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5 must-know tips on thrifting

Hi there Simple Mom readers! We’ve been having lots of fun over at Simple Design, have you visited us yet? Lately we’ve had a whole series on strategies for designing your life, fab summer music recommendations by our resident music guru, tips on how to find your personal style and a beauty roundup of awesome braid tutorials, just to name a few. It’s been quite the summer!

One of my favorite things we do at Simple Design is a weekly link-up of what I call a Thrift Haul. It’s a day for everyone to link up whatever thrifty/re-sale/second-hand/yard sale finds they’ve scored recently. It’s fun, it’s inspiring and it helps me with my goal to encourage everyone to visit thrift stores more often.

Maybe you’re already passionate about thrifting, or maybe you still need to be convinced, but either way I’d love to share some of the street smarts I’ve learned over the years in the art of thrifting.

5 Must know tips on thrifting

1. Have a list and go often

This might seem like no biggy, but if you walk into a thrift shop with no plan at all, you’re much more likely to go home with too much, most of which you probably shouldn’t have purchased. I have my “always look for” list and then my list of specific items I’m on the hunt for. My “always look for” items are cross-stitched decor, pyrex, floral vintage fabric/bedding and vintage tablecloths. I will pretty much always grab these if I find some pretty, good quality and well-priced things. I also look for certain prints/patterns like stripes and southwest/geometric in linens.

Anything else, be it baby clothes, kitchen items, shoes, bags, etc. I only look at if I’m specifically there to look for those items. In addition, you need to go often so you can spot the new things and not have to always dig through what no one is buying. All of this helps you not be too overwhelmed with all the STUFF. Which brings me to the next point…

2. Get digging

Most likely everything that is in the shop has been picked over unless you arrive on a day when a big stash was put out (Side note: find out when your local shops get their biggest amount of items out onto the racks, as this is the time to see stuff before it’s picked over. My go-to day is Wednesdays).

What this means is that you’ll need to dig down into a few layers to find the gems no one else saw. I promise you if you get over the fear of digging you’ll really start to find the best items.

3. Buy only what you love

The more you thrift the more likely you’ll start to see lots of things you REALLY LIKE but maybe just a few things you LOVE. Your discernment in this area is the difference between you having cute things at home and you becoming a hoarder!

It’s really ok to leave a shop empty-handed. See it as you saving money and space in your home for a better find you’re passionate about!

4. Think outside the box

Many times you need to see the potential in items to realize if something will fit your needs or if it’s just another DIY that you’ll never get to.

If something needs minor alterations, a coat of paint, to be cleaned up a bit, or is an amazing off-season item, it might just be worth the extra work (or storage) it will be to snag that item.

5. Find new shops

If you’re in an area with plenty of thrifting type people (college students, hipsters, you get the idea…) and you never seem to find any good vintage or thrifting it might be because you need to venture out. Find shops near senior communities, in small towns, or places that might seem like it’s not the place to shop. Because that will be the exact place to shop!

We have a mantra about thrifting: The point isn’t to bring tons of stuff into our homes. The point is to surround ourselves with things we love, to spend less, and to reuse what is already out in the “system”.

If you’re already a thrifter or I’ve inspired you to give it a try, we’d love for you to link up (blog post, Instagram, whatever way you’d like!) with us on Monday’s for the Thrift Haul. Head on over today to see my finds and visit others’ links too!

Do you have any thrifting tips to share?


Arianne creates style ideas, writes thoughts on parenting 4 children, plants knowledge in young minds, curates lovely things, and does it all with an eye for the story being woven through her each and every day. As the owner of Mabel + Riv, she strives to bring you inspiration, handmade creations and beauty from voices across the creative-sphere. Find her on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram as @ariannesegerman.

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  1. These are great tips! I have been trying to find more thrift stores in my area so I’m not always hitting the same ones. It sounds like we look for the same things (cross-stitch, vintage sheets/fabric). Going often is the best tip because inventory changes every day!

  2. I always want to be good at thrifting, but never seem to actually accomplish that goal! I will admit that we don’t have the best thrift stores available in this area…actually it is only one good will store, and they don’t seem to carry anything I ever want. I do have better luck with yard sales though, which my neighbors seem to have often, and I can always find something that I *need* My aunt loves the flea market though, and goes frequently…and always finds a good deal. Great tips!

  3. I use to love thrift store shopping until my favorite place closed a few years ago. I didn’t find one I liked quite as much and stopped looking after a while. Maybe it’s time to get back out there. These are great tips for getting cool stuff without over doing it.

    • Oh if my favorite shop closed I’d be in mourning – ha! Just kidding, but it would really take the wind out of my sails too. I think you should definitely step out there and re-discover thrifting!

  4. These are great tips. My mom is super good at thrifting and I don’t come anywhere close to comparing. I think it’s because of tip # 2 – she’s great at digging and I easily get tired or bored and ready to give up.

    • I totally get weary with the digging too. I often only have time for a thrifty “pop-in” where I just go in and don’t dig and see what I see. If you do this often enough you’ll still grab a few nice things! Don’t let the need to dig discourage you. <3

  5. I always want to go but am new to this area in which we now live. I need to start hunting around and asking around to find out where some good spots are. My other dilemma is the kids… Don’t want to take all four with me! Will have to work out babysitting. I love the make a list idea, seems the best way to go about it.

    • I have four kids too, I know it’s tricky to get out there! I will often take the baby or one of the kids with me, leaving the others with my husband on the weekend sometimes. Other times I’ll go in the evening for a quick trip once they’re all asleep. I have shared this with others today, but this site is great for seeing which shops are around you!

  6. Great tips. Right now I don’t do a lot of thrifting. With three very young children, it is too hard to go often, which means when I do go it is overwhelming and may not be a good day for finds. Right now, I am content to not thrift. Someday, maybe I will. 🙂

    • I have little kids too so I hear ya! It is a de-stress thing for me to escape with maybe one child or in the evening after their bedtime or running in while my husband circles the parking lot. Ha! I hope you get some thrifting time soon! xo

  7. Wonderful tips and awesome pictures. I need to thrift where you thrift.

    • Some of those photos are things I thrifted here in Phoenix, some are things I thrifted when we lived in Charleston SC last year (like that vintage tinsel Christmas tree!). Check out this site (I just discovered it and I’m telling everyone about it) for any shops in your area you might not have known about!

  8. Nicole W. says:

    Great list! Having a list on my iPhone helps me remember the things I’m looking for (white dishes, silver frames, etc.). Yesterday, while in another city, I ran by their Goodwill before leaving town. While I didn’t find anything (this time!) it was still fun.

    • Stopping into shops in other cities is so smart and also so fun – glad you’re already in the know about my “it’s ok to not find anything” motto. 🙂

    • I have my own list on my iphone as well for all the household chores that I may need to make. I make sure to have flexible time management to accomplish all my works.

  9. This might seem silly to some but it has been precious for us more than once….pray about what you are needing to find. When we had no money for a bike for our daughter, we prayed on our way to the thrift store and there was this perfect, lovely bike in great condition. She felt totally blessed that her prayers had been answered. Yesterday I needed to find a nice navy blue kid blazer for a friend on a super limited budget whose hubby has been out of work but she needs to clothe all her kids for her father-in-laws’ funeral in the coming weeks. I can’t tell you how gleeful I was to text her that I’d found a Nordstrom wool navy blazer, the ONLY one at the Goodwill, in her son’s size. I think God delights in those little ways that He meets our needs.

    My other semi-thrifting tip would be simply to try first to borrow from a friend before forking out money for a one-time-use type thing. Like my friend I mentioned, she is borrowing the leather shoes and white dress shirts that my boys wore in my sisters’ wedding last August. She only needs them for this funeral, her boys will only wear them one time. So if you have a friend who might have what you only need once, ask if you can borrow! I love knowing my boys’ stuff will get one more use!

  10. I. Love. This. And you are SO right. And now I have a serious impulse to go thrifting, thankyouverymuch.

  11. Ooops, I have two more tips that I just remembered! One is that most big chain stores like Value Village and most Goodwill’s sell inventory from right around the location of their store. If I need something nicer, more dressy, new-ish, I sometimes make the longer drive to the (very) affluent lakeside town near us because I am almost guaranteed to find more designer, high end stuff there.

    The other thing is that two friends and I check in with each other regularly when we are heading out to thrift (we all have between 4 and 7 kids each – so its no small thing when we get the time to shop!), if there is a much needed item, we keep on the lookout for one another.

  12. These are wonderful tips! I always wind up leaving a thrift store with things I didn’t need and will probably never use. My friend, who thrifts with me sometimes, will leave with things I’d never consider buying… then she goes home and, with some paint and elbow grease, turns them into gorgeousness. I’d love to know more about how to develop that “eye” for seeing potential!

    • I hear you – it’s happened to me too! One thing I do is I gather things in my cart as I go along and it’s when I’m about to check-out that I do a once-over to make sure I truly LOVE (like, can’t leave without) the things I’m about to buy.

      I think if you start with small projects – maybe a dress you like that’s too big or a shelf that is nice but the wrong color – and really alter/paint/etc those things when you get home it will inspire you to get creative and before you know it you’ll have that eye. It takes practice! Also our series on Simple Design about “strategies for designing your life” can help you with getting a better eye.

  13. We are hard-core second hand shoppers! I love this article and I do the once-over before I check out too. 🙂 We have actually furnished our entire home with thrift store and Craigslist purchases— beds, dishes, tables, rugs, lamps, chairs, foosball table— you name it. Yet I do it with style and I cannot agree more with your article about you have to have a “plan.” Otherwise your home can begin to look like a thrift store, and that isn’t what most of us are going for. Haha!

    • Jen I’m so glad you chimed in here and shared that link – your home is gorgeous and with such sweet personalization (thanks to the second-hand treasures, am I right?). I wrote about all that is thrifted/second-hand in our home just a couple months ago here: (and if you look at today’s thrift haul post you’ll see I found a lamp for that open spot! 🙂 ).

  14. Lynda @ Rhody Reader says:

    Great tips! I enjoy thrift stores and yard sales, but don’t always have a plan when I go in–clearly that’s something to remedy! Luckily I am willing to walk away empty handed, though. I do have some general things that I always look for–books, bakeware, fun material–but part of the fun is seeing what I never even knew I needed!

    I’ve found it’s much easier to go without my little guy–he’s often drawn to the plastic toys that no one else wants in their home so they’ve been donated. Often he can leave without any, but so much smoother solo…

  15. I love thrift store shopping. Right now though since its summer I have headed outdoors to yard sales to fill my need for bargain finds. I love picking up unused materials, books, baskets and clothes.

  16. My husband and I always hit at least one thrift store whenever we go somewhere. We try to make a trip to a city about 90 minutes from us that has 6 or 7 thrift stores (and a Sonic) to make a day out of it with the kids. Nothing like having my daughter read her newest haul of books while drinking a limeade!

  17. Jane Dula says:

    I just found this fun site, yeah! I’m a grandma and great grandma so I’ve been thrifting for a LONG time. Guess what? I still love it. Had such a good time last weekend that I went again yesterday LOL Just wanted to share a fun thing our church does. Every spring all the ladies clean out their unwanted items and take them to our church gymnasium. We sort, stack and hang TONS of stuff. What a DEAL, take whatever you want, it’s all FREE.

  18. Find shops near senior communities, in small towns, or places that might seem like it’s not the place to shop. Because that will be the exact place to shop!

    I have never thought of that… Do you go with gloves in these kinds of places?

  19. I enjo/am addicted to thrift shopping and enjoyed your post! I have two other tips.
    1. Talk to other thrift store shoppers. You’ll find out about the secret treasure stores, such as stores that sell their samples in a separate location. They’re not quite thrift stores, but you can find some wonderful deals!
    2. Pay attention to brands. The high-end brands are often better made than things from lower end stores. They are often more classic styles and better quality so they last longer.

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  21. Great tips! Lately I’m also a lot into thrifting, but I don’t have much time to explore offline thrift stores, so I mainly shop online. And my latest discovery is thrifting on Instagram. There are SO many ladies that sell their thrift treasures, small vintage boutiques etc. Love it love it! 🙂 And it’s easy to find new thrifting IG accounts using services like that unite all insta sellers. I just type in the search box “thrift”, “thrifted” or “vintageclothing” and get straight to thrifter’s paradise! 🙂

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