Tips for Successful Thrift Store Shopping

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Thrift store shopping can be a daunting task, especially because it's so different from shopping in a regular store.  As an avid thrift shopper for many years, I've compiled a list of my best tips to help you in your thrifting endeavours.  I've fine-tuned my list now that I'm trying to live minimally, and he one time that I went thrift shopping in the past few months, it really worked!  This is going to be a detailed post, so let's get to it!

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1. Choose Your Location.
Location is everything when it comes to thrifting.  While some chain thrift stores consolidate and sort their donations, and then distribute them evenly among their locations (such as Value Village), other chain thrift stores or independent stores will sell items donated directly to the store.  When shopping at the former, you will have to check out a location to get a sense of what kinds of items that store will carry.  Sometimes higher end neighbourhood equals higher end items, but not always.  When shopping at the latter, know the neighbourhood you are shopping in - if it is an older neighbourhood, you stand a better chance of getting more vintage items.  If it is in a trendier neighbourhood, you stand a better chance of getting items that are out of/going out of trend, with a few trendy items here and there.  If it is in a family oriented area, you will find more clothing for all members of the family ... etc. 

2. Timing, Timing, Timing.
Just like location, timing is everything.  If you are only browsing, go any time!  But if you are looking for specific items, it is best to go when the store will be fully stocked.  A thrift store will get the most donations at significant times in the year - at the end of each season when items are being purged, at the end of summer and winter when the weather changes significantly, just after long weekends such as Victoria Day, Civic Holiday, Labour Day when people get the chance to clean out their homes, and before, during, and after the holiday season, as people get rid of the old, and make way for the new!

3. Eye on the Prize.
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When shopping at a thrift store, I always go with a plan.  I know exactly what item I'm looking for, and I will make a beeline for that section of the store.  When going through the rack, I will pull items that I like, and place them in my cart.  Once I have pulled enough options from my cart, I will go to the dressing room, and sort through my pile.  This way, I avoid picking up items that I really do not need.  

4. Ask The Right Questions.
While going through your pile, ask yourself questions to determine what you should keep and try on, and what you should put back.  I use the following questions to help me decide what I will try on:
  • Do I have anything similar at home?
  • Does this item have any rips, tears, stains, or any other damage that I cannot fix?
  • Will I have to purchase additional items to make an outfit with this item?
If I answer YES to any of those questions, I will put the item back.  Additionally, I also ask myself the following:

  • Do I need this item?
  • Do I absolutely love this item?
  • Does this item go with my own personal sense of style?
If I answer NO to any of those questions, I will put the item back.

5. Try It On.
When shopping at a thrift store, there is no better way to make sure each item works, than to try each item on.  Different brands have different fits, and it's always better to try things on than to guess and bring something home that potentially will not work for you.  Trying things on will help you to weed out the items that are not absolute loves, so you know that the item you bring home will be a positive addition to your wardrobe.

6. Make Sure It Works!
When you go home, and before you take the tags off and wash your clothing item, look through your closet and make sure that it truly will be a positive addition to your wardrobe.  I try to make a few outfits with that item, to make sure I really will get good use out of it.

If you've made it this far with an item, then it's a keeper.  Congratulations - you've shopped wisely!

Cheers to shopping smart!

xoxo, Jayy

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