Thrift store shopping tips including how to thrift shop, what to look for at thrift stores and helpful tools to take with you while thrift store shopping.
I compiled a list of my top thrift store shopping tips for you, because thrifting is my life. OK, that might be pushing it a bit, but I do like to get my thrift on!
When I was a kid my mom dragged me into thrift stores kicking and screaming. It definitely wasn't my favorite place to hang out, because what 10 year old loves to look through piles of "old" clothes. At that point in time, I'd rather be playing Kick The Can with the neighborhood kids or just about anything other than shopping with my mom!
It wasn't until I was out of college and money was tight that I popped back into a thrift store to look for some deals on furniture for my first apartment. I started looking around and I FELL IN LOVE with all the cool stuff and all the cool prices!
If only I had realized how fun thrift store shopping could be when I was a kid!
So although I missed out on a good 15 years of thrift store shopping, I have more than made up for it since!
TOP TEN THRIFT STORE SHOPPING TIPS:
1) Keep your mind open
If you go in the thrift store looking for a vintage Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera, then chances are you will be highly disappointed. You might not come away with exactly what you had been looking for, but there are still finds to be had so keep your eyes peeled and your mind open to new possibilities.
2) Go often
I have good days and I have bad days. Just because a store is a dud one day doesn't mean that a person isn't going to drop off a outstanding donation at that same store tomorrow.
3) Go early
But not necessarily when they first open. I find if I go first thing when they open the shelves are a little bare. You've got to give the employees a chance to get the newly donated items priced and onto the shelves.
4) You can find the best stuff on Mondays and Tuesdays
People will clean out their garages over the weekend and then drop off stuff to the thrift stores the first of the week. (Or if you are like me, keep it stored in the back of my van for a month or two and drop it off when I get tired of the crystal lamp rolling around back there). Late afternoon Mondays and Tuesdays are prime thrift store shopping time!
5) Location, location, location
I've found the best stuff in thrift stores in older neighborhoods. Older neighborhoods have older people and older people have the cool vintage stuff that I love (and to them it is just old stuff).
If you thrift for clothing and newer items, then maybe the thrift stores closer to the higher end neighborhoods would get you better results.
6) Avoid the fancy Goodwill stores
The ones that are filled with lots of new merchandise donated by stores. They have very few items donated by actual people and what they do have is very much curated by employees. Only the highest quality stuff makes it on the shelves. I prefer the thrift stores that pretty much put out anything that gets donated and let me decide if I want it or not!
7) Travel outside your normal area occasionally
Now with gas prices sky rocketing I won't be doing this too often, but I'll certainly stop by if I'm on that side of town for something else.
8) Be friendly and get to know your local thrift store employees
If you find a favorite thrift store and frequent it often, you'll get to know the workers. My local store workers have given me tips on when the best times to shop there are, alerted me to future sale days and have even dragged something out of the back room that they thought I'd like.
9) Once you know a thrift store, you can be in and out in 5 minutes
I know where to go to see what I am interested in. I don't dawdle. If they have nothing interesting that day I'm off to the next one down the road.
10) A bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse or car is a good thing
Thrift stores do not clean things up or wash them prior to putting them on the shelves. I tend to pick stuff up to examine them, so my hands get a little grimy.
Speaking of hand sanitizer, I've made a list of things below I like to keep in my purse while out thrifting!
Bonus Thrift Store Shopping Tips:
11) Bring some cash
Not all thrift stores accept credit cards. I know it's hard to believe, but I find some of the smaller, mom and pop thrifts are cash only! And you do not want to be out of cash when you find that mid-century modern sofa of your dreams.
12)Beware of impulse buys
We've all been there. You see a really cool vintage thermos that you want to buy, but do you really need another thermos for your collection? Of course you do!
13)Wear appropriate clothing
If you are shopping for clothing, remember that not all thrift stores have dressing rooms, so wear something form fitting so that you can easily try on other clothing over what you're wearing.
What To Look For At Thrift Stores:
- Anything jadeite
- Vintage globes
- Anything Mid-Century Modern - furniture, bar ware or clothing
- Colorful Pyrex pieces
- Vintage luggage
- Vintage cameras
- Cool looking vintage typewriters
- Paint By Number paintings
- Classic vintage thermoses
- Hudson Bay Point Blankets
Things To Bring With You When Thrift Store Shopping:
- Tape Measure to measure that piece of furniture to make sure it will fit in your space at home
- Flashlight to examine the items more closely
- Screwdriver in case you need to remove a mirror or legs from a piece of furniture
- Batteries to test to see if those battery operated items still work
- Hand Sanitizer to keep yourself clean and tidy
- Jewelers Loupe to inspect items for maker's marks and to inspect jewelry
- Magnets to test for sterling silver - magnets generally do not stick to sterling, but would stick to silverplate
- Old Blanket Or Towel to line your trunk for when you find that HUGE piece of furniture
Have fun and get out and enjoy some thrifting.
What about you, do you have any thrift store tips to add?
Other related posts:
- Interested in having your own yard sale with all your thrift store hauls? Run over and check out my 40 Yard Sale Tips For Hosting Your Own Sale (my readers are always adding more tips to the list, so if I'm missing something let me know and I'll add it).
- In A Letter To All Thrift Store Workers I discuss a little thrift store pet peeve of mine.
- And I let you in on what I've looking for at yard sales this year in my Top 5 Things To Look For At Yard Sales This Year
(This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. You can read my full disclosure policy here.)
Pam-Those are really bood tips! I do think you have to haunt places to know when to find the best picking times! And I avoid our GW like crazy...it is all new stuff now-ugh! xxoo Diana
I so agree! I even do a little haggle at the thrift shop too! Doesn't hurt. I know when the big boss is there, so it works. If I have extra bags I bring them along. They always can use them. Yes, make nice. It goes along way...
Hey, I want to go right now..
Great tips and I couldn't agree with you more. I have found some great stuff at thrift stores but I go often and make a point to visit as many different stores as I can. And my favorites too are the independent thrift stores....old stuff and better prices.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Great GW huntn', I love everything, an I really like those chickens,send them to me,hehehe.
I would give a gold nickel if we had a GW.
Hey thanks so much for your sweet comment and I appreciate your visit at LazyonLoblolly, please drop back down southeast Ga, anytime.
I love the turqouise buffet,gurl it is fantastic.
I'm trying to get into more color, but it is hard for me to bust out of the neutrals.
But when I see beauty like this it is really giving me inspiration.
I have been thrifting since I was a teen but you nailed these tips. I like many church related thifts too as they often have sales and discounts. In my area GW is just ridicluous.
Rose @ Confessions of a Curbshopaholic
We don't have goodwill around here. I love all your tips and am also guilty of carrying around donations forever! I always bring my Salvation army coupons from the clipper magazine, they come in handy when something is priced a bit higher than I am willing to pay.
Erin told me about your post...loved it! I always thrift on Wednesday's because everything is half off at our local G-Dub. Think I'm going to start going on Mon. & Tues. now! Makes perfect sense.
thank you for the great advice. Keep on pinning & Happy New Year!
Idk about other stores, but Goodwill employees are not allowed to purchase from the store they work at, to keep them from "picking over" the merchandise.
Only if they enforce the rules. I know at my local Goodwill, nothing of any value ever makes it to the shelves.
I believe that anything of any "value" goes to Goodwill's auction site online. And, even if GW enforces the "no employee sales," I'd be surprised if more than one employee has had a friend purchase an item for them.
Mary Anne / MA54K
You are exactly right. The Shopgoodwill.com site is giving Ebay a run for their money. As for employees getting first pick, these policies were put in place to ensure the customer a good shopping experience. I have cameras on me at all times. If your store is not following policy, then heads need to roll. 17 year employee, and darn proud of it. This author needs to get facts straight.
I'm going to reword that paragraph, since what I mean by "picked over by employees" is "weeded out by employees". They're weeding out the vintage stuff that gets donated and only putting the newer more current clothes and housewares on the shelf. If you look around the store, there's not a vintage item in site. The stores are filled with only new and high end designer items. I assume they send the more vintage items to one of their other stores.
Carlene @ Organized Clutter
Good tips with going often being the very best! The killer donations are snatched up quickly and if you are there often you have a better chance of getting the good stuff.
Yeah, I had to laugh at the lamps rolling around in the car comment too, except I bought them and was too lazy to bring them in my house. lol. I'm fortunate that we have a lot of estate and demo sales in the off season. (Of course I'm referring yard sale season). But I should definitely keep thrift stores in the loop too. I bought a gorgeous antique mirror at a thrift store for $60. (still kind of think that was expensive.) But I loved it and the owner of the store threw in this big serving piece to sweeten the deal. I think she was just trying to get rid of it but, oh well, I got a twofer!
Here in Arizona, Goodwill has 20% off monthly printable coupon, when you spend 10.00 dlls and over, it's good for the whole month.
I've found some really great buys at church thrift shops.
Treasures By Brenda
Our thrift stores do not put out stock on the weekend so I don't have a lot of luck on Mondays though I'm not sure if I have ever been there late on a Monday. I'll try that.
I am definitely no thrift store virgin but I still enjoyed your post and am pinning it to my How to eBay board on Pinterest.
One tip I haven't seen mentioned anywhere: If you think something's silver but the tarnish is so bad you can't be sure, one of the little microfiber cloth squares (the kind used to clean your eyeglasses) will do a quick job of cleaning off just enough tarnish to let you see a spot of shine. It's small enough to fit into a pocket or purse easily.
Honestly, rubbing a fingertip on silver/plate will show you the shine, though finger will pick up the gray tarnish/patina. I do this on makers mark to read easier. Have found good buys near closing times, go figure.
manyshops llike goodwill, has as is lots. veery discounted area. and also take a good set of work gloves to keep your hands clean. by the way a tarp in your trunk or in where ever you plan to face your items will help to keep you clean.
Great post... I love the pictures!
I also love to visit thrift stores! I live in the Central Valley of Northern California and our thrift stores here are SO expensive!!!
I don't understand why they price things SO high! It kinda defeats the purpose.
Thanks for the tips!
Great tips! I am going to share this with our thrift readers, thank you!
LOVE it! And all so true! My husband still doesn't understand how I can spend 20 minutes digging through one aisle! This makes me want to go shopping! Which is your preference? Goodwill, Value Village, St Vincent or others? I would love to hear your opinions on the pros and cons of each! I've debated writing my own post on the subject 🙂 but if you do I'd love to read it!
Well around here we have Goodwill, Salvation Army and Volunteers Of America. I hardly ever go to Goodwill anymore, just because the ones in town are overpriced and too many items are brand new items from store closeouts. Salvation Army and Volunteers of America are both really good though.
You HAVE to write that post though!!! That would be fantastic!
Reading it now! I also have a great post about cleaning milk glass and removing tags. I've noticed that Value Village has really sick tags that practically ruin the resale of wood or painted items when trying to remove them. Perhaps I'll find a note on that to employees about tags placement in your letter!
We have a Goodwill Outlet where I live. What an experience!
the first couple of times I went there I was shell shocked but now it doesn't really phase me. Everything is by the pound. by. the. pound. brings good gloves & lots o' hand sanitizer & an open mind!