20+ Thrift Store Shopping Tips

A few years back I did an interview with Pat Veretto, former About.com Guide to Frugal Living. I thought I’d share her tips for shopping at thrift stores, then give some extra bonus thrift store shopping tips to help you save money.

What are your favorite buys at a thrift store?

Pat: Clothing and kitchen paraphernalia are the two things I look for. I don’t buy many clothes, but when I find just the right style in just the right color, in the size and price that I want, it’s a real thrill. Retail shopping can’t hold a candle to thrift store shopping when it comes to variety! And kitchen things hold their own fascination. Who can resist a full set of 50’s style mugs or a stainless steel garlic press? And where else could you find good a quality cheese slicer for a dollar?

Woman with red hair looking at clothes in a thrift store.
Photo by Burst

What do you recommend to never buy at a thrift store?

Pat: I would never buy an infant/child car seat because of safety reasons. Ditto, cribs. Almost anything else is ok, but be sure you can test small appliances.

What day of the week (if any) is best to shop a thrift store?

Pat: That depends on which thrift store you shop and if you qualify for any special discounts. One of our stores had “Senior Wednesday” in which senior citizens got an additional discount. Most stores have regular delivery or stocking days which will give you the best choices. Ask, they’ll be glad to tell you.

Do you have a thrift store best buy or horror story?

Pat: I don’t know which would be the best story, but one that comes to mind is when I bought a set of plates, cups and saucers in a certain rather obscure pattern, then a couple of years later, at a different thrift store, I found two large platters, a small platter and dessert plates to match it. The whole set, which we used for years, cost less than ten dollars. I was very happy about that! Other than that, I guess my thrift store shopping has been pretty tame, although I’ve heard of people who have found money in thrift-shopped garments. (Or less desirable things!)

Woman with red hair in a thrift store sorting through racks.
Photo by Burst

More tips on how to shop at thrift stores

  1. Patience is the key: Take your time and browse through the racks. You never know what gems you might find!
  2. Thrift store sales are your best friends: Keep an eye out for special discounts and sale days to snag even better deals.
  3. Join loyalty programs: Many thrift stores offer rewards or discounts for frequent shoppers. Sign up and save!
  4. Check for senior and student discounts: Don’t forget to ask about these special deals before checking out.
  5. Hit the clearance section first: You might discover incredible steals that others overlooked.
  6. Don’t dismiss off-season items: Buying winter clothes in summer and vice versa can save you loads.
  7. Inspect for damage: Minor flaws can lead to major discounts. Embrace your inner DIY and fix them up!
  8. Bring cash: It’ll help you stick to a budget and avoid unnecessary splurges.
  9. Make a list: Plan ahead and focus on items you genuinely need or have been searching for.
  10. Measure twice: Whether it’s furniture or clothing, ensure the fit is perfect (or that you can tailor it) before purchasing.
  11. Get creative with DIY: Turn a basic find into something extraordinary with a little imagination and craftiness.
  12. Network with the staff: Be friendly, and they might give you a heads up on upcoming deals.
  13. Donate while you shop: Many thrift stores offer coupons or discounts in exchange for donations.
  14. Follow your favorite stores on social media: You’ll be the first to know about promotions and new arrivals.
  15. Make your own thrift store: Organize a swap party and exchange items with friends to refresh your wardrobe or home decor for free.
  16. Avoid fast fashion temptations: Stick to classic styles and quality pieces that stand the test of time.
  17. Try before you buy: Don’t forget to check the mirror and ensure the item fits you perfectly.
  18. Compare prices: Thrift stores vary in pricing, so don’t hesitate to visit a few to find the best deals.
  19. Learn to negotiate: Polite haggling can sometimes get you an extra discount!
  20. Embrace imperfections: Embrace the uniqueness of thrifted items; they add character and charm to your style.

Video: 30 thrifting hacks that CHANGED THE GAME

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