When I was a young bride, the best gift anyone gave me was a crash course in how to shop in a thrift store. The mother of one of my friends took me shopping and gave me a lot of tips on what to look for and watch out for with second hand items.
I have several friends who are struggling with money right now due to job layoffs and the rising prices at the stores. I've been able to share what I've learned with them and I thought I would share these tips with you too.
Tips for shopping in a thrift store:
1. Find out what the store policies are. Generally there is no haggling, no returns, and no warranty. Buyer beware.
2. Find out when the store's discount days occur. In our area, one day a week is always military discount day when you show your military ID. Also, there's usually a senior discount day.
3. As soon as I arrive in a store, I quickly check (or ask) about any specials going on that day. Sometimes they are trying to get rid of a lot of furniture or artwork if they have too much in the store.
4. I always have measurements written down for items I'm searching for. If I need a large mirror or piece of artwork, I write down the largest and smallest measurements that will look good on that wall. (Here's a freebie tip: put painter's tape on the wall in the desired size you would like for your artwork. Then measure it, adding and subtracting a few inches here and there to get your varying sizes.)
(this is a computer cabinet I bought and turned into a pantry for my kitchen)
5. Carry a tape measure in your purse so you can measure items. I keep a rubber band wrapped around mine. My husband even asks to use it sometimes when we're shopping at Lowes or Home Depot.
(skirts I purchased a thrift stores to upcycle into aprons and pillows)
6. With clothing, it pays to know your designers and brands. I know how certain brands fit me and which sizes in those brands fit me the best.
7. Don't buy something just because it's cheap. Every once in a while I'll stumble across something that is really a good buy, but if it's not my size or my color, I have to let it go. It's really hard to do.
8. Don't let a missing button or broken zipper scare you away. It's worth taking it to a tailor to have it repaired if it's a quality designer item. Many people get rid of clothing because it's missing a button or a belt.
9. Know what isn't fixable. Tears, picks, worn areas, fading, and stretching are not things that can be fixed. (I did buy a beautiful European sweater once that was torn. It was $1.00 and had 12 beautiful silver buttons that I cut off and sewed onto a plain sweater I already had, turning it from bland to beautiful.)
10. If you find something in your size at a particular store, do a more thorough search for other items in your size. Most people go through their closets and donate large amounts of clothing at one time. So, if there's one thing in your size from a particular donor, then there's most likely several more things in your size.
11. Be sure to wash items or have them dry cleaned as soon as you get them home.
12. With furniture, know what a quality piece looks like. Does it have dove-tailed drawers? Does it have a wooden backing or particle board? Check all joints to make sure they are tight. Check under, behind, and inside the whole piece of furniture.
(Krups waffle maker I purchased for $7.00. It had never been used)
13. If looking at housewares, check all of the shelves for matching sets of dishes. Like clothing, when people replace their dishes, they usually get rid of the whole set. If you only see a few pieces in one place - keep searching. You just might find the serving pieces or lids in a different place.
14. For lamps, baskets, candle holders, etc. you can always spray paint something in a color that matches your home.
(all of these items were purchased at the thrift store. I spray painted the pedestal and birdhouse white)
Thrift store shopping isn't for everyone. It appeals to me because I get more for my money. I can buy 6-8 used items in place of 1 new item. I would rather put my money towards paying off my mortgage than buy new things. Also, I find much more interesting things in the thrift store than at the mall. I look at trends and styles that are popular and try to put together outfits and colors that look current. When I do buy something new, I try to make it a classic item in a classic color that will not go out of style for a while.
Do you shop in thrift stores or consignment shops? I'm sure I'm not the only one who thrift.