Get Your Thrifting On: Some dos and don’ts for thrift store shopping

By Diana Campeggio
September 13, 2011

In case you haven’t noticed, we live in expensive times.  And with a country that loves to shop most of their hard-earned cash away nonetheless, searching for a better means of shopping is a necessity.  We need to embrace thrifting.  It may be one of the best means of shopping on a budget out there and it is most likely located right in your very own hometown; you’ve just been overlooking it.

Many people are against thrift stores.  They think that they sell nothing but junk and are dirty and filled with people with whom you would never otherwise associate.  Many people also think that they are “above” thrift stores and could never find anything they would like or use.  I am here to tell you you’re wrong.  Yeah, I said it.  You’re wrong, plain and simple.

Yeah, sometimes thrift stores carry some ugly, ugly clothes and junk that people should never buy.  But, and this is a huge but, people donate perfectly good and gently-used items that are truly fabulous.  Clothes that people have simply grown out of, household items that were never used, vintage items that are now in style again, etc.

Thrift stores are a great source for vintage (and sometimes even brand new) clothing, as well as household finds and furniture.  And, in many cases, purchasing thrift store items also donates to a great charity.  It’s like killing two birds with one stone, great interesting finds and giving a donation all in one.

The trick is, having a certain set of rules to follow before you even step foot into that store.

First, if you have something in mind you are looking for, great, but don’t limit yourself to that one item.  Make a list of things you are looking for, but there is always next time.  Search through all shelves and racks, and focus on looking for other great items too. Don’t get discouraged if what you’re looking for isn’t there that week.  Keep an open mind and don’t close yourself off to making some other great purchases.

When looking for clothes, hunt for those vintage and classic pieces that will never go out of style.  If you find a pair of gently-used Uggs in a thrift store, chances are, they are there for a reason and they are no longer in style.  My advice to you, always try everything on!  Many thrift stores don’t allow returns and if you find the perfect pair of vintage high-waisted jeans, it doesn’t make a difference if they only fit your one thigh.

Don’t underestimate the power of a pair of scissors and a needle and thread either.  Jeans can be made into shorts and t-shirts into skirts and tube tops.  There are a ton of different tutorials online for making your own clothes, pillows, wallhangings, etc.  Think outside the box a little.

Another thing, wash or dry clean everything.  That’s just a given.  You don’t know who owned that item previously, and everything should feel clean and new once you go to wear it.

In my experience, thrift stores have been great at furnishing my college apartment on a budget.  I’ve bought tons of kitschy kitchen items, cheap furniture and even curtains.  It’s all about how you look at the item.

As I stated previously, thrifting is all about keeping an open mind.   You need to look at a piece of furniture and ask yourself how you can make it work.  Sometimes, putting on new knobs and a fresh coat of paint can change something drab into something perfect.  You want to think creatively about the items and not every item needs to be used for its original intention.  Old drawers can be used as wall shelves and wicker baskets as light fixtures.  Fabric and paint are your friends and you need to embrace them.  The possibilities are really limitless.

Make sure you know the sales.  Many, if not all, thrift stores run sales on different sections of their merchandise or put colored stickers on random items and each day the different color is on sale.  Take advantage of those sales and grab those items that you’ve been eyeing up, but didn’t want to spend that extra dollar or two.  Make sure you know the sales and take that price into consideration.  Sometimes you can grab a sofa or table for under $10.

Another factor to take into consideration is that you should know the charity you are supporting when you purchase the items.  You want to make sure that you know what your money is going towards, but not all stores are run for charity.  Some stores are simply owned and operated by a person or family and the profits go to them.  If you want, or don’t want, to support a certain charity, make sure you know where your money is going.

All in all, thrifting should be enjoyable.  It should be something that you look forward to, maybe even make a day of it.  Keep an open mind and you are guaranteed to find something that is great.

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Diana Campeggio

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