Secondhand Shopping Tips

There are “Thrifting Tips” articles all around the blogosphere – I know because I’ve read may of them. But being someone who has been shopping secondhand my whole life, I figure it might be helpful to contribute my own thoughts. So here they are…Maggie’s 8 secondhand shopping tips:

  1. Stay in the know. Subscribe to your favorite consignment and thrift stores’ Facebook pages, texts, Twitter accounts, emails, rewards programs, etc. Stores that are social media savvy will post pictures of new and desirable items to their Facebook/Twitter (recently, a store I follow on Facebook posted some amazing leather combat boots in my size. Unfortunately, I was out of town so by time I was back they had sold. I’m still bummed about that). It’s a great way to be the first to know about great items…and for me, a great motivator to go shopping too much. Emails are a great way to keep in the know about events and sales, and many emails contain coupons. There are all sorts of reward programs. Some stores have punch cards (get a stamp for every $10 spent, for example, and when the card is full you get 20% off) and some stores have VIP programs where members get special deals and discounts.
  2. Go often. The great thing about secondhand stores is that the inventory is always changing. It’s worth a look as often as you can go. Stop in quickly once a week or every other week to see what’s new. That’s how you snag the amazing leather boots or the designer dress in your color.

  3. Either go with some specific needs or go completely open minded. Completely opposite mindsets, I know. But there really are two ways I shop. I either go planning to spend two hours in the store trying on EVERYTHING I like and buy $100 worth…or I go thinking, “I need some jeans and a nice skirt. I’m JUST going to look at jeans and skirts,” and I just buy what I need. How you choose to shop depends on your time and your budget. If you go often, then you can probably go open-minded without needing two hours per visit because you’ll just be checking out what’s new since your last visit. Another reason going often is a good idea. :)
  4. Learn your favorite stores. There are a few stores in my area I consistently go to, and there are many secondhand stores I never go to. After visiting them all, I just stuck to the ones I like – the ones I know I can always find stuff that fits my style, have prices I can afford, and are neat and attractive. Visit all your local secondhand stores a couple times and figure out the ones that you like. Also, always check out consignment and thrift stores when you travel – it’s one of my favorite things to do. It’s interesting to see how style varies from place to place, and I always find something unique.
  5. Go for the gold and be picky about the fool’s gold. I.E., learn to recognize quality and be picky about things of lesser quality. For example, if I find a J. Crew cashmere sweater that fits me perfectly, for $15, I’m definitely buying it. BUT, if I find a Target brand top (or some other cheap, for lack of a better word, brand), I’ll only buy it if it’s really cute, still in great condition, and super cheap because I know it’s not going to last as long as something high quality.

  6. Get familiar with the jeans that fit. I used to go in a store, grab every pair of nice jeans in my size, try them on, and only get one pair. Now I have a nice little mental list of the brands and correlating sizes that work on me (Gap and J. Crew are my main trusty, always-fit brands, but there are 3 or 4 others that often fit me well, so I always try those on too). Knowing this will help you filter through the overwhelming amount of jeans that many stores have and make shopping for them a little less onerous. Another little tip – always look at the jeans. At least for me, finding PERFECT jeans is very very rare, so I always make time to breeze through the jeans isle.
  7. Look at all sizes in tops. So yes, I’m normally a small, medium, 4 or 6 in tops, but I have a few extra smalls and a few larges that I love. I would have never found them if I didn’t look at all tops in every size. Of course, this takes a little more time, but if you have the time it’s worth it. I’ve also found many misplaced items – a small mixed in with the extra larges, perhaps – so you never know what a shopper might have quickly stuck in the wrong place to get it off their hands. Some stores are better than others about keeping their racks neat.
  8. Don’t ignore the items that look ugly on the hanger. As I said earlier, be open-minded. I often grab saggy-baggy or oddly shaped tops or dresses, only to try them on and love them. The human body is not shaped like…a clothing hanger, so don’t assume it will be ugly on you.

I hope these tips are helpful for you! Do you have any tips for secondhand shopping?

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  • Hey! I'm Maggie, a graphic designer, crafter, devoted secondhand shopper, Doctor Who fanatic, and dog-lover. Stick around and explore!

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