Tips for Shopping at Thrift Stores

I have to admit that what I have missed the most during the pandemic is visiting my favorite thrift stores.  There are several that I like to visit weekly.  They are run by small charities as a fund raiser for local causes such as hospice.  Thrift stores were closed for quite a while before they re-opened. A few of them disappeared.  It’s hard for a small charity to keep paying rent without selling anything.  I know you can buy online on Ebay, Facebook, or Craigslist, but I enjoy being in the store with unknown treasures.

For many of us, these second-hand stores are the best place to find fantastic items to add a little personality to our homes. Of course, the biggest draw to a thrift store is its affordability. I believe that for me the draw is the hunt.   Finding a treasure among the “trash” is so satisfying.  Whether it’s vintage china,  clothes, or a piece of furniture, you’ll be sure to find something while you’re searching. 



woman in red dress sitting on black metal bench



It’s great that thrifting is becoming a new popular pass time for people who love a bargain, love to shop, and love to be creative. According to an article by the United States census, research has shown that 18% of Americans enjoy thrift shopping, and unsurprisingly that resale marketplaces like Goodwill and ThredUp make over a billion dollars in retail sales. So it’s safe to say that thrifting is becoming a staple in American culture. However, it doesn’t just stop there. In the United Kingdom, thrift shopping continues to grow in popularity, with the Retail Times stating that during 2020, there was a significant rise in the second-hand market. Online retail outlets like eBay reported that second-hand items were sold every three seconds between January and July 2020. There was also an increase in the use of thrifting shopping apps such as Depop and Vinted. 


Whether you’re shopping for bargain outfits, searching for an item for your home, or just browsing the aisles, there are a few things you need to do to ensure that your thrift shopping experience is an enriched one. Here are seven:  


Shop Often


Thrift store inventory can almost change daily. Ask if there are certain days that tend to be the best for donations and re-stocking of the shelves.  I personally have found that Saturday was not the best day as that is when the store is busiest. Go often and go when the store opens.  Many thrift stores may have a special sale on certain days. Monday is the day for the local Salvation Army store if you are a senior. The place is packed with seniors wanting the 40% off.



Check racks next to dressing room


If you’re interested in clothing, check out rack next to the dressing room.  Those items were already chosen as worthwhile but didn’t fit.



Do read tags



When buying clothing, reading tags can give you a little insight into the size, brand, type of material, and care needed. In some cases, if you’re looking through their rack, you might find a designer item. Imagine looking through the clothing racks and stumbling onto a pair of Prada shoes or Kate Spade purses. Tags also usually have essential information on them, whether it’s how to care for a cashmere sweater or how to maintain a leather sofa. 



Dress appropriately


If you’re looking at buying clothing items from a thrift store, you need to try it on before buying. Some stores don’t have a dressing room.  If you are wearing tight fitting clothes on, you can pop a sweater, jacket, sweatshirt, etc. over your top to check out the size. Wear easy to remove layers.



Do pay attention to defects



Whether you are looking at a blouse, linen, or even furniture, inspect the item carefully for stains, tears, missing buttons or other problems.  If you have trouble seeing the whole item, ask for permission to  open the item fully.  My store has always let me untape tablecloths or other taped items to inspect the item for stains and tears. If you’re looking at furniture, keep an eye out for any unrepairable damage or bugs.  If you’re someone who can repair the item you have your eye on, show it to a staff member. There is a chance that you can haggle the price down and get a discount on the item.



Shop seasonally


Retail stores including thrift stores sell everything for less at the end of the season.  Whether you are looking for Christmas items at the end of December or buying summer items in the fall, look for discounts.




clothes hanged on clothes rack




Take cash


Many thrift stores do not take debit or credit cards.  Have cash for your purchases.




Find what’s best for you


The most important thing to remember is that thrift shopping is meant to be a fun experience for you to find affordable items for your home, yourself and your family. Each second-hand store is different from another. Get to know the volunteers at the store and have fun.










This is a collaborative post, but all opinions are my own.



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I was raised in Tennessee but have lived in Florida for many years. Love my small home in the Tampa Bay area and its developing garden. My decorating style is eclectic - some vintage, some cottage, all with a modern flair. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Spent many years in social services but am happily retired.

10 thoughts to “Tips for Shopping at Thrift Stores”

  1. Great tips, I love hitting the thrift stores! Many of ours closed down for good during the pandemic, such a shame.

  2. We call them charity shops here in the UK. Some you can still get bargains in, but others seem to be upping their prices making it much harder to find a bargain.

    A couple of Christmases ago I found a great Christmas jumper which looked to be brand new. It was only £4, so I snapped it up and have had lovely comments when I’ve worn it (and I’d never worn a Christmas jumper before!).

    You never know what you might find!

    1. Jumpers are sweaters, right? I’ve also found brand new clothes before – it’s like a winning score at a ball game. I’d know what a charity shop is from the name but some thrift stores in the US are NOT run by charities and are for profit. I prefer and seek out the charity shops.

  3. I used to buy a lot of my daughter’s clothes at thrift stores when she was younger but my real bargains have always been books , I’ve picked up several out of print books that can’t be bought any more :o)


  4. Great tips, all. I do love a good thrifting binge, though I haven’t been one on a long time. I should be selling stuff, not buying it!

  5. I love these kinds of stores. You always find some real bargains. I like to get stuff like furniture and then do it up or change the colour. Great tips. x

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