Thrift Store Shopping: Tips & Tricks to Finding Treasure

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Thrift Store Shopping: Tips & Tricks to Finding Treasure

If you want to find some amazing stuff for very little money, and your willing to put some effort into it, thrift store shopping is for you.  Here are some tips and tricks to make your thrifting fun and successful!

Look at it as a treasure hunt. Make a list of items you are looking for and what you are willing to pay for it before you go.  Always keep an eye open for that unexpected find as well.  It can be an adventure.

Gather your thrift store coupons. Believe it or not, many local thrift shops provide coupons and many discount shopping days to. Sign up for their emails as a first chance to get coupons emailed to you. Many spots also provide you a coupon when you drop off donations. You will also find discount shopping days at many locations, including tag mark down days (get a % off certain colored tags), senior shopping days where seniors save more, military days, holiday sales more more. Check your favorite thrift store, for their events calendars and deals pages to find the details of extra savings opportunities near you.

Shop Thrift Outlet Stores – Did you know that even amongst thrift stores, there are discount stores. They are most often labeled outlet version of that thrift store, and if you are willing to work a bit for your savings, you can find some super deals. For example, amongst Goodwill stores, their outlets area known as bin stores. You will need to hunt through bins of items, but you will pay by the pound for your treasures, helping you save big!

Shop During The Week if Possible. Weekends can get busy and I never like to feel crowded or stressed while thrifting (or any kind of shopping for that matter). By shopping during the week (Wed. in particular), you will likely avoid the larger weekend crowds and be able to sort through items, as well as consider your purchase with no pressure.

Use Your Smart Phone! These days, many of us have the advantage of having small computers with us while shopping – our smart phones. This means we have easy access to checking labels (you will find a great label resource here), the value of items while we are in store, or keep lists of what we are looking for so we have keep our shopping days focused (ie vintage tees or flannels!).

Shop Sections You Might Not Otherwise. Thrift stores do not always categorize items like you would expect in other stores. For example, if you are shopping for great flannels (one of my teens favorite items to thrift for), we almost always find the great ones in the men’s section – even though we are a group of ladies shopping. For whatever reason, thrift stores almost always put these shirts in the mens section, regardless of brand or colors. My kids also love to shop the mens section for vintage tees, even though they are girls. One brand they love is Harley Davidson vintage pieces, and those are almost always in the mens section, even though my girls will wear them all day long. All of this to say, consider shopping the entire store for great finds, not just sections you might shop in a traditional store!

Learn Your Local Stores. If there is a store you love to shop in your community, start to ask questions. Find out what days they usually restock on for example. What days do they mark items down. When do they see the biggest crowds. Are there any other great insider tips you should know about shopping their store. Ask politely, and chances are you will end up with a goldmine of information that will make your shopping experience in their store that much better!

Sell Your Items First! Some thrift stores actually allow you to sell your items back to them (your used clothing). You can either earn cash back from them on those sales, or some spots allow you to earn more in credit towards shopping their stores. If you have little ones, you will find this a common practice in consignment store shopping. For tweens, teens and adults look into stores like the Buffalo Exchange, where you can get a 50% credit to shop in store from what they can buy back from you.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Extra Discounts. Unlike traditional shopping spots like the mall, there is often some room for haggling prices. For example, if something has a small tear you think you can fix, or a stain, do not hesitate to ask for an additional discount at checkout if you are willing to buy it in that condition. The worst they can say is no – but chances are you will save even more.

Leave no area unturned.  I used to go only to my favorite section – clothes.  But after looking around in other areas, I realized what I was missing.  For example, when my daughter was little she loved stickers.  We were heading on a vacation, and I wanted to get her a bunch for the trip, but found them pricey for the amount I wanted. (We’re talking multiple pages of art created daily with hundreds of stickers).  I wondered through the bric-a-brac section, and there was an enormous bag of over 5,000 stickers.  It looked like someone emptied their 20-year collection, and the price?  $2.00.  Now, I check EVERYTHING.

If you really want an item, don’t wait. I’ve learned from experience that if you want it bad, someone else does too.  However, if it’s something your willing to wait on, or aren’t willing to pay the asking price for, check back the next week.  Chances are if it’s still there, the price will be lower.

In the area of clothing, keep on the look out for high-end classics, and trendy items in good condition. A quality item is made to last and will stand the test of time, so find classics. Meanwhile a trendy item is also a wise thrift purchase, as it will go quickly out of style.  Purchasing a trendy thrift store find is a great way to try something new without wasting a lot of money.

Did you know that some thrift stores offer new clothing too. If there is an overstock of some name brands, they often are donated to thrift stores (often the chain stores), for resell to you at big discounts.

Also, clean out your closet first, and then head in to stores like the Buffalo Exchange, where you can start by selling your clothes to them. They will then give you 50% of the value they can sell those items for to shop their store for new to you items!

Follow trends on places like Tik Tok. This works especially well for tweens and teens. They can find trends and where other kids are finding them (like vintage t-shirts, Harley Davidson brands, and flannels right now). My kids paid around $5 per flannel, compared to $20-$50, just by thrifting them (and they like them just as well).

Don’t skip the clearance rack. Some of my favorites (as pictured) came from that rack for almost nothing!

Think gifts. Sometimes you’ll come across a brand new item still in the box or with the tags.  If it’s something someone would like, who’s going to know if came from a thrift store?  My favorite Ann Taylor black cardigan sweater was $14 at a thrift shop.  The tag listing its original price as $69.00 was still attached.  I waited until Super Saturday and purchased it for $7.  Thifting is also one of my favorite ways to get “little kid” stocking stuffers and Easter basket gifts.  They don’t care that the Barbie isn’t in the box!

Speaking of kids, I know that it’s nice to have time to browse without them, but do bring them once in awhile. It will help them grow up to be “thrift wise” instead of “label snobs”.  My middle-school-aged daughter and I have shopped thrift stores since she was little.  Now, she loves it as much as I do.  She gets so excited when she finds something, (especially a fashion find), that she can incorporate into her own style.  She is also responsible for find my prize Pillsbury Doughboy for just $1.00!

Finally, if you love it, but it’s got a stain, decide if the price is worth the risk of trying to get it out. 95% of the time I’ve gotten stains out of items when I thought I could get them out.

O.K.!  You have the tools and the motivation…now go shop!



  1. Headed out to hopefully make it to goodwill today! I have found lots of great stuff there recently. Oh, and I have that cooking light cookbook! It’s really great and I also paid $2 for it on the Barnes & Noble “last chance” shelf. :o)

  2. Just bought new men’s $99 Buffalo David Bitton jeans for $9. Have London Fog raincoat $10. Black leather trench coat $35. Leather jacket $30. Leather gloves $5. Cashmere scarves $5 each. Black, gray, green, yellow, red, blue solid color 24 T-shirts $2 each.

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