Sometimes it seems like thrift stores are on the verge of extinction. What used to be a necessity for college students, “alternative” types, artists, and practical moms have mostly been replaced by “super-low prices” at big box stores, or dirt-cheap fashions from retailers like H&M, Steve & Barry’s, or Old Navy. Still, if you’ve got the time and the right attitude, and you’re okay with that vintage/hand-me-down look, you can find some good bargains at thrift stores.
In true second-hand fashion, we’ve collected a bin’s worth of suggestions on how to maximize your thrift store shopping, added a few of our own, and thrown it all together in no particular order:
Go often – turnover is high in thrift stores.
Shop for quality – learn how to spot vintage linens, original recordings, depression glass, or whatever it is you’re interested in.
Take your time – more than normal retail, thrift stores reward shoppers willing to spend half an hour going through a long rack of clothes item-by-item.
Try on clothing at the store – and wear something easy to change in and out of, or something you can pull clothes over in case there’s no dressing room. If it’s cold outside, leave your coat in your car.
Test all electronics on-site – carry common batteries with you if you’re looking at used consumer electronics or toys that are battery operated.
Factor in the cost/trouble of delivering any furniture you purchase – most thrift stores won’t deliver.
Decide on a category before you enter – don’t shop for books and clothes; focus on one thing exclusively
When clothes shopping, learn to look for color, then texture, then style. Also, learn to identify material by sight. This way you can use color and texture (and fabric type) to quickly identify pieces you’ll want to actually pull off the rack to inspect further.
Avoid the temptation to make clothing-related jokes while you shop – yes, that Mr. Furley blazer is hilarious, but now you’ve wasted another 30 seconds in a store that smells like a basement.
If you suffer from severe allergies, stick to Wal-Mart. Many thrift stores are filled with dust or worse, and can wreak havoc on allergies.
Take water to drink – it will help alleviate any reactions you do have to dustmites or mold.
Eat before you go.
Use the bathroom before you go.
If you want to avoid crowds, try evenings.
To see each full list of advice, click the Related links below.
“Tips for Thrift Store Shopping” [Associated Content]
“Thrift Store Shopping Basics” [Associated Content]
“How to Shop Well for Clothes in a Thrift Store” [WikiHow]
“Thrift Store Shopping” [The Sideroad]
(Photo: Chris Walters)