Want to shop more thrift but find yourself lost in the sea of clothes? These thrift shopping tips are here to take you from lost to laser-focused!
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Do you feel like all you can ever find at the thrift store are faded jeans and shirts that are two wears away from ripping? Or do you ever wonder if some of the thrift items you buy are actually overpriced?
Whether you love thrift for its excitement, budget-friendliness, or environmental impact, it can be super frustrating to walk into a thrift store and not find anything.
Even worse is knowing that you now need to go to the retail store and buy everything you need at the brand-new, retail price, or have to settle for whatever trending styles the stores are currently selling.
Now, you’re probably looking at the cover photo of this post (all thrifted items) and wondering, “how do I get cool items too?”
While I obviously can’t guarantee what you might find in your local thrift shops, I can share a few thrift shopping tips I’ve discovered that have worked well for me over the years and have resulted in some truly amazing thrift finds.
Table of Contents
1. Think About the Value of the Item You’re Buying
I was at a thrift shop recently, and they were selling an Old Navy dress for $17 (nothing fancy either—just your average floral-print dress).
You could buy a new dress for $20-$40 at a store like this (even less, if you get it on sale), so this is one point to consider.
On the other hand, you might find an Aritzia dress priced at $30 at a thrift store. While $30 may seem like a steep price tag for thrift, consider how much that dress might cost retail, which would probably be somewhere around $80-$100, if not more.
You also want to look at fabric. If the item is polyester, you’re probably not getting much bang for your buck unless it’s a design or brand you really like. But if the item is linen or organic cotton, then it’s probably a much better buy.
Here’s a useful video from fashion designer Justine Leconte on how to recognize the quality of your clothes:
2. Think About Who Might Donate To the Shops You’ll Be Going To
If you want to learn how to thrift like a pro, you’ll want to figure out where the best places to shop are depending on your needs.
For example, the thrift store I used to volunteer at was a social enterprise and was well-known throughout the community.
Because of this, we’d get some awesome donations coming in from organizations and individuals alike who’d purposely come to us instead of donating to a chain, for-profit thrift store.
This method is also how my best friend got a silk Theory shirt for $15. She’d gone to a Value Village that was located in quite a wealthy area and ended up scoring an awesome top for a great price.
3. Think About What Kinds of Items You’re Looking For, and Where You Could Find Them
If you’re looking for quirky and/or rare pieces or a specific item/style, a vintage shop might be a good place for you to check out.
If you’re looking for just a low-price item that you need (maybe you just need a new work top or a hoodie to wear during your evening walk), then a chain thrift shop might have what you’re looking for.
If you want something higher-end or luxury, consider a high-end consignment store.
Be aware that these do have higher prices as they need to make a profit on top of what they paid for the item when they bought it from the original owner.
One place I went to once sold clothes by weight, which was super interesting, so I ended up getting some great deals there by choosing some t-shirts made out of lighter fabrics.
4. Go to a Charity Thrift Store: One of My Top Thrift Shopping Tips
If you want to also give back to the community while shopping, consider going to a charity thrift store that supports a cause that you’re passionate about.
For example, lots of animal rights organizations have their own thrift shops, as well as women’s and youth organizations, and a lot of these shops are run by volunteers.
This is one of my favorite thrift store tips because it makes you feel good about your purchases too.
Charity thrift stores also often have some of the best prices (especially when compared with consignment stores).
This is one of my favorite thrifting tips as you’re supporting an amazing cause while getting some great clothes. An awesome deal, if you ask me.
5. Check Back Often
One of my top thrift tips is to visit your favorite thrift stores often.
When I used to volunteer at a thrift store, I was there once a week.
Just through sorting the clothes and rearranging the racks in the course of my daily duties, I found so many cool pieces and ended up with some great buys every month—things I’d never have found in regular retail.
In fact, we’d often have regular customers that would show up once a week after work to see what we had in that week.
Remember to check each item on the rack, as you can quickly miss items, especially if they’re not sorted by color or sleeve length.
Remember that a lot of thrift shops might experience a high turnaround, so try to visit your favorite stores whenever you can!
6. Try On Things That You Might Not Normally Try On
We’ve all had that experience where something looks so good on the rack, but then tugs uncomfortably and is just plain unflattering when we put it on.
The opposite also holds true: something might look shapeless or weird on the rack or hanger but turns to pure magic when we put it on. So when it comes to some of the more unexpected tips for thrifting, be sure to try on things that you might not normally try on, especially when you feel drawn to them in some way.
And remember that even loose-fitting items (like shapeless dresses) can look great when accessorized with a belt or jacket, so don’t write these off immediately!
So, if you like the fabric, color, or style of something, why not try it on just for fun? You never know what you might find!
7. Look Online
If there’s something specific that you’re looking for, one of the best ways to get it is to buy your thrift clothes online. This saves you time as you can filter by size, color, fabric, style, designer, and more (depending on the website).
Poshmark is one of my favorite stores for this, as they have lots of popular brands like Aritzia, and many of the items are gently worn and available for a great price.
I used them when I lost my beloved summer hat at the pool and had thankfully remembered the name. I was able to find the exact same hat on Poshmark and was very happy to have it back.
But since you have to pay for shipping (and customs depending on the location), I always like to leave this option for those times when I really can’t find something at a local thrift store.
My Top 7 Thrift Shopping Tips – Final Thoughts
I hope these thrift shopping tips gave you some inspiration for your next shopping adventure.
Once you become familiar with what to look for and what you want to get out of your trip, you’ll find that the thrift store might quickly become your favorite shopping destination next time you’re in need of a wardrobe refresh.
What are some thrift shopping tips you swear by?
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