When shopping on a budget, thrift stores can be a great asset to scour and save big. From Goodwill to Buffalo Exchange, thrift stores re-use and recycle for your own fashionable benefit. I was thrift shopping with a friend this weekend and remembered just how overwhelming and busy these shops can be, making it tough to identify the best finds. But at the end of the day, so many of my favorite pieces in my wardrobe were amazing deals from thrift and resale stores. Follow my tips for easy, successful thrift shopping!
Before you shop, identify what you're looking for.
Most thrift stores are crowded, busy, and not very well-organized or aesthetically pleasing. It's easy to walk in the door and get easily overwhelmed, and as a friend pointed out to me, no displays will tell you what looks go together or what you NEED to buy. This is both good and bad, as the best things could be buried under tons of pieces you'd never wear. Before you head out for the shops, think about what exactly you're looking to buy today. The more specific you get, the better; it means you'll have to scour more, but will have an easier time shopping with eagle eyes for those leather brogues or that cream blouse.
Don't expect to find a specific designer.
Some resale stores, especially in nicer neighborhoods, will have hidden designer gems, but unless you're at a designer-only vintage store (which is a whole other can of worms, in my opinion), you can't expect to be Chanel-shopping only. You never know when you'll find something you love, with a totally unknown label! Keep yourself open, and it's better to have a style in mind than a label to be most likely to leave satisfied.
Know your sizes.
Many thrift stores mix up sizes, organize racks by color, or have number sizes broken down into "small, medium, large." This makes it difficult and time-consuming to find what you want in your size. Know your exact size for whatever you're looking for, so that each time you pick up an item, you can quickly identify whether or not it will fit. You may have to try on quite a few items, but you'll be carrying considerably fewer to the dressing room if you can look at the label and know if it's in your size or not.
Before buying, check for stains, rips, and flaws.
If an item is cheaper than the other merchandise, pause before taking it straight to the cash register. Ask yourself, "why might this be marked down?" Some thrift stores are super picky with the merchandise they buy from sellers, but some barely bat an eyelash or check over the garment. Do it yourself before you take something home with an unremovable stain. Also check the seams for holes and rips- you never know if the reason the previous owner sold this gem was because of a flaw you'll now be stuck with.
Don't buy something just because it's cheap.
Yes, always take the price into consideration, and think about your budget, but sometimes at thrift stores, it's easy to tell yourself something is great only because of the price tag. Don't look at price tags when you go to try things on, decide if you like it and then make a decision based on price. The more expensive thrift store items are often expensive because they're well made or a designer label; consider all items based on the style and how they fit you, and factor in price last to remain unbiased. You don't want to take home a five dollar shirt and then decide you would never wear it- it's a much better deal to find a great thirty dollar shirt that becomes a serious staple in your wardrobe and lasts you years.
Take your time and take breaks if necessary!
I said it before and I'll say it again; thrift stores are overwhelming, loud, and almost always pretty crowded. Thrift stores are far from an aesthetically ideal shopping experience. But they're worth it for the amazing deals! It's a sustainable way to shop, and will save you so much money on well-made clothes that are ordinarily out of your budget. Don't be afraid to put something on hold, or take a coffee break, to refresh yourself before delving back into the racks. I promise it's worth it to take your time to really look through the store patiently and carefully. The best clothes at thrift stores won't be on a mannequin or on a lighted display; they're buried under mounds of things you don't really want or need.