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Thrift Store Shopping Tips

Many shoppers find exceptional bargains at their local thrift stores. This is a guide about thrift store shopping tips.

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April 12, 2016 Flag
4 found this helpful

Thrift shopping is one of my favorite ways to save money. Like it or not, we live in a materialistic culture that can be reflected in the stock of any given thrift shop. Every day clothing, furniture, and housewares are donated by those who buy too much for those who can't buy much of anything. As the old saying goes, one person's trash is another person's treasure. The following are some tips to not only make thrift shopping easier and more pleasant, but also help get the most for the least amount of money.


  1. Location, location, location: A good rule of thumb is that the thrift shop will reflect the neighborhood that they are near. By knowing the area, you don't have to waste precious time and money during your thrift shopping trip. Generally, thrift shops located near a more affluent neighborhood carry a higher end stock than, say, a shop located in a middle class neighborhood. I would recommend shopping near more affluent neighborhoods. You will spend a little more, but you can still get amazing deals on quality, minimally used goods. The shop I frequent most is located less than a half-mile from a university campus. They usually have a decent selection of books, handbags and clothing. Also keep in mind your transportation needs. You don't want to be stuck walking a mile.

  2. Don't be afraid: The very idea of thrift shopping might make one a little nervous. After all these are things others have owned and used before. Don't worry. Clothing can be washed and objects can be cleaned up nicely. It is important to note that there may be a stigma attached to buying second-hand. If you buy wisely, nobody would ever be the wiser. I've gotten more compliments on my second-hand clothing than on the clothing I buy new. The children will also be none the wiser, especially if you don't tell them.

  3. Keep an eye out for sales: Yes, thrift shops do have sales. One of my favorite shops features a week long color-code sale every week. For example, one week's sale may be on blue. If you buy something with a blue sticker or hang tag, it's 50% off. The best thing about this sale is that on Saturdays, the items marked with the featured color is 75% off. There are many different sales as there are shops so don't be hesitant to ask a friendly employee about them.

  4. Know about how big or small your body actually is: Never rely on the size tag inside a garment. Most shops size with generic small, medium, large, etc. In a lot of cases, clothing has shrunken in the wash, or has been stretched out due to improper handling or wearing in it's former life. The best way to judge size is just to eyeball it. Take your measurements if you need to or take a good objective look at yourself in a full-length mirror. This way you will not only find a really good fit for your body, but you also won't feel like pouting if those great jeans you found that fit like a dream happen to be a size or two larger than you would ordinarily take.

  5. Keep an eye out for potential: Many thrift shops have a bewildering array of unusual items. The really pretty dress with the broken zipper may be perfect for an upcoming occasion. If you're handy with a sewing machine, it wouldn't be anything to rip out the broken one and replace the broken one or replace it with another kind of closure to create a one-of-a-kind dress. An old and sturdy dresser that doesn't look the best can be repainted and repurposed to fit your needs. There's inspiration at every turn.

  6. Wear the right clothes when you shop: This is the most applicable if you must try on clothes in the store. Might I suggest wearing leggings and a close fitting top? You just never know if the person who donated the garment washed everything before donating.

  7. Take a buddy: Thrift shopping is fun when you go alone, but bringing a friend and add a lunch out can make for an amazing outing. I have a friend who works magic in a thrift shop. She managed to only pay about half of what she expected to pay, and I've learned also how to become a better thrift shopper because of what I've learned from shopping with her.
Thrift shopping is one of the more fun ways to save your hard-earned dollars. With the amazing deals you can find and your amazing good taste, you'll end up on top every time.

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    February 7, 2008 Flag
    9 found this helpful

    I was just reading the comments on the "Saving Money On Jeans" post, and I agree with the poster who said that Goodwill is getting "expensive"! There was a bigger, nicer Goodwill building built here in my city a few years ago, but on recent trips there, I've noticed that the prices are rather high (at least for a thrift store, in my opinion). My best friend used to work for them, and said that they often get brand new merchandise donated to them from Target and other stores. However, there are at least two other different thrift stores here in my city, and I know that at least one of them also gets donations from Target, and they have much lower prices.

    Once I bought a Target item from Goodwill, only to find it about $1.25 cheaper at Salvation Army! So my tip is to check out all the thrift stores in your area and compare prices. You might find some of the same items there, and get them cheaper than you would at Goodwill. I do still shop at Goodwill, but after I've looked at the other thrift stores first!

    By Lisa from Kenosha, WI

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    January 8, 2015 Flag
    26 found this helpful

    Why the coat? I recently purchased this coat for 69 cents at a thrift shop. No, I'm not kidding you! For years now, I have ALWAYS looked in the local thrift shops BEFORE simply paying retail at a chain store.

    Thrift Shops Before Retail

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    December 2, 2015 Flag

    Whenever I shop, be it retail or thrift, I always have my eyes open for a great deal on formal wear. If you wait until you get an invitation, you have limited time to shop and will likely spend top-dollar.

    This past summer the local church thrift shop had a half-price sale. Dresses are usually $5, so the lovely brown dress I bought was only $2.50. It even had the dry-cleaner's bag on it. I had no place to wear it, but it fit so well and the price was so low that I bought it anyway. I already had a gold bag purchased for next to nothing, but needed gold shoes. A few weeks later, a thrift store chain opened up a branch near me. If you downloaded their app, you got a $10 credit. I went on a half-price day, and found a brand new pair of gold shoes for $19.99. Since it was half-price day, they were marked down to $10, and I used my credit.

    My husband's company merged with a new firm. For the first time since he has ever worked, there is going to be a fancy Christmas party at an exclusive country club. I will happily wear my $2.50 outfit, and no one will be the wiser!

      Look Like a Million for $2.50Look Like a Million for $2.50
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      March 26, 2010 Flag
      20 found this helpful

      Look For the "Silver" Lining at Thrift StoresLook for the "silver" lining in that dark cloud. As a thrift store junkie, I don't know which I like more, searching out treasures or finding them at a rock bottom price.

      Here is a photo of my latest surprise find. I purchased these four chalices at a Salvation Army Thrift Store last week. They were grimy with grease and dust, not to mention tarnish. They were so black that I could not tell whether they were brass or silver. But each one was very heavy! Marked at 50 cents each, I took the plunge and bought them.

      I could hardly wait to get home and begin working on them. Much to my surprise and utter delight, I found silver underneath all the grime and tarnish. I took the photo of the first chalice that I polished to show what was found in comparison to what I had purchased.

      I absolutely love silver and using it when I entertain. When you go to a thrift store, look for that "silver" lining in that dark cloud like I did. Believe me, it took an abundance of elbow grease to polish these, but the end result is well worth it!

      Source: Me - looking for that diamond in the rough!

      By Southeastgeorgiapeach from Jesup, GA

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      October 27, 2011 Flag
      12 found this helpful

      I learned that the Goodwill is changing their marketing strategies due to the availability of new goods coming off shelves of failing/going out-of-business/bankrupt stores. I have found a plethora of NEW in-the-box with-the-manual items at tremendously low prices.

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      March 18, 2010 Flag
      15 found this helpful

      I desperately needed some new sweat pants but can't afford them new so I stopped at my local Goodwill Store after a doctor's appointment this morning and scoped out the racks. I ended up finding three really, really nice 'almost new' pairs in the colors I was hoping for and all three only came to $8.99 total!

      I was so happy and even happier when the woman at the counter asked about my age and guess what? Because I am 56 I received a senior citizen discount of 20% which reduced the price to $7.19 total. That's only about $2.40 per pair.

      Lucky me to have stopped there on a Monday because that happens to be my local Goodwill Store Senior Discount Day. So, if you're a senior citizen and don't mind shopping Goodwill, it's well worth calling your local Goodwill to see if they have Senior Discount Day(s). :-)

      By Deeli from Richland, WA

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      November 1, 2011 Flag
      15 found this helpful

      I have found treasures behind or under the glass at our local thrift stores. That is where they keep the items like bags, jeans, leather jackets, etc. Usually these items are priced way too high in my opinion because of the name, not the condition they are in.

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      January 15, 2010 Flag
      1 found this helpful

      I shop at Goodwill regularly. I have problems removing the price off of non-clothing items like dishes, etc. The price is written in black directly on the item. I have tried soap, bleach, etc. and nothing works. Does anyone have any ideas? Thanks.

      By Vera from Little River, SC

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      February 28, 20130 found this helpful

      Try heading out to 99Cent Store and buy their degreasing cleaning fluid in the bright orange bottle and be sure to use microfiber cleaning cloths. If you try these, I'm sure your marks will be gone

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      December 5, 2007 Flag
      Debra Frick1 found this helpful

      In these hard times, shopping at the thrift stores may be that the only way some of us will be able to afford a Christmas for our families. So here are some ideas of what can be done with thrift store bargains to turn them from "Trash" to "Treasure".

      A Thrift Store Christmas

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      September 9, 2009 Flag
      6 found this helpful

      If anyone needs a reminder, though, please remember some thrift stores are done really well: having nice clothing and blankets, as well as

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      October 25, 2011 Flag
      6 found this helpful

      We all know shopping at thrift stores is a great way to save money on things, but I have found that I save even more if I go in late in a season to look for clothes for the next season.

      Flanel pajamas, rain coat, two pairs pants with matching shirts, another shirt, and a pair of shoes in toddler sizes as well as a pair of adult sneakers and a butterfly decoration.

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      July 9, 2010 Flag
      13 found this helpful

      Get to know brands for the best thrift shop bargains! A $7 purse is nice, but a $7 Anne Klein purse is an even better value. The brands will probably be better made, so that the item will wear better too.

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      August 12, 2010 Flag
      6 found this helpful

      Every year Goodwill has a membership drive -I think it's in April. They sell memberships for $5. You will get 1/2 off anything you buy that day ,and they mail you 12 coupons good for each month of the year for $5 off any $10 or more purchase.

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      August 16, 2005 Flag
      0 found this helpful

      Tips for getting the most out of thrift store shopping. Post your ideas.

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      February 28, 20090 found this helpful

      Shop in rich neighborhoods, where stylish people donate clothes. At one Goodwill I went to, almost everything was brand name. You could get an Ann Taylor suit for just 30 dollars.

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      August 10, 2010 Flag

      Think you can only get clothes and household items at thrift shops? There is often a lot of electronic and computer gear there, too. When our computer keyboard fritzed out last week, my hubby went out to the thrift shop and bought a new keyboard for about $5.00!

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      February 8, 2013 Flag
      2 found this helpful

      I frequently shop at Goodwill for clothing, household items, etc. I found that for only $5 I can get a mailing of monthly coupons for $5 off if you spend $10.

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      November 25, 2008 Flag
      0 found this helpful

      With a lot of people using thrift stores, how "safe" are the donations? Can you "catch" anything from what you buy?

      Kathy from Coatesville, PA

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      August 6, 20091 found this helpful

      I have shopped thrift store for years. You can get some really good deals on gently used clothing. I wash everything new or used that I buy. The clothing comes from so many places around the world anymore that you never know where the product has been before it got to you. We never try on hats anymore because my daughter got lice years ago from trying on a hat at a thrift store. Luckily we caught it very quickly and it didn't spread. Household dishes and stuff we put things in the dishwasher as hot as possible with "heat dry" to sanitize before we use it. Do not try to save money by letting the item air dry in the dishwasher. It's the drying with high heat that sanitizes things. Wash it, sanitize it, dry clean it. Whatever you need to do before you use it. We do that with every store we buy something from, not just thrift stores, because, remember - things are from all over the world and you never know the germs they are fighting there that hitched a ride on the item you are buying!

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      May 3, 2006 Flag
      1 found this helpful

      I grew up in a family of 4 children, a stay-at-home mom, and a father who didn't make a lot of money. We had everything we needed but I did wear a lot of boys PJs inherited from my older brother and cousins.

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      July 20, 2011 Flag
      10 found this helpful

      Save on craft supplies by shopping at thrift stores. If you like to craft or have just a single project to make, you can't go wrong by checking out some thrift stores before purchasing new supplies.

      Angel made from thrift store purchases

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