The Art of Thrifting

7 rules of thrift shopping infographic

Thrifting, much like shaving, war or manliness, is a delicate art form, and we’ve got it down to an imprecise science. Sure, we’ve written about thrifting extensively before, but a seasoned thrifter knows to constantly update her tactical manual; being in the thrifting trenches is a learning process. We’re constantly modifying and evolving our thrift store shopping strategy, and we’re adding several more cardinal tips to the handbook.

Tips for Thrifting Like a Pro

7 rules of thrift shopping infographic

Thou shall admit some things are better new: Even if a bin full of dollar lingerie and undies are on sale for 99 percent off, it’s one deal you don’t want to partake in. We’re Budget Fashionistas and love a bargain, but we gotta draw the line somewhere. We’ll pay the extra bucks for clean underwear. Trust Loreal. You’re worth it.

Thou shall go to a road less traveled: We’ve written about the importance of location before. Shop rich zip codes, college towns, etc. Here’s another insider tip: Think outside the popular neighborhoods. Sure, that hipster thrift store by NYU may have tons of great gems, but you’re also competing with thousands of youngsters with never-ending student loans hungry for that unique fashion find. When it’s survival of the (fashion) fittest, it may be best to go to a less-populated town. Think suburbia and retirement communities.

Thou shall not forget the tailor: Ah, our good friend the tailor, the behind-the-scenes craftsman (or woman) who magically makes that ill-fitting blazer fit like a glove! Bottom line: Don’t forget the tailor. Sure, that DKNY dress may cost you a mere subway ticket, but if it’s three sizes too big, factor in how much alterations will cost and ask yourself if it’s still worth it.

Thou shall DIY: Maybe your name is Jenni Radosevich, or you’re Edward Scissorhands’ long-lost twin sister in the sewing room. Either way, view the thrift store as a cheaper alternative to a fabric shop, and view each item not for what it is, but for what it could be. That oversized dress with an awesome print? Snip away to make an awesome blouse, or a mini cocktail dress.

Thou shall haggle: It may or may not work, but it’s worth a try because you know what’s better than an amazing Theory blazer for $10? An amazing Theory blazer that’s $10 and 30 percent off because it’s missing a button.

Thou shall search for new tags: We normally perceive thrift stores as a used Target of unwanted, abandoned and yes, in some cases, unusable stuff. Yet, hold on there, Batman. Not so fast. Keep in mind that tons of people buy clothes they will never wear. (Yeah, target-weight skinny jeans, we’re talking to YOU!) Or retailers often donate unsold merchandise to local thrift stores, so keep an eye open for those extra-special goodies.

Thou shall not be afraid to go home empty-handed: When you’re in a wonderland of dollar goodies, it’s extremely tempting to want to snatch what you perceive as deals. Yet, even if that DVF vintage blouse is only $5, if it’s four sizes too big with yellowish pit stains, it’s not a deal. In fact, it’s a waste of five bucks. This rule applies to any sort of shopping, but especially when it comes to thrifting. Don’t be afraid of leaving the store empty-handed.

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    Blog Comments

    As an ardent thrifter, I would like to share that my local Goodwill stores almost always have NEW merchandise & I have bought NEW cotton underwear there! (I also pick up cotton underwear the the 99 Cent Store & even cheap cotton bras at the DOLLARTREE! (& some Hanes merchandise – both bras & panties, too…..) So, you CAN buy new things at those thriftshops….Yes, avoid the well-traveled shops – in high rent districts. But there are community shops that you can scope out with a well-heeled clientele & those are the ones to frequent OFTEN. (Church & small charity shops are best, I usually find.) “Pam’s Pennypinching with Style”

    Agree about the tailor. I once bought a cute dress, but after alterations, the total damage was 70+. (I paid 10 for the dress, and 60+ in alterations.) NOT WORTH IT!

    I like the idea of going to the stores that are less-traveled. I’ve heard stories from friends who have found some really nice things. Another tip is to call ahead of time to see if they have special discounts on certain days.

    Thanks a bunch!!!! I need to start remembering this
    Stuff! I’m a MAJOR shopaholic and tend to freak out if I
    Can’t find anything at the local Goodwill (I’m addicted to)
    I usually grab something too big with a stain and it’s not worth it!

    I really enjoyed your article on thrifting. It is hard to go home empty handed when you just want to go home with at least one piece of item, but you are right! It’s not worth the $5 bucks if you have to tailor and fix a million things on one small item. When you are on a budget, thrift stores are the way to go!

    I have shopped at resale stores for yrs. and have found the most amazing bargins.
    Such as a Diane Von Furstenburg silk skirt.

    You make a very good point about the competition with students with “never-ending” student loans, I always find that places way out on the country side have some of the best bargains and quality.

    Feels like everyday getting the good thrifts is more and more competitive, seems like the idea of thrifting is becoming very trendy to people of all sorts.

    I just have to share a recent coup: it was on a rainy July 4, and my hubby and I were on vaca on the north shore of Kaua’i (=heaven on earth). Not a beach day. So we tooled down to the biggest town, Kapa’a, to see what there was to see. Plus, I had spotted not one, but two thrift stores in town – Sally’s and a tiny local thrift shop – and I intended to look for vintage aloha shirts for my DH. He’s got the kind of build that is made for classic aloha shirts – broad-shouldered and meaty-muscular, not too tall.
    Well. The tiny shop was closed, but Sally’s was open. And they had a huge rack of aloha shirts right at the front of the store. I pulled out every shirt that fit my criteria of color, size, fabric, print, and maker, and DH went to try them on. Four shirts, and every one looked stunning on him. I was thrilled because they were marked $5 each. Beautiful shirts: Royal Hawaiian, Pierre Cardin, vintage rough silk, breezy rayon, etc. Can’t get much better than that, right?
    Wrong. At the register, the cashier informed me that the entire store inventory was on sale for Independence Day – 50% off.
    Yes, dear ones. Four amazing aloha shirts that make my hubby look even more handsome for $10 + tax = $10.74.
    Mama did a jig of triumph.

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