Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thrifty Tuesday: 15 Tips for Shopping Secondhand

I thought on this lovely Tuesday afternoon, I'd give you, my faithful dear friends, some tips as to how to do your own thrift store shopping.

1. Map it out. Know your local thrift shops and make sure you give yourself enough time and plan to hit the right ones along a good route.

2. The early bird gets the worm. Sorry to say, but it's true. Thrift stores, consignment shops, and the like get picked over pretty quickly... especially if word gets out about sales or that they carry good stuff. I showed up to a Goodwill once around 9 a.m. to hear their announcement "For the next hour, all books are 20 for $2." Imagine if I showed up at 10:30? No books and no deal!!

3. Don't be afraid to dig. As hard as the store associates try, the shelves still get cluttered, clothes end up in different racks, books get stacked on DVDs, mugs get stashed behind Christmas decor... and you get the idea. Politely sneak past the casual shoppers and be that crazy person who reaches to the back of that dusty shelf. You'll be glad you did.

4. Do your research. I can't tell you how many times I've walked past items, books, furniture, or whatever only to later find that those books/things/clothes/shoes were RARE or a hot item... or even worse, not being made anymore. Sad. Also, check the prices.

5. Think of others. Thrift stores are great places for finding the random things your friends talk about but can "never seem to find." I've found books for my sister, clothes for my daughter, decor for friends, etc. And if they don't like it - you're only out a dollar or two!

6. Go with cash. Keeps you in budget. Every now and then you can dicker with an associate if they're looking to clear out stock. Everyone is willing to make a sale when you flash the green.

7. Think innovatively.
Like the frame but not the picture? Get it and trash the part you don't like! Like the lamp base but not the shade? Use your craft skills or make an Ikea run to get the perfect "vintage-modern eclectic" look. Hate that ugly dresser but it's the perfect size? Make it a Saturday project to update the paint and knobs. You'll end up with items that are less commercial and more YOU.

8. Think holidays. It never fails that thrift stores carry past-season decor for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving. The same thing you would buy for $20 at Target may only be $5 at Goodwill. Buy it and put it away for next season.

9. Take your time. Don't go unless you have time to look, consider, dig, shop around, etc. If you're looking for an in-and-out, you may as well go to the mall. Check the sales too, red dot items, etc.

10. Leave the kiddos at home (if possible). The items aren't always at kid-friendly height, and most things haven't been cleaned or laundered. There's nothing more gross to me than my daughter sticking a stuffed animal in her mouth ... straight from that dusty top shelf. Awesome.

11. Clean out your car or make arrangements for big furniture items. You NEVER know. I've been to resale shops for baby clothes and have walked out with a $20 antique sewing table. It's a pain to make that extra trip just for one item, so if you can, bring your vehicle ready to haul.

12. Go with friends! Everyone sees different things. It's inspiring, fun, humorous and cheap!

13. Check out the auction shelves. Most thrift stores have items that they auction off once a week. The last time I was at Goodwill, they were auctioning off Prada purses for $30. (And no they weren't "Prado"...)

14. Know the area. I try to shop the stores that surround the high end suburban neighborhoods or really funky urban towns. It does make a difference. My husband and I decided to check out a different thrift recently and I kid you not when I say the clothes were stained and/or torn, the furniture was still covered in animal hair, there were broken glasses on the shelves, etc. I'm all about cheap, but not trash. Some places will take anything and try to make a dime on it. It's not right.

15. Don't forget who you are. That fur and leather knee-length duster may only be $10 but where will you wear it and is it you? There is plenty of random, weird, cool, pretty, fun stuff... but it doesn't mean you should buy it, wear it, display it, etc. Give yourself a little pep talk before you enter the store (I will not buy that really cheap DVD set of Teletubbies. I will not. I won't.)


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