“Thrift Shopping Strategies: 6 Ways to Stretch Your Bucks Further and Get What You Want” by Valerie Swenson

In our country’s current economic state, thrift stores have become a beacon in the night for those of us who are hungry to maintain our closets as well as our bank accounts. Some people have had a love for thrift stores longer than others; some people are only just making the switch from department stores to thrift, and let’s not sugar-coat it, the change can be overwhelming. It is like a whole other world. Frankly, it is a far less fussy world, and a lot more interesting. Every store is a new adventure where shoppers are transformed into excavators, unearthing fashion staples and auxiliary items alike, and saving them from where they would be otherwise doomed to an underground purgatory, better known as a landfill.

There are some things you should keep in mind when thrift shopping if you don’t want to squander your hard-earned cash in the wrong places. Buyer’s remorse isn’t just for home-owners, after all. Luckily we’ve come up with some key strategies to help you have control when you’re shopping and make the most of your money.

1.  Assess Your Closet– Knowing what you have BEFORE hitting the stores is important. Go through your closet and make a mental note of things you DON’T need. For example, “I have seven black dresses; I probably don’t need to pick one up today.” Focus on things you want to get your hands on, instead. It can be easy to fall into a shopping rut, where you seem to buy the same type of items over and over again. Break the cycle and expand the wardrobe, not duplicate it.
2. Browse Your Style Online- It’s like virtual window-shopping, without draining the precious fuel in your car. You have endless possibilities at your fingertips! Pinterest has a wide array of fashion boards, or you could always look at your favorite department store’s website. You could even browse around at stores that aren’t in your area, or your continent for that matter! Have some fun with it- see what people in Europe or Asia are rocking, and you might be inspired to look for something totally different to add to your wardrobe. You probably aren’t going to find EXACTLY what you saw online, but remember key characteristics with the items and look for something similar.

3. Compile a List- There is no greater tool in keeping yourself organized than a list. Put your list together after you’ve assessed your closet and browsed online for a bit. If your budget is especially tight, keep the list fewer than ten items. More than ten items can become overwhelming and you’ll be more likely to ditch the list and go for impulse buying. Be as vague or as particular as you want in your list. More seasoned thrift shoppers tend to be very specific with what they are out to get, but this isn’t necessary. It could be as simple as “brown boots” or as complex as “ankle-high brown suede slouchy boots with 2 buckles and a 1-inch heel”. Just keep in mind that the complexity of the list outlines the complexity of your task at hand.4. Stick to the List- Whatever you do—stick to the list. Sometimes this can be a painful thing to do, because it will mean you are leaving some stores empty-handed. This can be difficult for even the most skilled and dedicated thrift shoppers. Your budget will decide how much leeway you have in straying from the list, but the panel of professionals here strongly suggests “stick to the list.” If you have a wide budget and a short list, pencil the extra item in. No one will be the wiser, *wink wink*.

5. Make Regular Trips- If you make your trips to the thrift stores more frequent, you won’t have as much trouble walking away with nothing if you don’t find something you are looking for each time. Just tell yourself “it’s alright, I’ll be back tomorrow/next week, etc.” This can also help you get familiar with the store and cut down on time spent searching through racks, you will find yourself gravitating towards items that you know have recently been put out. This is your thrift shopping instincts getting stronger. Feel free to rejoice.

6. Bring a Friend- Some people prefer having a second opinion when shopping in malls and department stores; thrift shopping is no different. In fact, newbies in the thrift shopping world may find this to be quite helpful, as some stores can seem like an explosion of items that would take hours to go through. Having an extra pair of arms to flail through the racks can make the process move faster, and who knows? Divide and Conquer- Maybe your accomplice will find something mind-numbingly great that you overlooked or never even considered (Just don’t forget about number 4 if your budget is tight). That’s the beauty of shopping at thrift stores, you never know what you are going to find!

Keeping these points in mind and putting them into practice in your life will help you save money in the long run. Keep track of what you’ve spent and compare it to what you would have had to pay if you had bought those items brand new. The difference is astounding, and you may become a lifetime thrift shopper when you see the numbers in black and white. Happy hunting!

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