Miserly doesn’t equate to misery. This is one of my favorite lines because I love to shop but I am constrained by a budget. In my college years, I was frivolous and could justify any purchase. Now I am a stay-at-home mom in a one-income family. In order to satisfy my shopping cravings, I had to turn to thrifting.
Once I overcame my aversion to musty-smelling clothing and organized chaos, I discovered thrift stores are a treasure trove of fabulous finds. As I’ve gained experience, I’ve realized there is a method to digging through other people’s cast-offs. Here are some of the valuable lessons I’ve learned on how to find the best bang for your buck while thrifting.
1. There are two types of thrift stores. The first kind are places such as Value Village and Salvation Army. Their goods come from direct donations and are usually a steal of a deal. Case in point: I picked up this amazing vintage Iceberg jacket for $8.00.
For my husband, I scored a pair of $30.00 Prada shoes from Salvation Army. The other kind of thrift stores are usually called consignment stores or described as new and used. While you probably won’t have to examine the clothing for cigarette burns, you will pay a higher price for the product. The owners of these shops are often just expert thrifters who have hit up Salvation Army a day before the rest of us.
2. Shop thrift stores in the morning when new items are freshly-displayed and before the racks have been scoured of the best finds.
3. Don’t bother with basics. I find that items such as t-shirts are a little too well-loved for my taste. I’d rather buy a cheap T-shirt new (I also prefer new underwear…). My favourite finds are usually in the outerwear department: jackets, shoes, or a cute dress.
4. When looking for quality products check to see where the clothing is manufactured. I always look for Made in Italy labels. I then check for fit and any damage. If there’s a little stain on a quality garment, I have no problem running it to the dry cleaners. It’s still cheaper than buying something brand new!
5. If there is something about a second-hand garment that catches my eye but the fit or style isn’t quite right, I don’t hesitate to take a pair of scissors and a sewing machine to it. The garment may not turn out, but at least I had fun while doing it and it only cost a few dollars.
6. Although cheap is a fairly subjective word, I rarely spend over $10.00 on thrift store clothing (the Prada shoes were an exception).
7. There are great deals to be found for kids clothing in thrift stores, but I find that to be true of new kids clothing too. From my experience, the real savings come from buying second-hand toys. The grandmas in my family have collected top-rate toys in excellent condition for a fraction of the original price.
8. My family breaks a lot of dishes, so it comes in handy that thrift stores have fun and funky dinnerware for cheap.
9. Find out if the thrift stores near you have discount days. For example, Value Village has 50% off days.
10. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. It takes practice to develop a keen eye for thrift-shopping. Think of it as a treasure hunt as opposed to an errand and have fun while doing it. I think it’s a great activity for a girl’s night. Hit up a thrift store for some new (to you), inexpensive clothing and then go out on the town!
Michelle Gadd is a wife, mom and the creator of Elasticpantcity.com, a blog dedicated to examining how motherhood has shaped, stretched and influenced Michelle’s LIFEstyle.