Saturday, April 14, 2012

HOW TO: Keys to Good Thrifting

I've had a couple friends ask me how I manage good finds when thrifting. I have to say, it's an acquired skill, but with a few tricks & time I've found some of my favorite clothes/shoes/accessories/housewares at the thrift stores.

I've been thrifting since middle school. I remember many a back-to-school shopping trip with my friend Heather at the "Laural Salvation Army" bringing home trash bags full of t shirts, jeans, & skirts.

So, I thought I might share some tips & tricks I've learned along the way:

1. Find your local thrift stores.
Obvious, right? But you have to try bunches of them. Some are good from clothes but awful for furniture. Some only have furniture and nothing for kids. There are websites like The that list local ones. Also check the phone book.

2. Have certain things you are in the market for.
It's nice to have particular items you want to always check for. I started this collection of Disney books when I noticed a couple at our local thriftstore. I keep a list in my purse of the ones we already have & add to it as I find more.

I'm always looking for gnomes. Cardigans: to feed my addiction. Like-new kids/baby clothes. Tea cups. Books for me- I read too much to always by new ones. Fabric. Unused patterns.

3. Go often.

I try to go once a week to one thrift store. Stuff is constantly rotating in thrift stores. Some days you'll find the thrifting equivalent to gold, other days I walk away empty handed. Which leads me to my next tip...

4. Walk away empty handed.
It's really easy to go all crazy when you first go, especially if it's a "gold" day, but you need to be discerning. Only buy really good quality stuff you love. A lot of times you buy it & end up keeping for a while, never use it, & it ends up donated back to the thrift store.

5. Use your imagination
Frames are always good for this. They are expensive at normal stores & it only takes a coat of paint to make the ones at a thrift store perfect for you. Lamps too. Spray paint is your friend. I also love the illusive new condition baby onesie. There are 18 million ways to fancy-up a onesie- just check out Pinterest. Things I've prettied-up from thrift stores here & here.

6. Check for holes or stains.
You gotta keep a sharp eye out. I used to buy things & say, "I'll sew up that hole"... But I won't. I have at least 5 things I already own that I have to mend. If I love it, it's extraordinary/vintage goodness then I'll buy it & mend it that day. If it's a black cardigan, it ain't gonna happen. I think you should really like something if you’re going to spend money on it—even if it’s only $3.

7. Fill your cart.
If you like it, take second good look at it, if you still like it toss it in the cart. I always pull everything that I might want because it’ll get snatched up if I don’t & then weed out all the must-haves right before checking out. Things get snagged because these are one-of-a-kind goodies. Which leads me to my next tip...

8. DO NOT look in a section that is not your size.

It will kill you. I promise. It's not like a regular store where you find a life changing dress & you can go find it in your size. This has happened to me many times & I'll tell you, it's crushing.

9. Thrift when you travel.

When you're traveling & you have some free time try out some thrift stores. I do this because frankly thrifting in Utah's pretty weak. We're cheap & we use everything to death (baby clothes go through like 8 children). Speaking of children...

10. Ditch the kids
Not an option for everyone (don't I know) but thrifting takes time. Sometimes, on a good trip at least an hour. Plus awful lighting & stimulus overload makes kids crazy people. Leave 'em at home. Babies who sleep the whole time are good.

11. Dig deep
At one of our local shops they have this daunting wall (twice as wide as this picture) full of little baggies with random stuff inside. A lot of it is junk. A lot. But sometimes you get lucky & find treasure. Last time I found tags-still-on Converse One Stars.

12. Some thrift stores have special coupons & promotions.
Scott thinks I'm insane but on some holidays (like President's Day & Labor Day) one of our local stores has all clothes 50% off. Scott's like "We've got money. You don't have to go at 8 am to the 50% off thrift store day" but he doesn't get it. It's not just the deal- it's the treasure! Our local store also gives you a 20% off coupon when you donate there.

13. Congratulate yourself.

You got a great deal. Found something awesome. And it's good for the environment- It makes sense to now and then pick things out from the abundance of stuff that already exists rather than propagating a need for more new merchandise.

Other Extra Tips:
- Mondays are great days to go (people clean their closets out on the weekend, everything gets refilled).
- Go in the morning (even though they restock all day the best stuff is out in the morning).
- Some thrift stores only take cash so be prepared with cash
- Look for brand names (you know they are good quality & will last)
- There are a lot of baby clothes (kids clothes are harder because they are so hard on their clothes)
- Check the accessories section (that $20 belt can be $2 at a thrift store)
Try different styles (Because thrifting is so cheap, you can afford to try a new style or trend that you aren't sure you'll love)

Here are some baby clothes I scored on a recent trip:
Old Navy turtle onesie, a Led-Zeppelin shirt, Gap fleece lined jeans & a new pair of New Balance sneakers- all brand new quality!

Some of my favorite shoes I've thrifted through the years:
Brown riding boots, peach vintage heels, & my favorite turquoise cowgirl boots

What about you guys? Any tips or tricks you use when thrifting? Any other questions feel free to ask in the comments!


Anonymous said...

The thrift stores in Memphis seriously suck. I should go more often though and maybe find something.

Katie said...

I used to go all the time in college, but haven't gone in a really long time. I think your post has inspired me to get back at it.

Smithy said...

oh man... i struck gold every time at laurel!

love this post!

Susan said...

Maybe I shouldn't let the cat out of the bag, but Paradise, CA Salvation Army was IDEAL when I was in High school. Because of all the older people in the area who pass away, there is CONSTANTLY old super amazing vintage clothes. (I don't know how it rates as of late). But when I was in high school, I was a thrift store junky. I still have a few old favorites from way back when. I was thrifting before hipsters made it trendy. But, it's been a while since I've found some real gems here in Provo. So, thanks for the tips! :)

Rachael Browne said...

I LOVE thrifting! I remember going with my mom as a kid and I would go all the time in high school with my best friend Tania. Some of the best stuff we found was always at the Salvation Army in Paradise (sorry, that's no secret Susan). I went through a phase (ok, so I still do it sometimes) where I would like to wear cool ties and punk stuff. My most favorite tie I got at that Salvation Army. I've had many jealous guys offer me money for my awesome tie over the years, but I still have it upstairs and LOVE it. The only guy I let wear it is my husband ;-)

Photo Girl said...

I am totally a thrifter! LOVE garage sales and thrift stores. These are great tips, though. I'm not sure I could have been so thorough if someone had asked me about it. If you ever come up to shop at Savers, stop by and get me!

Monica @ All Things Lovely said...

I tend to ignore blog posts by people on this topic, but clearly I read every post you write so I was going to read this and not skip over it...also I wanted to know what you had to say about. I usually skip it just because I feel like I got this thrift store thing down, I too have been going since middle school and if I wasnt already a pro my wedding sure made me a pro.

I think your advice was perfect. SOO spot on. Good job covering it all. Finding all the thrift stores IS really key and not only that but going to ones out of town. I think its funny that people are still shy about thrift store shopping because you are right its way more than just saving money it's finding a treasure.

I LOVE your idea of finding the old disney books. I might have to steal that idea.

You have NO idea how much I miss a real thrift store. The ones here are seriously LAME. Not just because literally JUNK is in there, but the junk is way way over priced. It kills me. Plus there is hardly ever a treasure. Also my problem is when I do find something I like I usually make myself not buy it because that just means I have to pack it when we move to the States. So that's a good and bad thing. However I have found a few things worthy of shipping home.

Hopefully by the time we move back to the states, next year, there will still be some treasures left in the thrift stores...HA.

FineAndDandy said...

Great article! I love thrifting, too! I like to go on 50% off days and use coupons also, ha! I am always getting compliments on my <$10 outfits, and people are surprised to hear I got it from a thrift store. If your kids are older than about 12 though, take them along. They start getting picky and some stores don't accept returns. My 15 year old took my 6 year old to the kid's section recently, and I had some uninterrupted time; and they found some good stuff and had fun, too.

Meagan Brooks said...

Thank you, thank you!!! What a fun post to read. And very helpful!!!!

M said...

Great tips. Several of my friends are thrift store junkies but I have never been able to have their success. I have tried it now and then over the years but I don't have the patience to sort through all the junk to find that treasure. I do donate a lot to thrift stores though! :)

Rebecca said...

I've always wished I was better at thrift store shopping. Thanks for sharing all your helpful tips!!

Christie said...

So funny that you say the thrift stores in Utah are so playgroup this week a friend and I were lamenting the fact that they are so much worse down here in deep south Texas than in, say, Utah!

Megan said...

Another tip I would say is to always make sure you have cash if you're going to a thrift store you've never gone to. Some only take cash.