How to thrift

When I mention that I got something from a thrift store, a common response is, “I never find that kind of stuff!” That’s probably because you’re doing it wrong. But we can fix that real quick.

Before you even make it to the thrift store you’re going to, you should know two things:

1. Does it have a dressing room?

2. How can I pay?

If the place doesn’t have a dressing room, wear an outfit that will let you try on over your clothes. I usually go for a tank top, leggings, and flip flops. I’m generally not a fan of the leggings-as-pants trend, but it’s a big help when there’s no place to try on except in front of God and everybody at the Red White and Blue.

You definitely need to know how you can pay. Some places are cash only, so be prepared. Others will let you use a check or card.

So now you’re dressed and you know how you’re going to part ways with your money. Here are some more tips to help you make the most of the store.

  • I try to go with things I know I need in mind. It’s still fun to just shop aimlessly, and I pretty much always leave with something(s) not on my list. Be flexible, but know your needs. It helps curb extra spending, which I really have a problem with.
  • Speaking of extra spending, I always try to set myself a budget before I go into the store. It’s usually around $30, but it depends on how much my bank balance sucks at the time.
  • Try that shit on. Don’t just assume it will work, because most thrift places don’t do any kind of returns, so you’ll be stuck with a waste of money. This also applies to shoes. Do a lap of the store in them before you buy.
  • Get out of your section. Go see what’s up in men’s, or if you’re really petite, the children’s section. I find that the men’s section is always a gold mine of great tees and comfy oversize sweaters.
  • If you love the print or some other part of a garment, but it won’t work for you in its present state, get creative. You don’t like maxi skirts? Chop ’em off at the knee. Like the color but not the cut of some pants? Get out the scissors and you’ve got yourself some new shorts. Vest looking too plain? Get a pack of studs off Ebay and get to it. Nice dresser, bad paint job? Get your butt to the paint store. Nifty print on a big sheet? Wash it and make some pillows. The point? Don’t be limited by what’s on the hanger.
  • Check thoroughly for flaws. Count the buttons. Look for snags, stains, rips, holes, discoloration, or signs of fabric wearing thin. Check for sweat stains on white shirts especially. Test every zipper and examine every hem. If you have another person with you, have them look over your things too, just in case.
  • Be real with yourself. If you love it, but it just doesn’t fit right, don’t get it. Don’t do the whole “Well I’ll just lose five pounds and then it will be perfect” game.
  • Call ahead and see what days the store does special deals. Most have some variation of “50 percent off these colored tags,” or “25 percent off everything in the store on Wednesdays.” Plan accordingly. Also, as with the mall, stores are more crowded on the weekends.
  • Go slow. Never go when you have to be somewhere else in an hour. Look at everything on the racks you’re interested in. At first glance, it all looks like a bunch of junk shoved in there together. Take the time to find the gems. They exist.
  • Win at life.
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