How to become a pro at thrift-store shopping


How to Become a Pro at Thrift Store Shopping

Williamsport Sun-Gazette | May 16, 2014


Sun-Gazette Correspondent

Buying clothes at thrift stores can save you tons of money, and it’s even become something of a trend these days.

Beginner to the process?

Here are some helpful tips to get started.


Be prepared to dig

Stepping into a thrift store is like being thrust into a fluorescent-lit forest of mixed clothing patterns. Especially when visiting a new store, this can feel overwhelming.

I suggest developing a general routine to always follow when you shop–for example, start with a specific section, and then ease into the rest of the clothing depending on what you’re more interested in buying that day.

Thrift stores, unlike major clothing stores, aren’t clamoring to sell you things and usually won’t be nearly as well-organized.

To find clothes you like, in your size, you will have to dig through racks for a while. If you’re patient, it can feel like a thrilling treasure hunt. If you’re rushing, it can become frustrating and tedious.

Plan to spend at least an hour in one store.


Look at the item’s potential, not its reality

Creative people and optimists will probably enjoy thrifting more than others.

It’s possible to stumble upon truly amazing pieces while rummaging, but many of the clothing items in thrift shops may look unappealing at first glance. It’s crucial to be able to see instead what they COULD be.

Those ugly old grandma pants could become high-waisted shorts, if you’re handy with a sewing machine. If your tailoring talents are limited to “scissors,” put them to use and cut some shirts into any style you want!

Easier still, try my personal favorite trick: buy a long, flowy skirt, pull it up to your armpits, put a belt or scarf around the middle and–voila!–instant strapless dress. The possibilities are endless.

And if you enjoy crafting, those dusty shelves full of weird bric-a-brac are gold mines for art project supplies.


Check items thoroughly

If you’re shopping at a thrift store, it stands to reason that you’ve already embraced the idea of buying clothes that have been previously worn.

However, you need to keep this in mind when you’re shopping–unlike clothes in normal stores that are in brand-new condition, the clothes in a thrift store fall within a wide range of conditions.

Examine everything thoroughly for stains, missing buttons, fraying threads, broken zippers and holes. I even suggest trying some things on, to have a better perspective of the whole outfit and test the fasteners.

The same goes with furniture, and if you’re buying appliances or electronics, ask if you can plug them in somewhere to make sure they actually function before you pay for them.


Know what NOT to buy at a thrift store

Thrift stores make up a large percentage of my clothing purchases, but there are some items I always buy elsewhere.

Jeans, for example, are a staple clothing item–the fit and comfort are key. You can get away with buying some types of clothing in not-quite-your-size at a thrift store, but it’s a chore to find jeans there that fit just right, so the extra expense is worth it.

Additionally, for the sake of your hygiene and self-respect, don’t ever buy a swimsuit (or anything along those lines) from a thrift store.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but there are sections for these items in most thrift stores.

Pretend those sections don’t exist.


Set limits for yourself

Thrift store items can be so cheap, it can be hard to say no to anything.

But if you buy 30 two-dollar shirts, you’ve still spent 60 dollars. And you’ll quickly find your closet full of things that you never wear.

This is a blessing and a curse–on one hand, you can buy things and not feel guilty about wearing them only once.

On the other hand, it can be difficult to decide what to buy, and what not to buy. It’s a good idea to set price limits for yourself before going to a thrift store, to help when you’re on-the-fence about an item. Is that flannel over your $4 limit?

Leave it. Thrifting is good practice for knowing when to let things go.


Thrift Store Shopping
Original publication (click to view larger)


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