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How to Get the Most Out of Your Trip to the Thrift Store

Posted by MoneyKey on April 29, 2019

Whether you’re trying to build a professional wardrobe on a budget, or you’re just looking to replace a few of the staple items in your closet that have worn out, a shopping trip every now and again may be unavoidable. The problem is, if you’re living paycheck to paycheck you may not have much room in your budget to spend on clothes. It’s possible you may not even be keeping track of your finances in a budget designed to suit your financial situation. If this is the case, you’ll want to start putting together a budget to help you organize your finances.

Either way, you don’t need to break the bank when you’re looking to add a few pieces to your wardrobe! Knowing how to get the most out of your thrift store trips may be just the key you’re looking for to avoid going overboard on your shopping trips.

Take a look at these five thrifting tips to make the most of your thrift store clothing finds.

Look for thrift stores in affluent neighborhoods

Shopping in an affluent neighborhood may seem counterintuitive if you’re looking for ways to save money on clothes, but it may be the best way for you to satisfy your cravings for designer items while living on a tight budget. If you strategically seek out thrift stores in upscale areas and thoroughly sift through their racks, you may stumble on some undiscovered luxury treasures at a heavily discounted price.

designer clothes at a thrift store

Once you’ve discovered the nearest thrift store that you think might be a good bet, there are two things you may want to call ahead about before you head out your door.

  • Find out when they restock their shelves. Typically, thrift stores don’t put out new clothes at the same rate as most larger retailers. This means that by the time they arrive at the end of their weekly cycle, they may have been picked clean of the higher-end clothing that they had previously put out. Finding out when they restock their shelves can help you avoid this.
  • Find out if they have any recurring or upcoming discount days. It’s common for thrift stores to have at least one discount event a month to clear their racks and make room for new clothing. This means you’ll be looking at significant discounts on already discounted clothes!

Hunt for quality brands and fabrics

Even when you have a loose budget and a particular need in mind, because of the low price of thrift store clothing, it’s easy to end up with an overflowing cart by the time you hit the register. The problem here – besides the fact that you’ll end up with a pile of clothes you don’t need – is that when you’re not careful, the odds of all of these items being of lasting quality is slim. These clothes will be no good to you if they fall apart within the week.

To avoid this, you’ll want to start by looking for name-brand items that are known to be of a high quality. You should also pay close attention to the clothing’s fabric. While certain natural fibers may cost a little more up-front, they tend to hold up better over time. Look for fabrics like linen, cotton, and leather, and try to stay away from nylon, polyester, or fake leather. They may not cost as much, but you’ll likely see them wear out much quicker.

If you’re on the hunt for name brands, you might want to look for consignment stores instead of traditional thrift stores. Consignment stores either purchase their clothes from the previous owner, or they give them a percentage of what they end up selling their items for. Because of this, the guidelines dictating what clothing they accept is typically stricter than donation-driven thrift stores. While you may pay a bit more than you would at your average thrift store, the quality of product will likely be better.

Know what to avoid

It’s important to have a clear idea of what to look for, but in order to maximize your thrift store dollars you’ll need to know what to avoid. While you may find a stack of cheap secondhand dresses that catch your eye, by knowing what to look out for, you can avoid getting stuck with clothes that you later deem unwearable.

ripped clothing at a thrift store

Here are few signs to look out for:

  • Anything that’s damaged. Unless you’re a seasoned sewer or skilled seamstress, stay away from anything with holes, deteriorating embellishments, or any obvious damage. While you may be tempted to take a chance on a discounted item that’s showing serious signs of wear, if you don’t have the skills to properly fix it, you’ll likely be wasting your money.
  • Clothing with Significant Embellishments. Buying previously worn clothing with a significant amount of sequins, glitter, or heavy stitching is a dangerous game. While everything may seem secure at first glance, the previous owner has likely used up most of that item’s lifespan. Depending on how closely you screen the item, you may not even notice missing embellishments in the first place. Do your best to stick to the basics and avoid anything with decaying embellishments.
  • Smelly or Stained Clothing. This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s easy to miss even the most obvious signs of damage when you’re not being careful. Make sure to give every item you pick up a through check. If you see any stains or get a whiff of something fishy, these are probably signs that this item is better left on the rack.

Launder properly

thrift store clothing in a laundry machine

If you want to make the clothes from your latest thrift store haul last, you’re going to have to make sure you know how to wash them properly. It’s usually best to take care of this before you actually wear any of it. Start by checking the tags on each item and determine what is safe to put in the regular wash, and what needs to be hand washed or dry cleaned.

Once you’ve taken out all of the more delicate items, you can run the rest through your normal washing cycle. It’s best to use hot water for this first wash to make sure you kill any bugs that may have lingered on these clothes. You can never be too safe with pre-worn clothing.

If any of the delicate items you had previously separated out require a little more special attention – whether it’s handwashing or dry cleaning – make sure to get this done before you first wear them out.

Take advantage of trade-ins

 While consignment stores may be a little more expensive than your average thrift store, that doesn’t mean you have to walk away from them having spent more money than you would at a donation-driven store. When you’re planning a trip to the consignment store, gather up all of your unused clothing, toys, household items, and whatever else they’ll accept! Whether they give you cash or in-store credit, trading in your unused clothes will help offset the cost of your purchase. Find out what items they’re looking for, what standards your trade-ins have to meet, and bring them items in good shape.

Make the most out of your thrift store trips

Whether your rummaging through a thrift store, consignment store, or even looking at an online thrift store, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a great deal on secondhand clothing. This is especially important if you don’t have much room in your budget for things like clothing. Your money is probably better served going towards things like online loan payments, car repairs, or other expenses that can’t wait.

The key with clothing is to seek out quality over quantity. By being patient, knowing what to look for and what to avoid, and understanding how to take care of your secondhand finds, you may be able to go home with quality items at a heavily discounted price. Keep these thrifting tips on your next shopping trip!

Do you have any tried and true tips for getting the most out of your thrift store trips? Share below!

Posted in: Lifestyle

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