How to Thrift: Part One

Below you will find the first of a three-part series on how to thrift. Many people are overwhelmed when they walk into a thrift store (or even a TJ Maxx) and walk right back out without  giving the store a chance. They automatically miss out on deals, one-of-a-kind items and most importantly, they miss out on the fun and adventure that is thrift shopping.

Part One: Before You Go

If you want to be a successful thrift shopper you need to be prepared. First and foremost, ask me to go with you. I wanna’ come with. When that’s out of the way, determine the following:


How much do you have? Do you want to spend all day hopping around stores or do you want to hit up just one before you start dinner? Time will determine the rest of your planning.

Number of Stores

Which stores do you want to go to? If you don’t have much time you may have to prioritize. Some thrift stores will have more vintage or better jeans for example while others may be cheaper, closer, or better run.

Needs vrs Wants

  • What do you need immediately? If you need something by tomorrow morning before you leave for your sister-in-law’s wedding, do not go thrifting for it. You could get lucky but I don’t think it is worth the stress or the risk. What if you don’t find anything? You’d be screwed that’s what!
  • Write down a “want list”. What would you like to find in the near future? A winter coat? A vintage dress for a gala event coming up in the next couple of months? Write it down and keep a running list of all the great things you’d like to find. Here’s what’s on my list today:

Skinny belt for that red dress I own, metallic (?)

Classic Coach purse, black (just something I am toying with)

1950’s tie for boyfriend

A dickey like the girl from The Uniform Project wears

Dress for a wedding in September

I can and always will deviate from this list when I enter a thrift store but it’s good to remind myself of things I could use. If you thrift for others you may want to keep their measurements in your purse or somewhere handy. I hate buying things and then re-donating them to the same store when they don’t fit.

Mentally Prepare

  • Keep an open mind. You have no idea what you are going to find. Prepare to try on some strange stuff that might look horrible on the rack and fabulous on you.
  • Be ready to dig. Racks are usually stuffed and aisles tend to be skinny. Do yourself a favor and get a cart if the store offers them. That reminds me: Try to bring a small purse that won’t get in the way of using your arms. If you are brave enough for a fanny pack (Yves Saint Laurent made one a couple years ago and may still) do it. Free arms=more freedom to find.
  • Be ready for bad to no service. Many thrift stores serve a charitable purpose and will not have a super responsive staff. There will never be enough people ringing out at the register and there will always be at least one customer giving the cashier a hard time and holding up the line. Don’t be a jerk. Be patient you are not at Neiman’s.

Physically Prepare

  • Wear comfortable shoes, a small purse, and a comfortable outfit.
  • Eat something. Nothing will ruin a good thrifting or shopping outing faster than hunger. You need energy and a good mood to thrift. You also need to feel goodwill towards your fellow shoppers. This is a lot harder when you are hungry.
  • Caffeine. I like it, I drink it and hey, I am a successful thrifter. Coincidence? I don’t think so. My caffeine of choice is coffee.
  • Visit the ladies room before you leave the house. Some stores have bathrooms for employees only.

Now you are ready to leave your house and get to the thrift store. In Part Two we’ll go over what to do when you walk through the thrift store doors.


One comment on “How to Thrift: Part One

  1. Lorelei says:

    Great tips. By far the best advice you offer is in the first paragraph-invite you along.

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