Six Tips: A Guide To Thrift Shopping

How you can find the best second-hand deals!

I just moved into a new place this month, only two bins of clothes and two boxes of vinyl and books in tow. In leaving my previous situation, I sifted through my things and purged…a lot. It felt freeing — ridding myself of clothes I didn’t wear, trinkets I (actually) didn’t like, and work that I had outgrown. It was refreshing and I felt lighter, clear-headed…but it also left me without…well, stuff.

I perused the usual suspects for bed frames, dressers, desks. Hunted for record players, speakers and amps, and ultimately ended up empty-handed. Everything seemed to be missing, uh, how you say…je ne sais quoi. I want my place to be a space that ignites creativity and art, so my belongings need to follow suit. However, everything I found in stores and online just seemed to groan meh.

So I took to thrifting. Outside of my new mattress, I decided that my place will be second-hand special. I find that vintage pieces seem to be alive with history — handmade with beautiful dramatic lines and worn down in all the right places. But finding these pieces is no easy task; in fact, it’s a little daunting. (But fun!) So we put together a list of tips to help you in your next thrifting adventure.




Map out your day. It’s extremely beneficial to plan out your day. Check out the Yard Sale Treasure Map app for your local estate and garage sales, complete with times and locations. When shopping at Goodwill or similar outlets, I recommend reading customer reviews before heading out. It’ll save you a lot of time and energy.

Ask stores when they put out new inventory. Some days are busier than others at thrift stores. Generally speaking, more ‘stuff’ is donated on the weekends and, by Tuesday, new merchandise is moved onto the floor. So ask customer service when might be the best day for new product!

Don’t be afraid to tailor or repurpose. This is key. If you find your perfect desk, but it’s the wrong color paint, repurpose that guy! Love a print on an oversized dress but it just doesn’t fit right? Cut that guy!  You really can tailor or repurpose anything by way of Google or Pinterest.

Don’t be afraid to haggle at garage sales. This one is hard for me, as I’m a little shy. However, just know that prices at garage sales are not set in stone and the seller is very interested in finding a price that works with the both of you.

Be patient. There will be days when it seems like you can’t find a drop of water in a rain bucket, but be patient! With a little bit of patience and perseverance, you’ll find what you’re looking for. And probably more!

Go early or late. We all know that the great stuff goes fast, but the end of day usually means more deals and opportunity to haggle, especially at flea markets and garage sales.

Thrift while on the road or on vacation. Some of my most favorite pieces have been found in various places around the world. My Moroccan rugs, my records from San Francisco, my turquoise necklace from Brooklyn. There are so many beautiful things out in the world so keep your eyes open.




+What are some of your favorite thrifting tips? Please share in the comments!

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4 years ago

Habitat for Humanity’s RESTORE, Craig’s List “free” column, your local freebies website are all good sources!

4 years ago

Thank you for this! I never know where to start when it comes to thrifting!


4 years ago

I love open air markets and I agree with buying second hand while traveling, it makes a special piece even more special.

I love discovering vintage on Etsy (I also sell there ) because you can browse more easily already curated vintage (while eBay usually is exausting).

I would add that you should only go shopping vintage with someone that will not stop you from buying what you really want/love. Because if for some reason you take their advice you may never see the piece you wanted again.

4 years ago

I absolutely agree about thrifting on the road. I used to live in a big city, and thrifting there was okay. Then I moved to the midwest. I have literally found antiques at Good Will! Sometimes it seems like attics are cleaned out after someone passes away, or for the first time in a century. And there are not as many people here to buy the merchandise, so prices are lower, too. (Just because I like to brag: I bought a vintage fur coat straight out of the 1920s for $30! And it’s the warmest coat I’ve ever owned.)
If you ever find yourself mind-numbingly road tripping through cornfields, then wheat fields, then more corn fields, take a thrift store stop along the way! It will be worth it.

4 years ago

Excellent tips. I’ve been thrifting for years and agree with all of them. I love thrifting on road trips too!
One things I’d add for newbies is don’t forget to look up! In crowed shops anything can be hung from the ceiling. Though in most cases you’ll find lighting baskets and railroad lanterns. Happy thrifting!

5 months ago

I thought you made such a good point that if you find a dress pattern you love but it’s too big to not be afraid to tailor it, just as you would repaint or repurpose a desk you like. My teenage daughters love thrift shopping and are wanting to find some spring clothes at one this weekend. I think it’d be fun to find a consignment shop in town to browse.