Top 10 Tips For Thrift Store Shopping

Thrift-Shop-1Way before Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” hit the charts, savvy shoppers knew the value of thrifting.  Everything seems so expensive now, from gas to groceries, so finding discounts when possible is important. For many basic essentials, like clothing or furniture, thrift shops can be a budget-saver.

For those new to thrifting, it can seem overwhelming. Many of the stores are huge and carry everything from holiday trinkets to books and beyond. Wading through the piles of merchandise to find those gems can be tricky, but the feeling of victory when you find a gorgeous piece for pennies on the dollar can’t be beat.

There’s a science to finding great items at thrift stores, so check out our ten tips for making the best of thrifting trips:

  1. Scout out locations: Some stores are picked over and rarely restock. Others are bursting at the seams. Check out thrift stores near higher end neighborhoods; they often have name brand clothing and furniture. It’s not uncommon to find Banana Republic, J. Crew and Theory pieces with the tags still on for just $4.
  2. Put technology to work: While Goodwill and Salvation Army are thrifting treasures, there are other thrift shops around that offer great deals too. Use to find new thrift shops near you, complete with their location, hours and weekly specials.
  3. Get outside your comfort zone: It’s never a good idea to go thrifting with a definitive mindset. Instead of looking for a “purple blouse”, focus on a more general idea like a “work-appropriate blouse.” It helps you keep an open mind as you look for beautiful things in good condition.
  4. Take advantage of the seasons: When seasons change and milestones hit (like back to school), people tend to clean out their closets and homes, which means thrift shops become a bonanza of great items. Shop now to stock up on school clothes, new furniture or seasonal décor.
  5. Figure out your location’s schedule: Most thrift shops accept and process new stock on the weekends, so Monday through Wednesday is when they’ll have the most selection.
  6. Don’t forget sales: Many people don’t realize that thrift shops have sales too. On certain days, all furniture or clothing will be marked down as much as 50% so check with your local shop for their sale schedule. Some shops also offer discounts for college students, seniors or veterans so be sure to ask about available discounts.
  7. Be strategic: Thrift shops tend to have strict rules about how many items you can bring into a dressing room and leaving an item behind may mean it gets scooped up by someone else. Wear form fitting clothes so you can try on sweaters, coats and blazers right over your outfit to skip the dressing room entirely.
  8. Be thorough: Be sure to check the garment all over for stains, tears or holes. Bring a to-go stain remover like Tide to Go Sticks to test if stains can be easily washed out.
  9. Imagine blank slates: Try to see past the initial item. That wardrobe may have plenty of signs of wear, but with a little work it could look modern and new. Paint, new handles or hardware can make that $10 piece of furniture look like an expensive addition to your home. Pinterest can provide great ideas on how to easily (and cheaply!) repurpose thrift store finds.
  10. Make sure you need it: It’s easy to get too excited by the bargains. When you get 10 shirts for $30, it can be tempting to load up the shopping cart. But even at bargain prices, it’s a waste of your hard-earned money if they won’t get used regularly and if you don’t love them. Shop thoughtfully.

Finally, remember to give back to the thrift stores you shop! After closet or home purges, drop off gently used items at your local store so that other people can share in the experience and savings too.

Heart of Florida United Way is focused on addressing the five major building blocks of financial stability in order to provide low-income working families the services and support necessary to succeed. For more information visit or if you are in need of assistance, call 2-1-1, our 24-hour information and assistance helpline.


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