Fashionistas used to consider the thrift store a barren wasteland of out-of-style apparel, but now the pros recognize how much value there is in giving second-hand clothing a new life. High-quality, stylish pieces are just waiting to be grabbed on unassuming hangers and shelves in strip malls throughout the country. Among the treasure, however, are many items that may simply not be worth your time. Here are eight tips you should consider to get the absolute most out of your thrifting experience:
1. Prepare Yourself
Going to the thrift store without a clear objective is like taking off in a plane without a flight plan. Getting the most out of your time looking through used items requires extensive knowledge of your existing wardrobe. When you know exactly what types of pieces and accessories you need to complement what you already own, it will be much easier to narrow down your search. Think carefully about the type of clothing you need, the colors, and the fabrics.
2. Learn How to Scan Quickly
Once you know what type of items you’re looking for while thrifting, developing your quick scanning abilities will become a lot easier. Your average thrift store has hundreds of items available for sale, and you simply don’t have the time to look closely at each one. The more items you scan over time, the more finely honed your ability to pick out special items will become.
3. Wear Comfortable Clothing
Many first-timers at the thrift store are surprised at how much physical effort it can take to find great deals. If you really want to save money, you’ll want to think of this activity as a sport. That means wearing comfortable clothing that allows you to bend, lean, and perform other movements needed to find the best deals on the hangers and shelves. You’ll want clothes that won’t get in your way when you’re on your fourth straight hour of shopping.
4. Pick Your Location Carefully
Not all thrift stores are created equally. It may sound counter-intuitive, but you’re likely to find the best items in smaller towns. That’s because thrift stores in poorer, less populous areas get fewer donations, so they have items shipped in from other busier areas. When you visit the less popular store, you’ll still have access to quality stuff without the competition from a busier store. You’ll also want to plan your shopping trips during the week if possible as the weekend is often very crowded.
5. Inspect What You Find
A lot of cheap clothing is designed to look like high-quality clothing on the surface. It’s important when you find any promising item to take a very careful look at the stitching and material to ensure you’re buying what you think you’re buying. The label can be a very valuable source of information, so bring your smartphone and go online to find out as much information about a vintage label as you can.
6. Learn to Make Alterations
Unless you are the luckiest thrift shopper in the world, even the ideal piece of clothing isn’t likely to fit you perfectly. That’s why learning how to make alterations to the things you buy will be an invaluable skill. A sewing kit and a few instructional videos may be all you need to get going. If you don’t have the time or energy to make alterations yourself, paying for the services of a tailor can still provide a great return on investment.
7. Sell Before You Buy
Before you go to the thrift store looking to add items to your already full closet, see if you have anything you want to sell. Not only will you make some room in your wardrobe for stylish new things, but you’ll also have a bit of extra money to spend. If you’re feeling more charitable, think about donating your older items to the thrift store where you’re shopping. This makes your fashion lifehacks a win-win situation.
8. Bring Cash and Stick to Your Budget
It’s easy to feel like you’ve discovered a gold mine when thrifting successfully for the first time, but remember, our goal here is to be frugal. Bring the exact amount of money you plan to spend in cash and resist the urge to take out your credit card. Thrift stores are full of nostalgic items, including old games, toys, and general kitsch, that are hard to resist if you’re not disciplined. If you only take cash and stick to the clothing section, you’ll walk away much happier with your shopping experience in the end.
Thrifting can play an important role in creating a stylish wardrobe on a budget. Combined with a bit of research and inspiration, you’ll have all the clothes you need to feel confident whether you’re going to work or out on the town.
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