One of the most common questions I get is, “How do you find such great stuff for so cheap at the thrift store?”
Y’all. I’ve decided. It’s time to spill the tea.
Here are my Top 8 Thrift Store Shopping Tips & Tricks
Thrifting Tip #1: It’s about where you thrift.
If you want the good stuff (think higher-end clothing and home goods), you need to go where the wealthy folks are. Wealthier neighborhoods are more likely to be filled with families who redecorate and update their wardrobes often, whether what they’re donating is worn out or not.
Muffy and Biff’s perfectly good castoffs can be your next thrift scores! I even like to check out thrift stores in affluent areas when I’m traveling as well!
Thrifting Tip #2: It’s also about when you thrift.
The time of week, and even day can be crucial to your thrifting success.
As a general rule, I don’t thrift on weekends. That’s the highest-competition part of the week. Stores are packed with other bargain hunters, and everything gets picked over quickly. Also, because workers are busy helping customers, they’re less likely to be putting any new stuff out.
Instead of thrifting on the weekends, try to get in mid-week. I know, this can be tough if you work a normal 9-5 job, but if you can sneak out during a lunch break or in the morning, competition is low and you’re more likely to find those sweet sweet finds!
I’ve found the absolute best day of the week to thrift is Tuesday. That’s usually the day stuff donated over the weekend is put out (Monday is generally spent recovering from the busy weekend).
Also keep sale days in mind!
Thrift stores, like any store, have to keep inventory moving. They need to sell what’s on the floor in order to put new stuff out. Find out when items are marked down by visiting your thrift store’s website or following their socials.
This is why try to go to a Goodwill near my house every other Wednesday at 9am, as that’s when they open and it’s also the day all their items with a certain tag color go on sale for $1.
I’m also lucky enough to work remotely, so I can start work an hour early, take my “lunch” break at 9, and then eat my actual lunch while working.
Thrifting Tip #3: Go often.
This is so basic, I almost left off this list. But I can’t believe how many people say they never thrift because they never find anything. When I follow up with the question, “How often do you go? When do you usually go?”, they invariably say “Once a month or so.” and “On Saturdays.”
I recommend thrifting at least once a week. You’ll never find anything if you never go.
Thrifting Tip #4: Make friends with the staff.
You should be nice to everyone who works in a retail environment, as they have to deal with a lot of difficult people on a daily basis. But guess what? That niceness can work out to your benefit (You Machiavellian, you!).
If you really want to employ Tips 1 & 2, the best way to do so is to chat up the cashier when you’re checking out. I’ve found they love disclosing any hints as to best thrifting times to regulars (See Tip #3!). They also usually know which local thrift stores are the best for finding different items.
Thrifting Tip #5: Inspect everything closely.
Before you plop that Cashmere sweater into your cart, make sure you’ve really really looked it over. Some things, of course can be mended and fixed, but there are some items you probably just want to leave behind.
Stains, pilling (unless it’s a sweater you think will be fine once it’s shaved), and weird smells (especially old lady perfume) are all dealbreakers for me.
Thrifting Tip #6: Skip stores that have e-commerce “pickers” onsite
It’s becoming increasingly common for thrift stores (especially larger chains) to have an e-commerce department where they pick out the really good stuff to sell online before it hits the floor.
While I’m totally fine with charity shops fulfilling their missions this way, it doesn’t always make for a great shopping experience for in-store thrifters.
If you’re just looking for potential refashionables, of course this won’t affect that, but if you’re treasure hunting, you probably won’t fare well.
For instance, I absolutely notice a marked difference in the quality of merchandise in stores with vs. without an in-house e-commerce department. I’m even friends with one such picker (how cool is her job?!), and she’s really really amazing at her job. No high-quality vintage is hitting the rack without first going through the Shop Goodwill website.
But how do you know which thrift stores have pickers?
It will vary by store, but here’s how I figure this out for Goodwill stores.
First, go to Shopgoodwill.com
Then, filter the product results to a product wherein it would make sense for someone to want to pick the item up at the store, rather than have it shipped.
For this example, I chose turntable.
Now, use the filter by sellers function to narrow your search to your town.
Click to the product description and scroll down until you see something like this:
When you click on the seller link (in red above), you’ll be taken to a page that has this information on the bottom:
And there you go! Now you know!
Thrifting Tip #7: Donate one item for every item you bring into your home.
I know. It’s exciting to find new-to-you clothes on the cheap, but be warned: Here the path to hoarding lies!
Once your closet is full, instate a strict One In/One Out policy. This will keep your wardrobe curated with your absolute favorite items, and keep clutter at bay.
Thrifting Tip # 8: Don’t be afraid to stalk (a little).
Did someone else scoop up that amazing find you had your eye on before you could get across the store to snag it yourself?
Don’t give up!
If you have a little time, hang around for a while. That person might just change their mind!