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How to master thrift shopping

minute read

    Looking to spice up your wardrobe, snag the perfect vintage frame or find the same sewing machine your grandma used to use? You may want to try thrift shopping. Thrifting, or shopping for other people's gently used goods, has been around for decades but has gained popularity in recent years.

    Benefits of thrifting

    There are a lot of reasons you may want to try thrift store shopping. To start, it's fun! If you enjoy a treasure hunt, you'll likely love exploring the shelves and racks of a thrift shop, never knowing what you may come across next.

    But knowing how to thrift is practical, too. Because the items are used, the prices on pieces are generally lower than you would see in department stores or box stores for new items. This can especially be a bonus when shopping for furniture, as you can often find very high-quality pieces at a discount.

    While thrift shopping, you'll find that some of the items you come across are quite unique. Whether it's homewares, furniture or clothing, you can often find one-of-a-kind pieces, or interesting pieces from decades past. You may find anything from a special painting of the previous owner's homestead to a handmade wedding dress. 

    Sustainability is another benefit to thrifting. Rather than gently used clothing or perfectly functional homewares going to a landfill, they are getting a second life with a new owner. 

    Thrifting tips

    If you've never been thrifting before, you may assume that it's just like shopping anywhere else. However, there are a few thrifting tips you can follow that will help you have a more successful — and less stressful — experience.

    How to prepare

    • Pick a day to go thrifting. Stores often restock over the weekend, so you may want to choose a Monday. It's also worth checking the store's website or calling to see if they have any weekly discount days.
    • Make a list before you shop. Thrift stores often have a wide array of items, so if you have an idea of a few things you may be interested in, jot them down to give yourself some direction.
    • Wear clothing that fits close to your body. Most thrift stores don't have fitting rooms, so wear an outfit that you can easily try things on over.
    • Have a budget. It's easy to get carried away with all the fun finds and great deals but decide how much money you can responsibly spend before heading to the shop.
    • Bring bags. Some thrift shops may have bags, while others may not. Make your life easier and grab some reusable bags to carry your goods home in. 

    How to thrift

    • Start early. The mornings are often the best time to hit the stores, as you'll get first dibs on any new merchandise that was put out. 
    • Stick to quality fabrics and materials. When it comes to clothing, try to find pieces that are made of cotton, linen and wool to get the best bang for your buck. For furniture, stick with wood, metal, glass and wicker. 
    • Inspect items first. Many thrift stores do not have return policies, so it's important to give your items a thorough inspection before purchasing. Look for stains, damage, ripped seams or nicks and scratches that can't be repaired.
    • Keep an eye out for discounts. Yes, even thrift shops have sales! 
    • Take your time. Attention to detail will help you find hidden gems and high-quality pieces

    Selling to thrift shops

    If you're interested in selling your clothing, you may want to explore consignment shops. While thrift stores and consignment shops are very similar, thrift stores generally get their inventory through direct donations and charities. Consignment shops, on the other hand, usually have buyers on staff who will assess your items and make you an offer to purchase them for resale. Because of this, consignment shops do tend to be more selective since they're paying for their inventory.

    While you're unlikely to make big bucks by selling your clothing to a consignment store, it will help offset the cost of whatever purchase you make. Additionally, it can be a great way to clear out some space in your closet before buying more.

    There are now online consignment shops where you can send in your clothing for assessment, as well as shop gently used clothing. While these online stores tend to market themselves as thrift shops, they often more closely follow the consignment model.

    Whether you shop online or in-person, you are not required to sell to a consignment shop to make a purchase. You can use many of the same thrifting tips to get the most out of your visit to a consignment store, too.

    What's more

    Thrift shopping can become a fun and practical hobby as you hunt for hidden treasures and look for the best deals. With a little practice, you'll be a thrift shopping expert in no time. 

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