How to Thrift – Secrets to Score the Best Deals

How to Thrift

Happy National Thrift Shop Day! There’s no secret that I love thrifting! But how did I get here? Why do I know so many tips to scoring the best deals at the thrift store? In this post, I’m going to share with you my best secrets and tips on how to thrift so YOU can shop like a pro!

Find thrift stores in different parts of town

Most areas of town will have thrift stores – either consignment shops, Goodwill, or independently run thrift stores. But not all thrift stores are created equal! That’s because they run on donations. The likelihood that I return to a particular thrift store depends on the quality of items inside.

To learn how to thrift well, you may need to venture out into different neighborhoods. Once you’ve visited and seen the quality of items, you can make the decision to return for regular shopping or not.

A great example is the Goodwill by our home vs. the Goodwill by my sister-in-law. The one in our neighborhood is small and has reduced hours. Goodwill by my sister-in-law is huge and has full operating hours. You would think, bigger is better! But that isn’t the case! The suburb that we live in is known for being “fancy” and this Goodwill is one of only a few donation spots in town. The Goodwill by my SIL is just one of many thrift stores in the area.

To find different thrift stores, do a quick Google search of “thrift stores” and it will pull up a map. Make a list in your phone of different thrift stores you’ve been to and your thoughts or what you found.

Make friends with the employees (or at least be nice)

The employees of these stores don’t just work there, they thrift there too! And when you’re starting out learning how to thrift, these employees can hold a wealth of knowledge.

BE NICE! I’ve gotten discounts and items free for being friendly with the employees of my local thrift store. We chit chat about new fundraisers the store has, what’s happening locally, and most importantly I ask these specific questions >>>

  • When were new items put out last?
  • What time will new items be put on the sales floor next?
  • Are there any specials you’re running today?
  • Is there anything here you’re looking to get rid of fast? (that means extra savings if it’s something you need!!!)
  • Has anything interesting/special come in recently that I can take a look at?

Thrift with a list

What happens when you go to the grocery store without a list? You either over-buy or you forget items. It can be the same when you shop at a thrift store without a list.

Creating a list either on your phone or written out of items you’d like to purchase. This is just like a 72 Hour List.

Have a positive mindset

Not every time you set out thrifting will be a success. Sometimes you’ll score big and others you’ll leave empty handed. It’s a good idea to to have a positive mindset – you never know when the best treasures will be in the store!

Shop early in the day

Just like regular retail stores, thrift stores are stocked early in the day or the night before. So shopping early in the day (especially on “deal days”, more on that below) is KEY. When you’re one of the first shoppers in the door you get the first pick out of everything there! When you’re learning how to thrift well, it can be really exciting to see all the wonderful things in the store – not end of the day leftovers.

Find “deal days”

Since today, August 17th, is National Thrift Shop Day, loads of thrift stores will have amazing deals. My local Goodwill has 25% off your entire purchase today.

Here are some regular deals I’ve seen at thrift stores:

  • % off your entire purchase
  • % off a single item
  • % off a certain color tag or category
  • All clothing and shoes half off or more
  • Stuff a bag sales

So check your local stores to find the sale dates. Don’t be afraid to ask for a detailed sales calendar!

Thrift often

The magic that is the thrift store is that there are new things every day. While thrifting everyday probably isn’t a viable option (for your schedule or your wallet!), it is a good practice to thrift often. This is particularly helpful if you’re on the hunt for a very specific item or stocking up on items (like baby clothes).

Again, be nice to employees and get the scoop on when new items are put out!

Price compare

Not all prices at the thrift store are worth it. Let me explain.

Say you found a nice Cole Haan purse at Goodwill priced at $13. Retail price at the department store is around $75. This is a good deal if you need a new purse!

Now let’s look at something that isn’t a good deal. A t-shirt at Goodwill costs anywhere from $2.99-$12.99. Say it’s an Old Navy t-shirt for $4.99. Pretty ordinary shirt, nothing special. Retail at Old Navy that same shirt brand new is $5-$15. Unless there was an extra discount on clothing that day at Goodwill, I personally would purchase that new shirt from Old Navy.

Make sure you’re getting the value out of the price you pay for something secondhand. If you aren’t sure what something costs new, you can do a quick Google search of the brand name and short item description (ex. “Cole Haan black cross body bag”).

Look at everything

Don’t limit yourself to just one category of items inside a thrift store. Look at everything! Sometimes shoppers will put things back on the shelf wherever they feel like, or maybe an employee got lazy and just set an item down wherever.

I often find women’s athletic shirts mixed in with the men’s shirts and women’s tennis shoes with kids shoes. So look across all sections of the store. Leave no shelf or rack unseen! This includes the fitting room go-back rack. Someone already did the hard work of picking out the cute stuff – why not have a look!

Size is just a suggestion

When looking for clothing in particular, you’ll find that sizing varies from brand to brand. I could wear a size 8 at J Crew but a size 14 at Old Navy. So when picking out clothing to try on, take a look at other size sections. You can do a quick “hold up” test against your body to see if the width and length of the item looks right. It doesn’t hurt to try things on!

Look for things out of your comfort zone

Thrifting my clothing has really given me the ability to experiment with my style (which I still haven’t found if you’re wondering). Picking things that are out of my comfort zone, whether it is a cut, color, or pattern is easier at that thrift store than in regular retail.

You’re able to see so many styles of items at once that experimentation can be really easy. One of my favorite thrift store finds is a light weight, brightly colored plaid shirt. Would I have picked that up at TJ Maxx? Nope! But I sure do love it.

Don’t bite off more DIY than you can chew!

I’ve had my fair share of “of sure, this will be an easy DIY!” fails.

Be real with yourself. If something is just a little shabby, it’s pretty easy to clean or slap some paint on. But if it needs repair or serious customization, be honest with yourself. Will you actually get around to finishing that project, or will this be money wasted?

So there you have it – my secrets on how to thrift like a pro! Now go out there and score some amazing deals on items you love for years to come.

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