I am a thrift store junkie. I remember when I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money. Every summer, my family spend a week in Auburn, WA at Lake Tapps. Auburn had tons of thrift stores and we’d go each year to pick up clothes for the school year. So, I wasn’t the most fashionable kid in the school, but I learned to love the adventure. That love for thrift stores persists today. I’d say about half my shoes and clothes come from thrift stores – a handful of handbags too! It used to be a necessity for money reasons, but today, I can afford new clothes. But I am used to thrift pricing now. ($100 for jeans?! HA!) And honestly, I just love the challenge and the hunt for a great deal.
Thrifting has become trendy recently. One of my favorite blog sites, Hello Giggles, has a whole series of posts about thrifting. The new CBS show 2 Broke Girls (which I find funny, but all my friends think it sucks) had a hilarious episode where the street-smart broke girl took the former rich-bitch broke girl to the Goodwill. Especially in today’s economy, and with increased sensibilities to ‘green living’, thrifting is a fantastic money-saving, reduce/reuse/recycle option. All it takes is some common sense and a sense of adventure. With a dash of patience. And hand sanitizer.
Look for these
Clothes. This is the easiest category. I only own one pair of jeans that did not come from a thrift store. Most of my dresses (I have a lot!) are from thrift stores. You will need to try things on – especially jeans. I have to try on 15 pairs for every 2 I go home with. But I have some nice jeans – Hilfiger, DKNY – and not a single pair cost more than $9.99. I have found cute tops, great sweaters – never spending more than $15 for any item. Here are some of my faves:
Shoes. Ok, this one is a bit trickier. When looking for shoes, check the brands. If they’re cheap Payless brands, or Target brands, don’t bother. You could get them cheap brand new. Check the soles and heels and insides of the shoes. The soles should be in good shape, the heels sturdy and the insides not coming apart. Then, try them on. I’ve learned that a lot of times, shoes are at the thrift store because they are ridiculously uncomfortable. Don’t just try on the shoes – walk around the store in them. I’ve done my entire shopping trip wearing a pair of shoes off the rack. Go to the shoe section first, pick out ones you like and wear them while you shop the rest of the store. You’ll know if you’re making a good purchase this way. I have found some fantastic shoes. Guess heels that looked like they’d never been worn. Flats from Nine West in perfect condition. Adorable Steve Maddens in near perfect condition. The little plaid heels – those are a cheaper brand, but they still had the tags on them – never worn. Only the Guess shoes were over $12 – and they were only $18. Oh, and don’t forget these ridiculous, bad-ass shoes that I may never wear, but I love owning them! Do you see the metal plates on the front! CRAZY!
Books. I discovered my love of Clive Cussler at a thrift store. Same with Dean Koontz. And James Patterson. Paperbacks are the most donated item in existence, I swear. I find great books there. Other books are great as well – cookbooks, home improvement, art, history – it’s all there for cheap.
Kid’s Clothes. If you have kids, or have been around kids, you know they grow out of things so fast. Why bother paying full price for new clothes for them? For special occasions, sure. But for everyday wear, you can find great deals on great clothes. Check for stains and tears of course, but you’ll find great, cheap deals.
Dishes/glasses/housewares. I love looking through the dishes. I’ve found pieces of my mom’s china at thrift stores. Fantastic stemware. Everyday dinner glasses. Fancy teacups. You can find it all at the thrift store, usually under $3 a pop – glasses even cheaper. Check for cracks, chips and scratches, but if you don’t care that there are only 3 glasses of the set, you’ll find great deals. In housewares and furniture, you can find all sorts of treasures! I found an adorable bench for $5 that I’ll be refinishing and upholstering. I found a beautiful handmade blanket in perfect condition that I adore for $7. I found this great little key cabinet for $3. I spray painted it, put a couple hooks under it and mounted it by my front door to hold keys, sunglasses and coupons and mail and stamps.
Beware of buying these (or just DON’T)
Electronics. Unless you are very knowledgeable about electronics, just don’t. You don’t know if it’ll blow up or start a fire due to bad wiring. It just seems too risky to me.
Kids Toys. This is tough. Sometimes, you can find good deals on newer toys. And I have. But many times the electronics aren’t working, or you don’t know if the product was recalled for some reason. Just be careful.
Pots/Pans. If there are any scratches, you run the possibility of rust. Which doesn’t taste good.
Items that need repair. Maybe the top will be perfect with new buttons. Or the pants just need to be hemmed a couple inches. Or if you sanded and stained that chair, it would be perfect. You know yourself best – are you really going to do the work that goes into it? If yes, then go for it! And, don’t hesitate to ask for a discount if you find something wrong that an employee may have missed. But, if you know yourself enough to know that the items will sit in a pile for a year without you touching it, just skip it!
Undergarments. Just ew.
A few handy tricks
1. Always go on a holiday (or holiday weekend). Most thrift stores mark everything half off on a holiday. There may be restrictions (only clothes and accessories, not furniture, etc), but you will get amazing deals.
2. Go to shops in nicer neighborhoods. I have a few favorites in slightly nicer neighborhoods. They seem to have higher-quality items. This isn’t always true, but there are a couple locations that I seem to always find nice stuff at.
3. Join the savers clubs, if they have them. Value Village has an email club I joined. This worked out great for me over one holiday where I was unable to go on Monday (you know, working and all), but with my savers card, I was able to get the same deal on Sunday!
4. Be prepared to dig. Great deals won’t just jump out at you, you have to look for them. You need to look through the racks, try on a lot items and keep looking.
5. Bring hand sanitizer. Just cause it’s fun, doesn’t mean it’s clean. Lather up, and have fun!