Do you want to dominate the thrift shop scene and come out of every store feeling like you just won the lottery?
You can. But, successful, efficient thrift shopping takes some skill, and could even be considered an art form.
To be a thrift shopping "boss" simply means you are like, a serious pro at the game.
You know the who's, what's, where's, when's and why's of the industry, and make strategic moves along the way to optimize your outcome.
Thrift shopping bosses differ from the general consumer because careful thought, consideration, and planning go into each purchase, and adventures to the thrift stores are more like playing a sport, than shopping...in a good way, of course. ;)
Thrift shopping bosses don't waste, time, money, or energy, and are the most efficient shoppers you will ever meet.
"Why would one want to master an activity of this sort? And, what exactly is the outcome you're seeking?" You ask.
Uh?...Must I explain?
Ok, I will, because you seriously need to know this, if you don't already.
The reasons why you NEED to know how to thrift shop LIKE A BOSS include, but are not limited to...
- You'll save a ton of money on literally every material thing you would ever need to buy (as long as you can wait for it to show up at an op-shop)
- You'll find way cool stuff, that you can't find anywhere else.
- Your wardrobe will fill up with amazing vintage or otherwise fabulous clothes that you got for like, five dollars.
- You can surprise people with gifts all the time because hey, why not? It was a buck...
- You won't have to go to the mall...or the parking lot at the mall....or stand in the lines at the mall and get a headache from the 562 different perfume samples they spray as you walk by.
- You can work less. Yup. Work less, because you spend less. Or, work the same, but actually have money to pay bills. Ouch.
- You can brag to your friends that you got this ____ for only $____. (This one's my favorite)
- Then, they will want to know all about your thrift shopping secrets, and you can have a "friends day" out scavenging all the local thrift stores, taking as many raccoon hat and star shaped sun glass selfies as your little hearts desire.
- You'll be all eco-friendly and totally supporting local businesses/charities.
- and....You just may (ok, definitely will) find some really valuable antiques, collectibles, or designer brand stuff that you can easily resell online for profit!
Sounds pretty sweet, huh? Some pretty good reasons to jump on board if I do say so myself.
So, "How do I become a thrift shopping master oh, bosses of all bosses?" you say. (Oh, stop I'm blushing.)
Well, here you are my lovelies...Consider these 16 simple tips, and you'll be thrift shopping like a pro in no time.
NOTE: Thrift shopping trips can be done in small frequent increments or large "marathon" type adventures. Use these tips for either type of trip and simply adjust accordingly.
1. Take Inventory
A few days before thrift shopping, as you go about your daily activities, make notes of what you want and/or need to buy.
Keep a journal handy so that you can quickly jot down ideas of what you should be keeping an eye out for. (A rug for the bathroom, black pants for work, a cast iron skillet, a birthday gift for 'Mary', a halloween costume for little 'Johnny', some terracotta pots for the spring garden, etc.)
Don't exclude things that you know you will need in the future, either. This can be vague, but just keep in mind that it's never too early to buy a $1.00 Christmas gift that you can keep in the closet for the next few months.
If you're looking for something specific that requires a measurement, go ahead and take note of that as well.
This includes clothing sizes (especially for children, friends or family that you may buy for), furniture measurements, etc.
2. Research Retail Prices of Items on Your Wish List
This does not need to be an exhaustive task.
You probably already know how much you'd be willing to spend in a department store for most of these things.
But, in the event that you're unsure, take a moment to google, amazon, or ebay search the products on your list, to get a better feel for what they "go for" new and/or used.
This is just to ensure that you don't overpay (even at a thrift store), because that certainly can happen in some cases.
3. Research Your Local Thrift Shops
Again, not something you need to spend much time doing.
But a little pre-game planning never hurts, and will certainly save you time come shopping day.
Make a list of where you want to go, write down their addresses, and map out the most convenient route that allows you to visit them all easily without going too much out of your way.
If you're really feeling froggy, spend a few minutes entering them into your GPS. That way, you're ready to go with no hassle!
Write down, or enter their phone numbers in your contacts for easy reference, and take note of their hours, as they can vary greatly from shop to shop.
4. Prepare Your Car
Thrift shopping trips can be unpredictable.
Even if you plan to only shop for a few new shirts, there's a good chance you will end up buying (or wanting to buy) that perfect little coffee table you can leave with 'today' for just $7.00.
But oops, "I have no room in my car because it's full of school books, and car seats, and mannequin heads. Damn."
Don't let this happen to you.
Before you venture out, clean out your car!
Make as much room as you possibly can, and don't forget the trunk!
It's also a good idea to bring a few bungee cords to hold things on top of your car, or keep the trunk shut, a blanket to protect your seats from damage, a small cardboard box for items that may roll around, and newspaper sheets that you can use to wrap up anything fragile.
If you are planning on hunting for large furniture, it may be necessary to plan to take a pick up truck for the day. (Most places will hold your purchased items, and allow you to arrange for pickup later, should you find something unexpectedly, but I don't recommend doing this unless necessary.)
Oh. And also, please get gas.
5. Get A Good Night's Rest
If you're planning a marathon thrift shopping day, I'd highly recommend sleeping well the night before.
It's often best to start shopping early in the day, so a good breakfast and cup of coffee will also be your friend.
Thrift shopping can require a good bit of standing, walking, and concentration.
Keeping your mind and body sharp will improve your game ten-fold and make your experience much more enjoyable (nobody likes shopping when their hangry).
Even if you're just planning to "stop by" the thrift shop on your way home from work, I still say have a full tummy, and don't be too tired, because there is no such thing as a "quick run to the thrift shop."
6. Charge your Phone or Device
If there is one thing I can guarantee, it is that you will absolutely need your phone, tablet, or device at some point during your thrift shopping extravaganza.
Whether it's for doing a quick price lookup, or calling a store for directions, your device will be your right hand man during your trip, so don't leave home without it!
Make sure you have it fully charged before you leave, and bring an extra car charger with you if you have one.
Of course, thrift trips are possible without a device,...but come on, it's the 21st century!
Take advantage of technology, and use it to make your life easier.
7. Pack Light, But Efficient
The morning of shopping day, make sure you pack your (hands-free) bag with the essentials, while keeping it very lightweight.
The essentials include, your printed Thrift Shopping Master Plan and pen, a bottle of water, a portable snack for on the go, hand sanitizer (in case of funk), a tape measure, your phone or device, and of course your money.
I always recommend bringing cash as a backup in case a store does not accept credit cards.
Personalize your bag with whatever other items you may need, but remember, to keep it as simple as possible to avoid the annoyance of carrying a heavy bag.
8. Dress to Impress! (Sike, Dress to be Productive)
There is definitely a dress code when it comes to thrift shopping.
First of all you need to be comfortable.
You're going to be in and out of your car, walking a lot, and likely be bending and lifting often throughout the day.
Comfortable clothes are key.
But that's not the only thing to consider.
If you're going to be on the lookout for clothing or shoes, you are also going to want to wear something that is easy to get on and off, or slip other clothes on top of. (example: a long, cotton maxi skirt that you can try on a pair of pants under, or a tank top that you can try a t-shirt on over.)
Avoid tons of layers, jumpsuits, and things with lots of buttons.
Bring a hands free bag (cross body, book bag, or fanny pack), that will not hinder you from maneuvering through the aisles or carrying lots of stuff.
To make your day even easier, wear shoes that are easy to get on and off (and bring a pair of socks, and a set of those thin nylon knee highs in case you need to try on a certain type of shoe).
9. Do a Quick, Yet Observant Run Through the Shop First, Then Take Your Time
Thrift stores are typically PACKED with stuff, and are often a little unorganized.
Doing a quick, yet observant run through the shop will give you an idea of what they have, and allow you to focus more adequately on what you really need (or want) from within the different sections of that shop.
IMPORTANT! If you do happen to see the perfect item during your run through, PUT IT IN YOUR CART! There's nothing worse than thinking you will come back to it later just to realize someone else picked it up right behind you. (ok, maybe there are worse things, but, this still sucks big time...)
Once you've completed your observation, go back to the sections that most appeal to you and start diving in.
It's ok to take you time.
Most of the best thrift picks require a bit of deep digging to find!
10. Put a Few of the Same Items in Your Cart to Compare
Like I mentioned above, thrift shops tend to be a little lax in the organizational department.
It's not uncommon to find product "x" as soon as you walk in, and then again down aisle 12, and then again stuffed in a random shoe box in the kids section.
If you see a few of the same items throughout the store that you want, put them in your cart to review at the end before checkout.
Compare quality, price, and dates if applicable, and of course be courteous and return the things you're not buying to their proper place when finished.
11. Check the Labels and Maker's Marks
If you are searching for items to resell, then obviously you need to know your labels and maker's marks.
Honing this skill takes practice, education, and experience.
But, for most hobby shoppers, a little label looking can still be beneficial.
For instance, you may know what modern brands are considered high-end or designer.
This generally means they are very well made, and built to last.
So, finding a pants suit labeled Giorgio Armani for $20.00 is probably a pretty freaking sweet deal!
Not sure what a brand is?
That's where those phones come in handy...look it up!
12. Check the Dressing Rooms for Winning Outfits
This may seem silly, but think about it.
The clothes that are left in the dressing room have already been picked through, selected, and liked enough that someone considered trying them on.
Maybe the only reason they didn't buy them, was because they didn't fit!
But that doesn't mean they won't fit YOU, and look incredible!
Check the dressing rooms, just do it.
13. Don't Lead Others On
This one may sound a little selfish, but hey, thrifting is a competitive sport after all.
Although we love to celebrate other's win's, we also don't like others to win OUR wins!
To put it simply, if you see someone scoping out something you really love, DON'T let them know it!
There is nothing more compelling, than something that everyone seems to want.
If the competition already has an eye on an item, and you are lurking around like a vulture waiting to feast, chances are, they won't put it down, and you won't be leaving with it.
My advice, is to play it cool, look at something else nearby, pay no attention, until they put it back....then swoop in like a thief in the night. (Only don't actually steal it, because that's just wrong.)
14. Check Your List, Check Out, and Repeat
Once you feel like you've seen enough of the place, and are ready to go, do a once over of your list.
Make sure there is nothing that you may have missed, and then proceed to checkout.
Make sure to smile at the clerk and bask in your glorious money saving auras as she hits the "total" button on the register.
Pay the lovely teller, and make nice conversation, because having an employee like you may come in handy later if you plan to shop their store regularly. (Plus it's just nice to be friendly.)
Walk out proudly, while secretly singing the lyrics to Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" song in your head, and feeling like...yup, you guessed it, you just won the lottery! (Maybe not the mega millions, but at least a pretty awesome scratch off ticket)
Get to your car, and head on out to your next destination.
It may behoove you to thank the Thrift Shop Gods for your success, too, if you want them to keep blessin' ya!
Repeat steps 8-13 in each shop, or the entire process for your next marathon.
15. Immediately Clean, Fix, and Put Away Your New Treasures
There's something special about coming home from your thrift shop adventure, and immediately nurturing your new secondhand items back to life.
Most of the time a quick rinse, wipe, or run through the laundry will do the trick.
But other items may need a bit more attention.
Whatever it may be, take action immediately to prevent yourself from hoarding these items in a galaxy far far away, and re-enlisting them in the "junk that just sits" pile.
16. Take Pride in Your Junk- Show it off. Have Fun.
Tell your friends all about it.
Take a pic of that sweet blue owl lamp that you got for $3 and post it with pride to all your social media accounts!
Don't be a stingy thrifter, share the love.
You may just inspire someone else to go out and do the same... and what's that mean?
More love for the planet, more money in their wallets, and more support for the local economy. WIN. #friendsdontletfriendsbuynew #justsaying
Now, take that excitement and get started.
Master these steps and you'll be thrift shopping like a boss for the rest of your days.
Thanks for Reading!
Thank you so much for reading, and please leave me a comment below to let me know what you thought of this article.
I would love to hear about your thrift tips!
Take care, and as always, happy thrifting!! - Hallie ❤️️
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