Friday Five: Thrift Store Tips and Tricks

Thrift store shopping can be sketchy, but there’s a large population of college-aged girls who adore combing through racks of old clothes for unique and inexpensive finds to add to their wardrobe — myself included.

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I’ve been a thrift store shopper since early high school (I can’t remember when it started exactly). I’ve always loved going through other peoples’ junk to find interesting things. First I only went to thrift stores for the literal junk — old records that hardly play anymore, pretty candlesticks, and other miscellaneous decorative knickknacks — and then I started paying attention to the clothing. Now, probably 1/4 of the clothes I own were purchased in a thrift store, and whenever I feel the need to go on a shopping spree I head down to the local Holy Family because I know I’ll get the thrill of the chase with not too much damage on my pocketbook. So, as a seasoned thrift store buyer, I’d like to share with you my tips of the trade.

1) Don’t be afraid to try things on.
Sometimes things that look ridiculous on the rack (or just mildly unattractive) will be adorable as all hell once you put it on. Plus, when you try the item on you’ll be able to check for holes and stains you otherwise might not have noticed. Also, if you do find something with a bit of a tear or a hole, unless you really are an ace seamstress it’s not worth purchasing and trying to fix because more often than not, you never will get around to it.

2) Shop near upper middle class neighborhoods.
It only makes sense. Nice, classy people have nice, classy junk. They have their share of trashiness too, don’t get me wrong, but you will have the most luck with these guys. Goodwills are generally pretty good about keeping their stores organized and clean, and so if you can find a Goodwill near a nice, suburban neighborhood, you’re in business.

3) Snatch up those thrift store boots.

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These boots are so in style right now with the trendy-hipster crowd I might just die. I discovered this when I bought a pair for a Renaissance Fair school field trip and throughout the day I kept getting compliments on those boots. I wore them with jeans a few days later and the reaction was even better. When I started looking, I could see them everywhere. People like to pass them off as vintage, but really these boots are straight out of the eighties and nineties, which is why they are so plentiful in thrift stores today. Pick up a pair and see if you don’t get compliments.

4) There will always be an interesting purse.
No matter where you go, there will always be a plentiful purse section. Purses are those impulse buys that women barely use and hold on to for awhile but end up giving away because they have so damn many of them, then thrift stores sell them regardless of material or brand for about $5 each. I love capitalizing on our gender’s frivolity. 

5) Bargain to get the price down… unless it’s a Goodwill.
Actually, many middle class thrift stores don’t allow for bargaining. Goodwill, because it’s so huge, is very set in their prices. You’ll get shot down as soon as you say, “Well, see, there’s a rip in this one…” It’s better to just not try. My rule of thumb is that if the price is not labeled on a tag on the clothing, you can usually get a better deal. The best thing to say to a small-scale, local seller while they’re ringing you up and naming prices is, “Well, then I’m not sure I want __,” especially if they’re donation-based, because for them it’s a win-win situation. It doesn’t matter what you pay for the item, they still make a profit.

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