For any of you who walk into thrift stores and immediately become overwhelmed and want to run because of all the seeming chaos, this post is for you.
For any of you who love the concept of thrift store shopping, but never seem to be able to find anything good yourself, this post is for you.
And lastly, for any of you who just plain don't think you have the patience to go through what seems like a myriad of racks and shelves, this post is for you.
We feel as though we have proved so far with pictures that great finds can be found at thrift stores quite frequently, if you just know how to shop :)
1. Have a plan: make a list of specific items you need so that when you walk into a store, you can go right to the sections where those items would be found. Don't waste time or money in the coats section when you came in for a black pair of pants. If you don't find what you need after a thorough scan, leave. If you want, you can head to the next nearest thrift store and do the same thing, or keep visiting throughout the week, depending on how dire your need is. Thrift stores get new stuff every day, so you're sure to find what you're looking for eventually.
2. Scan for labels first: Let's face it, you want still want quality items for your money, so why spend $5 on a Wal-Mart brand shirt at Salvation Army that would cost about $10-12 new anyways, only to have it fade and look like junk after two washings? To do really fast, effective clothes shopping, go to the section with the item you want in your size, and do a quick but thorough label scan. Don't even glance at the clothes themselves, just the labels. Only when you find a good label- The Limited, Express, Liz Claiborne, Calvin Klein, Gap, etc... should you pick up an item and look it over, try it on, etc... You can do this with purses too, btw.
3. Let others do the shopping for you: If you don't have a lot of time or patience, go to the fitting rooms and look through the rack of clothes outside that people have brought back to try on themselves but put back because they didn't fit. Some of our best finds have been hanging on that "didn't fit" rack because other people had already gone and sorted out the good stuff for us!
4. Never buy on a whim: Keep this rule in mind always: the whole point of shopping at thrift stores is to save money. We know how very tempting it is to buy something you don't need or will never wear at a thrift store solely because it's much cheaper than it would cost new. Doing this frequently can get you into trouble, because then you can buy too many such items and they sit in your closet untouched for a year until you end up dropping them off at a thrift store yourself. You may as well have made a donation to charity.
5. Thoroughly examine before you buy: Thrift stores run on donations, and sometimes people donate things because there is something wrong with them. Always always look over any item for rips, stains, missing buttons, etc, because in most stores all sales are final. Most times little defects are fixable: buttons can easily be replaced and OxyClean can get out most stains, but it's a good idea to perform a good inspection/fixability evaluation before buying.
6. Buy a complete outfit: This rule kinda goes along with rule #4, and really actually applies to clothing shopping at any store. Unless you know you have something at home that a will match that pea-green Calvin Klein skirt with a paisley pattern that's "Wow! only $3.00," leave it on the rack, or it will hang in your closet unworn forever. If you do find something you really really love but don't have anything to match at home, don't leave the store until you find something else to match with it. Buying a complete outfit ensures that you will actually wear your items and therefore get your money's worth.
7. Shop sales first: Thrift shoppes almost always have some type of rotating sales, whether it be tag color sales or category sales (for example all baby clothes 40% off on Wednesdays). To get even more bang for your buck, look through the stuff on sale that day before browsing anything else. Sometimes there is even a weekly schedule of different sales at the front register, so write the schedule down and try shop on the day that the items you want will be on sale.
8. Know all the stores in your area: Just like you usually know all the Wal-marts and grocery stores in your area, you should make it a point to know all the thrift stores in your area. Thrift stores can oft-times be a hodge-podge treasure trove of all sorts of things, but their inventory rotates all the time, and they only have what is donated to them. If you're like us and need staple clothing items from them, you need a broad base to shop from.
9. Find stores in the richer sections of town: Rich people buy a lot of nice, fashionable, expensive things, only lightly use each thing because they have so many nice things, and when the next fashion comes around or they get sick of said things, they buy more fashionable, expensive things, donate the items they don't want any more, and the cycle continues. They usually donate to the stores closest to where they live, and that is why you, my friend, should find these stores and shop there, now! We are willing to bet money that the GoodWills and Salvation Army stores in Beverly Hills regularly have Gucci purses and Jimmy Choo shoes.
10. Don't sweat your purchase mistakes: And finally, one of the best and most financially comforting things about thrift shopping is that even if you do occasionally end up buying a shirt that you really liked but never wore because it never went with anything, or a bought lamp you brought home and your husband said was ugly, the fact is you probably only wasted a few dollars, so don't sweat it.
Hope this helps, and happy thrifting!
-The Frugal Friendzies