Thrift Shopping for Dummies: A 6 Tip Crash-Course on All Things Thrifting
Updated: Feb 8, 2022
Remember when buying clothes from a thrift store was considered embarrassing… yeah, me neither! The biggest trend for a few years now has been thrifting. Long gone are the days when people are embarrassed and won't admit to buying clothes from thrift stores. In fact, it’s just the opposite, you are considered the ultimate fashionista if someone asks you where you bought something and you say thrift store or flea market. Let’s face it we’re all broke, but thanks to thrift stores nobody knows that. So, here is my guide to being a baddie on a budget: thrift store edition, may the thrift shop odds be ever in your favor.
Don't just go whenever! Select thrift stores have college nights where EVERYTHING in the store will be a certain percentage off, sometimes it's as much as 50% off. Most thrift stores also keep a calendar specifying all their sales for the month, more importantly when they restock, make sure to grab one. I always say if it’s not in your phone it doesn’t exist, so add the really big sales like “all winter apparel 99 cents” (yes, that actually happened) in your phone so you don’t forget them. It’s also important to stay connected, some thrift stores have an email list you can sign up for, and social media accounts you can follow for even more deals, discounts, and inspiration.
Thrift shopping is not just an activity, it’s an event, make sure you have the whole day cleared, odds are you’ll need it. Also, make sure you don’t leave the house without the following: your student ID, dressing for the occasion, a Tide stain stick to see what stains can be removed or at the very least faded, and best friends. Thrift shopping can be long and tedious but going with your friends will make it a fun and crazy adventure. You could be a second pair of eyes for each other and pick out things you think the others would like, and have little competitions to see who found something brand name, or even better, designer, or who got the most clothes for the least amount of money. Also, most thrift stores offer student discounts. The one good thing that college has done for us is giving us student ID's with no expiration date. Always take your student ID with you, (no matter how bad your picture looks) you'd be surprised how many other stores offer student discounts. Lastly, dress for the occasion, when going thrift shopping you should be dressed one of two ways: either in comfortable clothes or wearing something that goes with/matches what you are looking for, because not all thrift stores have dressing rooms.
Location, location, location! If you need help finding some thrift stores go to The Thrift Shopper.com for a list of thrift shops in your area. Although, the best thrift shops are always located downtown. That’s usually where you’ll be able to find all the brand name and vintage designer stuff. That’s another reason why I suggested bringing friends, can you say mini road-trip!
In speaking of designer, you know the best place to find name-brand items like Thrasher, Adidas, Harley Davidson, Nike, and my personal favorite - Tommy Hilfiger? THE BOYS SECTION! When going thrift shopping leave no stone unturned and section unsearched, the men’s section has tons of hidden gems, and the clothes in the men’s section also tend to be cheaper too. The last time I went shopping I found an oversized vintage yellow Tommy Jeans sweatshirt in the men’s section for less than four dollars. By the way, for all my designer brand snobs, don’t forget about online shops like Etsy and Poshmark.
People usually make one of two common thrifting mistakes: either they are a little too ambitious and overestimate their DIY and sewing skills, or they buy clothes they don’t really like just for the sake of buying something and because it’s cheap. Don’t be afraid to walk out the store empty-handed because “if you don't absolutely love it in the store [then] you won’t wear it” (Sandra Bullock as Leanne Tewey in The Blind Side). Next thing you know, you’ll have a closet full of clothes you can’t even remember buying and wonder why in hell you bought them in the first place. Also, and this should go without saying, but don’t buy things with broken zippers, missing buttons, holes, or rips that you plan on “fixing later”, because you won’t. And don’t buy things that need to be tailored, or need a ton of alterations done to them, especially, if you are barely able to cut a t-shirt into a crop top.
Lastly, and by far the most important, wash everything you just bought as soon as you get home. I could tell you horror stories about what people have told me happen to the clothes in thrift stores and flea markets, so store your bags in the trunk of your car till you get home, then wash them immediately.
Bonus: Tip #7
Little tip, the first Saturday of the month Goodwill has a 50% off sale, AND it lasts all day, but try to get there when they open, so you get first-dibs on all the good stuff. Goodwill also gives you 20% off your purchase if you bring in clothes to donate.