8 Tips On How To Thrift Shop Like A Boss

Why you should thrift: secondhand style is chic & sustainable

Thrift shopping is becoming more and more popular. People are giving pre-loved clothing a second chance at life and for a good reason. What’s so great about thrifting is not only can you find great quality pieces or too-good-to-be-true prices, but, by buying secondhand, you’re keeping still-wearable garments out of the landfill. Plus, who doesn’t love a good thrift shop find?

If you’re new to the art of thrift shopping, be forewarned: hunting for pre-loved treasures can be tiring and overwhelming. The rewards, however, outweigh the challenges, and, by following some of my go-to thrifting tips, you may just walk away with unique threads for amazingly low prices!

To help you make the most out of your next thrift shopping excursion, here are eight tips on how to thrift shop like a pro!

1. Make a Plan Using Your Phone

Thrift shopping without a clear goal is like grocery shopping on an empty stomach. It’s doable but not ideal. Make a mental list of what you’re looking for based on what you already own. This will help keep you focused and on budget. In addition, save pictures of coveted gems and fashion inspiration on your phone for quick reference. Using pinterest as your inspo for the thrift adventure is a great resource. You can find similar items to the look you’re going for. Also, by using your phone, this will make it easier for store clerks to help you locate specific garments or let you know if they have something similar on the racks.

2. Sell Your Pre-Loved Garments First

Another way to stick to your budget is to opt for consignment stores that not only sell pre-loved clothes but also buy them. Whether you’re looking to make some extra cash or simply clear your closet before adding new treasures, these stores are great for trading-in the garments you no longer wear. The best part? You can shop while the store clerks inspect and price-out your inventory. If you’d rather, you can also sell clothing and accessories online! For my New York readers, this includes Buffalo Exchange, Beacon’s Closet, Crossroads Trading, and Plato’s Closet. Other nationwide stores like The RealReal and Tradesy offer the same. If you want a bigger audience you can always turn to Poshmark or Depop.

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3. Dress for the Occasion

Depending on where you shop, some thrift stores have limited to no fitting rooms—and I don’t recommend buying something without making sure it’s a good fit, as many thrift stores don’t issue refunds or exchanges. To remedy this, wear a form-fitting tank top and biker shorts or leggings to make trying things on as easy as possible, even if it means changing in the middle of the store. For the thrift stores that do have fitting rooms, this also makes changing quick and efficient.

Thrifting is like a sport. It requires stamina, patience, and, sometimes, upper body strength to carry your finds when shops don’t provide carts or baskets. You can easily spend hours in a thrift store worthy of its name (God knows I have). This is another reason to wear comfortable clothing and shoes. A crossbody bag is also great, so your hands can be free to browse all those racks!

4. Bring shopping bags

Now a days, most states have the no-plastic bag rule or the pay an extra .5 cents-$1 rule. I find that most thrift stores also have this rule so it’s important to bring your own shopper bag (or just pay for the ones that the thrift store has). Personally, I keep 4-5 shopping bags in my car in general for groceries, thrifting, carrying stuff to and from my house, etc. Also, it’ll be easier to shop if you use your shopper as a “shopping cart”. You can keep all of your gems together.

5. Shop With Cash Only to Avoid Impulse Buys

To stay on budget, bring cash when you go thrift shopping. While it’s easy to fall into the ‘but it’s so inexpensive’ trap, remember to stick to your values. Purchase only the clothes you need and that fit well with your current wardrobe. You will stumble upon unique and beautiful pieces, but if they are not your style, you won’t get any wear out of them. So admire them from afar, take a picture if you must, but don’t take them home with you.

6. Save Time by Scanning the Aisles

Rummaging through multiple piles and racks of clothes is not for the faint at heart. Depending on the size of the thrift store you go to, taking the time to look at every single piece will take forever. To avoid wasting time without missing out on potential gems, you must master the art of the scan. Based on what you are looking for and your preferred color palette and aesthetics, make your way through the store and scan each rack for pieces that stand out and catch your eye. This takes focus and is a skill you will develop over time. Practice makes perfect!

As mentioned before, most, if not all, thrift store purchases are final sale. To avoid discovering defects too late, ensure you’re inspecting each piece as you browse as well. Look out for stains, holes, loose threads, etc. It’s easy to miss a small hole here or a stain there amid the shopping excitement, so take your time going over your finds before making a purchase. Not skipping this step can save you unnecessary heartbreak (and cash!!).

7. Tailor Your Thrift Store Finds

Whether it’s new, thrift, or vintage, every piece in your closet should fit you like a glove. Since pre-loved items are often one-of-a-kind, you may need to make alterations. For simple modifications like hemming, try doing it yourself (Youtube has some GREAT beginner tailoring videos). You can also take your thrifted items to the dry cleaners. For more intricate customization, you’ll want to consult a tailor, so make sure the piece is worth the investment before you purchase it.

8. Make Friends With Your Thrift Store Staff

Once you find a thrift store that fits your style and budget, make friends with the staff! They can help you while shopping and also give you valuable information, such as when new merchandise comes in and the clothing they are looking to buy for the store. Plus, everyone needs a shopping friend to tell them yay or nay on a specific piece! 

What have been your best thrift finds? Let me know in the comments!

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