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One of the biggest tips for saving on clothing is to never buy it new! We love thrift shopping and through the years have made it a fun hobby as well as a frugal lifestyle.
Here are 29 tips to help you save more and have fun shopping thrift stores.
29 Thrift Store Shopping Tips
Before You Go
- Take inventory of what you already have. If you already have 4 black sweaters it really doesn’t matter how great the deal is, you probably don’t need it.
- This is also the best time to donate items, as you take inventory clean out things you no longer wear.
- Do some online hunting before you leave to see current fashion trends. Sometimes the best thrifting trips are when you are on a mission to try to recreate an outfit! Check sites like Forever 21, Loft, or whatever your favorite mall brands are.
- Decide how much you are going to spend and stick with it. Having a tighter budget keeps you from buying items that are “maybes” that you aren’t quite sure about. My general goal is $20 per trip, this keeps our buggy lean but we are truly only buying what we know we will love and use. Even better is to only take cash so you have to stay on budget!
- Dress for the occasion. Many say that you need to wear leggings and a tight shirt so you can try items on right in the aisle and not wait for fitting rooms. Personally you don’t want to see me in a catsuit… so I’m a dressing room girl. No matter your attire, plan to wear flip flops and clothing that is easy to take on and off to make this easier. Note: some stores don’t have dressing rooms, my favorite outfit to wear is a loose skirt and t-shirt.
- Research local thrift stores using google maps and google reviews. Also consider who lives nearby that store. Thrift stores are only as good as the items that are donated, so head to ritzier parts of town if you are wanting big brand names. (My favorite Goodwill in all of SC is outside of Charleston near the beach, the finds there are amazing!).
- Sign up for your local thrift stores emails and check their facebook pages. If they are running sale days you want to be the first to know about it!
**Don’t forget about great consignment stores too. Prices are a little higher, but the quality is outstanding. A favorite national brand to check is Clothes Mentor.**
- Leave the kids behind. Really. Even if you are shopping for them, a thrift store can feel overwhelming all on it’s own with racks stuffed and nothing super organized. Don’t add to it with kids.
At the Store
- Ask yourself “Will this work for more than one occasion/outfit?” At least 80% of your wardrobe should be able to do double duty and work for different outings and places.
- Consider quick things you can do to items to update them or give them a new purpose. Changing the buttons, raising the hem, turning jeans into shorts… this can be a long list depending on how handy you are.
- Don’t skip the men’s/boys section for great jean jackets, vintage t-shirts, and even dress shirts (especially with the boyfriend shirt trend).
- Accessories are a great buy at thrift stores. The best deals are on belts and hats and dress shoes.
- Always been on the lookout for items new with tags! It’s like finding hidden treasure, but they are there in every store.
- This is a great time to try something you normally wouldn’t buy. For $3 you can be a little daring and try a different color or style, you may end up loving it!
- Turn the garment inside out to examine the interior for rips, stains, holes, loose threads, and other things you may have missed. Don’t forget to also check buttons, zippers, pockets etc.
- If shopping for kids, consider whether this will last to be handed down or whether it’s already outlived it’s life. We generally need clothing that can make it through at least 2 kids, so I’m looking for sturdy fabrics with no holes.
- Bring a stain remover with you (like the Tide Stain Pen), to test spots. This helps you to know if you can get it out when get home rather than just hoping.
- Always look at washing instructions. Coming home to realize a favorite item is dry clean only is one of the biggest deal crushers out there!
- Never buy without trying it on! We get in a hurry and want to just move on, you don’t want to realize the reason someone else donated it was because it looks horrible on… see #5 for tips on how to try on quickly.
- Take a time out and sort items into three piles: yes, no and maybe. Put your no’s back immediately. Your maybe’s might turn into no’s as you find other items, so keep them in their pile until another time out reassessment.
- For books, movies and other items that still have a barcode, use the Southern Savers mobile app and scan the barcode to see what the current prices are online. It will help you see how much you would pay new and help you instantly see how great the deal is.
- Only buy small appliances if they are clean and look to be well cleaned and taken care of. You don’t want to make food in something that needs to be decontaminated first.
- There are things to not buy used, just make this a life rule and don’t break it. You’ll be glad you listened… My don’t buy items: Mattresses, Makeup, Helmets & Safety Gear, Underwear, Car Seats & Cribs.
Tips for Future Trips
- Ask when they put out new stock. Does it come out the same day it’s donated or take 2-3 days? Most stores the best days to shop are Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday but your store may be different.
- The best times of the year to thrift are when the seasons change and people clean out items. In general if you are doing spring cleaning, so is everyone else. Another great time is right at the end of the year as folks get in last minute tax donations.
- Ask if they have local sale days or offers you need to know about. Also see #7 to stay up on sales.
- Look for thrift stores when you travel. While you won’t be on a hunt for furniture, you can find some fun outfits (we love to look for jackets up north and beach gear down south too).
- Wash your clothes when you get home. It’s just a good habit to get into.
- Take a friend next time, it makes it even more fun!
Did you know you can shop thrift without leaving the house? Obviously it can be tricky to fully assess the quality, but generally the companies do a good job of quality control for you. Here are my favorites for online thrift (in the order we shop them).
- Facebook Marketplace (this is really my husband’s favorite but a chunk of our larger items come from here)
- Ebay.com (the old tried and true)
- Etsy (for higher end vintage items)