Thrift Shop Tips – Part I


Ever have a really frustrating thrift shop experience? I sure have. Thrift shopping can be hit or miss, and sometimes it seems like a real waste of time. Other times, you can feel like you scored some great finds, only to take them home and realize you wasted your money on some real duds!

Over the years, I’ve developed a pretty efficient system for thrifting. I’ve improved my chances of finding things I love, and learned how to cut down on wasted time and wasted money. Following are some general guidelines for thrifting. On my next thrifting post, I’ll get into the nitty gritty of the process.

So, without further ado, here are four things to consider before you even set foot in a thrift store…

1. Read online reviews – find out what different stores carry. This is a time-saver. Does the store carry the type of clothing you’re looking for? In your size? Is it the style you’re looking for? There’s no sense going to a thrift store full of 40s and 50s clothes if you’re looking for 70s bell bottoms.

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My initial haul at Red, White, and Blue. These clothes are not just draped on top of the cart. That thing is FULL!

2. Gather as much detail as you can about the store’s policies. What are the hours and special sales days? What is the price range, the cash/credit policy, store location? Are there dressing rooms?

This is a practical issue. Showing up at a thrift store an hour or less before closing can be frustrating in the extreme. Especially if it’s not close to your home or if you find a lot of great items. Ditto, showing up with no cash at a cash-only store.

No dressing room? You’d better know that for sure! One of my favorite stores in town has none. You wear exercise clothes or a bathing suit under your street threads so you can strip down and try on garments in the aisles. I forgot the last time I went (and this store is far away from home), so I ended up flashing everyone my granny panties (thank God I wasn’t wearing a thong!)

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Coral and cream open-weave color block sweater – $8.

3. Give yourself lots of time. This is where knowing the hours comes in. Also, eat before you shop. There’s nothing worse than getting half way through your special finds only to realize you’ve got a hunger headache coming on. Stashing a granola bar in your purse can really help too.

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Lightweight beige open-weave sweater – $6.

4. Go with an idea of what you want to buy. It might be as broad as “some new tops,” or “dresses for work,” or as specific as “a white button down blouse,” or, “a navy blue cashmere sweater.”  Also, have a rough budget in mind. This is thrift shopping. You may go slightly over budget and it may be worth it. Still, it’s good to have a baseline. That will help you make choices at the register.

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A simple black sweater works well with this black lace pencil skirt – $6.

In Thrift Shop Tips – Part II I’ll talk about ways to improve the sorting process to help you make the best choices.

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About LeilaPiazza

I am a wife and mother. I am an Orthodox Christian. I am a Syrian American with family living in Syria. I am a also a yoga teacher and freelance writer. I recently described myself in a job pitch as "a person who's lived in Portland, Oregon for over 20 years with a passion for writing and a passion for all things Portland. I'm a foodie, knitter, wine and beer lover, bee-keeper (yep, I said it), mead and fruit-liqueur maker, organic gardener, home-canner, hiker, biker, runner, and occasional skinny-dipper. I’ve camped all over the state, I sail a sailboat that’s moored on the Columbia (o.k., I'm the first mate), and I spend a large percentage of my time at our beach house in Seaside." That about sums it up.
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