Thrift Shopping: 10 Tips For A Successful Haul

Happy best friends shopping thrift clothes stock photo
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According to a new survey from TopCashback.com, 69% of consumers shop at thrift stores and 81% said that they would consider buying used or refurbished items in order to save.

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These so-called holidays can be an opportunity for newbies to learn the ins and outs of thrift shopping… and how to get the most value out of their money.

Let’s explore 10 tips for a successful thrift store haul.

1. Shop When You Are in a Peaceful State of Mind 

Thrift stores and consignment stores are often densely packed (or more bluntly, cluttered), which can be overwhelming for first-timers. When you go into a thrift store, make sure you’re in a calm if not downright zen state. Otherwise, you could have a panic attack while browsing the hectic aisles, which is certainly not enjoyable.

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2. Have a Plan 

Another way to avoid being overwhelmed (and to refuse impulse buys) is to go in with a plan. What exactly are you looking for? The fewer items you have in mind the better, as it will help you dodge distractions.

3. Put Items on Hold 

Many thrift stores and consignment stores will let you place an item you’re mulling over on hold — at least for the amount of time you’re browsing. Take advantage of this service. That way you won’t have to worry about someone else snagging the item, and you can give yourself time to mull over whether you really need it.

4. Know Your Brands 

If you’re shopping for clothes, purses or shoes, you should have some concept of brands that go for the most money. You could find a Marc Jacobs tee or even something more valuable, like a vintage Chanel bag, stashed in the racks. Check on sites like eBay to see how much the item (or some version of it) goes for pre-owned. If it’s substantially marked down at the thrift shop, you can buy it and flip it on eBay or another platform later.

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5. Inspect the Tags for Construction Materials

Know not only your brands but what types of material are durable and comfortable. Silk and linen are attractive and hold up; polyester can be safely left behind (unless that vintage mod dress is just too cute).

6. Factor in the Cost of Tailoring  

If you find something that you love but it’s a little too long in the leg, or it would look better with short sleeves, factor in how much it would cost to get the item tailored to your liking.

7. Don’t Bother with Stained Items 

“It may come out in the wash” or “I’ll just soak it” are not good mentalities to guide you when you’re thrifting. If something is stained, that’s probably why it was abandoned in the first place. That stain isn’t going anywhere!

8. Shop with Friends

It’s one thing to head into a department store and buy something new that you can return; it’s another to purchase from a thrift store — which could have a strict no-returns policy. To make sure you’re buying exactly what you want and need, go with an honest friend. Their opinion could be invaluable.

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9. Go Through the Entire Store 

Again, thrift stores can be overwhelming, so you’ll want to have plenty of time set aside to shop. Setting aside a good 45 minute to an hour when shopping at a store that is formidable in size is wise. This will give you time to go through the entire store, which is critical if you’re on the hunt for hidden gems.

10. Opt for Online Shopping if all Else Fails

You’ll probably find the best deals in stores, especially those where employees aren’t necessarily in on the latest trends. But you can also scoop up good deals at online shops of a similar ilk such as Etsy, eBay, ThredUP and Poshmark.

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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