Thrift store shopping is one of the best ways to extend your budget and up your fabulous quotient. In addition to the benefits, for the environment, of re-using household goods and clothing, secondhand shopping is a treasure hunter’s dream. Vintage, upscale, or diamond in the rough there is something for everyone! There are a few thrift store rules to bear in mind though when you venture out to the shops.
Since thrift stores carry unique and one of a kind goods it stands to reason that visiting frequently would allow you the best chance of finding hidden treasure. It helps to know if there is a certain day that new wares are displayed or if they just have a running supply that is refreshed daily.
It’s extremely important to remember that frequent checking also means you will often leave empty handed. You don’t have to leave with an item every time you go in and in fact you probably shouldn’t do this. I like to just think of it as the thrill of the hunt! Even if you leave without an item you may take away ideas or spot something you want to check back for on a sale day.
Plan for extra time if you plan to look for clothes at a thrift store. In addition to the time required for trying on clothes it takes longer to dig through and evaluate each piece.
Know the Sales
Many thrift stores will have days where a certain tag color or type of item is a certain percentage off. If you see an item you like and think it is overpriced check back on the day or week when it will be on sale. Bear in mind it may very well be bought before you hit the sale though so think carefully about how you will feel if it sells before it decreases in price.
There are really three scenarios that can happen when in a thrift store with an item that you find that has the potential to go on sale 1. It may be that at the higher price I don’t want to pay it no matter what so if it goes to a different home I’m fine with it. 2. At the higher price I just can’t justify it and if it goes to another home before the sale then it’s just not meant to be. 3. I love the item and will pay the higher price rather than miss out on the chance.
You have to decide where an item falls on this scale.
Get on the List
You definitely need to get on any email or snail mail lists for stores. They will alert you to upcoming sales and discounts. Some even have reward signups where you accumulate points for your purchases and then get a certain percentage or dollar amount off when you get enough points.
Check for Flaws
Clothing should be investigated for loose seams especially at the crotch area as this a common spot to have wear and tear from sitting. Is the clothing free of stains don’t forget armpit area and any leftover deodorant stains. Look for snags in lace or fragile fabrics and check that all zippers are in good working order.
Are there any irregularities in the fabric? Most of the time items are donated because they didn’t fit or people were just sick of them. Occasionally though it’s donated because it’s built weird and isn’t going to fit anybody.
REMEMBER THIS FACT! Just because it doesn’t fit doesn’t mean your body is messed up it usually means the clothes are cut improperly. Don’t get discouraged or down on yourself for clothes not fitting, especially at a thrift store! This may be the reason a piece ended up in the donation pile anyway.
Flaws can be on more than clothes. Look for scratches on furniture or home goods, chips on edges of frames or glassware, and check furniture for stability and cracks in the wood.
Does It Work
Evaluate that all devices electronic or not are in good working order. Has the shop tried the device? Ask if you can plug it in or if not inquire about return policies if you get home and the item does not work.
Buy at your own risk board games and puzzles as it can be hard especially with puzzles to know if all the pieces are included. I personally would be seriously peeved to spend hours on a puzzle only to find it missing a piece. You can however buy puzzles or games that will be used in craft projects.
Do You Have Time for the Project
Speaking of projects be really honest with yourself about whether you have time for another project. I am soooooo guilty of this. I see the potential for an item, buy it and it ends up sitting in my garage for months until I have time to dedicate to it. Not exactly the most efficient use of funds even if the end project turns out well.
Thrift store finds can be a great source for project materials if you want to try something new or experiment. You will have to be your own judge to decide if you are trying to tackle a project that is really beyond your reach.
Keep an Open Mind
Envision possibilities when looking at items. An ugly ceramic statue transforms into a beautiful modern design piece with a little spray paint and the mismatched teacups become darling planters in a little succulent garden. Don’t limit yourself to an items original purpose and try to look at pieces as diamonds in the rough.
That all being said if you are not sure of a piece it’s probably not worth it. Carry the piece around the store while you shop and if you aren’t in love with it or your vision for it by the time you are ready to go then leave it.
Know your details if you want something specific
Always carry a tape measure and make notes in your phone if you are looking for pieces of certain sizes to fit in a specific location in your home. It’s not a great deal on the armoire if it’s two inches too big for your bedroom.
Keep swatches of fabric in your purse that you want to color match other fabrics to in the store. Snag some fabric from underneath couch or leftovers from another project if you need to match. If extra fabric isn’t available then you just have to make do with pics on your phone with good lighting.
Consider Your Budget
I don’t believe you always have to have a specific search list when going into a thrift store but this is because I love to shop and I love the thrill of the hunt. However, if you know you shouldn’t be spending more than $25-30 on random stuff this week be strict with yourself inside the thrift store. It can be easy to get carried away with the deals.
An alternative is to only take cash so you are forced to make your shopping choices fit within your predetermined budget. This also forces you to decide if you are making a whim purchase or is this truly a great deal!
Don’t forget to check prices online if you aren’t sure if something is a good deal or not. I once got a vintage china set that seemed more expensive until I looked up on Ebay and replacements.com what the set would actually cost me to buy elsewhere. I absolutely loved the set so I went back and bought it when I realized I wouldn’t be able to find a better price.
I’ve also seen clothes priced way higher than necessary especially formal gowns. If you can go buy the same brand or a similar piece brand new at a store like Ross or Marshall’s you are not getting a good deal. If you love it buy it and I’m not going to judge but know that it’s likely not a bargain.
Many furniture pieces can be found on Craigslist for better deals but you do have the hassle of Craigslist and having to meet other people for the sale. Check sites online for any pieces you are considering for resale so you can get an idea of if a piece is really more valuable.
In the end, the best rule is to have fun! Happy Treasure Hunting!