One of my fondest childhood memories includes hitting the road with my Mom for a day of thrift store shopping. By the end of our trip our trunk was full of goodies and we were just dying to get home and show Dad our treasures. Well, things haven’t changed much; I still get excited every Saturday morning for half-off day at our neighborhood Arc shop. Considering most of my wardrobe comes from one thrift store or another, there have been countless times that I have been complimented on a shirt or accessory that I have purchased at a second hand shop. When I proudly boast where it is from the responses are amazing to me! An “Are you serious? I can never find anything at thrift stores!” Or “I wish I could spend more time looking there, I just don’t have the patience for it” are two comments I have heard more than once. For all of you that find yourself in the same boat, frustrated, overwhelmed, or downright anxious when thrift store shopping, here it is, your 10 tips to having a wonderful thrift shopping experience from the thrift store queen herself!
1. Call thrift stores ahead of time and see if they have a half off day. Many thrift stores designate a certain day of the week that most of their merchandise is half off. Also, when purchasing your items ask the cashier if they have a sale calendar you can take home. Sign up for store e-newsletters for coupons and event alerts that will go directly to your inbox.
2. Take your time. This is so important! Make sure to allot yourself a couple of hours for your shopping trip. The best way to find nice clothing is to go through each and every piece on the racks. Also, using an I-pod can help you focus. If you feel like going the extra mile, create a motivational playlist for your big shopping day.
3. Be prepared. Carry a measuring tape. Know your measurements so if you can’t try something on you can judge whether it will fit. If you are looking for furniture or household items this will come in handy as well. You may want to wear a tight fitting tank top so that you can try on items right there in the aisle. Finally, throw some shout wipes in your bag, if there is a stain on a must-have piece of clothing you can test to see if it will come out or not.
4. Go with cash. Some thrift stores do not accept credit cards so be prepared with cash in your pocket.
5. Don’t be afraid to buy out of season. You have less competition when you are looking at winter coats or a stylish scarf on a 90 degree summer day!
6. Look for quality brands for certain items. Kitchenwares such as pots & pans are worth looking for a brand name and spending a few extra bucks. Knowing what brands of clothing fit you well and have lasted a long time for you in the past is also important. You’d be surprised at the amount of well-made, expensive clothing that is hiding in thrift shops just waiting to be found.
7. Be Creative. Items can be altered and tailored, sleeves reworked and adjustments made so that you can make a one-of-a-kind piece that will fit you to perfection. A rule of thumb: The more altering a garment requires, the more special it should be. Having a tailor rework a vintage suit might cost a little, but will still be much cheaper than buying brand new, and it will look custom made.
8. Go often. Merchandise changes, sometimes daily, so if you can’t find what you need today it may very well be there tomorrow! A weekly shopping trip is reasonable and will yield many finds and bargains. Train yourself to not buy unless it’s really what you want or need though, or a weekly shopping trip could turn into a weekly binge.
9. Become familiar with the merchandise at different thrift stores in town. While most thrift stores carry a variety of merchandise, from clothes to collectibles, you’ll find better selection of particular categories at different shops. There are three thrift shops in my area that I visit often. In one, the selection of paperback books is better; and in another, the women’s clothing selection is quite extensive. The third has a good mixture of merchandise. Note which stores in your area have better selections for the type of items you desire.
10. Have fun! Bring your coffee, relax, and enjoy your shopping experience. Happy hunting!