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8 Thrifting Tips & Tricks For Serious Scavengers

Thrift Store Style: Try a Pop of Orange!
A Darling DIY Dachshund Sweater Refashion

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.

refashionista thrifting tips and tricks tea
Let’s dish.

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.

refashionista coach willis bag
This sweet vintage Coach Willis bag was scored in a hoity toity neighborhood for $3!

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.

refashionista thrifting tips - get up early
Down that coffee and hit the shops!

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!

8 Thrifting Tips & Tricks For Serious Scavengers 1
The Goodwills in my area have tag sales every week!

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.”

Rookies.

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.

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This will not be yours. Sorry.

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

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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.

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Filter by your town.

Click to the product description and scroll down until you see something like this:

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Click on the seller link.

When you click on the seller link (in red above), you’ll be taken to a page that has this information on the bottom:

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Boom.

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!

refashionista thrifting tips
That’s how I ended up with this Dooney & Bourke attache for $16!

There you have it! Those are my Top 8 Thrift Store Shopping Tips & Tricks!

What do you think? Do have any other tips you think I missed? If so, leave them in the comments below!

Refashionista's Top 8 Thrifting Tips & Tricks for Serious Scavengers
Thrift Store Style: Try a Pop of Orange!
A Darling DIY Dachshund Sweater Refashion

43 thoughts on “8 Thrifting Tips & Tricks For Serious Scavengers”

  1. I know I’m a hoarder, but I have to be. I go up and down in weight so much that I keep my clothes. I loose the weight, I pack up the clothes that are too big and unpack the smaller ones. I have clothes from my smallest size of 8 to my very very largest size of 32. I’m 6’1″ tall and I can carry a lot of weight. I can go up and down 20 to 30 pounds in one month with very little problem. It’s really getting to be a headache. I have about 15 large totes full of clothes and I’m running out of space to store them.

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  2. some great tips here. I would add, I switch to a small purse with just some money and card and my keys so I’m not lugging around a big purse while I’m thrifting. and if there’s something I’m not sure of, I keep it in my cart until I’m ready to leave and have made my decision. I’ve definitely lost items I decided I would like because I let go of them too soon. I used to read your column all the time and then you took a long hiatus. glad to see you’re back!

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  3. Hi. I did not read all the comments, so sorry if I missed this. But here is ONE THING I THINK YOU MISSED: In the tip about inspecting each item carefully, I think you should say (and this might be gross for some people) but I think you MUST give each item the smell test. I love thrifting and I agree with all of your tips, but I have purchased an item when I visually inspected it very carefully, then to get home and find out it had major body odor or perfume that refused to come out. Eee gads. Disappointing.

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  4. Great advice! it’s true that if you’re nice to the staff they want to help you! They’re always trying to remind me what color is on sale and what day to come in. So nice.

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  5. I live in Germany and have always loved thrifting. There´s one huge thriftshop in our town that litterally gets tons of clothes, books and so on. Unfortunately there are groups of people from Eastern Europe that drive hundreds of miles every week to buy as much as they can to resell these items in their countries. Due to this they behave very aggressively trying to get the best items and in addition they have friends among the staff who put away most of the goodies for them. So thrifting there is not much fun anymore …

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  6. Great tips – thank you! Especially agree with donating regularly. No more hangers in the closet = donation time. A couple more little tips:
    – Check out cottage area thrift stores because Muffy and Biff have a vacation home have nice donations 🙂
    – Some stores in my area have an “ethnic” section with garments in beautiful silk, vintage, etc

    Happy Thrifting!

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    • Yep…every time I buy new hangars I think, “Wait…am I becoming a hoarder????? Is this how it starts?”

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  7. Happily, Good Will built an outlet three miles away from my house the year after I retired. I love going there on Senior Discount Wednesday, and always find something worthwhile — housewares, clothes, outerwear, craft items, etc. I try to get there right when it opens, as it’s a popular spot in my neighborhood. I have found that the possibilities increase during the (very hot) summer, when patrons are clearing their closets, and in January, after donors have made their end-of-year contributions. Finally, as a Pyrex freak, I have happily increased my collection the last couple of years.

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  8. Great tips! I find that busy shopping seasons, when everyone is running around getting ready for big theme holidays that involve entertaining (Thanksgiving, etc.) is a good time for thrifting. Love going during the week. Shops get lots of donations during the Back-to-School season as well as the first of the year, so there’s usually a lot of new things a few weeks after that. I like to bring along a cloth measuring tape for key fitting estimates, which works to determine sizing questions without the dressing room hassle. Always take a donation bag, and like to go when I’m stressed and want to relax. Sometimes I even get this little intuitive feeling that there’s something special waiting for me.
    Muffy and Biff:)
    Love your post and enjoy everyone’s comments.

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  9. I work in a charity shop in New Zealand, we are open 7 days a week and we have many customers that come in every day and some that come in 2 or 3 times a day to bargain hunt. You need to find out if there is stock going into the shop every day or just on certain days. It depends on how many volunteers they have processing the goods. Maybe you would like to volunteer, this way you can shop and help the community. Happy shopping

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  10. Sometimes it also just depends on where you live. As an adult I’ve lived in 4 different states and 6 different cities, and Columbia definitely has some of the best thrift shops (as does Greenville, 1.5 hours up the road). Interestingly, some of the places with the worst thrift shops had the best yards sales!

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  11. In my local thrift shops I often find women’s items in the men’s department. Especially casual items like jeans and jackets. I found a gorgeous Ann Taylor denim jacket with men’s jeans. I’ve also found some great finds by looking through the larger sizes in the kids area. I’m never deterred by sizes either. Chico size 1 is often at the very beginning of a sized rack, and items that look extra large can be designed to be oversized or converted.

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  12. I work at a church thrift shop and have found Spring cleaning time and the days after a town “garage sale day” are times that lots of great donations come in. After Christmas lots of stuff comes in too.
    Definitely make friends with the staff. Has worked on the buying and selling sides for me

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  13. Great tips! If I’m on a serious thrifting mission for myself, I’ll wear something I can try things on OVER, like a slim tank and leggings. Doesn’t work for everything, but can accommodate most blouses, skirts, sweaters, jackets, etc. I’ll also echo the “hold-it-up-to-the-light” someone else mentioned. Especially for jeans. I fell in love with a pair – so soft and comfy! – and they ripped through the bottom after a couple wearings. Was definitely NOT me that made that happen… right? 😉

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  14. LOVE the shared tips! Would also like to add that although now I wear a size Small, I ALWAYS check through the racks for items in ALL sizes – you’d be surprised at the treasures that were placed in the wrong sized section! And then there’s always that Large or Extra Large item that can be refashioned!

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  15. Thanks!! Our local Goodwill has an uptown shop quite a distance from me. I’m sure that’s where the good stuff goes. After my hubby died, I donated so many items. All of it was well-cared-for and I never saw it on the local shelves. The cashier said when they see great stuff, out it goes. (sigh)

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  16. I’m OLD too (70) and, while the limit may likely deter shoplifting, it’s also to give others a chance to try on their merchandise without waiting “forever.” I reiterate what I said earlier about abiding by the limits, unless there’s no one else in line.

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  17. I always thought, and I’m OLD, that the dressing room item limit was to deter shoplifting. I know that I have had more than that in my cart many times and just bring items out and take more in. I know in a department store they would never want a customer to limit their possibilities!!! I just find this curious.

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  18. My Goodwill sorts by color, but the Goodwill in my friends neighborhood sorts by size. This saves me so much time and avoids the heartbreak of falling in love with too small items.

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  19. This is probably why my friends are so much better at it than me. It’s a hobby for them. They go often, they know all the places. They do a great job – one of them even buys things to resell on Poshmark. Me? Ugh… don’t go often, don’t like it. However, I did have awesome luck last fall when a friend invited me to a “swap” at her house. Bring clothes you don’t want! Well, it turns out she had two friends who had just grown out of things that were just my size. I got pants with tags even.

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  20. Be sure to turn every garment inside out and check pockets and seams carefully. Also, hold the item up to the light. You can find tiny holes and marks that way.

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  21. That’s okay, as long as there is no one waiting in line. Otherwise, you should abide by the garment-limit rules! (I was once in a Goodwill store, and a woman had a zillion items in her cart. Since the limit was six items, you’d take in six, come out, then immediately take in six more from her cart. There were several people waiting! I finally called her out on it, and she said she was in a hurry. SO IS EVERYONE ELSE!! I later mentioned this to the store Mgr., who said that customer was absolutely wrong and that, the next time anyone does this, one of the clerks should be alerted.) Please, abide by the rules, unless there’s no one else waiting.

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  22. Fitting rooms at thrift stores are sometimes locked, necessitating having an employee open the door. Frequently the “limit” of items taken into the room is 3-5. I have occasionally given a friendly, desperate smile to the attendant and said I was pressed for time (true!), and have been waved in with 15-20 items (including my basket)!!

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  23. I also like the Goodwill outlet. This is slightly off topic but I discovered when I found a Lane, Art Deco, button open trunk at the Goodwill outlet, that they don’t move furniture that is donated at a Goodwill outlet. The clothes and other items are picked over by the time they get to the outlet. The furniture, however, might be a valuable new arrival, donated at the outlet.

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  24. I disagree Krystal, I am not a browser, I am a mission shopper. Denim shirt, black skirt, rice cooker, hand mixer, and food processor. All specific items I needed and looked for and actually FOUND. Personally, if I browse, I buy items I do not need. I am trying to live more minimally so I only go when I need something.

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  25. I’ve been re-styling my thrifted clothes for years… and I agree… the best thing to do is check out everything… take time and go down the aisles, touch the items (clothes) and get a feel for them. I scored a lovely long-sleeved tee, black with floral design in blue that I wear all the time. I didn’t go there looking for such a thing and almost passed it up… not my style… but then, because I liked the feel of it, I tried it on. Loved it. Paid $2 for it… about 3 years ago and it’s still my favourite top.

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  26. Great tips! I’ve also noticed the pickins’ are better during the week as opposed to weekends. I also keep a few pairs of gloves (like medical gloves) in my car, as well as sanitizing hand wipes for when I venture out to the Goodwill Outlet ($0.98/lb means you can cram a bunch of good stuff in a cart!). I’ve also found that the out of the way, little church-sponsored thrift stores have amazing things.

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  27. Timing is everything! When I lived in an affluent student town, but stayed over the holidays myself, I noticed the best time to hit the charity shops was a couple days after all the day all the students had to move out of dorms at once. They students dropped off all the stuff they couldn’t be bothered to pack at the local charity shops. So you got high quality goods, originally purchased by wealthy, young people, with very little wear.

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  28. Consignment is another great option, especially local stores. Sometimes the prices are higher, but the quality is usually also higher and the merchandise is already curated for those of us who don’t have the time/energy/patience to cull through dozens of racks. Often consignment stores will have discount days that help cut the cots. If you look on the tag, you can often see the dates the store will lower prices. I scored a gorgeous floral coat for $20 a few years ago because I patiently waited until the lowest discount day marked on the tag. It looked like it was never worn and I now get compliments every time I wear it – like people stop me in the airport to ask about it! I’ve gotten many high end items for pennies on the dollar by shopping consignment.

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  29. Need to try on a pair of pants or skirt and they don’t have a dressing room? Find a big skirt to try on and use it as a “tent” so you can remove your pants and try on the thrift pants underneath the skirt.

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