Your Thrifting Checklist

Thinking of thrifting up a storm this month? Here are some tips to ponder before you hit the shops:

  • Check organization websites for coupons or deal days (50% off purple tags on Thursday, and the like).
  • If you’re shopping at a place that takes donations from the public, bring YOUR giveaway pile. Often, you’ll get a coupon to shop just for donating.
  • Either wear something that’s easy to tear off (a dress and slip-on shoes) or underlayers that will serve as a bodysuit (leggings and a tank) in case you end up somewhere sans dressing rooms.
  • Keep an open mind. You just never know what kind of bizarre and amazing items the Thrift Gods may bestow upon you!
  • If you’re bringing a list, make sure it’s pretty general. You’re more likely to score looking for “floral dresses” than “large-print floral dresses in cotton voile.”
  • If you’re not bringing a list, tackle the store department by department. Otherwise, you’ll get overwhelmed and give yourself a migraine. Start with pants, then move on to sweaters, then dresses, then outerwear … and if you just can’t do it all, that’s OK. Come back next week.
  • Speaking of which, come back next week regardless! Thrift store merch turns over frequently, so what’s on the racks today will be replaced with brand new-to-you items in seven days or less. (Ask employees when new items are brought out if you want first pick.)
  • Don’t forget to check accessories. 90% of my scarves and belts hail from thrift stores, and most were $2 or less.
  • Durable goods like blazers, outerwear, leather handbags, and jeans usually hold up to wear better than tees, dresses, and blouses. If you’re concerned about thrifted clothes falling apart, stick to the sure things.
  • Always check every inch of a potential purchase for flaws. A $3 sweater fails to be a bargain if it has a giant ink stain on the cuff that you don’t notice until you got home.
  • If an item is at ALL damaged, haggle. Prices are seldom firm.

Wondering where in your town you can hone your thrifting skills? Check out!

Image courtesy Fuschia Foot.

Originally posted 2011-03-04 06:01:33.

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27 Responses to “Your Thrifting Checklist”

  1. Strawberries and Champagne

    This is a great check-list. I’m trying to get more into thrifting after reading about all the amazing finds fellow bloggers dig up. I still find it all overwhelming. It’s knowing where to start!

  2. Sandra, aka madam0wl

    What a cute picture!

    Good tips! I agree about going once a week. I’ve been hitting up my thrifts weekly this year and finding good stuff. Or things that I’ll see once or twice before but have been hesitant about will still be there this time they’ll be a sale item. However if you happen to see the perfect pair of red cowboy boots that fit but you are low on cash and decide to get something else and wait to get them the next time, you can bet they WON’T be there. Same thing happened with a zebra print cropped wrap sweater that wasn’t there when I went back. *cries* So along with that tip of having an open mind, also have an open wallet, or rather, set a limit you are going to spend but allow for a small buffer for instant love items.

    Also thanks for reminding me about – I just went and reviewed the two stores I frequent regularly.

    PS – Does haggling at thrifts really work? Most of the places I go have signs saying the tagged price is the lowest they’ll go. I’ve passed up several awesome $6 vintage dresses that were stained but I might have taken home anyway if they were half price.

    • Sal

      I am a haggling COWARD, but I always haggle over damaged thrift. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always worth a try. 😉

  3. Eliza

    Check under/behind clothing for fallen or hidden items. My favorite thrift store stores larger pieces, like big mirrors and bins of fabric, underneath the clothing racks. Some of my best buys were found in the oddest places! I check these places every other visit or so.

  4. molly

    Crucial step in flaw-checking: Always look for pit stains.

  5. Syed

    I so wish we had good thrift stores in the UK. All I seem to come across is priced up ‘vintage’ stores.

  6. Chrou

    I read this just as I was heading out the door to go thrifting and it reminded me to take my Value Village coupons along. Thanks!

  7. yancey

    Just what I needed, Friday is always thrifting day for me and I’ll be taking your list with me.
    Why would anyone ever pay retail for a scarf?
    Have a beautiful day!

    • Heather

      I got a brand new scarf with price tag and hang tab still attached. Retail said 34.95 It was fun fur. I asked their price and it was $1. SCORE Scarves are cheap at thrift stores!

  8. patni

    I have a tip about jeans… I spent nearly 10 years working for a large vintage store, and many of those years were spent 8 hours a day trawling through giant piles of donations finding items to sell, then checking them for damage.
    Biggest reason for rejection of jeans: crotch stains. Totally disgusting, and very common.
    So my tip… for pants.. ALWAYS CHECK THE CROTCH.
    I hope this isnt too nasty for your page. But it is a sad truth. Also, please wash your pants before you donate!

    • Sal

      Hahaha. Good point, Patni! Gross or not, it should be said. I thrift shirts more often, so I’m more vigilant about pit stains, but crotch stains … even worse. Dealbreakers, those.

  9. Laura

    I’ve never had luck with negotiating prices at a thrift store; the checkout ladies usually say they have no ability to change the prices, and I believe them. But I’m sure different places have different policies.

    A couple other things I think are good to keep in mind:
    – if you hate to browse/shop, don’t try to become a thrifter; you’ll just get impatient and po’ed.
    – don’t be in a hurry or urgently seeking one particular item. You might get lucky but more than likely you’ll just get frustrated.
    – take a measuring tape with you. Maybe because I sew I’m good at eyeballing things and seeing if they’ll fit me and being spot on, but if you’re not that fast take a small measuring tape and know your basic measurements. Sizing varies widely across brands and across time, assuming the tags are even still in the garment.
    – learn how to do some basic sewing – replacing buttons, fixing a small part of a seam that’s come undone, re-hemming at a different length
    – learn about fibers and weaves, and how they behave and can be cleaned. For example: cotton knits fade faster than anything else, polyester is indestructible but often doesn’t breathe (blends are great), rayon has a great hand but can shrink a lot if it hasn’t been washed before, and wool can be all over the place depending on its quality and how it’s been taken care of.
    – also, I think it’s helpful to know the kind of brands that tend to fit you and those that don’t – there are some brands and cuts of pants that I don’t even bother trying on because I know that they won’t fit me. If all else fails, try on or see the measurement tip.

  10. Trystan (the CorpGoth)

    Another tip, check near the front door or register for any store policies that may affect your purchases. My fave. thrift has a strict policy about no tags / no sale. If you find something you love, but the tag has fallen off (or been ripped off), you’re out of luck. The item goes in back & gets re-tagged & put out the next day. That one has burned me!

  11. The Waves

    What a good check list! I would add one thing: take the time to try things on. I have dragged home a pile of clothes I didn’t try on way too often, only to take them back the next week as donations…

  12. AJM

    At most Goodwill Stores, when they bring out new clothes, they first put them on a rolling rack marked “New Arrivals.” That’s where you can find stuff no one else has looked through yet!

    Also, the dressing rooms at my local Goodwill are really busy, especially on special sale days. So I watch carefully and dash into one as soon as I have a few items to try on and a dressing room opens up, even if I know I’m not done shopping.

  13. Megan

    I always wonder how much thrifting you have to do before you’re actually good at it. I usually have horrible luck. I can’t find anything I like, and in the event that I do, it’s the wrong size.

    I’ve only ever found one store that was good, several hours away from where I live (but ten minutes down the road from my summer job). I hit the mother lode in skirts there. Someone in that little town had amazing taste in skirts, and was just my size.

    Around me, though, there seems to be nothing but home made Sunday school dresses, velour, and jogging suits. I’m looking forward to going back to thrift Mecca this summer… mama needs to expand her professional wardrobe.

  14. ~Michelle

    I just got a huge score at the thrift store and I had to put some stuff back! One of the few places I am “lucky” to be plus size, bc the thrift store I loooooove only has 2 racks for plus size items. So it cuts down on the shopping time. They also don’t have try-on rooms. So my friends and I hide in the back of the women’s section far from the men, near a mirror. We wear a tank under our sweaters. Then we go to the Big Ugly Skirt section, get the Biggest and Ugliest we can find, put it on over our pants, take off the pants, and pull on the bottoms we want to buy under it to make sure they fit ok and check them in the mirror. This week the skirts were not Big enough (but sure Ugly enough) so I used a stretchy dress instead.

    The best thing I found was not clothes — a PERFECT designer bag to use as a work tote. The brand is Kathy van Zeeland. I love it so much and it came with 5 matching accessories, all new. Was not until I got it home I realized it was a diaper bag! Oh well, I don’t care, it was $7 and I looooove it. I also got a purse from KVZ small enough to fit inside. A pair of stretchy jeans. Yoga pants. 2 pairs capris. A JJill sweater. A blue dressy jacket. A couple of great tops I can wear to work. And a pair of Sketchers, a shoe brand I love. I love the thrift store, especially this one.

  15. Sue

    One more rule I follow: you may love the item, but if it looks faded or worn, better leave it. Buying thrift does not mean compromising too much on the garment’s condition. Also be open minded, I’ve been trying to find nice skirts at my local shop to no avail. However, I always check the other racks as well, recently I found a lovely red suede blazer and a Calvin Klein wool blend sweater dress that had barely been worn! Could not believe my luck! Had both items cleaned and they look good as new.

  16. Diaper Cakes

    Everyone loves it when individuals get together and share views.
    Great website, stick with it!