How to Shop Secondhand Like a Frugal Minimalist

There are many fantastic bargains to be found at the thrift stores this time of year. It makes the frugal heart happy. The post-Christmas purge has been done by many households, Marie Kondo has taken over Netflix, and spring cleaning is just around the corner. With the plethora of amazing frugal scores at thrift and secondhand stores, how do you not go overboard? How do you go about secondhand shopping like a frugal minimalist?

Have in mind what you are looking for.

Thrifting and secondhand shopping in general is always an adventure: you never know what you will find. That is what makes shopping this way exciting. The “unknown” part of secondhand thrills is also what throws us frugal minimalists for a loop. That is what makes having a list so important.

In early January I went to our local Goodwill just to see what they had. On my list, which is saved as a Google Doc and called our 72 hours list, I noted that I wanted to purchase Little Guy a coat for next year, a photo album for our professional wedding photos (almost 7 years late, I know), and a cake cover.

That is quite the smattering of items, but if any store will have all of that at a great price it would be a thrift store. Goodwill provided! I purchased a brand-new coat for Little Guy (regular retail $25), a wedding photo album that is just right, and a circular cake cover that is just what I needed. Those needed items plus more clothes for next winter for Little guy cost $20.

I am so glad that I had my 72 hour list on my phone so that if I spotted an item on my list while shopping, I could grab it and not miss out. This list also keeps me in check. If it isn’t on our 72 hour list (or some would call it a “wish list”) then I probably don’t need to buy it. It is similar to our grocery list – if it isn’t on the meal plan, I don’t need to purchase it!

Stay on task.

Staying on task is SO vitally important. If you stay on task while secondhand shopping, you’ll avoid over-buying and over-spending. Win for your budget. Win for your minimalist lifestyle.

With your list or general idea of what you’re looking for, map out the store. Stay only in the baby section if you need children’s or baby clothing. Stay in the men’s section if you need a belt, trousers, or a button front shirt. You get the idea.

Thrift stores can often be a jungle of things piled on top of other things. If you don’t know where to start, always ask for help. A few of our local thrift stores are volunteer run and they are always so happy to help!

Staying on task and only in the sections you need also helps to minimize impulse spending. The less things you see, the less likely you are to overspend and buy things you don’t need.

READ MORE: 18 Things We Won’t Buy in 2019
How We Drastically Reduced Our Expenses to Live on One Income
5 Tips to Save On Your Wardrobe

Look for quality over quantity.

It is incredibly tempting to put ALL the wonderful looking shirts for $2 into your basket, but remember… quality over quantity. Being the frugal minimalist that I am, I would rather have one great quality, secondhand shirt than six lower quality, secondhand shirts. The higher quality shirt will last months or even years. Whereas the lower quality shirts may get worn less often (because I bought six) but they will last probably half as long.

To tell if something is of higher quality you must feel the item, try it on (applicable only to clothing and shoes), and read the label. If the item feels good, fits right, and has higher quality material (organic cotton, cashmere, etc), it is probably of higher quality. You can spend hours in the store looking up different brand names but none of that really matters.

If it feels great, looks great (fit and no stains/holes), it is probably a great purchase!

Is shopping online more your thing? Try ThredUP to find great items at low prices! Each item has been handpicked to be sold online from thousands of consignors nationwide. For $10 off your purchase, use my referral link here.

Is it worth it? Most of the time!

The first time you walk into a thrift store to go secondhand shopping you may not walk out with anything. And that’s okay! You never have to buy anything when you go shopping secondhand or at any other store. It’s another guiding principle of being a frugal minimalist!

Buying quality items that will last for as long as you need them to and only buying them once should always be the goal. When you purchase that item for a wonderful, low price it makes that buy even better. You’re saving money when you shop secondhand. You also help to prevent more waste from entering our landfills.

Some of my favorite items have been purchased secondhand. What’s your favorite score from secondhand shopping?

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  1. I recently picked up an exquisite, perfect condition, white button down shirt by Ann Taylor for Loft…. $3. What’s not to love about that?


  2. I love the idea of the 72 hour list. If I am still thinking of it after 72 hours, then it is something I should be thrifitng and/or looking for great deals on. I really need to remember to try thrift stores before Target to save money. Great post!

    1. Yes, the 72 hour lists has literally saved us thousands!

  3. I love all of your ideas. Last year I set up an entire rental property on second hand items and furniture from thrift stores, consignment shops, flea markets, etc. It still cost money but no where near the amount I would spent at retail stores. The only things I bought new was sheets, pillows cases, blankets and towels. I think these items should be fresh, new and first rate for my guests. Thanks

    1. Wow! That’s really amazing!

  4. My favorite item I’ve purchased second hand was a sage green trench coat. It fit me so well and I wore it for years, I paid $3.00!

    1. That sounds lovely! Since I’ve written this post, I’ve found so many wonderful things. One of my new favorites is a fully leather black handbag. It goes with everything and will last forever. Best part – it was $10!

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