15 Tips for How to Thrift Like a Pro!
The thrifting is amazingly great here in the Oklahoma City area. Compared to my experiences of thrifting on the West Coast, the heartland takes the cake every time. The prices are more reasonable, the inventory is more plentiful, and, in true Oklahoma spirit, the stores are friendly and welcoming. I’ve been a bit thrift-obsessed since before I could even drive a car. I remember begging my mom to drop me off in front of the Goodwill when all my friends were gathering at the GAP on the weekends. I can only imagine what was running through her mind as she watched me merrily skip through the thrift store doors like I was a 5 year old heading through the gates of Disneyland for the very first time. It has always felt like treasure hunting!
(Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me…) The hunt for the perfect paper-thin vintage tee began in high school and still continues to this day. Thrifting is a hobby I’ve carried on through many years, and I’d love to share with you some of the tips I’ve picked up along the way!
- Slow & Steady Wins the Race.
If you are short on time, it’s not the day to thrift. You need to set aside a good chunk of time if you’re hoping to have the most successful trip you can. Thrift stores take longer to peruse because no two things are the same and sometimes you have to really dig to find the gold! Also, it helps to go regularly. Once you’ve been a few times and have seen all that one store offers, you can figure out how (and when) new inventory gets filtered onto the racks and shelves and hit those spots first.
- Be Prepared.
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been derailed on a good thrifting day by three things: hunger, thirst and the need to pee. Ha! I’ve learned that I shouldn’t even step foot in a store until I’ve make sure these basic needs are met first. Sometimes I get excited about things like thrift shopping and totally forget how to be a grown-up human adult. Does anyone else have this problem? I have to treat myself like a three-year-old before I go thrifting. “Do I need a little snacky-snack or drinky-drink? Do I need to go potty? Am I listening to my body?” I am a toddler.
- Hit the ‘It’ Stores First.
This one has been huge for me. I have found that if I swing by the trendy, ‘it’ stores BEFORE I go thrifting, or even if I just peruse some popular clothing websites before I go, it changes the whole thrifting experience for me. If I go to the mall or the ‘it’ stores with the intention of seeing what is trending in basics and I take a mental note of what all the mannequins are wearing and what the ‘must have’ item seems to be for that season, oftentimes I can find almost identical items at the thrift stores for a fraction of the price. It helps to know what to look for! My most recent example of this happened just a couple of weeks ago. I walked through some trendy stores in the mall and noticed mock-neck tops in every window. I love that flattering low turtleneck neckline, so I took a mental note, went to a thrift store and found a whole bunch of almost identical tops- for only a dollar or two each!
- Love it or Leave it.
If it doesn’t thrill you, don’t buy it. This one took a while for me to teach myself. Sometimes the prices are so low at thrift stores that you can end up buying things just because they are such a steal! I’ve had to learn to leave things behind (even if they are only 99 cents!) that I may have somewhat liked, but not completely loved, because once I get those things home, I tend to, oh… not love them. And also not wear them.
- Bring your Goggles.
Just like looking for the mock-top neckline, sometimes it helps to have a general idea of one or two items that you’re searching for. The less specific, the better. I think of it like putting on a hypothetical pair of goggles and looking through a lens or a filter. It helps me stay laser-focused on the task at hand. It can be any kind of filter: color, neckline, material, length, cut, etc. If you know what you generally would like to find, you can filter through the store more quickly and skip over anything that doesn’t fit what you’re wanting. It’s easy for me to get distracted in thrift stores because everything can be kind of thrown together and mixed up. What’s that shiny thing over there? Pretending I’ve got goggles on somehow keeps me on task. (Again, me = toddler.)
- Ditch the Cart.
I don’t know about you, but maneuvering a large cart through small isles stresses me the heck out. There’s always that awkward moment when you realize you aren’t the only one in the narrow isle… oh no, who was there first? Do I back out so they can pass or will they back out so I can keep going? Or do we perform the circus act of trying to squeeze by each other without knocking all the racks in the store over one-by-one? I like to be light on my feet and be able to get around easily, so I tend to go cart-less. Plus, it keeps me from piling too much stuff up that I have to go back and sort through later. If I don’t love it, it stays on the rack. If I do love it, I have to love it enough to lug it around for awhile. Insta-filter!
- Forget the Calendar.
It may be August and 114 degrees outside, so I say, “Head for the coat rack!” Keeping your eye out for off-season items in thrift stores can be a very rewarding practice. There have been many times I have found wonderful coats and jackets in the dead of summer, or beautiful sun dresses while the snow is piling up on my car outside. Think ahead, and your future self will love you when the seasons change!
- Your Camera is Your Friend.
When you just aren’t sure about an item, snap a picture. If you’re trying on clothes, snap a selfie in the mirror. (Tip from experience: maybe SILENCE your phone before you do this in a dressing room. I always feel a little bit mortified when the shutter sound suddenly echoes through the store, but maybe that’s just me.) If it’s a household item, snap a picture of it on the shelf. I don’t know what it is, but sometimes seeing something on your screen can help you make your mind up about it. If you’re still unsure, phone a friend! Send the photo along to others whose opinions you trust and get their two cents before you decide.
- Your Friend is Your Friend.
Thrifting with a buddy is awesome! You can have instant feedback, which is always a bonus. But make sure your buddy is as committed and ready for the thrifting as you are, or else you may end up feeling like you had to rush. Make them sign a thrifting contract before you arrive and everything should be fine. Hahah I kid, I kid.
- Take a List.
If you are looking for more than a couple of items, say, after you’ve just moved and need to fill in some gaps at your new place, or you need to overhaul the wardrobe of a kid or two before school starts, take a list. It will help keep your thoughts organized. Know, however, that the list may not all be met on your first thrifting trip. You may have to keep that list tucked away in a purse or a wallet for a time or two before you can check every item off of it, but the savings will be worth it if you can be patient in the hunt! I’ve got some items on a list that I’ve been looking for a few months, but I know when I find them it will be that much sweeter for the effort!
- Pretend You Don’t Know What it Is.
Sometimes, when you are looking for something that will serve a purpose, you have to widen your lens a bit. You have to look at things and pretend that you don’t know what they are, but ask yourself if they will serve your purpose. Does that make any sense? So, an example for me is that I have been looking for some fun unique way to store my throw blankets in our TV room. I have no idea exactly what I want that to look like, so whenever I come across something I ask myself, would this store blankets? Maybe it’s a ladder or a large crate or a trunk or some type of shelving unit. Whatever it is, I have to forget what it was made for and ask if it will serve my purpose. Thrift stores are a great place to do that and to come up with some fun, unique ideas!
- Sale Away.
Discount days at thrift stores are serious business. These aren’t just ‘buy one, save 10%’ type discounts. These are usually ‘take the whole store for a quarter’ type discounts. You’ll definitely want to be in-the-know at all of your favorite thrift spots so that you can take advantage of the mega-savings!
- See it All.
I always try to look quickly at all of the sections of the thrift store I’m in, simply because something might have been sorted wrong or someone may have changed their mind about something and stuck it in a different section of the store where it didn’t belong. I’ve found lots of treasures this way! Sometimes things are put in the kid’s sections or left near the end of an aisle. It’s always a good idea to do a quick once-over throughout the store to see if anything good is hiding off the beaten path!
- Eclectic Current.
Don’t always discount an item because it’s strange or a little bit weird. Eclectic is the name of the game! You have to think of the item as it would be mixed with the whole of what you already have. Would it add some quirk and charm to your modern or traditional living room? Would it be a fun conversation piece at your next dinner party? Or would it be an epic white elephant gift at your next office Christmas gathering? It can be helpful to see how eclectic items can be used in home decor, so doing a quick search on Pinterest could help cast vision for something that catches your eye in the moment.
- Treat Yo’ Self.
If you find something at a thrift store that you absolutely love, but it has a heftier price tag on it, sometimes you’ve just got to treat yo’ self! It can be hard to switch out of the bargain-hungry mentality when you’re thrifting, and spending anything more than a few bucks can feel like too much. But certain items are worth the splurge! I’ve found this to be especially true with larger pieces of art or high-end quality clothing items that will last (and be worn!) for years and years to come.
Thrifting is an art form, and like anything else in life, the more you practice, the easier it will get! I hope these tips help you along the way.
Here are a few of my local favorite places to thrift:
Elite Thrift, 834 W Edmond Rd, Edmond
Britton Community Thrift, 1517 W Britton Rd, The Village
Community Thrift Store, 4525 S Pennsylvania Ave, South OKC
Bargain Thrift, 4545 NW 16th St, OKC