Our Guide to Thrift Shopping

Shopping is only fun when it’s affordable. And if you don’t necessarily want to buy the same hot item blouse as everybody else, it’s time to thrift. So join me as we pillage the racks of Value Village and Salvation Army, and walk away with pieces you’ve only paid five dollars for.

1. Caffeinate
It sounds insane, but I promise you this: nothing is more energy sucking than a massive second-hand outlet on a Saturday afternoon. Nothing. Not Wal-Mart during Christmas, not the mall on Black Friday “ not a thing. So come prepared. Bring a bottle of water (you’d be surprised at how dusty each place is), and a cup of coffee. That way, you can stay on top of your game while keeping your eyes open for the best, oldest pieces. And you will also get to enjoy delicious coffee.

2. Go section by section
Value Village can be overwhelming, so orchestrate a battle plan. Me, I start with the shoes (easy to see, easy to walk through), move onto the purses (still harmless, require a little bit of rummaging), head to the dresses (serious rummaging required), and end with blouses and sweaters (SOLDIER, THIS IS NOT A DRILL). If you work up to the bigger sections instead of just starting in them, you won’t get frustrated because you’ll have developed a system.

Oh, and don’t forget coats! (Or onesies. Which you can see, I did not.)

Anne Donahue


3. Go with a friend
Unless you like shopping on your own or know your way around a huge second hand store, bring someone for company and for moral support. Not only will they help keep you on your game “ and maybe stop you from buying that applique vest “ you can load up on pieces collectively. (Just make sure they like thrifting, too.)

4. Show no mercy
That being said, try on as much as you can. Unlike a chain or a department store, you have no idea what’s going to work until you try it on, even if your best friend is daring you to try on a floral onesie because you both know it will look terrible. (Surprise! It did not, and I now own that onesie, and you are looking at it in that photo. MAGIC.)

5. Have dealbreakers
Occasionally, you’ll stumble upon the most perfect item aside from a rip, tear, smell or a stain. This is where boundaries come in. In reality, you probably aren’t going to get out that mystery spot from 1961, and you probably won’t go to the tailor to have an entire dress re-pieced together if it was only $3. But can you replace a button? Absolutely. And you can fix a zipper. So give yourself a limit — otherwise you will still have a dress hanging in your closet that you got just to show everyone (that I’ve worn once in three years, and still don’t actually know how to wear at all).

6. Enjoy it
Thrifting is the perfect way to try out pieces you might not pay $20 or $30 for. So have fun! Shopping isn’t supposed to be some serious activity you treat like a chore, and it’s certainly not to be stressful or upsetting. If it is, then head to a smaller vintage store and skip the middleman entirely. However, thrift shopping can be a blast, and it’s also economical, so load up on coffee and save some dollars! (And take me with you?)

Tags: budgeting, clothes, clothing, Fashion, second hand, style, thrift shopping, thrift stores, Vintage

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