Guide to Thrift Store Shopping

The $20 in My Pocket Ultimate Guide to Thrift Store Shopping

“I wear your granddad’s clothes. I look incredible.”

Okay, so I maybe I don’t where old-people clothes. But I did just walk into a second-hand shop with $20 in my pocket and walk out with designer jeans, a brand new J. Crew sweater, vintage jewelry and a whole lot of swagger.

I love having friends and family comment on my outfit and grinning back at them: “Oh this? $4.50 at Goodwill.”

And here’s the secret: it’s not random luck. There’s a legit strategy to thrift store shopping, and I’m going to share my secrets.

Queue the Macklemore jam, and get ready to pop some tags 🙂

Why Do I Shop at Thrift Stores?

Most of my clothes in the last year have been great finds at consignment stores and Goodwill. I love thrift store shopping for two reasons:

  1. Everything in the store is unique. Because you’ll rarely find two of the same shirt in a thrift shop, which means you end up with a really unique wardrobe with personality. It also means you’re safe from running into your coworker the next day that just bought the same polkadot dress at H&M.
  2. It’s a steal. Ever look at the price tag on a cable knit sweater or a pair of jeans and wonder why in the hell it would cost $100 (or more)? Me too. It’s painful to pay so much for a piece of clothing. But a lot of these designer items end up in thrift stores in near-perfect conditions – for sometimes 10% of the original cost.

But as much as I love thrift stores, walking into Salvation Army or Goodwill be overwhelming if you don’t have a game plan. Racks of random shirts, piles of faded jeans, rows upon rows of gently-worn t-shirts – somewhere in there, there’s treasure to be found.

You just need a solid strategy so you don’t get lost in the chaos of all that second-hand goodness.

The Ultimate Guide to Thrift Store Shopping WITH JUST $20 IN YOUR POCKET

Your mission: snag some well-fitted, gently-used clothes at your local thrift store.

Your instructions: follow this guide to thrift store shopping to make the most out of your Goodwill trips. And yes, like Macklemore says, you really can walk out of the store with a handful of designer clothes for just $20!

Thrift Shop Guide

1. Shop in the fall and spring.

If the flowers are blooming or the leaves are changing color, that’s your time to head over to the thrift store. People everywhere start cleaning and reorganizing their housewares and wardrobes whenever the seasons change. As I noticed fall weather started creeping in, I started taking out all my winter sweaters (and taking stock in those that no longer fit). Thrift shops usually get inundated with new items to pick from when the weather shifts – so that’s the perfect time for to go shopping.

2. Visit your local thrift store often.

The beauty (and the frustration) of thrift store shopping is that each individual item is unique. At the same time, you usually won’t be able to get the same Lucky Jeans in a different size if it doesn’t fit perfectly. It’s like striking oil when you find something perfect for your body type and style; on the other hand, it can feel like a complete let-down when nothing seems to fit. You can easily increase your odds of finding thrift store treasures by popping into Goodwill or a consignment store more frequently than you would a normal department store. Now, I’m not encouraging any form of impulse shopping, but with an ever-changing selection, your odds of finding something incredible will increase the more often you go.

3. Pay attention to store sales.

Some thrift stores like Goodwill hold weekly sales on already heavily-discounted. Take another 50% off already affordable prices and you can scoop up a $15 dress for only $7.50. Keep track of regular sales at your favorite second-hand shop and you can turn a money-saving trip to the thrift store into a legitimate shopping spree.

4. Bring in used clothes to donate or sell every time you shop.

If you’re heading out for some second-hand shopping, it’s a good rule of thumb to always bring something to donate or sell while you’re there, for a few reasons:

  1. It’s a good reminder to assess what clothes you really need and wear – and avoid overstuffing your wardrobe with new purchases.
  2. Regular donations literally keep thrift stores in business.
  3. You’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something on your trip, even if you end up walking out of the store without having bought anything.

On that note, be prepared to walk away with nothing. It will happen, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it. You may spend a whole hour in a thrift store and walk out without a single purchase. Just remember to shop often and always bring in something to donate or sell to help you feel like your trip was worthwhile.

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