thrift store

12 tips for thrift store shopping

If you don’t yet shop at thrift stores, why not?  If you picture dingy floors, bad lighting, and torn clothing heaped together, you might be surprised.  There are a few like that in every town, I’m sure, but for the most part, they are a veritable gold mine of unclaimed wealth.

With the sketchy economy, it’s a no-brainer way to save money.  But even when the economic situation is in full bloom, it is a practical, reasonable, and easy way to stretch your family’s dollars.  If your family lives on one income, and you’re the home manager assigned the job of managing the spending, then consider shopping at thrift stores your income contribution – you’d be surprised at the money saved.

I always shop at Goodwill, Salvation Army, or St. Vincent de Paul’s before heading to the “regular” stores – and nine times out of ten, I don’t even need to hit the regular stores.  Here are some tips for getting the most out of your thrift store shopping experience.

1. Go in with a plan…

Know ahead of time what you need. Sometimes they can be a bit overwhelming, and each location has its own organizing system, making it a bit challenging to find what you need.  So if you go knowing you’re looking for 12-24 month-old boy’s khakis, and size 8 black dress shoes, it can be a lot less stressful.

2. …But be open-minded

That said, keep your eyes open for any surprising deals.  It’s hit-or-miss with thrift stores, so sometimes you really hit the jackpot of gear your family truly needs.  If you weren’t necessarily shopping for swimsuits, but you see a darling one in your daughter’s size this summer, then snag it up.  You need to make sure what you find is actually something you need – otherwise, you’re just buying clutter, and you’re not saving money.  Even so, think outside just your immediate family, and consider your extended family, your friends, or unexpected gift ideas.  You could find birthday gifts for all your nieces and nephews, or you might find throw pillows in just the right shade your friend is looking for.

Photo by Barry Smith

3. Look for quality brands…

The older I get, the less the inexpensive brands work for me – I wish they did, but Old Navy clothes rarely fit me well.  Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, or Calvin Klein, however, usually fit me like a glove.  Because over 90% of my wardrobe comes from thrift stores, I can afford these quality brands.  You’d be surprised the amount of well-made, expensive clothing is hiding in thrift shops, just waiting to found. You have to dig for it, but it’s there.  My kids can wear Baby Gap and Gymboree, thanks to thrift stores.

4. …But also try new brands

Keep in mind, however, that there might be some quality pieces in brands you’ve never heard of, or with the tags completely missing.  Check for holes, stains, missing buttons, and loose seams, and pass on something if it looks pretty worn or stretched out.  But sometimes the brands you don’t know are actually really high-end European brands, well worth their money.

5. Try things on

Always try things on.  Just because it’s a beautiful silk Ann Taylor skirt doesn’t mean you should buy it.  If it doesn’t fit well, then it’s a needless purchase and will only clutter your closet. And different brands size things differently, so you can’t assume anything by the number on the tag.

6. Don’t go with kids

Sure, you may have to bring them sometimes.  But if you’re armed with a detailed list, it can be hard to get much accomplished at a thrift store when you have little ones to watch.  Shopping at thrift stores means having to sift through lots of aisles of crammed-full racks. If you have to bring your kids, plan on just shopping one of the store’s sections, and then come back another day to shop the rest.

7. Know your local store’s sale days

Many local Salvation Army stores have half-off Wednesdays.  Other stores have similar days, so call and ask for their regular sale schedule.  A $4 pair of shoes is cheap, but when they’re $2 – even better!

8. If you really need something, ask

If you’re in the market for a very specific item, and you’ve been returning to the store for several weeks in search of it, it wouldn’t hurt to ask an employee to keep their eye out for it.  You can’t expect them to bend over backwards, because thrift stores usually have piles of items that come in unexpectedly.  But if you let them know you’re looking for a light purple Ralph Lauren wool scarf, and then see one come by, then maybe they’ll remember you.

Photo by Cullen Barker

9. Find ways to repurpose

Think creatively when you thrift shop. I was looking for a Christmas tree skirt a few weeks ago, but I happened upon a perfect vintage tablecloth with red and green flowers.  It was thick, durable canvas with a beautiful red fringed border – and it will work better as a tree skirt than I had originally planned.  Sheets make great curtain liners, and mismatched silverware and dishes work well in a play kitchen.

10. Stockpile; think long-term

We don’t need to buy clothes for our kids for a long time, because my mother-in-law has containers of boys and girls clothes of all sizes waiting to be grown into.  She stops by thrift stores weekly, and is always on the lookout for her grandkids’ clothes.  We’re probably set for at least two years, because she thinks longer-term when she thrift shops.  If you have the storage to stockpile, then consider your family’s long-term needs.

11. Go often

If you don’t find anything one week, try again in a few weeks.  A stores’ inventory changes constantly, so you might strike gold one week, and come up with nothing the next.  Make thrift store shopping part of your regular home management routine.

12. Go with cash

Finally, leave your debit card at home.  When you’re armed with cash, you’ll be more selective with your purchases, and will therefore think more level-headedly about the value of items.  When you stick to a budget, then thrift stores are a money-saver.  When you go way over, then you’re buying more than you need – emptying your wallet and filling your closets.  Aim for the opposite.

What are your thrift store techniques? I know several of you have written about your thrift store experiences, so please share the link with your comment below.

top photo source
Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. I always hit the extra-reduced racks first and look there. I look for good fabrics and if they’re made into a garment I don’t like, I look to see if I can rip the seams and sew something more to my liking. I also look for items that can be slightly altered or embellished thereby breathing new life into them. I create some really gorgeous and unique pieces for our wardrobes this way. And I get a lot of joy out of the whole process too!

    Kim´s last blog post…A Walk in the Snow

    • Wow! How thankful you must be to be so talented & gifted. I wish I could do that. 🙂

    • Huge Salvation Army fan here.

      We have 1/2 price family day on Wed. And you are totally right on with the Euro treasures. I found an Oilily dress for my daughter….new with tags….for $3. Retail on it was $87. SCORE!

      I also love finding great stoneware/pottery/coffee mugs. I have an eclectic set of dishes and bowls…..(only eclectic because I have four children and tile kitchen floors)….so having a matching set of anything is out of the question.

      Mittens and gloves…..I buy tons as we never can seem to have a matching pair by the end of the season.

      Another great score is books. They sell all childrens books at a flat 2 for 99cents. Some of the hardcover books I have gotten were $14.99.

      Thanks again for the great tips!


      Michelle´s last blog post…I jinxed myself…..

    • I love the article Simple Mom and especially this comment about fabrics. Thrift store merchandise is constantly changing, so its an adventure every time. See my post here to read even more tips for thrift store shopping!

  2. Once a month our Goodwill store has 1/2 off Saturday! It’s really busy that day but it’s 1/2 off so it’s worth it to go.

    Elizabeth´s last blog post…Hypochondria is a genetic trait?

  3. I had no idea about the regular sale-days, so thanks for that! For me thinking long term and stockpiling is a challenge, but you’re right, it makes a lot of sense.
    Yesterday I was reading about businesses that thrive in recession and thrift stores were on top of that list 🙂 Many people that didn’t shop in the thrift stores before will have to give them a try in the current economical situation.

    Emma´s last blog post…How to prevent SIDS and avoid flat head in babies – part 1

  4. Loved this post – probably because I’m a deal shopper. I used to do the thrift store quite often, but haven’t been able to find a good one in the area where I now live. There is one downtown that I’ll go to periodically (in Washington DC) that sells nothing but name brands. Before Christmas I found a brand new pair (with the tags attached) of Banana Republic pants for $22. Gotta love that!!

    Tabitha (From Single to Married)´s last blog post…A Little Friday Gratitude – Reading a Good Book

  5. Love thrift shopping! I have to go with a specific plan of attack though and shop for a particular item like a boys snowsuit or classic white tee.
    I love the variety of clothes in my closet that a thrift store can provide. New shorts and capris every summer–only because they are a few dollars each!

    Aimee´s last blog post…Orange Madeleines and a Holiday Relapse Recap

  6. My Goodwill doesn’t have any sale days, but their prices are pretty good to begin with. I love this post because it’s all so true. There are ways to make thrift shopping work for your family if you’re willing to take the time and effort. For us, it’s such a valuable tool for living better for less.

    Emily@remodelingthislife´s last blog post…On Grace and Graciousness

  7. Great tips, I have to make a point to go more often. I am probably missing out on great deals.

    Niki´s last blog post…Mush apples = frugal, tasty, easy baked apples

  8. i grew up in a family of three with a single mom at the helm – so we were relatively low income (broke). we did all of our clothes shopping at the salvation army in our town. i was a little embarrassed at the time, but when i got a little older, i introduced my bff to it, and although she came from a privileged, namebrand-only household, she fell in love. there’s something about striking such a great deal. AND, there’s something less frustrating when you wash a thrift store item with something red, something chapsticky, or something inky.

    it also lets me feel like i can splurge occasionally on a *gasp* regular priced item when i see a must have!

    now that i have a child, i usually hit the boy’s rack first. i buy any sweet deals in his current size up to 2 or 3 sizes ahead (and he gets there faster than i can imagine). i then make my way around the areas that usually are super hit and miss – usually shoes first. then maybe jeans. if i have time, i check out the housewares and books – for any unexpected treasures.

    this past christmas, my mom even insisted that she wanted to go on a goodwill store shopping spree for her gift. we hit several in the area and she made out like a bandit.

    sarah´s last blog post…sick week.

  9. I *love* thrift shops! You can really find some great stuff if you go with a goal in mind. 😉

  10. I like tip #6!

    xoxo, Shelly

    Michelle´s last blog post…New on eBay!

  11. I grew up having to make do, and I didn’t have matching dishes until I got married. It’s taken years, but I’m getting over my belief that if I buy on sale (even when/though I cannot afford full price), it doesn’t mean I’ll be poor again. Your blog and others have helped me realize that poverty is a mind set. Yesterday I was pouring over the nesting section on Cookie mags on line sight and almost every unique item I was drawn to came from a thrift shop. Thanks for the tips; it’s time to return to my roots.

    Nicole´s last blog post…If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why oh why can’t I? 9.365

  12. retroluce says:

    My mom and mother-in-law regularly shop at thrift stores for my daughter and me. They get great stuff at such good prices. Right now I am on the look out for cashmere sweaters because I am cutting them into squares to make a quilt for my daughter. Also a few years ago my mother found the most beautiful retro china dishes for $30.oo. It was a complete set of eight place settings for the 1950s without one chip. These are now my china and always are a hit at my church’s table decorating night a couple weeks before Christmas. The pattern is Franciscan Silver Pine if anyone is interested. A mint condition set of 16 place settings just sold on ebay for nearly $600.00

  13. Thanks for all the really helpful tips! I am not a very good thrift store shopper, but for the sake of thriftiness, I’d really like to learn.

    Monica´s last blog post…Menu Plan Monday – Week of January 19

    • I think I’m addicted to shopping at Thriftstores and know people who go the night before sales and hide the items they want in different sections. By the way, I don’t do that. In my area I like Value Village because they have a .99 cent sale Monday on certain tag colors.

      What I love to do is what you touched briefly on with the Christmas tree skirt idea. I love re-purposing thrift store finds. Sewing something new is too much fun. I made four aprons recently out of one linen tablecloth, turned sheets into nightgowns, and even made Halloween costumes for my huge family out of linens and material found at the thrift store. It’s even cheaper than buying the costumes at the thrift store.

      Loved your ideas and as I definately need to work on the clutter one – I think I’ll be making a list before I go next time.

      FawnDear´s last blog post…Permission to Play in the Mud.

  14. Thank you for talking thrift!

    I started a blog, The Thrifty Chicks, dedicated to the art of reuse and repurposing in late October. At the top of left of the blog is a slide show of 90 (soon to be 100) items, the 2009 Gift Guide. I averaged $4.50 per holiday gift and I either gave new items or antiques. Below the gift guide is a listing of posts that will turn any thrift novice into a master. I offer how to recalibrate the retail mind to the zen of thrift. They are, after all, two different markets. We explain how to devise a thrifting routine. Routinely stopping by the thrift store is key because inventory moves so fast. And, I offer in store tips which are very specific and easy to follow. There are 35.

    I would love to hear your thoughts. Many readers classify me as a writer of things frugal. But, I am an advocate for reuse and repurposing. Americans can no longer look to the factories on the other side of the world and selfishly demand “More!” How about we learn to manage what we have, which is hardly slim pickin’s. Aside from that, repurposing and reusing products is one sure way to reduce one’s carbon footprint while shopping. It’s time to dispel the American myth that if, “It’s not new it’s EWW!”

    Ms Shopping Golightly of The Thrifty Chicks

    Shopping Golightly´s last blog post…Children Want Spending Power Too!

  15. Very helpful! With children, thrift store shopping is a must!

    Sarah´s last blog post…What could have been so beautiful…

  16. I really love thrift stores, but often feel like I don’t have the time to peruse them sufficiently. I think the “recycling” factor is so great though.

  17. I love shopping thrift stores and finding treasures I can use as is, or “diamonds in the rough”, that I can remake in to something beautiful for my home. There is nothing more fun than taking your time while shopping and uncovering a bargain!
    Thanks for an informative post.

  18. Our Goodwill has color tags 30%, 50% and 75% off. I tend to look for the 50% or 75% when I am there…who wouldn’t! Also, I know one thrift store has better kids clothes (and better organized) while another has a better selection of adult clothing so I go to the store with the better selection if I am in a time crunch.

    Lynnette´s last blog post…apple pie

  19. I absolutely LOVE thrifting. Living in the Bay Area we have a ridiculous amount of great places to thrift. Thanks for the great tips!

    Angie´s last blog post…living green: the dirty truth on plastic.

    • I agree – the Bay Area is awesome for thrift shops! The last 2-3 times we’ve been to SF, I’ve had to buy an extra suitcase (at a thrift store, of course) to bring home all of the great stuff I found. The best one I ever hit, though, was a Goodwill in Topeka, KS, where I stumbled on their monthly “all childrens clothing is .39 each” sale, and bought about $30 worth. My kids are still wearing a lot of those things, and some has been passed on to yet other families, still in excellent condition.

      I’ve been a thirft store junkie for years – I do really appreciate being able to purchase children’s clothes at a fraction of the cost. My best tip is children’s books – my kids are huge readers and there is no way I could buy enough books at retail to keep them interested and challenged. They know that I rarely say yes to toys but I will almost always say yes to books when we shop, and they get their fill of whatever is interesting to them, at a price that is acceptable to our budget.

  20. I would love to hit the thrift stores more, but your #6 tip above (don’t go with kids) is the reason I never do! If I only get 1 1/2 days a week to spend time with my husband, I have no desire to leave our daughter at home with him while I go off shopping by myself – I want to spend that time with him! It’s a tough call.

    Katie´s last blog post…november family update

  21. I love the idea of the bargain, and finding those unique items. Like Fawn Dear, I love to re-purpose items, or embellish them to make them truly unique.

    Sadly, as a working mom, I just don’t have the time to shop at thrift stores. The time-per-item is just not justified for me. (In YMOYL-speak), the amount of life energy I have to trade is way more than if I had just bought the item quickly at full price.

    Every once in a while, I do it anyway because I find it enjoyable. Though, one tip I would add is to look over each item *very* carefully checking for stains, tears, and rips in the seams. It sucks to bring an item home to find that you wasted your money.

    Josie´s last blog post…January Super Food Challenge – Sweet Potatoes

    • Josie, I wonder if you’d be able to spare just one time a month? Just a few hours once a month, you might be able to spend the time searching and therefore making it more worth your while.

      In YMOYL-speak, what I save at thrift stores is definitely worth my life energy. 🙂

  22. I love thrift store shopping. I REALLY love when my favorite thrift store holds bag sales…everything you can fit into a bag for $10. You can really get some amazing deals.

    On the other hand, my husband and I have run into problems with thrift stores too. It’s easy to just buy buy buy because it’s so dirt cheap, but then you end up with a cluttered closet of clothes you never wear. Balance is key. Even though it’s a thrift store, you should still only buy what you really need.

    Sarah H.´s last blog post…Meal Plan Mondays: 1-19-09

  23. I just went thrift store shopping this weekend and took advantage of the half off sale! One technique I used this week was to go in early and scout out items I like and then come back on sale day. Although there’s no guarantee that the items I like will be there, it helps to know what to look for. Also the store is less busy the days before the sale and it makes “scouting” a bit nicer.

    Sara´s last blog post…2009 List

  24. What a timely column! I just spend the weekend at a bunch of suburban Chicago thrift stores getting all the clothing that my due-in-April kid will need for his first year of life. I only spent about $50 for tons of stuff, plus a play mat.

    They’re just the best places for unique housewares, fun toys, and off-the-wall celebrity autobiographies. “Hollywood Hulk Hogan,” anyone?

  25. Ksenia in Canada says:

    Great blog!

    Thrifting has been a way of life for me since I was outfitted in Salvation Army clothing as a child. Some things that I can add:
    – some cities have thrift stores that are scoured eagerly by armies of thrifters on a regular basis. in my city/neighbourhood, that tends to be the case – everyone “discovered” thrifting at least a decade ago…it amuses me that it’s a new concept to many. i would have to make a 45 min drive to get to a thrift store that has a half decent selection, which doesn’t happen often.
    – if you are a size 8 or less, there is a *much* better selection of women’s clothing. smaller sizes are the ones that women tend to grow *out* of.
    – avoid buying any bed-related items in cities that have bedbug infestations. also, in some cities, used furniture and appliances can harbour cockroaches or other buggies.

  26. Great tips! Especially the part about not going with kids. You want to take your time and kids just don’t let you do that. As a thrift store shopping addict, I completely understand. You should also know the day when your thrift store expects regular deliveries. Going in the day after or the day of will help you get the items that generally go pretty quickly…

    Angela Moore´s last blog post…Being Positive Requires Tough Decisions

  27. My very frugal mother, who grew up very poor, always brought us to thrift shops for big ticket items like winter coats. With regard to shopping and budgeting, she taught me so many valuable techniques for being wise and sensible with money: Clearance racks first, coupons in hand. I have enjoyed passing along these shopping traditions to my 10 year old daughter who has become quite a savvy shopper.
    I love the treasure chest factor of thrift shopping. I have picked up gorgeous serving pieces for my kitchen, cool vintage toys for the children and even LL Bean overstock outerware, brand new and unworn. Also, thrifting is good for the planet because of the recyle-repurpose component.
    Play It Again Sports (google it to see if there is a store near you) is a resale shop for athletic equipment, a huge help for the sport-inclined. We’ve literally saved 100’s of dollars trading in equipment that doesn’t fit for gently used equipment that does.

    Kimberly´s last blog post…Are you ready to be a “locavore?”

  28. I love thrift store shopping, especially now that i have children…and two girls no less….so buying 2nd hand is so much cheaper, especially when I can get name brand high quality clothing and so cute stuff for cheap! Also, I run a private child care program out of my home so buying toys like Fisher Price Little people and stuff like that is soooo much cheaper, as is kids books

    shirley rempel´s last blog post…

  29. I first started thrift store shopping while in college when the $’s were scare. Graduated with a great paying job and moved on to Macy’s and Nordstrom’s. I am back to thrifting and it is so great to find the “Macy’s and Nordstrom’s” merchandise for next to nothing. Thrift store furniture is great too. With a little elbow grease and spray paint you can turn a dud into something lovely for your home.

    patti´s last blog post…A Day Late!

  30. Oh yes! When we were waiting for our second child, I spent a lot of time in the thrift store to keep myself busy. 🙂 Kids’ clothes, especially, are often in excellent shape and are super cute! Sometimes it takes a bit more creativity to put an outfit together, which is fun. (Of course, for boys it is a bit easier if you just buy a bunch of plain jeans!).

    I have also bought wool sweaters, felted them and sewn a really cozy pillow. Occasionally I buy things for the fabric (like a raw silk size 2 bridesmaid’s dress that I made silk flowers out of). The fun part is never knowing what you are going to find!

    Kari´s last blog post…Socks!

  31. i usually take my 1 1/2 year old son with me, so i have to be quick @ my shopping! i only look @ the kids’ stuff, which makes it easy b/c if it’s the right size in a brand i know, then i can buy it & know it’ll fit! we’ve found the best, brand-name stuff @ our shop – shoes, swimsuits, shirts, shorts, pants & mostly all from the gap!

  32. These are really good pointers! I am always paranoid about bringing stuff that I do not need back home – so I am sure to have a list of things I need, especially gifts and such.
    I set my standards very high – like look for the best brands/or the coolest designs in the best condition. Repurpose and “mix-and-match” are wonderful ways of converting ordinary to exclusive…and I love the challenge!
    I use a simple mindhack – I always imagine I am going into a cool designer store when I go into a thrift store – somehow I always find some awesome looking stuff (for much lesser $$) when I think that way 🙂

    Maya´s last blog post…Preparing to Believe in Yourself: The Science of Ditchiness

  33. I love these tips for thrifting. I have two preschoolers at home right now so thrift shop visits are few and far between, but I appreciate the reminder that there are great finds there for the persistent!

    Linn´s last blog post…Continuing Martin Luther King Jr.’s Compassion

  34. I’m not at all good at looking at thrift stores for my husband’s & my clothing – I think mostly due to time/kiddo constraints, but it is something I’d definitely like to get better at!

    I do shop a big consignment sale 2x a year and get a good bit of our kids clothing there at super low prices – that works well for me!

    jodi´s last blog post…Playing the Waiting Game

  35. I disagree with #6–take your kids! My rule is mama gets to walk the aisles first. Then my son gets a few free minutes to spend in the toy aisle. (For me, a 33-50 cent toy is well worth a wonderfully behaved boy.) Plus, he’s learning about the value of thrift shopping–and the excitement of the hunt! Some of his favorite toys were found at our local thrift shop. I also have a 9-month old… right now he just slings it, enjoying the ride. We’ll see what happens when he’s walking. But for now it works great. We all love our weekly thrift-shop visits.

    Jenny´s last blog post…ALERT: Jackspeak

  36. I love consignment and thrift store shopping!! It’s how my boys get their clothes and how I do most of my Christmas shopping for the boys. People are clearing out their closets and homes to make room for new things and I always get great deals for my boys.

    LaToya @ Christian Momma´s last blog post…Post Baby Body Blues

  37. I totally agree with the idea of thinking long-term when it comes to buying from thrift stores for your children. I also do something similar for my younger children with the clothes I already have: I store my older children’s clothing in large plastic storage bins with cedar balls labeled “Girl 4” or “Boy 2,” for example. Now that I have had my third child, a girl, we exclusively have “shopped” for her from the girl tubs for her size, except for a few clothing items given to her as gifts.

    It has really saved us money, I know the clothes are good quality and in good condition, and it has really been fun to see her in the same clothes her big sister wore at that age. For example, I have some great pictures of my youngest in the same outfit as my oldest had on in pictures, and comparing the two photos you have to look closely to figure out who is who.

    This works especially well for us though because my daughters were actually born on the same date, just 6 years apart, so they even are the same size in the same season, which is more important for babies than as they get older. It also makes me think maybe it is not so suprising they look like twins in comparison pictures!

    Taylor at Household Management 101´s last blog post…Grocery Shopping List 101

    • This is a great idea. We are doing something similar, except that I include my sisters’ kids in the mix. My daughter gives all her clothes to her younger cousin, and my son get all his clothes from his older cousin. I think the clothes will get 3-4 go-rounds before all of us are done having kids.

      We’ve also had luck buying entire kid’s wardrobes on Ebay – someone selling all their “baby girl” clothes from size 0 months through 2yrs. But, as you say, you should check the season the baby was born because you could end up with all the clothes in the right size, but wrong season.

      Josie´s last blog post…January Super Food Challenge – Sweet Potatoes

  38. I regularly make the rounds of the thrift stores in my area. I get lots of our clothing there, keep my eye out for items for birthday parties (I have several times found new unopened toys/games for under $5), as well as housewares and books. I blogged about my latest thrift store haul here

    Holly´s last blog post…My First Award!

  39. Similarly to thrift store, I enjoy garage sale shopping. As a child I went a few times a month with my mom. And everytime I visit my family we head out in the morning to see what we can find. When I was single, I would head out about twice a month, but now with a family, I find it hard to slip out of the house on a Saturday or Sunday to do my shopping and I occasionaly visit my local Goodwill.

    My DH has a problem wearing used clothes. I don’t have a problem and partly due to when I was kid sometimes that’s all we had. But how can I assure him, after a few loads in the wash that they are clean to wear?

    • Don’t tell him? That’s what I used to do with my hubby. I’d just make sure that I got some VERY high-quality clothes with no stains or anything, then wash them in our detergent and put them in his closet. He usually didn’t notice, but when he did, I’d tell him I found his favorite sweater for $2 at the thrift store. Eventually, he became a convert!

    • Brand new clothes are just as likely to be worn 100 times in the dressing rooms of the stores and by whoever may have bought the “new” clothes and returned them. 🙂 I send my thrift store clothes through the washer before wearing. If it’s dry clean only then it goes to the dry cleaners before going on me for any length of time.

  40. We sound like two peas in a pod . I write about this in my thrift stores blog. Good stuff.

  41. I love looking for kid’s books and toys at thrift stores. I homeschool my kid’s and I have found a lot of books and educational games at great prices 😉

  42. Ooh I LOVE to shop this way!! All of my recent clothing purchases have come from thrift stores and like you Tsh, I ALWAYS go there before the regular stores. I picked up 2 fabulous skirts just the other day for AUD$3 in total! And you’re right about the lesser known brands too. Although some of the things I have bought have been well-known ‘labels’ my absolute favourite pieces have been brands I have never heard of but love to bits! Great post as always 🙂

    Sarah Klass´s last blog post…My Christmas Card

  43. I LOVE thrift shops. There is one shop in particular that I go to once a week to see what’s new. This week I found a coat in my size –in PERFECT condition-for $8. Last month I found a Liz Claiborne purse for $3. oo. I get so many compliments on that purse, it was worth every cent. I go in with a list of who/what I am shopping for, but allow myself $5 for an extra purchase if I find something too good to pass up. I found 2 of the books for the Simple Mom book club for 75 cents!

    Rhonda´s last blog post…As My World Turns

  44. I loved thrift stores before I had kids, but now I adore them.

    Somebody even gave me a little pack of those plastic size-section marker thingies for my closet rod (that say 18 months, 2T, etc.) and when I get treasures home, I wash them and hang them ready to go when the kids hit that size. Between the one long rod, and a few recycled diaper boxes for outgrown clothes I can really work the baby resale/ thrift store scene without taking up much of our small space. I just rotate the clothes every few months- which gives me a reminder for rotating all the toys our family gives us, too.

    The size markers really do make it easier and I rarely forget to have them wear something or needlessly buy something twice.

    One other small thought: our area has baby resale days (run by a local mom) and they are AWESOME! If you have that in your area, it is WELL worth organizing and transporting your goods.

    miriam´s last blog post…Mmmm, bread.

  45. Here in Guatemala, thrift shops are rare, but we do have a thrift market. Basically, all the stuff that stores in the States can`t fit (they get a LOT of stuff in) gets packaged into one ton cubes and shipped down here. People buy them and then open the packages and spread them out on tables in the pacas, or thrift market. The best items are hung up on racks and priced higher, the things on the tables are usually fifty cents or so.

    We buy all our clothes in the pacas. When my boys were babies, there was one woman that had a huge table with only baby stuff, so we shopped there all the time.

    My tips would include go for one age at a time. For example, if you need new clothes for yourself, do that one trip. Shop for the kids next trip, otherwise it can be tiring and you`ll just be worn out and not checking the clothes as carefully as you would if you have just one type of clothing to look for.

    Also, don`t skip the other sections of the store. Thrift shops are an EXCELLENT place to get used books! My mom fed our voracious appetites for knowledge by buying dozens of very cheap books at these stores. When I was first living on my own, I got my dishes from a thrift store and most of my furniture, as well.

    As for using items for something else . . . I buy most of my “fabric” at the pacas . . . just look for large clothing, sheets and blankets or even curtains that can be turned into stuffed animals, baby clothes, kitchen items, etc.

  46. This was wonderful advice! Although I consider myself a ‘seasonsed’ thrift store shopper, I often end up with things I don’t care for later, or really can’t use. Being more selective, leave the distraction of the kids behind (hard to do) and go with a purpose—and cash. Now I’m looking at this thing in a whole new light…

    Celeste´s last blog post…Kitchen-Klatter Magazine

  47. Awesome ideas! I’m inspired! Thanks so much.

    Sarah from Create´s last blog post…Valentine’s Day Fortune Cookie Tutorial

  48. My husband and I just purchased a small pop-up camper for our family. When preparing for our first trip, I printed out a very organized list off of the internet detailing what I needed to outfit a weekend camping trip. I took that list to three different thrift stores (in one afternoon) and found what I needed for only $50 . The list included plates, cups, pots & pans, silverware, cooking utensils, afghans (for sitting by the fire), a couple of camping lanterns, a few little storage solutions, serving trays, pitchers, flannell pj’s…you get the point. It is a very economical way to outfit a “second” dwelling of sorts.

    Shawn S.´s last blog post…The Snow has Fallen! Yippee!

  49. In my opinion the Goodwill stores are always very well run and I never get the sense of jammed in, packed, dirty or difficult to manage. They even have carts which makes shopping with the kids easier.

    Going often is the best tip. My Goodwill is near the grocery. I’m really lucky.

    I like to round out series of books for my daughter who has now started to read easy chapters. I keep lists of what I’m looking for as well.

    If you want your kids to play with wooden toys, I would check out the home section for wooden bowls and plates. I actually found a nice small set of wooden bowls for my daughters kitchen set.

    nina´s last blog post…Listening, Reading & Watching

  50. I like the idea of seeing past something’s original purpose (like the writer mentioned.) You may not naturally have a knack for doing it but you can train yourself with a bit of practice. I typically work a weekly thrift store jaunt into my errands.

    I love to hang plates on my wall. Thrift stores usually have them for 25 cents to a dollar.

    I also love to purchase fabric or sheets for no-sew window treatments. For ideas on how to make fabulous “mistreatments” go to

    You can paint anything! A tacky-colored urn can be transformed with some white spray paint. I just bought an old sewing table for $5 and painted it red. It’s now a great vintage table in my nursery. Most of my home accents come from thrift stores. With some paint and repurposing, junky stuff can look fabulous!

    The Scooper´s last blog post…Naked No More

  51. What a wonderful post! So useful – I have been doing the vast majority of my own clothes shopping at my local thrift stores for years and people are always shocked at how little I’ve spent on designer labels… I love the idea to stock up a bit on classics for the kids for future years.

    Julie´s last blog post…Pictures From Last Spring

  52. My sister-in-law got me into thrift shopping. When I had my first child, I struggled to clothe her. I spent $100 and felt she still had no clothing- and I didn’t even shop the expensive stores. I started to really try it with her and was so surprised at the quality of clothing I was able to get at thrift stores or consignment sales. Beautiful clothes my girls would never get to wear otherwise. In fact tonight I frequented one of my favorite stores and turns out it was their 30% off day and I got items with tags still on them for $2 here, $1 there. I love it! My sister-in-law reminded me that my kids dress better now than they ever have because of the thrift shopping. I don’t buy what isn’t in good condition and I try not to over buy either. We are happy with our purchases, my girls look their best and we have more money now than we did before. We even buy our books there too and toys and furniture if we find good things. We have books that I would never be able to afford new are now in my kids and my libraries.

  53. We supplemented this year’s back-to-school shopping with trips to Goodwill and a local, upscale thrift/consignment store called Plato’s Closet. I plan to do it again next year. I’ve turned my tween and teen daughter into true thrift store shoppers. Both found great deals on jeans there.

    Here’s the blog post I wrote about that:


    Leah Ingram´s last blog post…5 More Ways to Stay Warm & Lower Heating Bills: Renters’ Edition

  54. my thrift store secret is LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION…

    for cool clothing, go where the cool kids take their clothes. we live in a college town and i have a teenage daughter and we LOVE plato’s closet too… wonderful name brands and very trendy clothing for very little money for my teenage daughter! we just bought a pair of banana republic jeans for $15.

    but when i want home decor items, i go to the thrift stores closer to the newer residential side of town (where people keep changing decor). i can always find some really nice almost new home items there.

    need winter coats and gear? go to that thrift store near the country club/golf course homes. those are the people who usually go skiing and take their old (and sometimes very unused) ski clothes there after their winter trips.

    and for really fun and quirky furniture and older items… in the “older” homes section of town is a thrift store where they have some really nice older furniture and antique-ish items.

    so scout out the stores by what you are wanting to purchase and each one will be a bit different and better for certain items…

    lea´s last blog post…dear laura…

  55. I ADORE thrift shopping. I have a few tips to add to your list!

    1. Find out where your local Goodwill “Outlet” store is. They toss everything into bins and sell it by the pound. It’s a mix of things that didn’t sell in the store, and things that came in when they just plain had too much. I’ve found some amazing things there.

    2. Oxyclean is your friend. If that amazing vintage dress has a stain on it…take a chance. I’ve saved a lot of things this way.

    3. Paint chips…also your friend. My kitchen is all off white with sage/apple green accents. I keep a couple of paint chips in my purse that match my kitchen colors. Now I never get home to find out that the really cool carnival glass I found is too olive/bright/etc.

  56. In November my daughters and their husbands spent the day at several thrift stores picking out things we liked. We would look at each other’s selections and grab things we wanted to buy them for Christmas. This way six weeks later when a gift was opened, the person was genuinely surprised because he had almost forgotten. SO we had a fun day together before the holiday rush, buying items we knew would be welcome gifts. Not only did this recycling save us money, but we also did a little to save the planet.

  57. A couple of years ago I discovered the Goodwill “Outlet” stores where goods are piled on tables and sold by the pound. I visit a couple of times a month, usually with a walkman and book on tape because sorting through the chaos takes time. I always begin at the tables of miscellany, looking specifically for small, nearly-new items I can put in the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes bound for Third World countries.
    If I have any time/energy left, I look through the mounds of clothes. This method of shopping is less frustrating because I’m not hunting for a particular item so every discovery is a surprise. The added bonus: I’ve found many useful things for myself as well as for family and friends. (eg., a Dior bathrobe, a down comforter, costumes for my grandkids, doll clothes, yarn/ribbons, my favorite jogging outfit, wicker baskets for plants/gifts, an out-of-style dress I used to cover a pillow that matches my deck furniture.)

  58. My tip is to be aware of the price of things. I mostly shop at thrift shops because I enjoy the thrill of the hunt. If I go to the mall I know there will be lots of things I love that I can not afford. Makes me feel poor even though by world standards I am wealthy beyond my imagination. Anyway, sometimes as a result, I loose touch with how much things currently go for. Once I found an ironing board cover new in the package for $8. I thought that was high for thrift. But, I bought it because it was something that I really did need. Come to find out by looking online that the same thing would have been $13 at Target. I saved a bit and saved a trip to Target which would have cost me more because of my weakness for Target.

    Jane´s last blog post…Lady in Waiting

  59. I just added a small tool box to my trunk, it holds my measuring tape, a notebook with sizes and measurements, swatches of some material I am trying to match, I posted about what I’ve learned in my most recent obsession with thrifting

    Michelle´s last blog post…February Blog Party!

  60. Never be afraid to ask for a price reduction! I find that thrift stores are usually willing to reduce a price if you bring a fault to their attention. They might not have noticed the flaw when pricing an item. For example, I found a beautiful Christmas dress for my 6 year old this past holiday season. The skirt overlay had little sequins and tiny organza bows all over it. But there were two sequins missing. You couldn’t notice while she was wearing it as the skirt was really full (and there were probably about 100 sequins on the skirt), but when I pointed out the ‘flaw’, they reduced the price. The worst that can happen is they say no!

    Colleen´s last blog post…Can You Guess?

  61. I love this post, but am saddened that more people are catching on the “Thrift Store Rage”. This means less of the goods for me. I don’t mean to be so greedy, OK maybe I do, but I have loved the whole thrift store, garage sale, yard sale, flea market thing ever since my mom took me to my 1st one. I love the hunt and the feeling of finding that diamond in the rough. My tip: be prepared to dig through A LOT of bad stuff to get to the “goods”!

    LANA´s last blog post…Restaurant Coupons and Deals

  62. hi there! i’m coming over from rocks in my dryer….
    i LOVE thrift store shopping…we’ve found so many great things. i think the toughest part is having the “endurance” to sift through everything, but it’s certainly worth it. thanks for the helpful tips!!

  63. floodshill says:

    I wouldn’t worry that more folks are catching on; that means more people will donate as long as they’re headed to the shop anyway. I shop thrift almost exclusively, and I wear J Crew clothing almost exclusively — I love the fit and style. I’m delighted to think of how little it cost!

    But my fave aspect of thrift shopping is that there’s a lot less regret or agony if the clothes become stained or ruined (I have 3 kids, so it happens a lot). A $3 shirt is far less of a regret than a $50 shirt.

  64. Love these tips. I have found a treasure or two at the local Goodwill, but always forget to go back…I need to make it a weekly thing I think!

    Thanks! 🙂

    Christi´s last blog post…There’s No Place Like Home!!!

  65. i have the good fortune of being the daughter of a queen thrift shopper. while i have learned much from her, i do not have her innate knack for it, but my 4 year old does. we can walk in a store and he will instantly walk to the biggest bargain in the place whether its true retail or at a thrift shop.
    But when I say my mom is the queen its because I have never seen anyone come out with the bargains she does…she clothed both of my older kids, and three of my friends multiple children over the last 18 months and the grand total she spent was around 150$ for a total of 11 kids. steff

    Steffj89´s last blog post…Winter Blues

  66. Just wanted to let you know that this was such a great post–with terrific comments from so many readers–that I referenced it in my own post about thrift store shopping here:


    Leah Ingram´s last blog post…10 Tips for Thrift Store Shopping

  67. Great ideas. I do A LOT of what you have mentioned. I find garage sales to be even cheaper than thrift stores, but they aren’t available in the winter! We have all of the stores sale days memorized, so we know when to shop. I like the idea of cash. Once I spent $100.00 at a thrift store. I was shopping for the whole family, and I got several pairs of shoes too. We also found a good supply of REAL maple syrup at the thrift store, so that jacked the price of my total up.

    Organizing Mommy´s last blog post…Tackling life on Tuesday.. just a few things

  68. I L♥VE thrift stores!!!

    I love the idea of only taking cash with you to eliminate purchasing stuff you know you really don’t need, will probly never use. LOL!
    I love half priced Wednesdays!!! 😀

    Sarah´s last blog post…Grandma would be proud! *Grins*

  69. Great post! I used to shop at thrift stores all the time when I was younger but have been meaning to get back into it. never hurts to save a couple of bucks these days does it?

  70. p.s. —> (I wish I could’ve just added this to my other post. lol)
    Some ladies and young ladies from church have lovingly dubbed the Salvation Army thrift store: Salvo.
    “Yeah, look at the GREAT find I got at Salvo!!
    lol. . . .

    Sarah´s last blog post…Hi there, technical work ahead.

  71. The info is very useful and timely. Very well written.

    Dawn´s last blog post…Thrift Store Kitty

  72. I’m the same way with stockpiling! My son is three months old, and we got tons of clothes for him at my shower(s). I didn’t need to buy him anything 0-3 or 3-6 (though I did buy a few 3-6 outfits), so instead I’ve been buying up 6m, 9m, 12m, 18m, 24m, 2T, 3T, and yes even some 4T. He’ll wear them all eventually! I’ve read online that you should be careful when buying clothes for kids in advance because you never know what size they’ll be in during which season. Here in Ohio though, we wear pants at least 8 months out of the year, and so buying pants is a good bet!

  73. I’ve been toying with the idea of opening a thrift store that would sell used household furnishings. Outside of Goodwill or The Salvation Army, my area has none but I’m skeptical that it can become a success. I LOVE thrift sale shopping but I’m not sure I could make a living selling thrift store items. It’s great to read everyone’s responses about their terrific finds though….

  74. Hey thanks for the link. You’re clearly tuned in! I am going to put you on my blogroll!
    You’re a great writer and your blog looks great.
    .-= Dawn´s last blog ..Radio Star Volume 2 =-.

  75. My favorite trick is to track down the thrift stores in the better parts of town. They are there! People wanting to make donations want something close and convenient, so when you take the time to drive to where “The Joneses” live, you get to shop their closets. There’s a noticeable difference in quality, brands, wear-n-tear, from neighborhood to neighborhood.

  76. I’m going on my first thrift shop run since high school now that my Husband and I are revamping our rather tattered wardrobe. Thanks for the useful guide – Lord knows I’ll need it where the Hubby’s taking me!
    .-= Marie | green your apartment´s last blog ..Sustainable Product of the Week: SwissBike =-.

  77. I am such a fan of thrift stores, goodwill and salvation army. When I shop I dont go with a plan of action, because I dont shop out of need, but rather I shop out of want. I am quite selective though. I go to goodwill EVERYDAY on my lunch break. Some days are great and other days are bust. However, you dont know which day that will be until you visit. I have several great hardback wine books, a Frank Llyod Wright book…several great hard back cookbooks.

    An amazing set ot antique flatware that is 95% something. 5 piece set for 12. An AMAZING find!

    Heres the great thing about Goodwill in my area. Every Wed they get a shipment in of Target goods that were on sale, but didnt sale. Sometimes its a little higher in Goodwill other times its not. You could really really rack up on clothes, spice racks and so much more!

    LOVE IT!

  78. I have always brought my kids and when they were younger gave them a little money to spend. They have picked up some cute things, some of which are their favorite treasures. I’d rather have them get used to thrift shopping and garage sale shopping so it is natural for them when they have their own dollars to stretch in the future.

    They’re almost grown now and it seems to be working!

  79. I’ve always been a thrift store shopper – but do admit to getting away from it for a awhile when I worked full time. Now that I’m home with my daughter and running my own business and nothing feels better than a total score for a few bucks! I also donate stuff all the time and saw one of my nice tops for sale from my spendthrift days – that was kinda funny.

    Thanks for the great article!

  80. Great tips. Thanks! We’ve just rediscovered thrift stores and garage sales.
    .-= Christy B.´s last blog ..Children’s Prayer Club: Guinea-Bissau =-.

  81. I sewed a cape for my daughter’s doll for Christmas. The fabric was a beautiful Pendleton wool that I got from a thrift store size 12 lined skirt. I used the fabric and lining and had enough left over to make gators, all for only $4.

  82. This is a great list of tips for thrift store shopping! I absolutely love going to thrift stores, however, I don’t go that often because I ALWAYS end up finding something, actually usually more than one somethings, so I try to only go when I am looking for something specific, as you specified in your list above.

    It’s actually pretty funny, because when I was younger I hated thrift stores, I just couldn’t wrap my head around purchasing something that had already been worn by someone else. Well, times are tough and I am over that phobia. Just put it in the washer and your good to go. Thanks for the nice post 🙂

  83. I absolutely love, love, love thrifting! Our local GW puts the tag colors on sale at 50% Mon.-Fri. Then on Sat. that color is $1.00 and Sun. becomes .50!!!!! So, after church that is our afternoon stop. Therefore, my method is to go on those two days!
    .-= Thea´s last blog ..PROJECT LIFE =-.

  84. YPS4less says:

    Loved your tips. I have been thrifting for several years now. It’s almost an addiction and I usually buy too much. I’m going to follow your advice and take cash and leave debit card at home. some of my best thrifting finds are items that are really wrinkled. They look bad, are usually priced low and other shoppers pass them up. It amazing how a wrinkled blouse can look like garbage or damaged goods.

  85. I LOVE THRIFTSTORE SHOPPING!! My mom and I go to a thrift store in our town about once a week, sometimes more, and we love it.I am single, 22 and expecting andwhen I saw how much baby stuff was I was so scared. But my mom and I have found everything at this store. Everything for my baby girl except her playpen and shower gifts is from there and I am fully stocked. I have clothes galore and so many toys! We love going on Fridays cause its BAG DAY all the clothing you can stuff in a bag for 9.00!! You can fit ALOT of baby clothes in a WALMART bag I KNOW!! AND this store is huge it used the be a grocery store, they have everything! My mom just got a BRAND NEW pair of KSWISS shoes for less than 2.00! I even got a bag of diapers there for a 1.00!! AND kitchen stuff, well they have everything you need! another cool thing is that they get donations from all the cabin rental companies around here, so they get like 20 couches, lamps , beds, tables, patio sets, TVs all that stuff at one time and they sell it cheap to make room for the next load and its all like new!! Its great! We love it!!

  86. I am going to have to let my son read this post. He has an image issue with shopping at thrift stores. Though every time he finds great, “Name Brand,” clothing he leaves with a smile, however, he won’t let people know where he made his purchase from. 🙂

    We like to call him “Name Brand,” because he is the kind of kid, as you described, who will just buy name brand items whether they fit or not, just to say he has a pair of these and one of those, etc.

    Of course, he has grown much wiser in how he spends his money outside of thrift stores, so his handling of money has improved!


  87. Great post! I came here via your ProBlogger guest post and am I ever glad I did. My kids have all grown up but there’s a lot of info here for everyone.

    I’m a huge thrift store fan. I’m going to a conference in a couple of weeks and need to have some Hawaiian themed clothing. So just yesterday I hit three thrift stores in my small town and came away with three great pieces for a total of $9.50. One of them is brand new…still has the tag!

  88. Great guide!

  89. Furniture! Thrift shops are great places for chairs, barstools, TV stands, etc. If something needs to be repainted or recovered, they’ll usually take another 20% off the price. All it takes is a staple gun and some $1 per yard fabric to make over many chairs.

  90. The New Me says:

    I think there’s a line in “Pretty in Pink,” where one of the snobby girls is saying to Molly Ringwald’s from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks character, “You got something new. Was there a sale at the thrift shop?” I love getting stuff on sale at the thrift shop!

    My new rule for shopping at the thrift shop is to stop buying things that really don’t flatter just because they’ll work and they’re cheap! I have far to many clothes that don’t really fit right (and I don’t enjoy wearing) because I loved the color or fabric (and the price). The old me bought that stuff. The New Me doesn’t! 🙂

  91. My friend and I go “Goodwill Shopping” every few months. The first Saturday of the month everything is half off, so we take a full day to devote to the Goodwills near us. We usually end up hitting up around 3 or 4 of them.

  92. I just tripped on to a great resources where all sorts of things are on sale. No strings attached…just browse and find what you need on sale. The site is at

  93. Another great tip, find a friend who likes to go with thrift shopping to come with you. Or even to browse for you when you can’t go. My sister and I do that all the time. She shops for me when goes, and I always look for some stuff I think she would like.
    Great tips!

  94. So happy to have found your site! I just linked back to this article on my new blog to encourage more moms not to be intimidated by thrift shopping!
    thanks! Amanda

  95. Okay, you guys have got me in the thrifting mood!

    Thanks for a great post.

  96. I visited this great new thrift store in Kansas City called Red Racks they are owned and operated by the Disabled American Veterans. The DAV has thrift stores throughout the country but the Red Racks in KC is huge they said it was over 20,000sqft and it is packed with awesome stuff!

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