10 tips for thrift store shopping

At the Haven conference last week, I had the privilege of attending a Thrifting 101 session taught by Rashon Carraway, aka Mr. Goodwill Hunting.

Rashon is an expert on all things thrift. Today I want to share with you a few of Rashon’s tips (plus a few of my own) on how to score great stuff at secondhand stores.

1. “Don’t look for anything at any time, but look for everything at all times.” – This is Mr. Goodwill Hunting’s mantra. I don’t know about you, but I am guilty of driving to a thrift store with one particular item in mind only to return home empty-handed and discouraged. Rarely will the exact piece you’re looking for be available at the exact moment and at the exact store you are visiting. Think smarter. Carry with you a list of several items you want for your home or wardrobe. Then whenever you get the chance to shop, you can peruse your list and be on the lookout for all of them.

2. Know the best places to shop. – Think outside the city limits. Items at thrift stores in the hearts of cities are picked through very quickly and thoroughly. Also, think outside the chain stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army. Some of the best deals can be found at smaller, independently-owned religious charity stores or mom and pop shops.

3. Resist the urge to pay more. – Thrifting is apparently the new black. In other words, everybody is doing it. And because it has become so trendy, prices have risen to the point that you can often find the same item for the same price new at your local department store. Don’t get “the fever.” Just because something is in a thrift store doesn’t mean it is a steal. Consider setting a price cap on what you’re willing to pay for a piece and don’t be afraid to walk away. Be judicious about your thrift store spending and you will help keep prices down for all of us.

4. Cash is king. – Many small-scale thrift stores won’t accept payment by credit card or check. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have small bills handy when you attempt to strike a deal. Seeing the cash in your hand can be a powerful motivator for that store owner who is eager to move merchandise.

6. Examine items carefully. – It is always a good idea to do a thorough inspection of what you plan to purchase at thrift stores. Boogers can be washed off. Cigarette burns can’t. ‘Nuff said.

7. Don’t be afraid to haggle. – Some thrift stores will not negotiate their prices. Others will. It doesn’t hurt to try and make a deal, especially if you know the pieces you want have been sitting on the shelves for a while.

8. Dress appropriately. – You will be a more convincing haggler if you’re not wearing your diamond jewelry or Manolo Blahnik’s and carrying your Coach purse. You should look like you need to pay less, not like you’re cheap or greedy. (Side note: Please don’t go overboard with this. Bringing your neighbor’s eight dirty kids along and faking a limp would probably be considered overboard.)

9. Become familiar with your stores’ sales and re-stock times. – Know when stuff is typically marked down. Get there as soon as the shelves have been updated. Shop early and often, if possible.

10. Venture outside your size and sections. – Just because you can’t find great jeans in your normal size 4 (OK, size 10) doesn’t mean the jeans that would look fabulous on you aren’t in the store. Look at other sizes. Check the men’s or boy’s section. Keep an open mind and try everything on. Then use a lot of hand sanitizer. 🙂

Do you ever shop at thrift stores? What is the best deal you’ve ever gotten?

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2 Responses

  1. sarah says:

    Yes! I like shopping for clothes at thrift stores. My husband totally doesn’t understand when my sister and I have this conversation:
    “I love that skirt! Where’d you get it?”
    “No way!”
    “Yup, on sale for 99 cents.”
    “I’m so jealous.”
    One thing I learned as a kid shopping with my mom is that the thrift stores in bigger towns or the stores “on the rich side of town” will have nicer quality items.

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