Thrifting: Tricks to Getting the Most for Your Money

Thrifting has made a huge comeback within the past few years! With eco-friendliness on everyone’s minds, it only makes sense; building our wardrobes and decorating our homes with gently-used items helps to minimize our carbon footprints. Shopping secondhand also allows for smaller budgets without sacrificing the thrill of a large haul (I see you, shopping-lovers!)

I have a very tight budget, and not much money to spend on clothes. Thrifting has helped me to find great pieces that I feel confident wearing, without breaking the bank. I’ve found great-quality staples–in my town’s Goodwill, I can always count on finding structured blouses for work–as well as unique pieces you won’t see in the mall. They also have really unique homewares! I’ve found so many handmade mugs (possibly work from ceramics class students) that most of my cupboard is made up of them.

Poppy Mug
A cute find from my local thrift shop! Looks great on my desk in my home office.

Though thrifting is friendly on your wallet, there is somewhat of a cost: time. You need to go into the shop knowing that you’ll be spending at least an hour sifting through racks and scanning shelves. But never fear: I’ll get you started with some helpful tips on spending your time smartly and finding the best-quality items possible.

Make a plan

Know the layout of your store. No need to draw up a map, but when you go into a thrift shop, you want to find the best pieces before anyone else. It shouldn’t be an all-out brawl, but remember: it is very rare that you will find the same piece twice! Create a mental priority list and spend time in those departments where you’ll think your desired items will be.

Create a shopping list. Write down descriptions of what you’re hunting for. There isn’t anything wrong with popping into the shop without a concrete list, but knowing what to keep my eye out for helps me to focus on what departments I should scan first.


Have multiple haunts

Know your store’s stock trends. Some thrift shops tend to be better for, say, finding brand-name jeans. Another store in your area may always have mint-condition shoes. In my experience, learning what the shop’s typical stock looks like really helps to save time. It takes a bit of time to get to know the store, but when you thrift as much as I do, it isn’t difficult to see the patterns after a while!

Know the demographic. What style of clothing or home decor are you looking for? If you’re in a business-centered area, your store will most likely have lots of brand-name clothes appropriate for work. If shopping by the shore, you’ll probably find unique dresses and more high-end home goods. I’ve gone on statewide trips to thrift shops in areas where budgets tend to be more… well, flexible. You’d be surprised the things that people just throw away! Take advantage of their wastefulness and turn it into your 90%-off-rack-pricing finds.

Keep your budget in mind

Question every item. Though thrifting really does help save money, it can be very easy to pile your cart with amazing finds. I’ll admit, I’ve gone on sprees where I have spent over $60 and got home, looked at it all, and said, “What did I do?!” Concentrate on your list, and be a critical shopper. Do you really need that ceramic dog statue? No? Didn’t think so.

Also, be sure to examine each piece of clothing very carefully. Note any stains/pulls in the fabric, and if there are rips, determine whether or not you can (or if you will) fix them.

Watch the tags. Most thrift shops will have “boutique” items that are priced individually. These include brand-name clothes and, sometimes, home goods that are trending. Though the prices are always at least half of what they’d cost brand new, the money adds up quickly.

Photo by Julien-Pier Belanger on Unsplash

Be Adventurous

Explore the store. If you have the time, definitely make your way through each department–even ones you wouldn’t normally peruse. Ladies: search the men’s section for oversized “grandpa” sweaters. Book nerds: I guarantee you’ll find more than a few books marked down by at least 70%! Don’t forget the jewelry counter–I’ve found some great costume jewelry gems and even some vintage earrings. The possibilities really are endless.

Thrifting is one of my favorite things to do. I’m not a big shopper, but the opportunity to find unique pieces gives a fun challenge! I feel great knowing that I am giving many of these items a second chance, and preventing them from going to a landfill.

What are some of your best thrifting finds? I love hearing about what others have found in their secondhand-hunting adventures!