Ten Thrift Shopping Tips

Earth Day has come and gone, but it’s still Earth Month until next week. For this week’s “eco-friendly Wednesday” post, I thought I’d write about one of my favorite hobbies: thrift shopping.

Shopping at thrift and/or consignment stores is a great way to find unique pieces, save money, and prevent gently used items from ending up in the landfill. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon, but I think it can also be slightly overwhelming. And, more than a few times, I’ve found myself with buyer’s remorse, but unable to return the items for an exchange or refund.

Today I’ve gathered my ten best tips for thrift and consignment shopping. I hope they help take the guesswork out of buying secondhand and make the process fun.

1. If you’re short on time, shop with a plan. Since thrift stores usually only have one of each item, it can take a looong time to get through the store. Some stores will have items grouped by size, color, or style, but others aren’t as organized. I’ve found myself (on more than one occasion) spending an hour or more in a store, looking through each piece of clothing individually. While this is a fun way to spend a leisurely Saturday, now that I have a toddler, I honestly don’t have the time to do that anymore. If you’re short on time, go into the store with a plan, and only browse one or two sections.

2. When looking for a particular item, call the store ahead of time and ask about their daily inventory. Calling ahead is a big time-saver, because thrift store inventory change daily, and store employees are often knowledgeable about what’s in stock. If they aren’t sure, they can usually check for you to give you an idea of what to expect.

3. Follow your favorite store on social media. My favorite local consignment store has a great Instagram page where they frequently post the “hottest” new items that were just added. If you see something you like, you can even comment on the post and they’ll hold it for 24 hours for you. Every store might not have this resource, but many higher-end consignment stores now do.

4. Look the garment over carefully before buying. You’ve been warned! On more than one occasion, I’ve excitedly bought something without looking closely at it, and regretted it later. While I’m sure the store employees try their best to avoid buying items with holes or stains, nobody’s perfect, and defective items can slip through the quality control checks. For this reason, look at every garment carefully before you commit to buying. A real-life story: I once found a great Nike Dry-Fit running tee for about 70% off retail price. I didn’t look very closely at it. When I brought it home, I realized there was some sort of weird stain all over the side. It was really gross, so needless to say, I didn’t end up keeping it.

5. Don’t overpay. Prices are sometimes determined by using a generic calculator that compares the value of items in similar condition. If you suspect something is listed for more than it should be, try to haggle the price down. If the item shows signs of wear, this gives you more evidence for your case. Thrift stores are usually overstocked, so sometimes they are just trying to get rid of things and therefore may consider a reasonable offer.

6. Try it on before you buy. Return policies vary from store to store, but don’t expect the same flexible return policy you’d get in a conventional store. To be sure the clothing fits right, always try it on.

7. Wash clothing before wearing, even if the item looks freshly laundered or is new with tags. Truth is, you don’t know where these clothes have been before, so it’s always a good idea to wash all secondhand items when you get home.

8. Keep your eyes peeled for the deal of the century. While some items can be overpriced (see number five), others can be way underpriced. Always keep your eyes open for these incredible deals, because they happen! A real-life story: I bought a genuine Kate Spade necklace at my local consignment shop for $2. Yes, you read that right! I’m guessing the employee didn’t look at it close enough when it was listed for sale.  I did a quick Google search right there in the store and discovered its retail value was close to $100.

9. Beware of designer knockoffs. It seems like the designer knockoff trend has died out over the past ten years (thankfully), but they’re definitely still out there. Before dropping hundreds on a designer piece, it’s a good idea to check the store’s authenticity policy, or at the very least, read up and be somewhat knowledgeable about how to tell a genuine piece from an imitation.

10. You shouldn’t buy everything secondhand; always remember the “don’t buy” list. Sometimes, it’s just not smart if hygienic to buy secondhand. Everyone’s “don’t buy used” list will be a little different, but mine is something like this: I never buy underwear, swimsuits, most hats, most shoes, car seats, mattresses, or makeup gently used. For more on this, check out Best Life’s guide to 15 Things You Should Never Buy at a Second-Hand Store.

Happy thrifting! If you liked this post, be sure to share, comment, and subscribe to my email list. Check me out on Instagram at @wildgreensunshine


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