If you feel a little thrill roll up from the pit of your stomach whenever you score a good deal, then thrift store shopping may be your newest bargain hunting-fix. All those thrift store junkies out there will tell you that if you’ve never gone thrifting, once you find that first pair of barely worn Calvin Klein jeans for a measly two bucks or a set of high quality dishes for oh-my-god cheap, you’ll be hooked. All your thrift store prejudices about grungy cast-off clothing and useless junk will disappear.
Certainly the grandmotherly knickknacks and worn out items are there, but amid the jumbled mass is a treasure trove of good stuff. Plus your eco-conscience should get a boost from purchasing items that already exist, rather than brand new ones that just rolled off the assembly line.
Thrift store shopping can be hit-or-miss. A trip to the thrift store doesn’t guarantee you’ll walk out with the ultimate bargain, but a few good practices will help you in the long run. Try these thrift store shopping tips to combat those overwhelmed-by-the-crazy-amount-of-stuff feelings and to help you find items you adore.
1. Make a plan
While I’m all for an impromptu browse around a thrift store, it helps (especially for first-timers) if you have a plan. The amount of oddball items you may have to sift through to find what you want can get overwhelming. Going in with an idea of what you want will prevent you from spending hours wandering aimlessly around the store getting increasingly frustrated.
Looking for funky home décor? Furniture? A skirt? Start with the section of the store where those items will be located. Then delve into the rest of the store once you hit those spots. Keep your eyes peeled for deals. You never know when you’ll hit the thrift store jackpot.
2. Do a quick browse
If you don’t have a specific item in mind, then do a quick once over of the entire store. If something catches your eye, either pick it up or make a mental note. You can decide later if you really want to purchase it.
3. Dig for that treasure
After perusing the store, if you have some time really go through the bins and racks, and scrutinize shelves. With a second rummage through, maybe you’ll spot a cute kitschy houseware or lamp that you overlooked the first time. If you have items in mind that you want, don’t forget to get creative. Sometimes an oddball item can fit your needs. Are you looking for storage containers? Try using a vintage suitcase to store items instead. Do you need a utensil holder? Consider repurposing a cheap glass vase. Adding fun décor to your home can be as simple as finding your inventive side.
4. Edit down
Once you select a few favorites, ask yourself what you plan to do with the items and if you really adore them. If they’re clothes, don’t forget to try them on. You only want to bring items into your home that you absolutely love.
But also don’t over think it! Chances are the item won’t cost more than a few dollars. Even if you regret the purchase, you can always contribute to charity by donating the item back or swap it in a gift circle.
5. Know what to avoid
Do not buy items that look worn or broken, or ones that have holes, rips or stains. It may sound like common sense, but I’ve been guilty of “I can totally fix that” thinking just because of sticker excitement. Usually it’s not worth the purchase. You shouldn’t feel disappointed if you leave the store empty handed.
6. Check your sales
Thrift stores often offer discounts on various days of the week. Even though thrift store items are already inexpensive, what’s not to love about knocking off a few extra dollars?
Over time you’ll develop an eye for finding items that will work and that fit your style. Stores’ offerings change frequently so the key is to keep going back. Hey, it’s an excuse to shop, right?
Don’t know where to start? Check out thethriftshopper.com to find stores in your area. Also explore these major thrift chains:
Oxfam: A global organization that works to combat poverty and suffering. The organization offers an online store of secondhand items.
Salvation Army: An organization that helps with disaster relief and supports the poor.
Goodwill Industries: An organization that provides jobs for the disabled.
D.A.V.: The Disabled American Veterans is an organization that provides support for the nation’s disabled veterans.
Follow Kirsten on Twitter @kirsten_hudson