For those that follow me on Instagram know that I absolutely love to go to the thrift store! (you can find me @jesswithless) One question I get asked the most is: “how do I manage to find so many amazing things?” So I decided to put this little guide together so I can share what I’ve learned over the years of shopping secondhand! Grab a cup of coffee and get you phone notes ready! I’m sharing all my secrets on how to thrift like a boss!
Thrift shops tend to get picked over throughout the day, especially on sale days. Yes they are constantly restocking throughout the day! BUT I find when I hit them up early I tend to find the best stuff since they
had the night and morning to restock. They are also way less crowded in the early morning so its way less stressful to shop when there aren’t a ton of people. If you can’t make it early though don’t be discouraged, I’ve gone at 8pm and still found amazing stuff!
Honestly, most of the time I walk out of a thrift shop empty handed. I have days where I will hit a JACKPOT and days I don’t find a dang thing. So the more you go the better chances you have of finding something, plus you are able to better familiarize yourself with the store and staff. I personally like to be friendly with the staff and they have often given me an extra discount here and there (like when its senior discount day and clearly I’m not 55+). Retail is a hard job and people tend to be assholes to retail workers, being a retail worker myself I choose to reach out and have a relationship with the people that work at the shops I frequent.
1. It makes shopping there so much more fun
2. I just love people, thats why I can still work retail after doing it for over 10 years. Get to know the people in your community!
3. Did you know that most shops will not sell you items if the tag is missing? However, if they know you, and know you didn’t rip the tag off they might just price it for you since you already have developed a rapport. Honestly just do this everywhere you shop, it makes life more fun!
I like to keep a running list of things that are in my “wish list” on my phone notes. I will check it before I go to the into the thrift store and it helps me stay focused on what I actually need. When you don’t have a clear list, its easy to quickly become a crazy over spending almost hoarder. Believe me I know, you should have seen my house 5 years ago!
It’s easy to see a cutish blouse for only $3 DOLLARS!!!! and not want to buy it. It’s how fast fashion works, its cheap so we buy it even if we don’t love it. The funny thing is we end up spending just as much on our clothing than if we waited, and saved for a few special pieces. I’m getting off topic but you get the idea right?
One thing I always ask myself when I’m thrifting before I buy that cute $3 dollar top is “would I pay full price for this?” or “If this blouse was $50 would I buy it?” This puts things into perspective for me and helps me make a clear decision. Now I do let the occasional novelty piece come in my wardrobe because fashion for me is fun! Plus with thrifting, you literally never know what you will end up finding. Sometimes you find the coolest thing that would have never been on your list in the first place. Allow some freedom to go outside you list but apply the same “would I pay full price for this rule”.
Each thrift store has different sales on different days so keep some notes in your phone, or just a mental note on the sale days. In the DMV (DC/MD/VA) we have a chain called Savers Thrift (my fav thrift) that will give you a discount card when you donate items, I think its 30% off too. I always bring my stuff to them so I can get that discount! I’ve also notices more and more places not using plastic bags, YAY! They only have paper bags and they do charge for them so bring your own bag so you don’t end up paying for one. Or just carry it out of the sore like I do!
I will often have and entire cart full on stuff because you just gotta try it on! Clothes can be deceiving when you just see it on the hanger. Also be mindful of what you wear when you go thrifting so you can try on stuff easier, avoid wearing dresses or jumpsuits!
On the other side of this, don’t be convinced a piece is what your looking for and just buy it without trying it on. This is and easy way to waste money and clutter your closet. Make sure it fits well and is exactly what you are looking for. If you love the piece but its not a perfect fit don’t be scare to take it to the tailor!
Many times have I settled on something that was close enough to what I was looking for to later not even end up wearing it. Then I end up finding the perfect thing weeks later. Unless you are in an immediate need of something for a particular event be super picky when thrifting. This can help eliminate wasting your time, filling your closet with crap you won’t wear, and defeating the whole purpose of being thrifty!
No matter where I go out of town I am always looking up the local thrift shops! I could tell you a list of my favorite spots in each city I’ve visited (maybe I’ll post them one day!). When I’m looking online I’m typically avoiding antique, vintage, and consignment shops since they tend to be a little pricey. I have also found that thrift shops are typically concentrated in areas throughout a city. They tend to group together like rite-aid and CVS does. They know that it’s smart to be close to another thrift shop!
My number on way to research them is simply via google maps. I just type in thrift stores, goodwill, or Salvation Army and try to find a few that are close to each other. One thing to note when looking up Salvation Army is to make sure its a Salvation Army Family Store and not there community center. I can tell you how many times we thought we found a thrift shop while traveling and end up driving all the way for it to only be a community center!
This is harder to do if you are thrifting out of town but I have found thrift stores closer to rich neighborhoods tend to have the nicest stuff! I have even snagged a few designer pieces at them! I also live near a ton of army/military bases and find that since people are moving in and out of the DC area the thrift stores are really good!
They plan for the seasons just like regular stores do! The only difference is when the cold season starts to come ALL the sweaters they have been saving for months get put out. The earlier you shop in between seasons the better chances of finding an amazing piece. I also love halloween since they tend to save vintage clothing for it. When September + October hit, don’t ignore that section just because you see a ton of tacky polyester! Hidden are some amazing vintage pieces! So please go save that white Gunne Saxx dress from being turned into a zombie bride dress PLEASE!
Think DIY, could I change the buttons, shorten the sleeves, dye it, hem it, turn a dress into a shirt, you name it! Some of my favorite pieces are ones that I thrifted and altered a little to make it fit my style more. I do this a ton with vintage pieces and have TRANSFORMED a vintage blouse by removing those horrible shoulder pads.
Liked this post? Check out my post “15 online vintage shops for finding great basics”
Sometimes shopping at thrift stores just doesn’t quite cut it. Maybe the secondhand shops…