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Thrift Store Know How (Tips For Buyers)

By Koni Helton
Shopping at thrift stores is not a new idea. Many, many people save money by purchasing pre-owned items, particularly clothing. Unfortunately, many people also go home and find that their new-found treasures are not what they expected them to be. Suddenly, that wonderful bargain, finds itself in the growing pile of items to be given away. Another problem is actually finding something we want. We join the mass of shoppers on Saturday afternoon, and can’t find a single thing. This can all be avoided with just a few precautions.


What most people fail to do, is inspect garments carefully along the seams. All who are guilty please raise your hands (yep, mine’s in the air too). We look the garment over for rips, tears, and stains. We look for missing buttons/snaps. Why, oh why, can’t we remember to check the seams. Sometimes, the seam isn’t altogether apart, just loose. If the stitches are just loose, repairing the item may be a simple enough task to warrant considering the item for purchase anyway. However, if the actual fabric appears to have pulled away from the stitches, don’t buy it. Repairs of this type are often more tedious and time-consuming than can be warranted for something of this price-range. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules. If the item is something you simply LOVE, by all means, go ahead. The ultimate choice is yours.


What some people don’t realize is that there are sometimes brand-new items for sale in Thrift Stores. Mostly, these were gifts that didn’t fit, or purchase that were forgotten. Perhaps the donator changed his/her mind after arriving home and just didn’t feel like returning it to the store (yes, there ARE people who actually do this). Whatever the case may be, these items are by far the best deals. I, personally, have bought a brand-new pair of designer jeans (tags still attached) for $5! It can be done!


The more time you allow yourself to browse through the shop, the more likely you are to find a real bargain. If time is spent to go through absolutely everything, the best bargains are less likely to pass you by. I generally spend at least 2 hours looking through the local thrift store in my area. I pick over everything like a vulture searching for daily sustenance. And it pays off! I’ve taken home enough clothing to completely redo my entire wardrobe for less than $60. This would include six pairs of pants, eight shirts, three pair of shoes, a handbag, and (my favorite) a long flannel nightgown. I wouldn’t have found half that if I hadn’t taken the time to search through everything.


I can’t stress this enough. And this especially applies to clothing. Don’t buy an item just because it’s a great deal or because you MIGHT use it SOMEDAY. How many of us have made purchases that we applied this type of thinking to and found those items still hanging in the closet or packed away in a drawer years later (yep, my hand’s in the air again)? If you want to get a real deal, just don’t buy it unless you truly LOVE it at the store. Chances are, if you don’t love it at the store, you won’t love it any more when you get it home. Honestly, have you really saved yourself any money if you’ve spent that money on something that probably won’t be used or worn?
The same rules that help save you money at major department stores also apply at thrift stores. People tend to donate more after Christmas because they have newer clothes and other items. Generally they no longer need or want the older items and donate them to thrift stores. Also, seasonal clothes can be purchased for less than half original prices if purchased off-season. Sweaters, shorts, etc can often be found for $0.25 this way. Toys can also be found at great deals, but make sure all parts are with it.

Keeping these tips in mind can really enhance your experience with thrift stores. Happy hunting!

About The Author:

Koni Helton is a freelance writer and craft designer. For a listing of her work, visit Koni’s Facebook page at!/SquirrelFriend

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