The Art of Thrifting

Extreme bargain shopping can be a tad intimidating at first; consignment stores racks tend to be overflowing with items of all shapes, colors and sizes, sometimes with little concern for organization. But even if you’re a thrifting rookie, a consignment store excursion can be incredibly fruitful if you have a plan.

Before embarking on your bargaining quest, look through your closet and determine what you need. There are hundreds upon thousands of items at any given thrift store, so having a goal helps narrow down your options. Also, budget yourself; decide what you need and how much you’re willing to spend at each store. This budget will vary depending on how much luck you have at each store, but going in with a limited mindset will keep you on track. While sifting through your closet, set aside clothes to donate while you’re making your rounds. Anything you haven’t worn in more than six months probably isn’t worth holding on to; not only does it make room in your closet for you new finds, but donating supports all your favorite consignment shops.

Make a thrifting schedule. Identify which stores you want to hit and when, then head out prepared for an entire day of bargain hunting. Remember to schedule time for a lunch break so you can re-energize in the afternoon. If possible, learn about the thrift store’s donation schedule so you can avoid sifting through picked-over selections.

Thrifting requires a certain degree of persistence and energy, so make sure you’re mentally ready. Get a good night’s sleep, fill up on a hearty breakfast, and head out early to scope out the racks before the other thrifters. Go prepared with all the tools and supplies you may need: hand sanitizer, energy bars and snacks, water, cash, etc.

Once you’re at the store, be picky. For every item you’re interested in, ask yourself: Will I wear this more than once? Where would I wear it? Is it in good condition? Look for brand names that you know are high-quality, as well as anything that looks gently worn or brand new. Any item you choose should be relatively clean, without any major tears or stains. It’s tempting to purchase anything you like at a thrift store because everything is so inexpensive, but if you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a giant pile of clothes you’ll never actually wear. Thrift store dressing rooms can be pretty unsettling, so if you do choose to try on clothes, shop in clothes that are easy to change in and out of (I usually thrift in a skirt or dress so I can pull bottoms on underneath).

After you’ve made it home with your treasure trove, wash everything. Used clothes aren’t necessarily unsanitary, but they do tend to have a distinct thrift store smell. If you go on a lucky day and strategize, you should come away from your thrifting trip with some unique bargain items.

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