Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tips For Thrift Shop Shopping

"Why shop at thrift shops?" you may ask. 
"Well why the heck not!?" is my answer! 
If you are a regular reader of my blog, then I'll bet you may already be a seasoned thrift shopping pro, since I write a lot about upcycling and repurposing salvaged finds. Or maybe you have never been to a thrift shop before. If you haven't, and you like antiques, vintage things, upcycling, creating cool stuff, finding a bargain, and treasure hunting, then maybe it's time you give thrift shopping a try. 

In this post I'm going to share some of my own thrift shopping tips and advice. There are all types of things folks shop for at thrift shops. I mainly shop for vintage collectibles and household items that I can use in art projects and home decor upcycling projects, so this article is geared more towards this type of thrifting.

If you're a regular thrift shop shopper, you already know that this type of shopping can be hit or miss. Some days you may find so many cool items that you can't believe your luck. Other days, nada! Here are some tips to help make your thrifting experience easy and fun!

Tip #1: Get to know the thrift shops in your area and the pros and cons of each shop. I've found that the second hand stores in my area vary in terms stock selection. One local shop tends to have an abundance of clothing but not many household items. Another shop has lots of knick-knacks and household items such as lamps, but little clothing. Another thing that varies in thrift shops is pricing. In one shop where clothing may be very inexpensive, household stuff may be a bit overpriced. Make a mental note of these types of things so that the next time you are hunting for a certain item, you will know just where to shop first.

Tip #2: Many thrift shops have sale days where certain color price tags are reduced, and this can be as much as up to 75 percent off. Find out the sale days and write them down!  Also, do they accept credit cards? Some shops only accept cash. One of our local shops only accepts cash but has an ATM in the store.

Tip #3: Find out who runs the thrift shop. Some thrift shops are run by charities, such as Goodwill or The Salvation Army. Others are privately run for profit. In my personal experience I have found that items in the for profit shops generally have higher prices compared to the charity run shops.

salvation army and goodwill thrift store logos
Logos of thrift shops run by charities

Tip #4: Make a list! I keep a running list on my iPhone of the different things that I am looking for when I go thrifting. Not only do I look for items to use in projects that I am currently working on, but I am also always on the lookout for particular (and often harder to find) items to use in projects that I am planning on making down the road.

Tip #5: Never buy from the "NO" list. Here's mine:

Things I will NOT buy from a thrift shop:

 - Anything that could harbor insects: stuffed animals, mattresses and bed frames, pillows, upholstered furniture that I do not plan to completely reupholster, etc. You never know how clean the previous owner's home was so you can't be too careful here. Things such as roaches and bedbugs freak me out (as they would most people I'm sure) and that's the last thing anyone needs in their home!

Other things you should never buy from a thrift store:
 - Children's car seats, car seat carriers, playpens, cribs, or children's clothing with drawstrings (due to the high amount safety recalls and updated safety standards)
- Hair dryers, cosmetics, undergarments (just because...eww), bean bag chairs, halogen floor lamps, bike helmets, any type of safety equipment (same reasons as above: safety first!)

Tip #6: Develop thrift shop karma! Be nice to the shop workers. Get to know them by name if you can, and always be polite. There have been plenty of times when I've come across an item that did not have a price tag on it. When this happens, I know just who to go to. Building a rapport with the shop staff is not only beneficial when you need to put something on hold or when you are looking for a particular item, but it's just plain nice. Be nice!

Tip #7: Be sure to bring your own bag of donations to drop off while you are there! 

Tip #8: Don't buy something just because it's cheap. Many beginner thrifters make this mistake, and after an afternoon of shopping, find that they purchased many items that the really just don't need or won't use. Thrift shops are full of bargains, and it can be tempting to over-buy. If you see something that strikes your fancy, put it in your cart and think about it while you continue to shop. I always say, when in doubt, throw it out!

 Tip #9:  Bring hand wipes and hand sanitizer! (or keep them in your vehicle) As clean and neat as most thrift shops are, you are still bound to touch something that might be a bit...uh...grungy. You never know, you may find yourself digging through piles of musty old books. Better to be prepared!

Tip #10: Thoroughly inspect all items before you buy them. This means checking buttons, making sure zippers work, looking for stains or damage, and trying out electrical items. There have been many times I've asked for a light bulb or electrical outlet to try out a lamp or appliance. Don't be afraid to ask!

Now that I've shared my basic tips, let me know -
Do you shop at thrift shops? What types of items do you shop for? What was your best find? 

*Be sure to check back for my next blog post, where I will write about what I think are the hot thrift shop items to look for right now!

Article copyright Laura Beth Love 2020 and may not be republished in print or other media without express written permission from the author. For any link updates or corrections leave correct info in comment area.