10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips…From A Novice.

8 Jan

First a quick update on my challenge to myself to go paleo, straight up, word to your mutha, for a month (I’m also challenging myself to figure my way around WordPress, hence the blog). Day one went fine. It wasn’t too different from how I normally eat, since my household is gluten-free any way. I guess the biggest difference was I drank tea in the morning instead of coffee since I usually put heavy whipping cream in my coffee, and drinking coffee black just doesn’t appeal to me. I didn’t make anything spectacular for any of the meals. Sausage for breakfast (nobody in my household is very adventurous at breakfast unless its a weekend morning and we are slothing around), left over frittata (an egg and veggie dish. Everyday Paleo has some great frittata recipes.) for lunch and roasted chicken and buttered up mixed veggies (a frozen veg mix of broccoli, squash, carrots and green beans). Richard had put out some shrimp to snack on before dinner.

Okay, onto some thrift store shopping tips, at least from a novice’s perspective.

I say novice because some people do thrift store, yard sale, rummage, estate sale what have you shopping to a professional level. Not me. I just enjoy shopping at thrift stores. I like the adventure, which is probably why I like Ross Dept. Store as well. The savings to your pocketbook can be pretty sweet too. I really don’t care for shopping in general. I’m not really into yard sales either. I also like hand-me-downs. There is just something about previously loved items that appeals to me. Fortunately my kids, especially my daughters, find it pretty cool too.

So the other day I was talking with a friend of mine, who also happens to be the person who waxes my eyebrows. She said that she usually feels  overwhelmed by all the stuff in thrift stores and the sometimes randomness of everything. A pretty understandable feeling. It made me think of what I think about when I go thrift shopping. Most of my tips are about thrift shopping for clothes.

Here are 10 tips.

Tip #1

Not all thrift stores are created equally. If a thrift store makes you feel like crawling into a corner and taking a nap back on outta there. A few years ago I went into a thrift store I had never been into to find a certain kind of skirt for my daughter’s Halloween costume. There were a zillion round clothing racks all closely packed together. Every surface was piled about 3 feet high with “stuff”. I felt fairly certain that a good door slam would bring about our imminent doom via an avalanche of clothing. The owner seemed a bit wacky in that “hoarder” kind of way. We managed to find a skirt, surprisingly. But going back in makes me want to break into a cold sweat. Aside from layout (and state of mental health the owner may be in), you might want to find out if the thrift store is associated with a charitable organization. There might be one attached to a charity that you feel strongly about supporting. Even if you don’t really want to shop there, you can always send your donatable items their way.

Tip #2

Look to see if there are daily sales. Salvation Army for instance will have 50% deals on a given category of items that changes from day to day. Also, items that have been in the store for a certain amount of time, let’s say over a month, will be given a pretty nice discount as well. Many thrift stores do similar sales.

Tip #3

Know your style. Take moment and think about what you like, don’t like, wouldn’t be caught dead in and what might be a nice addition to already owned items. Think about what kind of fabrics you like against your skin. No matter how great of a deal there is on a pretty blouse, if you are going to feel uncomfortable in it, don’t buy it. Even if you think you will wear it in the future you probably won’t. Apply this tip on a grading scale when looking at evening wear, which always has the possibility of being uncomfortable. You can apply this tip to household items as well. What style is the interior of your home? Do you have an eclectic taste?

Tip #4

Know your size. I usually carry a dressmakers measuring tape (the soft kind).  And your shoes size. Oh yeah, and bring socks with you on thrifty shopping trips. You can always spray disinfectant on shoes you’ve bought at a thrift store once you get them home.

Tip #5

Know your family members’ sizes and their likes and dislikes. I found a great dress shirt for my husband last year. Tailored and with fancy cuffs. The colors were ones that I knew he would like.

Tip #6

Shop for basics. Look for basic items; tank tops, plain sweatshirts in good condition.

Tip #7

Shop for signature pieces. Keep your eyes open for unique pieces that can make the simplest outfits pop. It may be a sweater, blazer, scarf or belt.

Tip #8

Keep a list of wish list items. People who are very successful at yard sale shopping do this. Items can range from glass casserole dishes to picnic blankets. Totes to flower vases.

Tip #9

Picture frames. They can be pretty expensive brand new. You can find some good quality frames at thrift stores. Sometimes you may find ones that need a little love, so use your imagination!

Tip #10

Check zippers, snaps and seams. It’s so aggravating to bring home an item only to find that the zipper is broken or sticky. Or that there is a split seam on your new-to-you jacket.

Some of the finds from our most recent trips.


The jacket was just $10.00 in near perfect condition.


These shoes are Clarks! Barely worn. They feel like stepping into clouds.


I love vests. I’ve wanted to rock the faux fur trim hood.


My daughter found an awesome winter jacket. And she’s rocking the faux fur trim! $10.00 not bad for a jacket in perfect condition.

Hope these tips are useful.

Thanks for reading!

Do you shop at thrift stores? Have any tips to share? I would love to read them!


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