15 Thrift Store Shopping Hacks

Thrift store shopping is a lot of fun. If you do it right, you can snag some amazing pieces for a great price.

But, thrifting can also be overwhelming. There are SO many pieces with not a lot of organization. Not to mention, it can be hard to know if what you’re getting is a good deal or not.

But, with some simple guidelines and tips, thrifting can be a breeze and you can avoid frustration and overwhelm. So, join me to go over some of my fa-vor-ite thrifting tips!

Tips for Shopping at Thrift Stores

1. Shop on the Right Days

Most Thrift stores get their donations over the weekend when people are out running their errands. Then, it typically takes them 1-2 days to process them. So, this means the new items will hit the shelves on Mondays and Tuesdays. So, try shopping Monday-Wednesdays to get there before everything has been picked over.

Plus, shopping on a weekend is usually crazy busy so it’s better to steer clear if you can.

2. Shop Off-Season

Just like at your favorite department stores, you’re more likely to get deals on items when they are on the off-season. This means looking for sweaters/jackets in the summer and dresses and tank tops in the winter.

Some thrift stores will even do off-season blowouts at the end of a season. When working on this week’s video (above) my local thrift store had a summer blow out for summer items.

3. Shop the men’s aisle

I have found some of my favorite cozy sweaters in the men’s section.  I actually learned this lesson in middle school when I got a hand-me-down sweater from my grandfather and it was my favorite cozy top for 2 years straight. It has been a constant love of oversized sweaters since.

Not to mention if you find an amazing graphic tee, you can upcycle it into a tank top. I showed you how to do that in this video, or see the blog post tutorial here.

So many sweaters and t-shirts are gender-neutral, don’t forget to give the men’s section a look before leaving.

4. Know When They Get Restocked

Remember, thrift stores mainly work on donations. So, if you think logically about when people are typically clearing out their closets and clutter, this is when your local thrift store is more likely to be chock-full of new stuff.

Just think about when you see an uptick in garage sales and tag sales. This is when you’re probably going to see more new items at your thrift store. People tend to declutter their wardrobes in the spring and again in early fall.

5. Know when they have their sales/deals

Listen, just because the items are thrifted doesn’t mean you can’t get even more deals on top of that! Often these types of stores have a surplus of items and need to fast-track getting things out the door. Because of , his they run some hella-awesome deals. My local thrift shop often does three-day deals.

At Goodwill, they have student discounts and military discounts on Monday – 20% off with a proper I.D. Wednesday they do Senior Discounts for those over 55 years old (which totally isn’t a Senior – rude.) They also run holiday deals. See more here. 

6. Keep an Open Mind

Be willing to repurpose or update a piece. Sometimes you’ll find something that’s good but just needs a little adjusting. Whether it’s a tank top that needs its straps adjusted, some pants that need to be hemmed, or a coffee table that needs to be refurnished. It’s amazing what a tiny bit of TLC can do. Be willing to look at an item for its potential and don’t just take it at face value.

At first glance, this jean dress wasn’t totally my style. But, by keeping an open mind I thought about how I could style it to make it work. I knew by adding the right accessories, this could be a staple piece in my wardrobe.

7. Take a list

Make a list to keep you on track when shopping. Thrifting can be overwhelming, so having a list to keep you on track and makes the entire process easier.

That being said, don’t make a list that’s TOO specific, because then you’ll never find what you’re looking for. Keep the items general, like “cozy sweaters” or “summer dresses.” Avoid things that are too specific like “white knit sweater,” or “floral dress.” This allows you to have direction but not to so pigeon-holed that you set yourself up not to find anything.

8. Know when Goodwill changes their tags

Goodwill will have one colored tag on sale each day or week. It can depend from store to store and region to region. If you know when your Goodwill changes the tag that’s on sale, then you can shop on the first day before that colored tag is picked over and there are still good choices. The easiest way to figure this out is just to ask your local store employees.

9. Try Thrift Shops in the Nicer Towns

Visting the thrift stores in the “nicer” towns means two things. One, you’re more likely to find high-quality items and brand name labels. Two, the items tend to be less picked over since the residents tend to do less thrifting. So, make a day of it and visit some thrift stores in some of the nicer towns in your area. Or, try towns with summer homes.

When we lived in Maine we used to make trips down to some of the summer communities in early fall. All the people who had summer homes in the area had left but often dropped off goods at their local Goodwill on their way out of town. It was like a goldmine!

You’ll be surprised by some of the name brand clothing you can find at local thrift stores. I’ve found everything from J. Crew to the Banana Republic to Charlotte Tilbury at thrift stores in nicer parts of town! 

10. Dress for the part

Sometimes thrift stores don’t have dressing rooms. Or, if they do they aren’t the most idyllic of spots for trying on items. If you dress the part of of thrifting, it’ll be a lot easier.

Try wearing leggings with slip-on shoes. On top, consider layering by wearing a tank top and a sweater or button-up. This way, you’re prepared. If you need to you can easily try something on over your tank top or leggings.

11. Donate when you shop

Many Goodwill stores always offers a 20% off coupon with any donation. So keep a bag of old clothes in your trunk and donate them whenever you shop!

12. Thrift online

Nowadays you can thrift online! While it takes away some of the fun – it can still be a great way to find gently used items at a fraction of the cost. ThredUp.com is my favorite choice.

My tips for online thrifting is to stick to the basics… you can’t go wrong! I like to get things like long tunics and accessories like purses. Both this tunic and purse pictured above were online thrifting deals!

13. Be willing to haggle if there is damage

If an item has some damage, it doesn’t hurt to see if you can get a discount because of it. This works best for furniture items since, generally, clothing damage is harder to fix. But, if you see an item with some damage you could repair with just a little elbow grease, see if they’ll knock a little money off the price.

14. Shop often

When it comes to thrifting, some days will be duds while other days will be amazing. You just never know what to expect to see on the racks. The best way to ensure you find great deals is to go often and go frequently.

15. Shop Consignment

Consignment and thrift aren’t actually the same. At thrift stores, the items are donated. And, most likely the proceeds are going to a good cause. The perks are the prices tend to be lower. The cons are it’s harder to weed through the “not so good” stuff.

At a consignment store, the person who drops off the clothes typically gets a percentage of the sale (or gets paid when they drop off). The pros are you’re going to find higher quality items with less looking since the standards are higher. The cons are you might pay a little more. Either way, consignment shops are still a GREAT place to save some money.


Thrift store shopping hacks

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I'm Kallie!

Also known as That Practical Mom

I’m all about helping you simplify the chaos of life so you can slow down and enjoy it.

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