Posted by Wenday Vandermeer at

Ah, the gentle art of thrift shopping. It's definitely something that I think of as a skill, but good thing skills can be learned!

I used to get made fun of pretty bad in high school because I shopped at the local Goodwill. Which, at that time, was the only large thrift store in the city, seeing as it was a very small town. But c'mon, where do you think I found that wicked Bucky O'Hare shirt? Or the mint condition low-rise Wrangler flares from the late 70's? I also found my Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey tank top at that Goodwill, a tank that is still a staple in my wardrobe, over 15 years later.

Since I've basically built a business off of thrifting, I figured that I could offer up some tips on how to score big at your local thrift store. So here's my DO's and DON'T's of secondhand shopping!


DO Set a budget

The last thing you want to do is go severely over budget. I tend to go into the store with a non-negotiable amount of which I'm not willing to spend over. Then I fill up my entire cart, go to the fitting room, and sort through it. I usually only end up with roughly one quarter of what I initially put in the cart. If you still feel you are over budget, weigh out the pros and cons to each item, actual wearability factor and if you have anything similar already, to help you discard enough items to get down to your budgeted amount.


DON'T have a time limit

You definitely cannot go to a thrift store and expect to walk out of there with some good scores if you're only giving yourself a short time limit like 30 minutes. You have to be prepared to dig, and digging takes time. That's the only way you're going to find the gems.


DO wear clothes you can easily change out of

I've learned the hard way too many times in regards to this; when it comes to pants, shorts, skirts or anything that requires a snug fit, always try them on. This means wearing clothes that are easy to change out of, in order to avoid the sweats or spending over an hour in the fitting room. Wearing nylons is definitely a no-go.


DON'T have anything specific in mind

Going to a thrift store is not like going to the mall where you can say to yourself, "I need a black tank top and a nude strapless bra." It is highly unlikely (at least in my own experience) that you will find the exact items on your list. If you do need to get certain things, keep it vague, like a shirt to wear with the pants you already own, or a kettle to replace the one you just broke. It's best to keep colours and specific details off the list.


DO bring cloth grocery bags with you or a backpack

Clothes are heavy, and let's be honest, those cashiers don't fold anything or pack efficiently. Bring some recycle bags with you, or a backpack, especially if you are using public transit. I never leave my house without an extra shoulder bag in my bag.


DON'T be in a frustrated mood.

Having patience, an open mind, and being in a calm mood are qualities you need to exhibit when you walk into the store. If you're frustrated or off-tempered, nothing is going to fit right, your mind is going to be closed and not open to creativity, and you're going to feel even worse when you leave the store with no real finds.


DO inspect every article thoroughly

I have this mistake so many times; failing to inspect items because I just love them so much. Then I get home and notice that there are moth holes down the entire back of the shirt, or theres sever armpit stains that I didn't notice in the store's fluorescent lighting. D'oh!


DON'T go with a friend who is impatient or doesn't like thrift shopping

One of the worst things you can do for yourself is to bring a friend who doesn't really enjoy thrift shopping and usually shops at brand name stores. Odds are, they are just going to chat your ear off while pretending to look through the racks and not end up purchasing anything, thus demanding more attention from you which means less attention is spent on digging for gold.


DO go on sale day OR a non-busy day

There's really only two reasons that I'll go to the thrift store. Firstly, I am in need of some fabric for an order, therefore I'll go on day I know won't be crazy busy, like a Wednesday morning. Or, since I'm signed up for the newsletters for all the thrift stores in my area, I will plan to go when the store us having their 50% off sale, which usually happens every month or so. I know that the prices are already affordable, but i still think $4-$6 for a used t-shirt is outrageous, seeing as I could buy brand new ones in a 2-pack for $10.


Don't bring a crowd

Unless each and every one of you are gung-ho about thrifting, then I wouldn't bring more than one or two people with you. Usually people get bored quickly after lightly skimming through the aisles and not even trying anything on. I find it just makes me rush and when I feel rushed I start to lose my concentration. Thrifting takes focus people!


Well I think that about sums it up, I hope you enjoyed my tips! I'm rooting for ya, and I hope your next trip to the thrift store is your most successful one yet!


Wenday xo

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