Thrift Store Shopping 101

I’ve started thrifting (a little bit) after 10 years of abstinence.  I use to be a huge garage sale and thrift store junkie, I mean hardcore with a strategy for every weekend yard sale and weekday thrift raid.  Then one day when I found my home and shed overflowing and overrun with tons of STUFF and the ability to start my own store based on all the things I personally owned — I knew I had to stop. I took a good look at myself, I was out-of-control so I walked away for a few years.

I have slowly dipped my toes back into thrifting, but have now decided, after a few months of buying to back away again, before I get caught up in the same cycle.

Though I’ve pulled away from thrifting for a while, I still wanted to blog about what I’ve noticed about the thrifting experience that has changed. I’m doing a quick update for those who are starting the process or been absent from the thrifting world for a while (like myself). 

  • Quite a few stores have become very savvy about the way they price their merchandise based on current trends, brand or if the item still has a retail tag attached.  I’ve noticed Value Village is now marking item with a retail tag attached at double their normal list price. So, if a sweater sells for $3.50, the one with a store tag still attached will be priced at $7.00.

    Thrift stores are also changing their standard pricing if the item is a designer or brand name they deem should sell at a higher price. Many thrift stores will also do boutique pricing for brand name or better quality apparel and shoes. Some thrift stores in major cities may also marked up an item if they feel it’s unique or has good vintage resell value.
  • If your thrift store has a website, subscribe to their email list so you can be notified of any special sales. Value Village has a 50% sale at least twice a year and has certain colored tags marked down to 50% and 75% off weekly.
  • Many thrift stores do not have fitting rooms, so if the weather permits wear a thin t-shirt and close fitting pant so you can try the clothes on around your garments. I personally think, for sanitary reasons: take your measurements and then carry a tape measures with you so you measure the waist line and leg area of the clothes you plan on purchasing. You can also take the waist band of a pair of pants or skirt and wrap it around your neck, that’s another very good method of determining if the garment will fit you. Again, I really don’t like to handle second hand clothes to close to my body until it’s been thoroughly washed and disinfected by moi.
  • Examine all the items you have selected closely for any imperfections, fabric tears, open seams, broken zipper, missing buttons, fading, stains and discoloration. Most thrift stores are doing a better job at weeding these items out and only putting the items in good condition on the sales floor, but sometimes staff will miss things, so make sure you check for yourself in a well lite area of the store.
  • Search for items from store brands you know make a good garment (Ann Taylor, Jones of New York, J Crew, Banana Republic, etc.), that way you know the item is durable and is made to hold up well.
  • Make sure you wash your thrift store finds thoroughly before wearing them, I like to add a little Lysol to the wash for disinfecting purposes.
  • I strongly discourage purchasing undergarments (panties, bras) lingerie, swimwear, socks, hats, helmets, due to sanitary concerns.  If you know for a fact the item is brand new and has been donated by a retailer like Target or Sears (they have a history of donating new items to thrift stores), I would refrain from purchasing these items.
  • I do not buy sheets or bedding from thrift stores, but that’s a personal choice. I would also caution against all furniture because it could have bedbugs, unless the item is brand new in the retail box or a dent and scratch donated directly from a furniture store.
  • Don’t go thrifting with a friend or co-worker who has a similar fashion style to your own, since you guys may pick up or compete over the same one-of-kind item.  He/she may also end up talking you ‘down’ from purchasing an item you wanted, then going back to the store and buying it for themselves.  I clothes shop by myself.
  • It doesn’t hurt to be aware of fashion trends in advance.  Thrift store personnel are getting very savvy nowadays and if they detect a certain item, say military and camouflage is back on the trend list, they may go up on their prices for these items. Remember fashion  always recycles itself.
  • Know when to stop thrifting and take a break.  As I mentioned at the start of this blog post, I stopped thrifting for 10 years because it had become very addicting and it was turning into sheer hoarding.  It can be a very slippy slope, so don’t be afraid to check yourself and stop purchasing items  for a while, instead focus on wearing what you already have.  Enjoy your wonderful finds by making good use out of them.
  • Make a habit out of selling or giving away other items before you bring more into your home and your closet.  Make a conscious effort of doing this first before you go thrifting again, because your closet can easily get out-of-control very quickly and you will not be utilizing all of the items you purchased on a consistent basis.


Article written by Budget Chic © All Rights Reserved 2013. Written permission to republish in any form is required from author.

Other Posts You May Like

Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Thrift Store Shopping 101

  1. Dr. Reginia says:

    Thrifting has really taken to mainstream. I’ve found a few nice handbags while thrifting. I definitely wouldn’t buy bedding either. I collect coffee cups though so I always snag a few.

    • Profile photo of Budget Chic Budget Chic says:

      Dr. Reginia – I started shopping in thrift stores in the early 90’s. I’ve shopped on and off for years, but I had to reel myself in a few years ago because I was shopping too much and it was adding up and stacking up. :-(

  2. Micki Johnson says:

    Rather than let great finds collect dust in your closet, give them away as thrift gifts! I love thrifting just to shop something special for a dear friend or family member in my life. It’s thrift karma!

  3. Debbie says:

    Love your article on thrifting ! Also appreciate the advice as to know when to stop. I love to thrift, I try to revolve my closet when I get something new in I like to have something go out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *