Figure out the difference between good and bad quality
Before heading off to your first thrift store, make sure to familiarize yourself with the terms “good” and “bad” quality. Good quality means that something has been taken care of well enough so that it doesn’t look super worn (or dirty). Bad quality can mean anything from a pair of jeans that looks really raggedy to shoes that have holes in them—it basically means they were not cared for very much. If you aren’t positive whether or not something is high-quality, err on the side of caution by asking if it is okay if you wear it around your house. Sometimes sellers will try to pass off lower-grade pieces as better, but be wary. Also remember that price isn’t always indicative of quality. A piece may look great, even though it was made in 2008, but might cost more than other similar ones because of its unique design. The best way to tell is to ask questions and read reviews online.
Come prepared with a list and a budget
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t rely solely on your memory when doing any kind of research or buying decisions. Before going anywhere, check out some reputable review sites such as Yelp! to see what others have said about the place you want to visit. It helps narrow down where to spend your money and also gives you insight as to whether or not a particular location is worth returning to again and again. Then, get ready to write down exactly what you’re after. Make a list of all the things you think you would use, then add onto it as needed throughout your trip. This will help ensure that you don’t buy too many shirts that match perfectly with nothing else. When writing down prices, keep track of sales. Prices change often during certain times of the year, especially over holidays. Also take note of discounts offered at specific shops. Some places offer coupons exclusively for their customers, while others simply hold special events. Finally, consider your budget. How much money do you have available? Be honest with yourself here. Don’t buy a bunch of stuff you won’t actually use unless you’re willing to splurge a little bit.
If you’ve ever shopped at a big box retailer, then you probably already understand the concept behind bargaining. But when you’re dealing with someone who works at a smaller business, it’s less common. However, most small businesses still require you to bring in receipts. So, if you find something you absolutely cannot live without, ask to speak to the manager. They likely won’t budge on the initial price tag, but having proof of purchase could work in your favor. Plus, the person selling the item knows firsthand how amazing it is and how hard it must’ve been for them to part ways with it. Chances are they’ll come down pretty significantly.
Also, if you do end up saving a large amount of money, be respectful of the seller. Leave a tip based on your experience with them rather than setting a flat rate. People sell goods every day and everyone deserves a fair shake regardless of what they decide to charge.
Go early or go late
When visiting a new thrift store, timing truly is everything. Early birds snag the best deals, while later shoppers tend to miss out on popular merchandise. While you definitely wouldn’t leave home without grabbing last season’s coats and sweaters, don’t expect to score anything brand new until after 4 p.m.—that’s when stock usually starts getting cleared out. And although the hours vary wildly across states, generally speaking, most secondhand retailers close earlier on weekends compared to weekdays. That being said, Sundays rarely provide the best bargains, so plan accordingly.
Buy what you like
While trying to figure out what to buy is half the fun, figuring out what you like is another crucial step. Try putting on clothing that fits properly. Examine accessories closely to determine which style appeals to you the most. Look through books to discover what catches your eye. Check out furniture to see if it matches your vibe. As long as you have tried the product on, examine each piece thoroughly to determine if it suits your lifestyle. If it does, chances are you’ll continue wearing it. Otherwise, move along.
You can also opt to browse through clearance racks to save time. Or perhaps you prefer browsing shelves instead. Whatever floats your boat. Just remember to avoid impulse buys. Whether you’re perusing a rack or reading labels on individual products, stick to brands that appeal to you. For example, I never walk away from Old Navy with empty pockets. Sure, I’d occasionally pick up a cheap tee or hoodie, but my favorite purchases are typically H&M cardigans and Gap skirts.
Go to different thrift locations
Depending on where you reside, thrift stores can run the gamut from tiny boutiques to massive warehouse spaces. Find a few nearby spots that fit your schedule and comfort level, then hit up multiple ones over the course of a weekend. Even if you only manage to grab a couple of items, spending a Saturday afternoon checking out three separate thrift stores is a lot cheaper than paying admission to two huge retail establishments. In addition, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from to fill your cart next time you head back.
With these tips under your belt, you’ll soon become a true expert on thrifting. Happy hunting!