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Are you looking for thrift store shopping tips to “up” your game? Welcome, and please read on!
Who should go thrift shopping?
You, of course!
If you and/or your family members are involved in the performing arts, thrifting is practically a necessity! The additional money you dole out for costume pieces, dancewear, foundational garments, and concert clothes can add up. Fast!
Why should you thrift?
- It saves you money. I grew up thrifting before it was cool. However, the Great Recession hit while I was in college and everything changed. For the first (and likely only) time in my life, I was ahead of a trend!
- It’s good for the planet. My deeper motivation is to use my dollars to fight against Fast Fashion and its unethical treatment of people and our planet.
What should you buy?
Everything! I mean…Not really.
Stay tuned, because I’ll be coming out with an exhaustive list in a future post. For now, here are two, prime categories.
- Historical/Dance/Dress Shoes. They never turn up when you need them. So, be sure to buy them when they show up in the right type, color, and size for your kiddos! We have saved hundreds on their dance shoes, alone! Lace-up boots (sans side zippers) are also in rare supply.
- Home Textiles. Fabric is expensive, y’all! Especially fancy satins, brocades, and trims. So, make sure you check your local thrift stores before you shell out $20/yd at the fabric store. You can get all the material you need from $5 curtains and table cloths.
Where should you go thrift shopping?
Take the road less travelled!
“Going to Goodwill” has practically become synonymous with the act of thrifting, itself. They’re a large chain and an obvious choice. However…
- Goodwill’s prices can be higher.
- Goodwill’s items tend to be more fashionable and mainstream.
Expand your search.
Try visiting lesser-known and smaller stores. For example, these are some of the unique attributes of some of my favorite, local shops:
- Holiday Section. One local store has an entire room for their seasonal and holiday items! I missed it a few times because no one told me they had moved it out of their main retail space and into a back room. Don’t be shy! If you don’t see an entire category of something you’re expecting, make sure to ask the staff.
- Craft Section. Sure, most thrift stores have a craft section. However, one of them has THE mother lode! It’s out there. You just have to find it! Ours is a thrift shop within our local senior center. It makes sense; elderly people tend to be down-sizing, and a higher percentage of them were sewists and crafters than folks in my generation. They go to the senior center for activities and donate their craft supplies while they’re at it. (And I am a very grateful recipient!)
- Basement. Our Veteran’s Warehouse thrift store has an entire basement of flotsam and jetsam! They’ve come a long way in organizing and pricing the items down there. It used to be a disaster. However, who am I kidding? I’m in it for the thrill of the hunt!
- Bargain Bags. Our YWCA thrift store also has a storage basement/donation point. It’s down and around the building and has to be approached via a separate parking lot. (This is why it never hurts to ask employees if there’s more to their store. I had no idea for the longest time!) You can grab a plastic grocery shopping bag and fill it up for $5. Clothes, shoes, bedding…you name it!
- Sidewalk Sale. This same YWCA often has a sidewalk sale in the warmer months. You can find some pretty cute stuff for only ninety-nine cents!
- By the Pound at Goodwill Outlet Stores.
- You may have to drive a bit. They tend to be in large, urban areas.
- The items are what didn’t sell in their retail stores.
- You are unlikely to find high-end items.
- You will score a bargain if you need a large volume for raw materials.
- You pay for items by weight.
- Shoes are not a good deal by weight.
Need to find a thrift store?
- Here’s a handy website that can help you search for thrift stores in your area.
When should you go thrift shopping?
Thrift stores don’t have guaranteed inventory, so it can take a little time and patience to find what you want. Eventually, you will develop a sense for the rhythm of what each store generally carries. It’s an art, not a science! You’ll be much more likely to have success if you…
- Make it monthly or bi-monthly habit.
- Have a running list of items you regularly need.
- Tag Sales. Many thrift stores put a certain tag color on sale, each week. Find out when each of your favorite stores makes the switch to the new sale color. Then, try to shop early on that day so you get the best deals. Those sale items tend to be picked over by later in the week.
- Follow stores on social media for sale announcements. Some stores will post their tag sales on Facebook, etc.
- Holidays. Always shop your thrift stores for holiday décor before looking anywhere else! You will find loads of unique, vintage, and even brand new items from big box retails at fractions of the cost!
- After the Holidays. That same holiday décor and seasonal clothing will be even cheaper after Christmas. Shop right after New Year’s Day!
- People tend to donate during and after the holidays.
- That generates lots of fresh items in all categories.
How can you be a savvy thrifter?
Well, if you’ve made it this far, you probably have a pretty good idea!
Here are some extra tips:
- Donate. I always try to bring something to donate before I shop and bring more stuff into our home.
- Donation Coupon. Our Goodwill includes a 10% off coupon on their donation receipts. I tear that bit off and put it in my wallet, right away. Otherwise, I might forget it when I go in the store!
- Fill out the donation receipt so you can file it with your taxes!
- Track your expenses by tying a ribbon of the same color as the tag sale around your shopping bag handles. It’s a quick and easy way to remember. (Especially if you’re like me and it takes a while for you to get around to documenting it!)
- Talk to the Employees. This might seem natural and obvious if you are an extrovert like me. However, there are tangible benefits to being a friendly and engaging “regular”.
- Special Interest. Chat with the cashier about what you’re going to do with the items you’re buying. Describe your creative process and your projects. Some employees will take a special interest and might even keep an eye out for what you need.
- Benefit of the Doubt. Issues can usually be resolved in your favor if you are a known and trusted entity. (Make sure you always operate out of honesty, and don’t haggle.)
- Is the item missing its tag?
- Is it part of a set but tagged and priced separately?
- Are there two, identical items that are priced differently?
- Does the item have a big flaw?
- Bring a Measuring Tape. Keep notes in your phone on key measurements, and stash a measuring tape in your purse or your pocket. Bonus points if you wear it around your neck and forget it’s there on subsequent errands…
If you can’t already tell, I LOVE thrifting!
I hope these tips will help you enjoy even more success when you thrift. This post will be part of my evergreen content. So, I will continue to update it.
I have sooo much more to say on the topic!
Thrift shopping with kids! I’ll guide you through a successful shopping trip with your little ones.
Stay tuned for my future list: A costumer’s most-wanted thrift-able items!