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9 Ways to Walk Out of A Thrift Store Happy - Thrift Store Shopping Tips

Updated on March 26, 2013

Thrift Store Finds

Front of the stores I visited today in Blue Springs, Missouri
Front of the stores I visited today in Blue Springs, Missouri | Source
Source
Red Racks has a lot of shoes!
Red Racks has a lot of shoes!
I found these adorable shoes here on a prior trip.
I found these adorable shoes here on a prior trip.
My 1.49 Pyrex find. American Heritage style.
My 1.49 Pyrex find. American Heritage style.
How tight one side of my closet is, mostly from thrift stores and this is just one season!
How tight one side of my closet is, mostly from thrift stores and this is just one season!
I love these! Vera Wang, very decorated. I have some less decorated Vera's and they are both tremendous finds. Less then $10 bucks each.
I love these! Vera Wang, very decorated. I have some less decorated Vera's and they are both tremendous finds. Less then $10 bucks each.

Thirft Store Shopping Guide

This article is dedicated to my boyfriend's mom, Tina Blumenshine. She lived for shopping at thrift stores, and we shared that passion together. It is surprising what you can pick up and more remarkable how many people you can cloth. It feels good to buy a lot, yet spend less. My wardrobe is overloaded from all the finds. I never have to spend more than twelve bucks for a pair of jeans. Some of the stores are shoe heavens. I found some worth loving!

I researched some other tips and found a few good ones, but I want to add some useful tips to prepare you for the trip. Sunday is frequently the starting day for the new color tag sale of the week. Sunday is often a better time to find more of those sales tags. It is best to arrive before 10:00 am if you don't tolerate the bustling sounds of families and crying babies.


Preparing to go shopping and what you may need or use while you are in the store:


  1. Assess what you need and whom you will give the item. What are the shirts, pants, and shoe sizes of each person?
  2. Are there any particular collections or hobby items you are searching for?What are thepreferredbrands, stylesandcolors? What do you already have plenty of?Sometimesthis is an adoptedmission to help out a friend, butthesamequestionsapply to develop a usefullist.
  3. This is theperfectplace to shopforhouseholditems, homedecor; especiallyfor recycle and reusing purposes. This can be a terrifictimefor "GreenShopping". With somany blogs givingideas on how to turn an item into something else, you can save yourself a lot of moneyfiguring out a brilliantnewusefor an olditem. Makeitmoreattractive, addfreshstain, paintor stencil design.
  4. Take something to drink and snacks. I know I have spent hours in one store, and it becomes exhausting, and you get thirsty and tired. I have sat on top of a buggy full of clothes one of the first times I went!
  5. How to look through shirts and other apparel at a fast pace. You have to have a sense of the person's style. You want to look quickly at each shirt as fast as you can. If a rack is stuffed tight, it is harder to do. Take a few items out just to make some space. I go expeditiously and only slow down when I see one of interest. Pull it out to survey closer. Watch for those color sale tags while searching, especially the ones that are 50% off!
  6. Categorize.This helps determine the starting point in each store. Start either with your favorite things first and then move to other items. Start at the front of the store and work towards the left side and back; then backup to the front like a horseshoe shape path.
  7. Selling items on eBay or in a store. Have in mind or on a list what you want. Include brand names. Use your phone to access eBay while in the store to check prices. That may help you with the decision to buy the item or leave it in the store.
  8. Antiques and quality item identification. This is easier for people that have the knowledge already, but there are plenty of books and online sites that you can educate yourself on items worth finding and reselling. Always think about estimated shipping costs. Smaller items are easier and cos tless to ship to customers.
  9. How to use your smart phone to increase your odds of finding a bargain worth reselling. Check eBay, Amazon or just do a Google search on the item and locate the current market value. Use phone apps that can help assess values, so make sure those "tools" are in hand and ready to verify values.

Prepare and Take These Items with You

*******************************************

Check list of what to take with you:

  • Sales of the day or week. What tag color is in the sale and how much is the discount? Often times there are multiple colors with various discounts or prices. Any coupons, some are available via email subscriptions others are from Valuepacks or Sunday newspapers. Is it Senior Citizen discount day? Who will go with you so you can get the discount too?
  • Sizes of clothing and shoes for the people you are shopping. Use the memo in your phone or write it down and keep it with you during every shopping trip.
  • Kleenex, yes these may be necessary. I noticed my nose runs when I am in these stores. Mold? Dust? Old things, the a/c or heating system, who knows; you need them if you have kids too.

  • Hand sanitizer, maybe a Ziploc bag with Lysol wipes inside. Protect yourself from germs.
  • Small children keep them happy. If you have small children, take a few quiet things they can do in the buggy or stroller. Make sure they ate before you leave, still take snacks and drinks for later.
  • Mini notebook. Track what that store specializes in and maybe add a little hand-drawn map of the store layout. This allows you to start shopping exactly where you want to and work efficiently through the store..
  • Extra bag (make sure it is machine washable) you can put things in, in case the place has a buggy shortage. Some don't keep enough, instead of waiting for a free cart, have an alternate way to carry things. Clothes become heavy real fast.
  • Colors. Any household items you want in a specific color, take a picture of the room it is going into. Ensuring it coordinates in the right shades currently in your home is essential. Some places have many curtains and blankets. If you have your paint chips, take those too.
  • Cash or credit cards, no checks. It is embarrassing to get the front of the checkout and realize the types of payments the accept.

  • Keep that thirst quenched. Keep a bottle of water or your favorite drink in hand.
  • Change, in case you need a drink from the vending machine.

Becoming familiar with the thirft stores

Some stores have much lower prices than others. Red Racks are generally higher prices now. Check out the stores around you and in near-by cities to find the best stores offering the best bargains. When you become accustomed with the store layout and what they offer, you will know where to start looking.

An example of one of my shopping trips: I took $20 bucks today and went to The Goodwill and Red Racks. I brought home 7 men's t-shirts, 1 woman's tank top - Talbots brand and one smaller Pyrex casserole dish (1.49) on my budget of twenty dollars. That Pyrex dish I may try to sell on eBay or Etsy.

Make money from items found, which leads us to shopping for the purpose of reselling items. Know your brands and antiques, know what people want. I would look through eBay for best sellers and what people are looking for. Keep your eyes open for items easy to ship. With larger items, you may want to rent a space from an antique store and put the items in the booth or have a garage sale if you think you can charge more than what you paid. It is a fabulous way to find things you can refinish and make look nicer, more modern or more quality. Some resell stores pay individuals for antique furniture and household goods.

Savings Comparing Thrift Store to Retail

Thrift Store
Retail Store
Savings
Name Brand Jeans $6-12
Name Brand Jeans $30-150
$24-138
Mens T-Shirt $1-5
New T Shirts $9.99-34.95
$8.88-29.95
Tank Tops $ 2-10
Name brand tanks $12.95-36
$10-26
shoes/sandles $3.98-9.99
new low to mid brands 19.99-65.00
$16.01-55.01

Thrift Store Shopping Poll

Do you shop at thrift stores, discount stores or garage sales for savings?

See results

Goodwill and Red Racks Thrift Stores

A markerGood Will and Red Racks -
Blue Springs, MO, USA
get directions

2 Thrift stores next door to each other

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    • DDS profile image

      David Sproull 4 years ago from Toronto

      Thrift store shopping is a must! I can buy a wardrobe for what some people will pay for one shirt, and you can even get top name brands!!

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Exactly, I have Liz Claiborne, Vera Wang, talbots. It is really worth sorting through to find the quality items.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 4 years ago from Canada

      This is a great article! I am bookmarking to look again. I loved your ideas and guidelines for re-selling items. I have thought about doing that, but wasn't sure how to find stuff that would re-sell. You gave some excellent advice. Voted up, more and shared!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Interesting article and great tips. The only time I go into thrift stores is when I am looking for ceramic Christmas trees. I ought to take more time and look around.

    • GiblinGirl profile image

      GiblinGirl 4 years ago from New Jersey

      Great tips - especially about taking samples of colors from your house since you never really know how something will match.

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 4 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      If I need anything I always check out the local thrift shops first. Good hub!

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you. That reselling is something I need to do myself, I just have a harder time finding the motivation for it. I know it takes some time finding and listing products to sell. Good luck if you decide to do that reselling!

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      They always seem to have some Christmas things. Ornaments, decorations, wreaths, stockings. I have seen the ceramic trees too. I am sure you have to look at those pretty close to make sure they were not reglued and donated.

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Your phone is a great tool when you have the photograph saved on it and can compare it to the colors of fabric or something else in the thrift store. It is still better to take the item with you when you can or take those paint chips if it has to do with a room. Thank you GiblinGirl

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Good to hear! I wouldn't go anywhere else for my jeans. Only in a blue moon I can find a pair of expensive jeans in Macys for the thrift store price. Thanks to the thrift stores, I have plenty of jeans. It is a good plan to start there first.

    • Entourage_007 profile image

      Stuart 4 years ago from Santa Barbara, CA

      In the past I spent a lot of time in the thrift stores when I was an ebay seller, and there were some things that ended up being worth more than I thought. Great hub!

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Good deal, that is what I was hoping. It would be nice to end of with some finds that translate to profits on ebay.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Wonderful tips bridalletter. While I was in the US, I made it a point to visit the thrift stores closest to my home and got some really good deals.

      I love these stores.

      Voted up, useful & interesting.

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you Rajan, sounds like you will hit those stores when you decide to revisit the U.S. Some thrift stores have online stores shopping. I am not sure if they do international shipping.

    • profile image

      UrsulaRose 4 years ago

      Thrift stores (or Op Shops as they are known in Australia) are a booming retail business with just about every Tom, Dick and Harry now shopping in them.

      You have written a very useful and informative Hub Article for seasoned and non-seasoned Thrift Store shoppers to learn from. :-)

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you UrsulaRose. It is interesting to hear another term for the stores. It is a wide variety of people in them and I agree, a lot more people are shopping in them. I don't think anyone would ever guess when you are wearing name brand nice looking clothes. They all look the same after you wash them once.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Great tips! I get in "plundering moods" when I just want to go treasure hunting. Thrift stores are so much fun. I have found some great vintage items in crafts and antiques for resale. Bird cages are so popular right now. They are getting popular now during the recession. I think there will be many people to continue shopping in them if the economy ever recovers. Enjoyable read! Pinning!

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you Tammy. I know what you mean. When I am looking for other things besides clothes, I feel the same way. I get so excited when I find a Liz Claiborne purse or Steve Madden shoes. I agree, more people are shopping there. It will save them hundreds if not thousands of dollars clothing a family.

    • profile image

      stessily 4 years ago

      bridalletter, Interesting and inspiring! Especially attractive are the $1.49 Pyrex and those decorated Vera Wang jeans --- bravo! My sister has found exceptional suits of the highest quality from Uruguay and the Domenican Republic. Three of my prize finds were a gorgeous tan print Shantung silk dress, a pair of never worn Dansko clogs, and a pair of champagne colored leather clogs with turquoise beads. Finding treasures is such fun!

      Appreciatively, Stessily

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you. Those all sound pretty cool. I always look forward to the next find.

    • MargaritaEden profile image

      MargaritaEden 4 years ago from Oregon

      These are wonderful ideas! I agree it always pays off to plan ahead. Very useful and interesting.

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you. I was buying for 4 to 10 people, 6 were children. I always write down there sizes before I headed out. Spent hours there when I had my shopping buddy.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 4 years ago from New Jersey

      I love your tips. Sometimes I think people forget to look for bargains at a bargain store. It is always great when you can get an even better deal on something that is already a steal.

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Males great sense and makes you feel good too!

    • Letitialicious profile image

      Letitialicious 4 years ago from Paris via San Diego

      How useful. I'm such a bad thrift store shopper. I always walk out empty-handed when my friends leave with neat things like men's shirts embroidered with peace signs in the place of polo players. Maybe now I'll have more success!

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      You just need something you are looking for or a specific brand of clothing or purse. I hope the hub does help. I think its just fun to look through everything. Sometimes it is easier to find something for someone else when you start out. Just like when we gift shop.

    • jcevans2009 profile image

      Judith C Evans 4 years ago from Boise, ID

      Such useful information! I love to shop in thrift stores, and will keep these tips in mind. Voting up and awesome, and sharing!

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you jcevans. They are very interesting, i love finding quality items.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Great tips. I love a thrift store and keep a notebook with measurements for things I may need. I wanted a headboard, but have a low, slanty attic ceiling so kept that measurement. I also keep measurements of windows for curtains. You just can't remember that stuff.

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you Dolores. The notebook is perfect. I carry so many things in my purse, I just keep those things in a notepad on my phone. Either way works great and keeps one from bringing home something no one can use. Most thrift stores have so many curtains and blankets, it amazes me. One could easily window dress your home on a budget and with style. I have seen beautiful fabrics. The headboards seem a little harder to find, that one must be a needle in a haystack!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Oh it was. And stupid (me) did not take the whole shebang, the rails, etc. so my poor husband was stuck with trying to attach the headboard to the old frame. Which he did! My hero! For a mere $20.00 I now have the bed of my dreams!

    • CakeyCakey profile image

      CakeyCakey 4 years ago

      Thorough and thoughtful post. Thrift stores certainly can yield wonderful bargains, but timing has to smile upon you to get a fantastic find!

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you, that is for sure. I used to go often enough, that wasn't a problem. My closet is overloaded, so I had to slow down for a while.

    • profile image

      Analyn 4 years ago

      Great finds come to those with patience.

    • profile image

      whowas 4 years ago

      Hi bridalletter,

      This is a very helpful and useful hub. I always buy everything (apart from underwear!) from thrift stores. Partly it is because I have a very strong 'reuse and repair' ethic, so I don't like buying newly manufactured stuff of any kind if there is something already there.

      The other advantage is that you can feel much more relaxed about adjusting something you've bought for just a couple of dollars than a more expensive item. Then there is the fact that I can usually find the sort of clothes I prefer (out of date!) in thrift stores and not on the high street.

      Thanks for this cool hub. :)

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you. Whowas, I agree. Many of the clothes I find are like new. None look outdated. I like paying a whole lot less and getting a whole lot more. That is a happy feeling! Good point on the repairs and adjustments.

    • Mary Merriment profile image

      Mary Merriment 4 years ago from Boise area, Idaho

      Without smart thrift store shopping, my family wouldn't have a lot of things that we do, especially clothes. I love it when I find items that still have the original tags on them... super score! We've also come familiar what items can be found at best prices at which thrift stores. Hand sanitizers and tissues are definitely a must for these trips. I like the snack and drink idea as well.

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you mary. I know, I love finding those new clothes too. Nearly all of my clothes are from the various thrift stores. It is nice to take that extra money saved, and spend it on other things. My kids clothes came from there when they were babies and then toddlers. Right now, as teenagers, it is much less. Any amount is a savings, so I am good with that.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Thanks for sharing these useful tips. I've shopped quite a bit in thrift shops while on my soujourns in the U.S.

      Voted up and useful.

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you rajan jolly. I plan to hit them a bit harder in the new year. I sure hope they show up in more countries, they are so beneficial.

    • Claudia Mathews profile image

      Claudia Mathews 2 years ago

      This is great! I grew up on thrift store shopping and have always loved it. Today I almost exclusively shop at thrift stores because of the savings, selection and keeping so many items from going in the landfill.

      Recently I was able to completely outfit my teenage son for an unexpected ski trip, for under $20. I would have spent 10 times or more that amount if I'd bought it all new. BTW, there are several places in this Hub where the words don't have spaces between them. Not sure if that is a HP's glitch, but thought I'd mention it.

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