a shop spilling over with over people’s stuff, often in various states of wear and tear. Knowing this, I want to share my tips for making your next thrift shopping trip as enjoyable and successful as possible – whether it’s your first time or your fortieth. Note, poppin’ tags isn’t actually one of my approved thrift shopping strategies. I just thought it made for a cute post title. Sorry Macklemore.
1. Location, location, location: It should come as no surprise that where a store is located matters. Thrift stores typically get most of their inventory from the surrounding area, so a shop located in the ritzy area of town is much more likely to have those designer items we all dream of finding. Be strategic and target stores in higher end neighborhoods.
2. Research your options: Not all thrift stores are created equal. There is a range of stores, so choose your destination according to the type of experience you want. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Savers stores typically have the lowest prices, but are not for the faint of heart. Their merchandise is completely unedited, so be prepared to really work for your treasure. Charity shops and consignment stores are the next level up. They curate their stock to a certain degree, so you can anticipate well-kept clothing likely at both low and higher price points. Finally, you have the vintage and designer boutiques that stock a very focused range of clothing with comparatively higher pricing.
3. Know when to go: In the thrifting world, all days are not created equal. Most donations are made over the weekend, when people actually have the time to clean out their closets and run errands. It takes a couple days for new stock to hit the retail floor, so the latest and greatest items usually show up on Monday or Tuesday. Sunday is almost never a good day, because Saturday shoppers have already picked things over and the newest donations have yet to hit the racks.
4. Enter with a purpose: The sheer volume of stuff can be overwhelming. Make a list of the items you’re looking for and be relatively specific. Knowing that you’re looking for a specific color or shape will help you shift through the merchandise that much quicker.
5. Know your materials: Recognizing the look and feel of high quality fabrics is key to being efficient and knowing when you’re really getting a good deal. A well cared for designer leather bag is a great find if you can separate it from the knock-offs. If you’re not sure if something is polyester or silk, check the label.
6. Be picky: It can be easy to give into impulse shopping, when prices are low. I’m certainly guilty of buying a shirt because “it’s designer and an amazing deal!” only to never wear it again after the dressing room. Treat thrifted clothing no differently than you would full priced items. If it doesn’t fit well and won’t be easy to alter, don’t bother. Always check for stains, tears, or any worn out sections. Never buy something that already looks worn out. You want to feel great in your new clothes, not like you’re wearing hand-me-downs.
While successful thrift shopping involves a little more planning and patience than a trip to Nordstrom, the pay off is totally worth it. For me there’s almost nothing like the thrill of finding practically new leather boots at a tenth of the cost. As someone who grew up in a family with limited funds, thrift shopping allowed me to feel good about myself without breaking the bank. I think it’s one of the reasons I still love doing it. If you do it right, you can look just as good in your $30 outfit as any other girl on the street dressed straight out of the Madewell catalog.
Here I am sporting an exclusively thrifted outfit, with the exception of my Fitbit (I wish). We had a little date night along the waterfront in Edmonds and I couldn’t have felt cuter. Thanks Goodwill!