Visit often. Thrift stores don’t put in regular orders or carry standard merchandise. What’s available depends on what has been brought in most recently. Find out the days and times your thrift store restocks its shelves to get first dibs on all the latest items. Once you get to know stores well, you’ll get a sense of the type of items they tend to put out and how quickly they sell. You might even develop personal relationships that make it easier to negotiate on prices (more on that below).
Check the back racks. Unlike a traditional retail environment, thrift stores don’t typically carry multiples of an item. Some of the best pieces may be on the racks at the back of the store near the dressing rooms. These items have already been searched out and deemed valuable enough to try on. Just because they weren’t a good fit for the person who originally found them doesn’t mean they won’t work for you.
Dress appropriately. Not all thrift stores have dressing rooms so be sure to wear tight fitting clothing so you can try on pieces over what you’re already wearing. This approach works especially well for outwear and layering items, like sweaters.
Check clothes carefully. Check clothes for stains, loose threading, missing buttons and other potential problems. Be sure to turn items inside out, too, for a full assessment. If you’re considering an electronic purchase, plug it in to be sure it works. Even books should be scanned for missing or damaged pages. Any and all damage should be noted before making a purchase. Can you fix it? Will it be worth the cost? Soiled items might be stains; keep that in mind when browsing, too. Stain removercan’t remove everything.
Ask for a discount. This might be more difficult at some of the larger thrift stores, but remember, all thrift shops need to get rid of items to clear the way for new inventory so it’s in their best interest to sell. If there is a defect, don’t be afraid to point it out and ask for a lower price. If they can’t change the price of that item, maybe they can throw in another small item for free.
Cash in on deals and specials. Many thrift stores offer discounts to certain groups, including seniors and students. They might also have special days or hours where items go on sale. Some stores may offer a discount for paying with cash. To stay up to date on the latest thrift store deals and promos, follow your favorite locations on social media.
Shop seasonally. Just like in traditional retail, the best prices typically come at the end of a season. If you want to pick up some cheap Christmas décor or patio furniture, go thrifting right after peak time when everyone clears out their closets. This is also true of clothing, which means you should shop for boots and jackets in April and beachy sundresses in September. It might feel a little odd, but it’s the best way to stretch your budget.
Consider the neighborhood. Thrift store inventory comes from the surrounding neighborhood, so shop in places where you admire the style. For instance, New Yorkers looking for hip and trendy should try Brooklyn, but for chic and classic, the Upper East Side of Manhattan will probably be a better fit.
Go mobile. Use your smartphone to find thrift stores in your area with an app like ThriftBuddy. Once you’re in the store, you can use your phone to look up brands and models of the items you find to comparison shop and even check for vintage labels.
You never know what you might find, but with these tactics, it’s sure to be something good.