Thrift Store Shopping Basics

Imagine finding a designer handbag that’s worth over $200, and paying only $5 for it. That’s part of the fun of thrift store shopping. It can be like searching for lost treasure. But, even if you don’t make a great find like that one on your first, or second, or twentieth time out, you can still find great items at amazing prices when you go thrift store shopping. All it takes is the time and patience to search through the junk and find the gems.

Whether you’ve been a thrift store shopper for years, or you’re a relative newbie, here are some tips that can make your thrift store shopping experience more rewarding.

Give yourself plenty of time for thrift store shopping.

Thrift store shopping is all about the search. You never know what you might find. But you have a better chance of finding something great if you give yourself plenty of time to look.

If you have an entire day free to do some serious thrift store shopping, that’s great. If not, give yourself at least a few hours to really explore the thrift store, especially if it’s one you’ve never been to before. And take a friend to keep you company.

Decide on a budget before you go thrift store shopping.

It’s easy to be seduced by the low prices you find while thrift store shopping. But a hundred dollars is a hundred dollars, whether you spend it at a thrift store or a retail store. So, before you go thrift store shopping, decide exactly how much you can afford to spend, and don’t go over that budget.

Do you have a way to get furniture from the thrift store to your house?

Most thrift stores don’t deliver. So, if you’re going to buy a bed, or sofa, or desk while thrift store shopping, remember you’ll need some way to get what you bought home. Luckily, many thrift stores will put furniture on hold for a day or two, allowing impulse shopper’s time to find a way to transport those items.

Check the thrift store’s return policy before you shop.

Before you begin thrift store shopping, find out what the return policies of the thrift store you’re in are. Some thrift stores allow returns of some items, like clothes and shoes, but you buy electronics and appliances “as is.” Some thrift stores will only give you a credit, instead of money, for returned items. So, you can return that pair of jeans that didn’t fit when you got them home but, instead of getting your money back, you’ll get a credit in exchange, which can only be used at that thrift store.

Plug in electronic devices before you leave the thrift store.

If a thrift store sells electronics devices “as is,” you should definitely try them out before you buy. Most thrift stores have outlets where you can plug in electronic devices. If you’re doing your thrift store shopping at a store that doesn’t, pass on buying such items.

Wear changing-room friendly clothes when you go thrift store shopping.

Some thrift stores have changing rooms, but they aren’t always the most private or secure changing areas in the world. I’ve been walked in on in more than one changing room while thrift store shopping. So, wear “undergarments” you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in public in, but that allow you to try on clothes without hindrance. Something like the bike shorts and athletic bra you wear at the gym, or a one-piece bathing suit.

These “undergarments” can also come in handy if there are no changing rooms available in the thrift store. For example, if you wear bike shorts under a full skirt, you can try on a pair of jeans in the middle of the aisle if necessary.

Don’t try on thrift store shoes without socks.

Many thrift stores don’t wash the items before putting them on display. This is especially true of shoes. If you’re going to be trying on shoes while thrift store shopping, wear thin socks or stockings. And, once you get the shoes home, spray them with shoe sanitizer. Or, if you can, toss them in the washing machine with some anti-bacterial soap.

Remember to donate.

Many thrift stores operate as part of a charitable organization. The items given to them are either given to those in need, or sold to raise funds for various programs. If you have any items you aren’t using anymore (clothes that look great but don’t fit, a TV you stopped using when you bought a new one) donate them. You’ll be helping those in need. You’ll also get a tax write-off for your charitable donation.

And, who knows, the good karma just might lead you to a treasure the next time you got thrift store shopping.

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