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Tips For Shopping Thrift Stores

Updated on February 27, 2010

For some individuals, shopping in those treasure troves known as thrift stores is basically a way to extend a limited budget, find the perfect Halloween costume or take a plunge into the fascinating world of kitsch. With an attraction greater than Lindsay Lohan's latest arrest photograph, the chance to thrift shop, and all the delectable possibilities that go along with it, is a truly and obsessive and compulsive impulse that only few can truly understand.
When you are embarking on an adventure to the thrift temples, it is important that you do not consider them just cheaper equivalents of the local shopping mall's boutiques and department stores. The techniques which must be utilized to benefit thoroughly from thrifting are diametrically opposite to shopping for $250 blouses. Here are some of the top tips:

Where to Shop

While thrifting can give you the opportunity to give in to urge to shop till you drop while still having a few dollars left in your bank account, where you thrift shop has a significant influence on what you shop shop shop for. Overall, one of the most basic unwritten rule is: the swankier the shopping, the worse the thrift shopping. Thrift retail outlets operated by more high-end charities tend to be stocked with stuff that holds no interest whatsoever such as 8 track tape decks, fondue sets, and really ugly, bad polyester.

Since thrift outlets tend to rent locations with very little overhead, the most interesting ones are located in the parts of town on the other side of the railroad tracks, as the old saying used to go. Check your Yellow Pages either online or in your phone book. If you feel like more of an adventure, try driving around the areas of the bus or train station. Make sure to keep your wallet close and your doors locked!

How to Be a Thrifty Shopper

Again diametrically opposite to the "fine quality (read expensive) stores" the quality of thrift shops can be defined via their organization levels. By far the most disorganized and chaotic are the best ones. If you find a Chia Pet in the middle of the kitchen utensils and a tennis ball stuck in a ladies shoe, then you know that you've reached Thrift Nirvana.

The Best Time to Thrift Shop

You need to scout out what is known as the "thrift cycle." Once you have located a store that is sufficiently disorganized, you have to keep careful tabs on the frequency of the staff replenishing the inventory. What merchandise do they place on the shelves and on which days of the week? A pro thrifter strategy is to befriend one of the staff members, even take them out for a coffee after work. Inform them slyly of the types of goods you're looking for and you can be sure that the next time that a 33 RPM record of Perry Como comes it, it will be set aside and waiting for your next visit.

What to Buy

If you are looking for a forgotten Picasso, or a pillbox hat worn by Jackie Kennedy, you're going to be sorrowfully disappointed in thrifting. Although every once in a blue moon someone comes up with some multi-million dollar trash-to-treasure which sells at a high profile Sotheby's Auction, most of the stuff that you can score at a thrift shop doesn't reach those rarefied altitudes. By all means, though, keep an eye out for things that might become collectible! Who knows what an Avatar action figure might be worth in 20 years?

Remember, thrifting is fun, so buy whatever you like! You can certainly afford it!


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