How to Save Money Thrift Shopping

Ah, the thrill of thrift store shopping! There’s nothing quite like it. Finding that game you loved to play as a child, discovering the perfect chair for your living room, or trying to determine exactly what that familiar looking item is supposed to be used for can make for a fun way to spend the afternoon. The prices are great, too, but you can get even more savings at your local thrift store by implementing a few savvy shopping strategies. Check out these pro tips to save even more on your next thrifting adventure.

1. Stick to your list and your budget. It won’t matter how much you save on individual items if you overspend in this budget category. Take inventory of what you already have and make a list of what you really need before you hit the store. This will help you rein in your impulse buying when you see all those great bargains lurking on the thrift store shelves. If you are looking for an extra shelf for your kitchen, don’t go crazy buying dishes, glasses, pots and pans just because they look cuter that what you already have at home in the cupboard.
2. Make sure it works. This goes for clothing as well as electronic and mechanical items. Some stores offer refunds for defective items, but some do not, so look for an outlet and check out that blow dryer, turntable, or electric typewriter before you buy. Inspect all clothing for offensive odors, missing buttons, broken zippers, stains, rips, and tears. Try everything on and look at it in the mirror; just because it looks good on the hanger doesn’t mean it will fit well and be complimentary once you try it on. Also make sure it feels good; anything too tight, too loose, scratchy, or just plain uncomfortable will make your bargain a flop.
3. Shop on sale days. Many thrift stores offer special sale days where certain items or the entire store inventory is steeply discounted. Your local thrift store may also offer discounts for military, seniors, or students. Ask about loyalty programs that offer discounts, and any coupons the store may offer. Some stores offer discounts if you bring in a donation when you shop, and others have grab bag sales or bulk (priced per pound) sale prices. Check your local Sunday paper for coupons, and ask the store manager about available specials.
4. Use a cash back card. If you have a cash back rewards card, you can get even more out of your next shopping trip by earning rewards for your thrift store purchases. You can also purchase pre-loaded VISA and Mastercard gift cards online at a discount and use them to snag your thrifty deals.
5. Become a label reader. You might not care whether there is a recognizable name on the label, but designer items are often made to last much longer than the same item from a discount department store. That Ann Taylor little black dress could become a staple in your wardrobe for the next several years and still look as good as it did when it first came off the rack. The same kind of dress from a discount store might not hold up as well after several washings and wearings.
6. Timing is everything. If you’re looking for winter clothing in January, you’ll probably pay more than if you shop for those same items in March or April. Many retail stores will sell or donate their unsold seasonal clothing and other items to thrift stores at the end of each season to make room for new inventory. If you time it right, you can pick up brand new items with the tags still intact for a fraction of what you’d pay during the peak of the season. Look for next year’s Christmas items in January, shop for swimsuits and summer wear in August or September, and shop on discount days or utilize available coupons and sale prices, and you can compound your savings exponentially.
7. Think outside the box. Do you have a wedding reception coming up? Look for mismatched wine, champagne, or drinking glasses, assorted vases, mason jars, candles and candlesticks, and silk flowers for centerpieces, sheets for tablecloths, and fabric for cloth napkins. You can save a bundle if you use a little creativity and some thrift store bargains.
8. Join the store email list. Ask if your favorite thrift store has an email list, and join it if they do. This can give you a heads up on upcoming sales and specials, which can allow you to get the jump on those bargains before the regular shoppers catch wind of the potential savings.
9. Go often. If you can exercise self-control (see #1), going shopping once a week could help you find a particular item you’ve been looking for. Once you know the store’s layout, you can quickly head to the section you need and laser focus on finding that portable sewing machine, extra-large pet crate, or designer jacket you’ve been trying to locate. Just remember to focus and not get distracted by all the shiny (almost) new items that have been added since your last trip.
10. Try a new store. If you’ve been sticking to the same one or two well-known thrift stores, try branching out. Although there’s probably a Goodwill store (or two, or three) in every town, most cities also have independently owned secondhand stores that can feature some really unique items you won’t find anywhere else. One may feature a really excellent used book section, while another may specialize in fine china and crystal. Look online and see which stores you haven’t tried yet and check them out.

We hope these suggestions will help you make the most of your next thrift store excursion, yielding great savings along with great finds!