#1 Dress appropriately.
Today isn’t the day to be cute in a Mary-Kate Olsen kind of way. This is the day to slide in and out of potential additions to your wardrobe quickly, so you don’t hog the dressing room — because you will hog the dressing room. I generally go thrift shopping in tights, dresses and flip-flops. A basic pair of shorts and a tank with ballet flats works, too.
Don’t go dressed in something that’s hard to get on & off, don’t forget to wear a bra (you laugh, but I’m serious!) and don’t wear your hair in a precarious up-do. Stay away from anything with lots of buttons or zippers.
#2 Kindred Spirits Only.
This one is really really important. I would recommend only going with people who you know enjoy this kind of trip as much as you do, otherwise go alone. A thrift store is the kind of place only suitable for the most patient and diligent of shoppers. You need to have tons of vision (see tip #7), and that takes time. Also, you don’t want to get stuck shopping with someone who complains about the smell of the store or the occasional stains on the clothing. Like….come on. You knew what you were getting into when we pulled into the parking lot of the ARC.
#3 Go With A Budget In Mind.
It’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending because everything seems to be on sale already (or…is that just me?), so you need to go in with a game plan. Don’t let all those deals get the best of you! Even if your budget is $10, you’re bound to leave the store with at least a few great purchases.
My budget the last time I went thrift shopping, for example, was $4. I still managed to grab a satin scrunchy that won’t snag my natural curls, a cute new head scarf and The Lizzie McGuire Movie.
Bonus Tip: Your budget will go much farther if you plan to go on a half-off Saturday sale.
#4 Know What You Want.
I try to have a game plan if I want to go thrifting. This will be helpful when, after an hour or two, you have a cart full of items and a budget full of nope. I try to focus on finding basics at the thrift store, as well as the kind of pieces you just know are one-of-a-kind.
On my list for the next time I thrift are tank tops, jeans that can be cut into shorts, jewelry and socks. Making a list ahead of time will help you prioritize when you’re in the heat of the moment and just want to buy everything.
#5 Leave No Stone Unturned.
This is a tip that can be applied to any store you find yourself in, but it works especially well for the thrift store. Check out the usuals like the jewelry, party dresses, purses, shoes and women’s clothing. Then, move on to specialties like the belt and scarf racks and the book/VHS section. Finally, loop around to the places you might normally ignore. For me, that would be the men’s section and the home decor section.
This may seem contradictory to the previous tip, but sometimes it’s worth it to deviate from the plan. You find the craziest, most awesome and useful things at the thrift store when you really take the time to look. Like a waffle maker that makes heart shapes:
#6 Hit Multiple Stores.
Much like finding a needle in a haystack, finding a gold foil blazer or an H&M top for $1.50 at your local Goodwill isn’t easy to do. Good finds are rare. You will get frustrated.
This is why most seasons thrift shoppers will methodically plan out which thrift stores in the area to hit, and in which order.
#7 Have Vision.
I think that shopping in thrift stores offers the same problem as shopping in the clearance section at Ross does — overstimulation. With so many different types of clothing all jammed together (seemingly at random) it’s hard to imagine what something will look like as part of your wardrobe. You need to be able to see beyond all the patterns and shapes floating before your eyes and hone in on what makes the item you’re looking at worth a second glance.
Is the material nice? Are there any buttons missing? What does it look like when you put it on? What will you wear it with? If you can’t immediately imagine at least one outfit with this item, maybe think about putting it back.
Bonus Tip: Never, ever ever leave the store without trying something on! Whatever vision you have cooked up for yourself doesn’t mean anything when you try on the sweater and it looks like it was made for a child much smaller and perkier than you.
Thanks for reading! Do you have any thrifting tips to share?