10 Thrifting Tips that Will Help You Shop Smarter
Thrift shopping is one of our favorite kinds of shopping on multiple fronts. It's a sustainable alternative to buying fast fashion pieces, combating the social and environmental repercussions associated with buying from these brands. Thrift shopping is cost effective. You can find endless vintage designer clothes for a minuscule fraction of the price you would have paid in-store. And best of all, thrifting is exciting. Although a trip to Savers can be a hit or miss and you may walk out with nothing, for every thrifting-bust, there's a piece out there waiting to surprise you.
There's no denying that thrifting is the perfect way to shop responsibly, save some cash and genuinely enjoy a morning out. To aid your next trip to your local thrift store, we've put together a list of our top tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your thoughtful shopping experience.
1 - Follow the “one in, one out” rule.
One of the most important things to remember when thrifting is to be conscious of how many clothes you’re accumulating and what you can really afford to take on in your wardrobe. Since thrift store items are generally inexpensive, you might feel inclined to buy a ton of things because they're great deals. However, the best rule to follow is the one in, one out rule: for every item you purchase, you should either sell or donate an item you currently own. This is a great way to stay mindful of what you’re actually adding to your closet’s contents and making sure that your wardrobe remains thoughtful and well-curated.
2 - Come with a broad checklist.
If you go into a thrift store with a list of very specific things that you need, you probably won't find them and will come out of the shop empty-handed and disappointed. On the other hand, if you don't know what you need in your wardrobe and come with no list at all, you could end up on a spending rampage throughout the store. Instead, create a broad shopping wish list to guide your spending. Your list can include items that you know you need in your edited wardrobe - things like: a vintage t-shirt, high-waisted jeans, etc. While shopping, you should make sure that everything you buy is in line with your closet's defined color palette as well. If you know what colors you're looking for, you can scan each section for those colors and make the shopping process easier. Doing this will help you be more successful in buying clothing that you actually want, that will complement your wardrobe.
3 - Don't forget about the accessories.
One of the most overlooked categories in thrift shopping is accessories. Often hidden in a corner, accessories can be the most fun (and cost-effective) way to add your own unique style to your wardrobe. Keep an eye out for boxes of vintage scarves, hanging racks of purses and belts, and glass cases with sunglasses and jewelry. If you invest in quality basics for your capsule wardrobe, you can use vintage or second hand accessories to make your outfits feel unique or on trend (without breaking the bank).
4 - Know what time to go.
Thrift stores make the most of the real estate they have by jam-packing a ton of clothes into limited space. It’s significantly harder to sift through clothes when the store is crowded and there’s a pushy person right on your tail as you make your way down the sweater aisle. Try your best to go during off-times, when you think there won’t be many other people in the store. Occasionally, Google's Popular Times can even tell you how busy a store is at any give hour in the day. But if you can’t find any crowd-control information online, as a rule of thumb, show up early and avoid going on the weekends. Also, many thrift stores have certain days and times that they bring out fresh merchandise, so you can ask the store clerk of your local thrift store and get to the best stuff first.
5 - Come dressed to shop.
Since thrifting is very much a physical activity, come dressed ready to shop. Instead of constantly having to pull up the straps on your top and adjust the tote bag on your shoulder, wear something comfortable when thrift shopping. You don’t want to be held back by less-than-comfortable clothing while trying to hunt through clothing racks. Consider a simple t-shirt, jeans, sneakers and a backpack.
6 - Keep an open mind in terms of sizes.
Just because you’re a size medium and a vintage t-shirt is labeled a size large doesn’t mean that you should disregard it. Because thrift clothes are second-hand, the pieces aren’t always sized the same as they would be in regular retail stores. It’s possible that the shirt could have severely shrunk in the wash, or maybe sizing standards were different 20 years ago when the original owner bought them. Nevertheless, if something appeals to you and it looks like it might fit, ignore what the size tag might say. Trying things on is always free.
7 - Remember that you can always alter.
There has been many a thrift store trip that I have walked away with clothes – jeans, example – that fit perfectly except for the length. In one instance, I bought two pairs of designer jeans from my local Goodwill for $8 each. I got one pair hemmed for ten bucks and I cut the other pair to transform them into frayed denim culottes. Especially if a thrift store’s clothes are cheap, keep in mind that you can manipulate the pieces later. While altering expensive pieces from retail stores can be nerve-wrackingly risky, cutting and hemming an $8 pair of vintage jeans is a safer bet.
8 - Leverage the Internet.
Thrift shopping isn’t limited to brick-and-mortar stores anymore. There are online consignment shops and second-hand shopping apps like The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective, Tradesy, and Poshmark that let you buy pre-loved clothes as well as sell your own. With online thrifting, you have so many more options to choose from than you might have had at a physical store. Sites like these have great buyer protection policies as well, meaning if a seller misleads you to purchase an item that isn’t as described, they always find a way to rectify the situation. However, make sure you’re confident that an item will fit before you buy it because it is most likely final sale. We're compiling a list of our favorite online vintage boutiques (coming soon!), so look out for that.
9 - Bring a predetermined amount of money.
Since premium items at thrift stores can sell for less than twenty dollars a pop, it can be really tempting to buy everything because it’s so inexpensive. Instead of going on a rampage that’s no healthier than spending hundreds of dollars at a non-thrift store, allot yourself a predetermined amount of money, an amount that you know you can allow yourself to spend. Pro-tip: leave the credit cards at home and show up with a crisp fifty dollar bill to fund your best thrift store findings.
10 - Take your time.
Cliché warning: thrift shopping is about the journey, not the destination. Thrifting isn’t about blowing through the clothes and leaving when you don’t find what you’re looking for, it’s about checking out everything the store has to offer and seeing if anything jumps out at you. Remember to slow down, take your time and enjoy the hunt.
If you loved this post and can't wait to read our next one, sign up for our e-mail list below to stay up to date with VETTA.
In the meantime, get to know our favorite lean closet bloggers or shop responsibly via VETTA's new Classic Capsule.