How to Become a Thrift-Shop Champion

8 Practical Tips from a Second-Hand Clothing Expert

By: Emma Roorda

Second hand shopping is resourceful, ethical, and cheap, but oftentimes frugal intentions can be overridden by the exhausting thought of searching for fashionable clothing items in a sea of re-used clothing. However, after reading over these eight insightful suggestions aimed at improving your thrifting game, you may just change your mind about constantly stepping foot (and wallet) into that basic clothing retailer that you spend way too many weekends perusing!Whether or not you decide to shop at Goodwill, Value Village, or Plato's Closet, you can rest assured that the choice to buy recycled clothing proves that you are a stand-up human being, and most importantly, an environmental hero of God’s good earth (and maybe a poor college student too)!

(1) Know Your Stores:

When looking for an appropriate second hand clothing store, keep in mind that both style and price range should be considered. If your intention is to walk away with heaps of cheap, used clothing, think about shopping at a charity thrift store. These stores generally are very low in price — but they do tend to accept a wide range of “used.” In in other words, it may be cheap, but it also may be poor quality clothing, so be careful what you buy. By shopping at these kinds of thrift stores, you’ll be able to bring home a haul of vintage treasures for very little money. And you can walk away feeling good about yourself for supporting a local charity! Missions Thrift Store and The Salvation Army are two great shops to hit up if this is what you’re looking for.

On the other end of the spectrum, certain second-hand clothing stores are pickier about what kinds of clothing they accept and therefore are able to hike up their prices. These thrift stores tend to be advertised as businesses, rather than charity organizations. When shopping at these stores, you will probably have more success in finding specific, trendy styles — just be prepared to spend a titch more money. The most widely known business-type thrift store is, you guessed it, Value Village. These second-hand giants dominate the North American thrift shop world.

Finally, we come to our high end thrift stores, with the most common example being Plato’s Closet. This growing chain of consignment clothing stores sits at the top of the cleanliness chart, mainly due to the fact that Plato’s immediately sorts through all clothes brought into the store, offering cash in exchange for only the trendiest high quality products.

(2) Comfortable is Key:

The toiling task of changing your clothes many times during a thrift shop excursion is obviously inevitable. Before stepping out the door for your thrifty shopping spree, make sure you think about wearing your comfy pants — this will make taking clothes on and off much more pleasant. A comfortable outer layer allows you to avoid wasting any valuable shopping time fiddling with annoying zippers or complicated belt buckles. One giant mistake many thrift-shopping rookies make is choosing to wear shoes with laces. Let me tell ya, those double knots will be the death of you by the end of hour three.

(3) Check for Hidden Treasures:

It is not uncommon for thrift stores to forget to empty the pockets of donated items. Before you try something on, take a quick peek in those hidden pockets. You never know where the last owner kept their spare change!

(4) Your Nose Always Knows:

Yes, it’s true, some clothing items found in second hand stores should not have ended up there in the first place. If a shirt reeks of cat litter and your grandmother’s attic, put it back. There’s a good chance it did belong to a cat-loving grandma, and it very well could have spent nine years in her mothball attic. Please, just leave the shirt where you found it.

(5) Give Yourself Enough Time:

Time is money when you are shopping second-hand. The more time that you give yourself to sort through the endless racks of jackets and the seemingly bottomless boxes of tennis shoes, the better chance you have of finding that perfect treasure at the bottom of the shoe bin. If you give yourself the time to find the best that a store can offer, opening up your wallet at the end of the shopping experience won’t seem as painful. For a medium sized thrift store such as Goodwill, I often block out at least an hour and half to peruse the shelves. A helpful time management trick is to take two trips to the change rooms. That way it won’t seem so overwhelming and embarrassing when you walk over to the store attendant and inform her that you’re 10 items past the 6 item try-on limit. Taking two try-on trips also gives your mind a little break from looking at a sometimes way too colourful sea of second-hand apparel.

(6) Find Deals Using Social Media Tools:

Believe it or not, some thrift stores use Instagram. A few even take down phone numbers and send out promo codes or sale dates! These types of stores usually advertise new items on their social media pages and give people the opportunity to put holds on clothes over the phone. When you find a thrift store that you love, remember to look it up on the world wide web!

(7) Try On the Ugly Clothes:

It's easy to bypass certain styles of clothing just because they may not be the brand or type of clothing you’re used to. Instead, go ahead and take a second look at that vintage tee! Keep in mind that some clothes may appear unattractive on the hanger, but in reality, look very flattering when you see them in the mirror on your very attractive self. So don't be afraid to try on unique styles — you may just end up jump-starting the latest school-wide fashion trend.

(8) Think One Season Ahead:

Shopping in the moment is fine. If it’s boiling hot outside, grab that beachy tank. Show it off the next day at a pool party. Remember though, the following season always sneaks up faster than we expect. We all know that the time between the big comfy sweater days of our frigid Ontario winters are not too far off from the days of early Spring when we slip on our Birkenstocks for the first time. So be prepared for Birk season! Surprisingly, most people choose not to plan a season ahead when thrift shopping, so you will probably notice that the clothes for the approaching season have not been picked through by the usual throngs of anxious customers. More clothing options equals more chances to find the items you adore!