I still remember the first time it really clicked with me that thrift shops were the place to save money.
I was a broke college student, and a friend of mine brought me to an eclectic thrift store off the beaten path. I was thrilled to find jeans for just $7 a pair. And then I went to another thrift store and found some dishes for my first apartment. Another secondhand shop turned up lamps, tables, and furniture. I was hooked.
I also learned that as easy as it is to save money at thrift stores, it’s just as easy to waste money. Give in to impulse shopping at the thrift store, and you’ll quickly clutter your home and empty your wallet.
Here are some ways you can still get the great deals and save money at thrift shops:
Shop with a plan.
Before you shop anywhere, you need to know what you have and what you would like to buy. Then make a list. It’s all too easy to walk into a great thrift store and buy more than you need when you find cool items at great prices. The list will help you stick to your plan (and budget). I like to use Evernote to save time and money by putting my lists on my phone so it’s easy to keep track of what I am looking for.
Stick to cash.
Shopping with cash prohibits you from overspending. You can’t spend what you don’t have! Many thrift shops prefer cash, too, because they don’t have to pay debit or credit card processing fees.
Shop early and often.
The early birds catches the worm, and that’s especially true when you shop secondhand stores. Wait to shop until the end of the day and some of the best inventory will be gone. And because the inventory at thrift shops changes constantly, you should check back often to find great deals on the items you want.
Shop the sales.
Thrift shops have sales just like any other store, and you can score some amazing deals on those days. Look for sale signs in your favorite shop or ask the clerk when the next sale is. Some thrift stores even have bag sales where you can fill a big bag full of stuff for just a few bucks.
Pay attention to details.
Thrift stores usually have a “No Returns” policy, which means that once you’ve bought it, it’s yours. Avoid wasting money by examining your potential purchases closely. Try on the clothing. Look for stains or tears. Check the zippers and buttons. Plug in electronics (if your store allows). If something is broken and you aren’t 110% dedicated to fixing it up, just leave it at the store.
Make friends with the thrift store staff.
The staff at your local thrift store is a great resource for potential savings. They can help you find what you’re looking for and alert you to sales. If you’re a regular customer, you may even be able to get them to drop the price on an item that’s been there awhile or ask them to keep an eye out for a particular item. You can also find out about opportunities to volunteer at your local charity thrift stores. It’s an unpaid gig, but you get first glance at new inventory.
Sign up for rewards programs.
Some thrift shops offer frequent shopper programs, like punch cards. When you fill the card, you get money off your next purchase. These loyalty programs can help you save even more money.
Explore thrift shops throughout your area.
While it’s tempting to stick to your favorite neighborhood thrift stores, you can also find some amazing deals by shopping in other parts of your city or even in neighboring communities. The inventory in the stores in other parts of your area can vary dramatically, especially in more affluent neighborhoods. In addition, some departments stores donate their unsold inventory to certain shops, which means you can score great deals on items new with tag.
Turn thrift store finds into cash.
Keep your eyes open for great deals on items that other people want to buy. A skilled thrift store shopper can pick up these deals and resell them on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist or Facebook for considerable profit. Name brand clothing in like new condition, quality pieces of furniture, rare books and collectibles are all big sellers.
A word of advice on thrift shopping
Finding awesome deals at thrift shops is great. Keeping things out of the landfills by buying secondhand is also a good thing.
Just remember to only buy things you truly love or truly need. Your wallet will thank you for it.