Thrift shopping is a great way to find cheap vintage clothing, housewares and other secondhand treasures.
My thrifting romance was nurtured from a very young age. Tagging along to the thrift store with my grandma was better than taking fistfuls of cash into the toy store. I never knew what sort of secondhand treasures I might find on any given day. My thrift shopping adventures have given me a keen eye for adorable vintage apparel and home goods on the cheap. I have also always felt like I was doing something humanitarian and eco-friendly by supporting thrift stores. I would say a good 75% of my wardrobe is of the secondhand nature, but you’d never guess. The best part is—I get to enjoy things that no one else has!
In this thrift shopping series, I will share my best tips for shopping secondhand on a budget:
1. Shop alone. Unless you can find someone who is just as content as you are with spending several hours rifling, examining, digging and scouring in a secondhand store, I suggest going it alone. I would also recommend leaving the kids at home unless they love it too. Forcing them is not good for anyone involved. However, in the unlikely event that you bring a toddler (because they’re screaming, holding your ankles, insisting on coming along), make the experience a fun, interactive (and short!) one, and make sure they’re well-fed and well-rested beforehand.
I recently had the best time with my Peanut lately at the local thrift store. Every time I tried on a leather jacket, he tried it on too, looking like a goofy mini Sherlock Holmes. I pointed out all sorts of things throughout the store and let him touch and hold some non-breakable items. Then, as a reward for being an angel child, we explored the toy section and even went home with a new little doctor kit. I’ve had my blood pressure checked a million times since then.
2. Clear your schedule. If I’m going to scavenge the thrift store, I know that I’ll need to block off a good hour or two—and I better have a meal beforehand! There’s just no easy way to comb the clothing racks without enough time set aside. I know it will never work if I just decide to drop in for a quick 15 minutes. Do you know how unnerving it feels to think you might be missing something in all the aisles you didn’t have time to check? On the same vein, you need to be patient. You need the extra time to comb through racks and racks of distasteful nick-nacks to find those hidden gems. It really takes patience–and it’s not for everyone. It is not uncommon to only find one or two notable items for each 1-hour trip.
3. Start a list. The back page of my agenda book contains a constantly-changing list of things I’m looking for at the moment. If they happen to be items I can pick up secondhand for pennies, I’m always grateful. At the secondhand shop, in particular, I’m always on the lookout for craft supplies, vintage dresses, beautifully-illustrated children’s books, and pretty printed sheets to repurpose. But I might set out for a silky scarf for a project or dainty plates and mugs to turn into a tiered display. It’s helpful to have ideas of what you need for your home, so your attention stays focused. By bits and pieces, you’ll eventually craft some well-curated spaces in your home.
4. Expect the unexpected. You probably won’t find anything on the list above on your first try. Always keep the list in the back of your mind, but keep your mind open. Most of the things I take away from the thrift store are things I never had on my mind. This is especially true for clothes. You cannot approach the racks hoping to find one specific item, but you might find three new things you would just die to have. And you probably won’t have to die for them at $1.00 each!
5. Give and take. Every time I plan on visiting the thrift store, I take along a box of donations. I try to donate more than I buy to avoid the packrat trap and to keep the supply steady and flowing for others. Our needs and tastes are always changing, and this ebb and flow allows us to change things out of rotation every once in awhile without breaking the bank.
I hope this article is sparking some great ideas for you or just giving you that itch. I know that itch all to well. Even writing this article is making me itch for a trip to Vinnies.
Check back next week for Part Two of this thrift shopping guide for even more tips on browsing and unearthing some real treasures.