When I was young, my parents didn’t have a ton of money. I would have categorized our situation as being lower-middle class. Although we had everything that we needed, most of what we had was used, hand-me-down toys, clothes and furniture. I don’t remember being particularly unhappy about it but there is one thing I do remember: thrifting. I hated it.
My mom would take my two brothers and me to the thrift store, what seemed like, once a week. We didn’t go to the nicest thrift store, so the stuff seemed pretty used. I got most of my clothes and shoes there. I felt embarrassed going to school, especially as I got older and became more aware of how others viewed me (i.e. middle school and high school). Once my mom began working again and we made more money, we could finally afford to buy new clothes. I swore of thrift stores for good.
So, to my surprise, when I became a mother and the cost of caring for a child meant I didn’t have a ton of extra cash to spend on myself, I had to reevaluate how I went shopping. I went back to my roots, I went back to thrifting, but I did it in a much more successful way.
Without further adieu, here are my personal tips and tricks for successful thrifting:
1) Pick a Thrift Store in an Affluent Area
Even if it means you have a drive a ways to get there, pick a thrift store that is located in a nice area. People who have more money buy nice stuff. They also spend money more often, so the stuff they donate is newer, name-brand and is usually in excellent condition. The perfect formula for terrific thrift store shopping.
2) Only Consider Name-Brand Items
Thrift stores can be filled with off-brand clothes, furniture, shoes, etc. But, if you take the time to look, you’re guaranteed to find some name-brand items. When I say name-brand, I mean Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Tahari, Pottery Barn, and the like. These are brands that have pretty classic styles, so you can wear them a while without going out of style. They are alsoand built well, so you shouldn’t wear them out too quickly. Obviously, if you love something and it’s not name-brand, go ahead and buy it! Just don’t expect it to last nearly as long as long as other name brand items.
3) Name-Brand Items Hold Resale Value
I don’t know about you, but I love the idea that the clothes and furniture I buy has great resale value. Meaning, if I need an extra buck, I can resell the stuff I bought at a thrift store, most likely for more than I bought it for! That’s why I always buy name brand items unless it’s something I KNOW I will keep forever. I know there are people who do things like that for a living (buy for cheap and sell at a higher price) and this is always an option but not the sole reason I go thrifting.
4) Frequent Your Thrift Store Often
The more frequently you visit, the more likely you will be able to find that something you want or love. Donations come in every day. I have a friend who goes every week, sometimes multiple times a week and she found Le Creuset Dishware for $30 each piece! These were in like-new condition! Considering they are hundreds of dollars for each piece if you bought it retail, that deal is completely unbelievable. You never know what is hiding in the back and will come out the following day.
5) Make Sure to Shop on Sale Days
Most thrift stores have special sale days, military days (if that applies to you) and other special discounts. Take the time to find out what they are and make sure to get there right when they open to take full advantage of those sales. You can get some great stuff for 50-75% ticket value (which is already less expensive than buying new). Make sure you get there early on sale days, other people know this secret too and you will have some hefty competition.
6) Bring Along Your Smart Phone
I mean, I’m sure you have your smart phone on you anyway. But, if you find something that you think is a good deal, check on your phone and find out for sure. I found a great stroller that retailed for $90, I bought it at a thrift store for $15. It was in like-new condition! These deals are out there, you just have to be willing to look.
7) Shop In December
December is a great time of year to go thrifting. This is the time that people need to drop off their donations for that lovely tax deduction. When you shop in December, you get some really great stuff that people have been meaning to donate all year long. They also clear out their home of the “old” stuff that got replaced on Christmas. You’ll find nice furniture, house ware, coats, boots, clothes and toys.
Remember, thrifting is a process and the more you go, the more likely you will find great things. I can tell you that most of the furniture and clothes I have in my home, I have bought second hand. It is almost all name-brand and much nicer than the stuff I got as a child and it’s because of the tricks spelled out above. So…get to thrifting! There is absolutely no reason to spend more money than necessary!
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