Thrift stores: we all know and love them. Whether they’re tiny, hole-in-the-wall antique shops where you can find unexpected treasures or bigger secondhand chains, these stores are gold mines of quality items for a fraction of the retail price.
Guess what else is great about thrifting? It’s better for the planet. Many clothing companies use unethical practices to make their clothing and speak nothing about the huge textile wastes that end up in landfills.
Don’t think that buying secondhand means lower quality, either. Sure, that might apply to some items but people everywhere have found amazing things never taken out of the box. These items range from jewelry to electronics to wedding dresses worth thousands of dollars. Let’s face it: there are few downsides to shopping in thrift stores.
As it turns out, there’s a knack to it. Thrift store inventory, policies, and deals vary significantly from store to store, even when shopping at a chain location. Luckily, the thrifty people of the internet are here to give their best tips, tricks, and hacks to help you not only find the best items at your local thrift store but also score the best deals.
1. Choose small towns over big ones.
Large towns often have more inventory than they can handle. So, they ship extras to smaller towns. That’s where you can find less competition and possibly lower prices.
2. Hit the store up in the middle of the week.
Don’t go to the thrift store on Saturday when everyone else is there. You’ll find more inventory on a Wednesday because the big crowds haven’t yet come in.
3. Learn about thrift store chain specialties.
Every store location is different, but chain thrift stores can be a gold mine for specific items. For example, Goodwill tends to run great deals on furniture, while Savers is a better place to find quality clothing.
4. Ask employees what day they restock.
If you ask the store staff what day they restock, you can visit at that time. That means you’ll be the first one to get your hands on the new finds. Restocking day is usually at the beginning or in the middle of the week.
5. Save 5 percent by getting Goodwill gift cards on Raise.com.
It might not seem like much, but if you’re a dedicated shopper, those percentages can add up. An extra 5 percent on every purchase can save you a lot of money in the long run.
6. Don’t let nostalgia cloud your judgment.
Even though thrifting saves money, you still need to use good sense when making purchases. Considering that thrift stores are full of antiques, they might tug on your nostalgia heartstrings — but never buy what you won’t use.
7. Remember that vintage clothing runs small.
Vintage clothing can be an amazing find, with many items becoming favorites for thrifters everywhere. But remember that retro sizing runs, on average, between four and six sizes smaller than modern-day sizing.
8. You can shop thrift online.
Do you ever wish you could shop for cheap, amazing thrift items without leaving your house? It turns out, you can! Sites like ThredUp and Schoola sell good-quality secondhand items for low prices.
9. Shop off-season.
It’s one of the rules of thumb for shopping at regular retailers, but it goes for secondhand stores, too. Thrift shops mark down off-season clothing and other items. Simply put, you can score a better deal buying summer items in the winter and vice versa.
10. Look for junk that you can repurpose.
Thrift stores are known for selling odds and ends that seem like trash. But that plain wooden shelf, wire basket, or cracked cup can be repurposed for unique DIY projects that you can make for just a couple of dollars.
11. Go a few times a week.
If you’re dedicated to scoring great deals while thrifting, hit the stores up once or twice a week. That way, you can always browse through the new inventory and find all the items you’re looking for at the lowest prices.
12. Limit yourself to 45 minutes per store.
Thrift stores are fascinating places, so it can be easy to spend hours going aisle to aisle. But if you’re looking out for deals and not going just for fun, you’ll burn out pretty quickly if you take too long. Set a time limit for yourself.
13. Dress to shop.
You probably aren’t thinking of what you’ll be wearing when you hit up a thrift shop. If you’re shopping for dresses, wear a pair of heels so you can get a sense of the full outfit. If you’re lugging a piece of heavy furniture out, jeans and sneakers are best.
14. The rule of thumb – it takes three weeks for items to go on sale.
This goes for most major retailers, and it’s a rule that’s more for clearance and sale shopping than general thrifting. But it’s still a great tip for anyone looking to score a deal on secondhand items.
15. Hit the store the day after it marks down items.
Many thrift store chains like Goodwill have weekly sales where certain items are marked down. Instead of hitting the stores that same day, go the following day to see what you can find without fighting the crowds.
16. Learn how to spot quality items.
You can find some seriously amazing items at thrift stores, like designer jeans, professional cookware, and antique furniture. Develop your eye for markers of these goods. That way, you’ll know a great item — and a good deal — when you see it.
17. Learn how to haggle.
Thrift stores usually give a flat price for an item even if it’s cracked, torn, or otherwise damaged. If you see something with an imperfection, feel free to speak up and ask for a lower price. You may be surprised what you can get.
18. Create a Pinterest thrifting board.
It’s always a good idea to hit up a thrift store with a goal in mind, rather than simply wandering around. To put together some ideas, create a Pinterest thrifting board so you can figure out exactly what you’re looking for.
19. Always test electronics.
Sure, electronics in thrift stores go for pretty low prices compared to retail stores, but it’s worth testing them before you buy. Use an outlet in the store and keep a few spare batteries in your bag before going out so you don’t waste your money.
20. Make friends with employees.
It’s worth saying it twice: don’t forget about the employees. If you get to know them, you can share what your thrifting goals are. Some may be willing to put aside items they know you’re looking for whenever they come in stock.
21. Aim to save 80 percent or more off the retail price.
Any thrift store you visit will offer deals, but you should know the difference between a real deal and one that doesn’t quite cut it. Ideally, thrift store items should save you between 80 and 95 percent of their retail price.
22. Look for seasonal coupons.
Coupons in thrift stores vary widely from chain to chain and region to region, but they’re available frequently. Thrift stores want to rapidly turn over stock, which means they feature frequent sales and deals for their customers.
23. Donate and you could get a coupon.
Some thrift stores offer discount coupons in exchange for donations to the store. Some Goodwill locations offer a 20 percent off coupon by making a donation. Plus, you get to declutter! Savers also has an excellent discount offer for your donations.
24. Keep an eye on furniture and kids’ clothes.
Furniture and kids’ clothes are some of the best thrift store purchases you’ll find. Secondhand furniture is great because new, its expensive. Kids, meanwhile, are always outgrowing clothes, so secondhand is best.
25. Don’t even think about swimsuits or underwear.
This should go without saying, but don’t ever purchase swimsuits or underwear at a thrift shop. It’s a simple hygiene issue and it’s just too icky to even think about.
26. Download the Goodwill app.
Thrift stores, even chains, vary widely in their offerings for discounts and coupons. If you download the Goodwill app, you may be able to find local stores, making it easy to track sales, discounts, and more.
27. You can return your purchase within seven days for store credit.
Not all thrift stores have a dressing room, so you may come home only to discover the shirt you thought was perfect just doesn’t fit. Thankfully, most chain thrift stores have a policy that allows you to return items within a week of purchase, though not for cash.
28. You can stack discounts and coupons.
Don’t think the deals are one and done. In most thrift stores, you can stack discounts, coupons, and other deals. Ultimately, you might end up paying just a few cents for a great item.
29. You can sign up for email alerts with some stores.
Thrift stores vary widely from location to location, but some of them have email alerts that customers can sign up for. These include notifications about ongoing sales, coupons, and other items of interest.
30. Look for brand new items.
Finding antiques is a great part of shopping secondhand, but you can also find some items that are brand new. Many retail stores ship their unbought merchandise to thrift stores for a fraction of the original price.