5 Ways to Shop Smart at Your Next Thrift Store Trip!
I was first introduced to thrifting as a teenager growing up in rural Pennsylvania. I can remember combing the racks of my hometown Salvation Army Family Store for hours in search of ‘60s fashion finds and ‘70s clothing that I mixed and matched with more modern pieces I’d thrift for a fraction of their original retail price.
Now I’m a 26-year-old living in New York City where I still thrift to save money and score stylish finds. Considering I’ve acquired a decade of experience in the “trenches of thrift,” I now also share advice on how to thrift store shop with followers on my site and Facebook fanpage, Sammy Davis Vintage.
So in honor of National Thrift Store Day and to encourage you to shop your local Salvation Army Family Store, here are my top tips on what to bring and how to shop a thrift store for a successful day of shopping, savings and sustainable secondhand style!
THRIFT TIP #1: BRING A RATIONS PURSE
WHAT: The amenities purse is your “bag ‘o rations.” Like a hiker would pack extra supplies, you should prepare a pack of goodies that can come in handy as you hike into the hills of your local thrift store!
THE BENEFIT: You promise yourself “only 30 minutes to shop,” but emerge 3 hours later dehydrated, hungry and feeling pretty beat!
Since thrift stores aren’t your average retail stores, you can spend longer periods of time exploring their full potential. Even if you don’t use what’s inside, a thrift rations bag is like being a good Girl “Thrift” Scout: Always come prepared!
MY REC: I’m a huge fan of Clif bars, trail mix and water or gatorade for your energy rations. Add chapstick and tissues for basic beauty needs and hand sanitizer for a quick clean post-thrift trip.
Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover is my personal rec to test whether a stain on a thrift garment will actually come out.
THRIFT TIP #2: CARRY A PERSONAL SHOPPING BAG
WHAT: A personal shopping bag that you use to keep your thrift finds by your side as you shop.
THE BENEFIT: Not all thrift stores have a stocked supply of carts or baskets, and sometimes using either can be a hassle when squeezing between other shoppers or tight aisles.
Also, I tend to overflow from a cart or basket simply because with that amount of space, I can! Carrying a personal shopping bag encourages thoughtful shopping so you don’t end up feeling overwhelmed once you hit the changing room or register.
MY REC: Bags meant for grocery store shopping double well for thrift store shopping, especially because shoulder straps keep your hands and arms open.
Just like at the grocery store, you can walk out of the thrift store with your purchases in the bag. Avoiding plastic bag consumption is another way to be sustainable while thrifting!
THRIFT TIP #3: TRY-ON WITH HEELS
WHAT: A pair of heels that you bring with you into the thrift store.
THE BENEFIT: For the female thrifter, adding some height a la a pair of heels helps when deciding whether a thrifted dress or skirt is a good fit.
Considering most thrift stores have a credit-only return policy, it’s smart to wear heels when in the fitting room so you can confidently decide whether a piece really looks good on you!
MY REC: I’ll throw my favorite pair of heels on even when I’m not in the fitting room, like if I’m trying something on in the aisles or in front of mirrors positioned around the store.
THRIFT TIP #4: LISTEN TO YOUR OWN TUNES
WHAT: An iPod or smart phone full of your favorite songs, so that you can jam to a soundtrack that keeps you smiling and shopping with a skip in your step!
THE BENEFIT: Thrift stores don’t take special requests for store music. So if you’re sick of Lite FM or want to drown out the voices of chatty shoppers, you can slip in some earbuds and turn on your favorite tunes to thrift in peace.
MY REC: When I started training for road races a few years ago (next to thrifting, running is my favorite hobby!), I found that a mix of fast and medium-tempo tunes kept my energy up without feeling like I was in a bass-heavy dance club.
Sometimes that “favorite song” can be the push you need for an extra burst of effort, whether you’re actually exercising or working your thrift muscles!
THRIFT TIP #5: STICK TO A BUDGET
WHAT: A budget for your thrifting expenses, which is determined based on personal cost comforts and what you really need (and not just want!) to buy.
THE BENEFIT: Thrifting is like the Wild Wild West — you never really know what you’re going to find and how much the grand total is going to cost.
Stepping into a store with a pre-determined budget encourages a more discerning eye when it comes to purchase possibilities. For example, if your budget is $20 for a store, you’ll know to avoid the evening dresses since their cost tends to run higher.
MY REC: I bring my budget in cash to the thrift store. That way, I won’t be tempted to overspend with a piece of plastic.
Buying in cash feels more permanent than a credit card and can keep your budget in check so that you have enough funds to thrift another day!
Sammy Davis is a vintage fashion expert whose informative blog and popular videos bring the wonders of vintage fashion and thrift store shopping to the contemporary woman by showing them where to buy, how to style and how to sell vintage clothing. She lives in New York City and her favorite Salvation Army store is on West 46th Street!