Get Thrifty: Top 10 Tips to Achieving Secondhand Greatness

by molliepaige

As a college student, my budget is limited, so limited that it’s often a decision between food other than Ramen, or clothing. Clothing usually wins. But on my small limit, I have to stretch my dollar as far as it will possibly go, which is why I thrift. So here are my tips for making the most out of your thrifting experience:

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1. Always have a plan. Browse around online and look through your closet to get ideas for the items you would like to purchase. You wouldn’t want to blow your budget on an amazing fur coat at the very beginning of summer (unless of course it’s one of those need-to-own-it situations, with which I empathize). But seriously, make a plan. This is important. You really don’t need 16 blazers or 23 cat print vests when your wardrobe is severely lacking shorts.

2. Check the tags. “If it says Mossimo, it’s a no-go,” is the personal slogan I live by. If you can get the same top in the Target discount bin for the same price, it’s not worth it. We’re looking for quality here. I’ve found some major deals just by checking the tags. BCBG dress that fits like a glove for $14.99, don’t mind if I do. It also helps to do some research if you come across an unfamiliar brand, especially if the item looks and feels like a quality piece (Thank God for smart phones; Google it!).

3.  Check the fabrics. Really go over the entire piece. I’ve found some amazing outfits with just a bit too much pit stain for my liking. Avoid fabrics with holes, loose threads, tears and stains, unless it’s worth it to pay for the repairs. The aforementioned BCBG dress had a huge stain on the slip, but one trip to the dry cleaners had it looking like new which was completely worth it for the bargain. Also, check the type of fabrics. I tend to stay away from rayons, nylons and chiffon blends that feel like an unwanted trip to the 80’s. If it says dry clean only, put it back.

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4. Try it on! Most thrift stores have dressing rooms, and if not, wear tight clothing you can try stuff on over. If you’re embarassed, why? you’re already secondhand shopping… get over it! It will save you money and distress because you won’t end up at home with five pairs of pants that would all fit great if you lost 10 pounds and had shorter legs.

5. Sort out the must-haves. If your items are starting to pile up, go back through them and decide what is a necessity and what is a maybe. Let the “maybe”s go for someone else. Just because something’s name brand, doesn’t mean you NEED it. Don’t say you’re buying it to sell on Ebay if it’s something you’d never buy yourself or if you’ll never get around to selling it.

6. Don’t blow the budget. Many stores have “boutique” sections that can have you spending $30 on just one item. Unless it’s a one-of-a-kind Versace dress for your upcoming prom, don’t even think about it.

7. My favorite, most useful tip: Learn where the deals are! In San Diego, every Wednesday, all Salvation Army shops are 40% off all clothing, then on many Mondays after 3 it’s 50% off everything. Ask an employee what the upcoming sales are. It’s always great to get a $2.99 top for $.50, especially when it was originally $50+. Stores like Goodwill even now will Email you with upcoming deals, so do your research!

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8. Maybe this should be the first tip: Go to REAL thrift stores. The Buffalo Exchange is not a real thrift store. They price their items just as high (and usually higher eep!) than they originally cost. Most thrift stores are HUGE and offer tons of random clothing (they aren’t super selective, they’ll take anything) at low low prices.

9. Don’t forget the accessories! I have an amazing pair of genuine leather Calvin Klein boots I scored for $2.99 at an AmVet. Necklaces, belts, hats, bags, and all other accessories are good to check out. Sometimes, the jewelry will be overpriced, I mostly just ignore that, but it never hurts to look!

10. Finally, give back! All the neglected clothing in your closet could become someone else’s thrifting treasure; give them that chance by donating your unwanted items to a secondhand shop.

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There you have it, my 10 tips for secondhand greatness.

This is the first of many how-to installations I have planned. If you have a request, feel free to leave it in the comments. Also, feel free to share your own tips to achieving thrifting gold!