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Thursday, May 28, 2009

15 Tips to Shopping at Thrift Stores

Yesterday, I took a vacation day to do one of my favorite things – I went thrift-ing. Yes, I consider this an activity that requires its own verb. I was in need of some proper fitting summer clothing for me and my child.

I realize that many people are still leary about shopping at thrift stores and I have heard all of the excuses. So, I have come up with a few tips to make your shopping trip more enjoyable.

Tips to Thrift-ing

1. Plan ahead. Find out where the discounts will be and when. My stores offer 50% off on the last Wednesday of every month and others have deals on holidays and other days of the week.

2. Go where the good stuff is. I try to find thrift stores located near nicer neighborhoods. Several of the thrift stores that I frequent have last season’s styles for sale at around $1 when it’s half off day.

3. Map it out. If you have a GPS, then this doesn’t apply to you. If you are going to several stores in a day, map them out. It makes your day much easier.

4. Dress for success. First, dress comfortably. Second, dress so that you can try things on as you go. I like to wear tank tops or other thin shirts to try things on over top. Many thrift stores now have dressing rooms, but not all. Sneakers are more comfortable than sandals or flip flops, but flip flops make it easier to try on shoes. Keep a sock in your purse for trying on shoes.

5. Measure yourself and your family members. When there is a store that doesn’t have a dressing room, you have to figure out what will fit. Having accurate measures and a measuring tape help. I am pretty good at determining what will fit by holding pants up to my waist and thighs. I am thicker on the bottom so I have to be really careful. Before I had lots of practice, I came home with a lot of pants that didn’t fit. My purchases from yesterday all fit perfectly.

6. Know the brands that fit you. I know that Express, GAP, A.N.A, Worthington, Liz Claiborne and Old Navy will generally fit me well with their different styles. I also know that certain brand names run smaller than others. I avoid those. Example; I know that Express’s Editor and JC Penney’s Worthington pants fits me great. I do not hesitate to grab these when I find a style that I like.

7. Keep an open mind.
Do not have specific items or colors in mind. I generally go looking for clothes for a particular season or I need clothes for work or play. I also might know that I need tops or bottoms more. It doesn’t hurt to have something in mind that you are looking for, but don’t count on it.

8. Be choosy. You can grab anything off the racks to begin with, but go through them carefully and make sure they are really something you can use or need. Thrift-ing gives you an opportunity to buy trendier clothes that you wouldn’t normally buy, but be sure they fit properly. Also, make sure there are no stains, tears, holes or anything that can’t be repaired easily. I have brought home many items in the past that didn’t work just because they were a good deal. Not a good idea.

9. Recruit your fellow shoppers. If you go shopping with friends or family, make sure you know what everyone else is looking for. It helps when you come across their size and vice versa.

10. Double check before you purchase. When dealing with bigger crowds going on the discount days, make sure you grab what you want off the rack and double check it in the end. My friend is much pickier than I am and she looks very carefully at everything before putting it in her cart. I am less picky and grab anything I think will fit in the beginning. I then weed things out by holding them up two or three times before making a final decision.

11. Take a snack. When trying to save money on clothing, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to blow your savings on eating out. I like to do this when I am out with my friends because it is sometimes part of the experience, but in recent years I have realized what a money and time waster it is. This takes away from my thrift-ing time.

12. Don’t waste your money. Do not buy things that you aren’t going to use. I keep repeating this, but it was one of my biggest mistakes over the years. The best part about thrift-ing is finding great pieces for less, but it isn’t smart to buy everything because it’s cheap.

13. Don’t overlook the household goods. I love to look through the home good stuff. You never know when you are going to find that one buried treasure. I found the most insanely gorgeous bean pot yesterday. It has beautiful blue and earth tone glazes. It now sits on my dining room table as a center piece. If you find items like this, take a chance and take them home. These items also make great gifts.

14. Purses. You can find lots of expensive purses for pennies on the dollar. My mother loves Coach, Kate Spade and other expensive purses. She seems to find these at almost every thrift store she goes to.

15. Hand sanitizer. Bring it and use it when you are done.

I will warn you. I have converted many a friend and co-worker to thrift-ing and they are happier and wealthier for it. One of my co-workers went on a trip to an expensive part of Florida. She and her husband ran across a thrift store in a fancy neighborhood. Her husband handed her $30 and said go crazy not thinking she would have much luck. A couple of hours later, she emerged carrying several bags full of clothes. He was thrilled and she came out with some very expensive name brands! If you haven't been shopping thrift, you are spending too much!

Happy Thrift-ing!

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