My Top Ten Tips for Scoring at the Thrift Store

by This is Carrie on January 21, 2010

shirt can be found at Zazzle

1. You don’t have to be poor, on a budget, or live a grunge lifestyle to embrace thrift shopping.  There are many other reasons for buying second hand stuff – my #1 reason has been the idea of cutting down on the amount of things I consume, instead choosing to repurpose, reuse and refashion.

2. When shopping for thrift store clothing:  Keep a running list of things you need & want – try to plan ahead because it may take some time to find what you are looking for. This list will also help you stay focused because the expanses of a large thrift store can be completely overwhelming.  Specific items that have been on my list lately: oversized cardigans, plaid pleated skirts, blazers, buffalo plaid men’s shirts.

3. Before purchasing an item look closely for stains (although some stains my wash out once you get home) holes, & tears.

4. Many thrift store don’t have dressing rooms so know your measurements & take a measuring tape with you.  You can also opt to wear tight clothes so you can try on clothes over what you are wearing.

5. Get to know basic sewing skills (whether your own, or those of a friend or tailor) so you know what might be able to be altered or mended.

6. Be prepared for the hunt. You can’t just casually walk through a thrift store and see what catches your eye like a normal store. Find a rack and start flipping through each piece one by one.  If you don’t have the time or energy to do this – don’t even try.  It’s also a good idea to bring snacks and water.

7. For your first time out, shop with an experienced thrifter.  You can feed off their energy, learn their patterns for the hunt and they’ll probably be able to find great things for you.

8. Experienced thrifters usually find the good stuff because they go often.  Merchandise changes quickly at thrift stores & keep watch for thrift store sales. They will often have 50% off days (and you thought the stuff was cheap before!)

9. Thrift store clothing not for you?  Browse through the accessories, the books, the dishes. Looks for old prom dresses, hats, to fill up your child’s dress up box.  If you’re a crafter, beautiful floral sheets can be used as fabric yardage, pillowcases can be turned into little girls dresses, old dishes and candlesticks can be turned into cake stands.

10. Visit many different thrift stores and you will soon find a favorite.  Your favorite store might not even be in your same city. One of my favorite things to do is to visit thrift stores while I am on vacation.  The Savers in Maui, HI was amazing and way cheaper than the tourist traps for cool hawaiian garb!

If you live in Southern CA, you can find my favorite local thrift stores listed under the RESOURCES tab at the stop of the page. Browse through past thrifting “scores!” here.

Do you have a favorite thrift store shopping tip?


{ 2 trackbacks }

Thrift Store Shopping–Cousin to Stitching? | Whipstitch
February 10, 2010 at 4:55 am
12 for Tuesday: Thrift Shopping in OC | Just Spotted
May 11, 2010 at 12:19 am

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer January 21, 2010 at 10:27 am

Many clothes that end up at thrift stores haven’t been laundered properly, so I don’t only look at clothes technically my size. I have often found larges that have shrunk enough to fit my medium self.


pinksuedeshoe January 21, 2010 at 10:46 am

My favorite thing to look for is sweaters that I can felt. But I always look in the children’s section. This is where you find the sweaters that someone else has accidentally felted, and shrunk down to child size. And they are usually cheaper than the “adult”sweaters.


Morgan January 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I agree, you can find some amazing things at thrift stores. My boyfriend tends to have better luck than I do though. He has found multiple pairs of designer brand pants, with tags still one, barely worn $100+ shoes, and loads on name brand t-shirts.

I also recommend stopping in thrift stores often, and you’ll learn the trends. One of our favorites we’ve found puts out new stock every other Saturday, on their half price Saturdays. We try to hit it up on those days, and always find the best stuff then, because the good stuff hasn’t been snatched up yet since it was just put out.


Saige January 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Great tips! I pretty much only shop thrift, so I love reading other people’s suggestions about it. The thing that helps me actually score at a thrift store is having someone keep my kids! They lose interest before I’ve combed through the second rack and start begging to go look at the junky toys. :)


Dianne K. Nelson January 22, 2010 at 6:34 am

I LOVE thrift stores and thought your post made a lot of sense! It’s how I shop, but I hadn’t actually defined it before. Thanks for sharing the thrifty love!



mommymita January 23, 2010 at 10:54 am

This post is actually giving me the urge to finally peel off the PJ’s and get back into the world like a normal human.

We’ve got the best thrift stores here and Salvation Army has become my new Target.

I did sneak one great run in last Saturday before the baby came and found the starting point to this year’s Easter dresses.


Shae February 1, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Wonderful post! Would love to link to it on my blog. :)


This is Carrie
Twitter: thisiscarrie

Thanks Shae! Go right ahead and link away!


Jana @ The Summer House May 11, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Look in the mens department…you might find a cute sweater that will work for you. Also-try things on and don’t limit yourself by the tagged size-they are often wrong.


Laura March 21, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Do they have plus sizes at thrift stores?


Jaclyn May 3, 2012 at 7:05 am

My sister suggested to me that she always finds the best stuff in thrift stores in or near affluent neighbourhoods. I took her advice to the next level – for the most beautiful pieces to use as yardage, I shop at thrift stores in areas with a high immigrant population, and devour the “ethnic clothes” section. :)


geraldine May 12, 2012 at 11:41 am

1. I ALWAYS look underneath things. People hide things: don’t want to buy it at the time, don’t have enough money, etc. I’ve found many sewing/crafting items (Heat-n-Bond webbing (3 brand new stuffed inside one pack and priced as one), needles, fabric*, etc.)
2. Finding oversize skirts/shirts/dresses/etc. I love buying skirts (almost 3 yds+ of fabric) with button fronts. They make great button-front shirts. I use a fitting shirt for the pattern, cut the front/back (they’re already hemmed), cut the sleeves from leftover fabric. I always add another button/buttonhole below the last one so the shirt closes at the bottom. Some have the prettiest patterns/colors, if bought new the fabric would be $10+/meter/yard! I could go on and on, but there’s too much to list.
Suffice to say, thrifting is one of my favorite past-times!


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