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How to Shop in Thrift Stores

Updated on December 1, 2012
Knowing how to shop at a thrift store can save you time and aggravation while saving money.
Knowing how to shop at a thrift store can save you time and aggravation while saving money. | Source

Why Shop at a Thrift Store

Some people do not like the idea of buying dirty, dingy, and discarded things. I am one of those people. Yet I enjoy shopping at thrift stores. Many more people are shopping at thrift stores in this economy, and many new thrift stores have opened up. When you shop at thrift stores, you can find high quality, unique items at low prices.Many of these items are no longer available in stores.

The prices of items at thrift stores are usually less expensive than those at the department stores so you will save money.

By reusing items that have already been used, you are helping reduce your carbon footprint and saving the environment.

Most thrift stores are connected to charities. The charity, such as the Kidney Foundation or Salvation Army collects items and sells them to a thrift store. By shopping at the stores, you are indirectly helping the charity.

Here are some ideas about getting the best bargains:

These thrift store glass and ceramic items can be easily cleaned.
These thrift store glass and ceramic items can be easily cleaned. | Source

Buy Things that Can be Easily Cleaned

If you are one of those people who gets the shivers at the thought of using someone else’s things, it is helpful to think of items that you can clean. Glass items, for example, are easy to clean and disinfect. If you can sew a button, or hem some pants, or repair a small rip, you will be able to get items at an even bigger discount.

Buy things at thrift stores that you are willing to borrow

The thrift store often carries books, magazines, CDs and DVDs. It has furniture, toys, kitchen utensils, dishes, pots and pans, and decorative items such as paintings and vases, garden equipment, exercise equipment. Besides clothing, there are also accessories such as belts, purses, shoes, scarves, hats, and jewelry. If you want to avoid bed bugs, you can avoid buying upholstered items such as sofas or pillows.

Both the doll and the desk were thrift store finds.
Both the doll and the desk were thrift store finds. | Source

Buy Things that are hard to find

Some things are simply easier to find at a thrift store than a department store. Antiques and stereo needles can be found at great prices at a thrift store. Some people would rather get their items from eBay, not knowing that the seller got their item from a thrift store or yard sale. If you don’t like this year’s clothing trends, the thrift store will have clothes that fit your style.

Buy New Things at Thrift Stores

There are many new things that are at the thrift store. Sometimes a store that is going out of business will donate their leftovers to a charity.

Buy things you will need short term

We have found great school uniforms and scrubs at thrift stores. Most kids grow out of their uniforms or switch schools before they wear out the uniforms. Buying them at a thrift store makes a lot of sense. There are racks and racks of items to choose from, and you can wash them when you get them home. They are great for a Halloween party or a costume party. Some people even have parties where they require all guests to come in clothes that were bought at a thrift stores.

Learn about their sales policies

We have a couple of thrift stores that reduce the prices of items that have been at the store for a while. They color code their items, and put them on sale, so items that have been in the store for five weeks are 75% off, items that have been in the store for three weeks are 50% off, and so on. Another store offers everything in the store on sale at 50% one day a month. You can get things for better prices on those days, but the stores will be more crowded on those days. And the following day, the selection will be smaller than if you wait until later in the month.

Check the items

The thrift store generally checks the items before they put them on the shelves, but they could miss something, or the item could have been damaged while on display. Try on the item if there is a fitting room to be sure you like how it fits on you. The size on the label may be misleading. Be sure to thoroughly check the item since most thrift stores will not allow returns.

Saving Money at the Thrift Store

Sometimes you may be able to find something on sale at a discount department store for lower prices than the thrift store. By being aware of prices of items, you can avoid paying more for used items.

These ties, and many more, were purchased from thrift stores to be used in quilts.
These ties, and many more, were purchased from thrift stores to be used in quilts. | Source

Buy Things to make other Things

You can buy jeans and use them to make jeans quilts, or ties to make crazy quilts. You can even buy items just to use their buttons for a craft project.

Be Flexible and Patient

There are a lot of items at a thrift store you may not have thought of. New things come in all the time. You will be disappointed if you want a particular brand name and particular size of an item. By being flexible about what you want, (i.e. jeans) you will be able to find a wide array of things that will fit the category.

Since the thrift store does not carry multiple sizes of the same item, there are a lot of items to look through. At a department store, if you don't like a particular style of dress, you can often skip the rack and go on to the next one. At a thrift store there are many different styles on the same rack. They are often organized by size so you can find the things that fit you.

Shopping in Thrift Stores and Second Hand Shops

Shopping at a thrift store is not for everyone, but there are many times I have found items I wanted that I could not get anywhere else for a reasonable price. Most stores are well lit and organized, and there are many great treasures to find at the thrift store.

© 2011 Shasta Matova


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    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      7 years ago from USA

      Thank you Silva for your input. You've found some fantastic deals at thrift stores. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt also - there is always something interesting to find. The fact that it is also cheap is a bonus. Many quilters like to buy shirts from thrift stores - so much cheaper than buying fabric. I just saw a Youtube video where Bonnie Hunter was showing us how to debone a shirt quickly and easily.

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 

      7 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      I love shopping at thrift stores. I have found new brand name clothes with the tags still on, collectibles, and interesting, unique clothing from other countries that I could never find locally otherwise. My living room drapes are silk, $100 per panel in the department store; I paid $4 per panel for them. I'm a mosaic artist and love to use beautiful plates in my work and can buy a beautifully designed plate with a chip on the rim for 99 cents. There's always the thrill of the hunt, finding a collectible. Shopping at thrift stores is so entertaining.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      Thanks ElleBee.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Yes, I very often get to see the things as they come in. And even if I'm not the one who sorts and prices them, I will usually notice them very quickly if they're something I like. And interesting is definitely the right word!

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      Thanks ElleBee, that would be really interesting to manage a thrift store! I hope you get to see the "new" stuff coming in and getting first dibs. I think I would probably be spending my entire paycheck there!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      These are great tips! I love thrift store shopping, and now I'm managing a non-profit thrift store. These are all great tips from both my shopper and employee perspective.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      Thanks talfonso. Thrift shops are a great resource to find the things you want at great prices, and often have things that are no longer sold elsewhere.

    • talfonso profile image


      9 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      I'd print out this handy guide (or, in this case, Hub) and high-tail it to the thrift store! This is so comprehensive and it enables me to look for good deals and save money!

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      Thank you Sunshine625, cclitgirl and fpherj48 for visiting and commenting. It is amazing the kinds of things you can find at thrift stores and their prices as well. You're right, fpherj48, it is better for our pocketbook, for the environment, and helps us create a unique outfit or look for our homes, as well as helping charities.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      9 years ago from Carson City

      Millionaire....I am a huge Thrift Store shopper. I will actually check as many out as possible for what I'm looking for, before buying elsewhere. Re-cycing is GOOD for all of us, not to mention the environment. I especially like the Non-Profit stores like Salvation Army and Goodwill.....AmVets too.

      I have had accounts with local consignment shops for years. VERY good Hub....UP+++

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      9 years ago from Western NC

      I am a thrift store junkie. I really am. Most of the things I get are from thrift stores. You can really spruce up furniture, too, adding your own personal touch. Voting up I/U/A

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      9 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I love thrift stores! I enjoy the rush when I find something I've wanted to cheap! Books are the best. Can't beat $1 for paperbacks!

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      Thanks alocsin for your comment and vote. I managed to get some holiday gifts for an antiques lover this season, and she was quite pleased. I highly recommend thrift store shopping.

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      As a thrift store shopper myself, I appreciate these bits of advice. Can't wait to try them out on my next expedition. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      That's a great idea Donna. Take stuff with you when you go. That way you are already making the space for the new things, and if you buy less than you donate, you are clearing the clutter out at the same time.

      That's true starstream - it is a lot of fun to find hidden treasure. I think that aspect makes thrift shop shopping more interesting than department store shopping.

      Thank you both for visiting and commenting.

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 

      9 years ago from Northern California

      Sometimes it is just fun to see what you can "find" at thrift stores. Like a treasure hunt...thanks for the hub.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 

      9 years ago from USA

      Good advice...and if you donate two items for every one item you bring home, you avoid the whole clutter issue and help someone else obtain a new treasure.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      That's true tamarawilhite - just like anywhere else, when there are bargains, it is easy to get carried away with the shopping. A little splurge now and then can be fine, but you do want to avoid just moving stuff over from one closet to another, like you said.

    • tamarawilhite profile image

      Tamara Wilhite 

      9 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      Only buy what you need or actually want before you get into the store. Otherwise, you've emptied out someone else's closet and filled up yours.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      Thank you carol3san. I enjoy thrift shopping as well to get great bargains and things that are no longer sold.

    • carol3san profile image

      Carolyn Sands 

      9 years ago from Hollywood Florida

      Good advice, and I love to shop at the thrift stores. I've gotten a lot of nice bargains from there in the past.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      Thanks bellartdesigns. My daughter had a friend who worked at a thrift store, and the friend had the best fashion sense of anyone I know. My daughter has no problem buying and wearing clothes from the thrift store. She knows that's where you have to go to get the good stuff cheap.

    • bellartdesigns profile image


      9 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      Great Hub! This is why I follow you. I shop at thrift stores all the time; however, I mostly purchase items that still have the tags. Many would be surprised at the items I find. People (rich people) are always giving away clothing and items that they don't want. Being single with 4 kids, you learn to bargain shop. Of course I never tell the children I bought "their" items at the thrift store (they would be mortified because they are teenagers). I just relish in their delight and say "you're welcome". Thanks and voted up!!!!


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