Before Getting Getting to the Thrift Shop

Thrift shopping is one of the best ways to get some great items at bargain prices, so it’s no wonder that its popularity has exploded in recent years. You may have tried it out yourself, visiting a nearby thrift store and looking for second-hand items. However, you might’ve found yourself overwhelmed and unsure about what to pick or, rather, how to pick. That’s perfectly understandable.

Finding the best thrift shop deals takes a bit of skill. You need a discerning eye to spot the best finds, the willpower to stay within budget, and a lot of patience while checking every item; those are just the basics. Here are a few other things to keep in mind before, during, and after your next thrifting spree.

Being prepared is a good practice in anything, and this is especially true for thrifting. When you’re prepared, you’ll know what to look for, what to expect, and how you can adjust to unexpected situations.

Sell, Donate or Give Away Your Old Clothes

Thrifting is one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable practices out there. However, you won’t be really doing much if you end up just throwing your old clothes away. They’ll end up in landfills and contribute to the pollution problem. Instead, find a way to give away or sell old clothes. You’ll be able to clear up space for your thrift haul and add a few bucks to your budget.

There are many platforms out there where you can sell them, from consignment stores to online shops. However, selling and gifting aren’t your only options; you can also repurpose the garments into rags or donate them to a charity or your local thrift shop. Some thrift shops offer in-store credit for your donated goods, be sure to check!

Know What Premium Looks and Feels Like

This is the knowledge that you acquire over time, but it’s good to brush up on this before you visit the thrift store, especially if you’re looking for clothing. Finding authentic premium items is one the most satisfying experiences ever, but it takes a good eye to spot them.

There are many guides online to help you spot the real deals, so read up on what genuine leather feels like, the telltale signs of a designer shoe, or the qualities of a handmade handbag. You’ll find lots of tips compiled by experienced thrifters, so use this knowledge to your advantage!

Plan Your List

You wouldn’t go to the grocery store without a list, so don’t go to the thrift store without one, either. This will help you focus on what you need to buy and help you stay within your budget. You’ll see a lot of things that you want to buy — the prices are cheap and the items are beautiful, so who can blame you? However, it’s best to avoid the temptation and stay on task.

If you need a compromise, you don’t have to make a strict list. Instead, you can create mood boards or collages of the look you want to have. That way, you can find items that fit the style or theme while still allowing for more freedom. Once that’s taken care of, your only limitation is your budget.

Dress for the Shopping Spree

Most thrift stores aren’t like typical boutique shops with AC, heating, and other luxuries. Some don’t even have fitting rooms. Make sure to wear something comfortable; the best attire for thrifting allows you to easily slip on items so you can check the fit while in the aisles.

The Thrift-shopping Begins

Okay, so you’ve finally arrived at the store. Before you start checking the aisles and sifting through the items, remember the following tips.

Check the Condition of the Items

You’re going to be purchasing second-hand items, so it’s a given that some of them will have flaws. There will be some that look like they’ve never been worn, but those will be few and far between. When thrifting, it’s recommended that you check the condition of the item to ensure that you’re getting a high-quality product.

For clothing, you can check for tears and holes in the fabric, missing buttons or zippers, stains, and other common flaws. Inspect them in good lighting and cover every inch so you don’t miss anything. Flip it inside out and examine the collars, crotch, armpits, and other areas where stains or dirt can accumulate.

If you’re getting shoes, bags, or other accessories, watch out for damage and stains. You can also look inside for dirt, whether it’s the inner purses of a bag or the insole of a shoe. To test durability, find the seams of an item and see if the glue or threads are starting to give way. High-quality seams will stay intact even after a long time in storage.

Check the Fabrics

When thrifting for clothes, you can tell a lot about their quality by checking the material. The tags will usually list those, so it’s good practice to find and read them thoroughly. You won’t regret the extra effort of analyzing the fabric content.

In most cases, natural fibers like cotton provide the best breathability and comfort. There are also synthetic materials like polyester, nylon, and spandex, which are more versatile. Leather is a premium material, but the artificial versions can be just as beautiful and durable thanks to today’s manufacturing standards.

Keep Your Budget in Mind

The things you’ll see while in a thrift store will tempt you. They’re so inexpensive, and what if someone else gets them before you return? All of these thoughts can lead to impulse buying, ending up with you going over your budget. To force yourself to stay within the amount you initially planned, pay only with the cash you have on hand — absolutely no credit cards. Leave those at home.

Scan the Aisles and Know the Store’s Layout

The thrift store can be a maze with all of the shelves and piles of clothes. Add the messy look during peak hours, and you have yourself a maze. Things can get confusing, and you won’t be able to cover much ground. To maximize your shopping haul, familiarize yourself with the store’s layout. This way, you’ll be able to easily find the bargains, the accessories, and the new arrivals.

You also need to have good scanning skills so you can easily spot where the items you want are located. Keep an eye out for the palette or motif of your preference. Don’t spend too much time in one aisle; you might miss gems if other customers grab them first.

Check the Fit if You Can

If you already know your measurements, you’ll have more certainty over the items you choose. However, foreign size charts can be confusing, so it’s good practice to check the fit of the items before buying them. You don’t want to bring home something too loose or too tight, especially items that can’t be altered.

Some thrift stores have fitting rooms, but others might not have them, so be sure to wear clothing that allows you to easily try on potential purchases. Make sure you find the mirrors in the shop; they usually have plenty.

Make Friends With the Staff

If you have a favorite thrift shop, it’s a good habit to make acquaintances with the personnel. They’ll recognize you as a frequent shopper, so you might get insider information like the next restocks or where to find authentic pieces. Plus, they can help you decide whether something looks good on you.

Now That the Shopping is Over

Now that you’ve brought your haul home, here are some ways to make your purchase worth it.

Have Your Items Tailored

Let’s face it: some items are just too good to pass up, so even if they have some damage or they’re a couple of sizes too big, you buy them anyway. That’s okay! There are plenty of ways to make it work. Either brush up on your sewing skills or visit your local clothing alteration store and let them make your find fit your measurements.

Bags, shoes, and other accessories can be repaired by most tailors. You can even do it at home if the damages are only superficial. Just be sure that the repair work is thorough to make your investment absolutely worth it.

Follow Your Thrift Store Online

The best way to stay updated with upcoming sales or new releases is by following your favorite thrift store on social media. They usually post announcements and special events where loyal customers can get special discounts and other perks. Subscribing to their mailing list is also a great way to stay up-to-date on these things.

Takeaways

Finding the best thrift shop deals is a fun experience that helps you save money and care for the environment. Not only will you get premium products at bargain items, but you’ll also be reducing your carbon footprint. By following the tips shared above, you can bring your next thrift haul to the next level, so make sure you’re being strategic before, during, and after thrifting. Have fun!

So, what are you waiting for? Get a plan, get to the thrift store, and pop some tags!

Any questions? Comment below. My lovely wife, Donna, is a manager at a thrift shop, if I don’t know the answer, I’d be happy to ask her!

About the Author

Client Credit Report Authorization

You hereby authorize and instruct Debt Reduction Services, Inc. (DRS, dba Money Fit by DRS) and/or its assigned agents to:
  • Obtain and review your credit report, and
  • Request verifications of your income and rental history, and any other information deemed necessary for improving your housing situation (for example, verifying your annual property tax obligations and homeowner’s insurance fees)
Your credit report will be obtained from a credit reporting agency chosen by DRS. You understand and agree that DRS intends to use the credit report evaluate your financial readiness to purchase or rent a home and/or to engage in post-purchase counseling activities and not to grant credit. You understand you may ask any questions pertaining to your credit report. However, while DRS will review the information with you, the company is not able to furnish you with a copy of your credit profile. You hereby authorize DRS to share your information from your credit report and any information that you provided (including any computations and assessments produced) with the entities listed below to help DRS determine your viable financial options.
  • Banks
  • Counseling Agencies
  • Debt Collectors
  • Landlords
  • Lenders
  • Mortgage Servicers
  • Property Management Companies
  • Public Housing Authorities
  • Social Service Agencies
Entities such as mortgage lenders and/or counseling agencies may contact your DRS counselor to evaluate the options for which you may be eligible. In connection with such evaluation, you authorize the credit reporting and/or financial agencies to release information and cooperate with your DRS counselor. No information will be discussed about you with entities not directly involved in your efforts to improve your housing situation. You hereby authorize the release of your information to program monitoring organizations of DRS, including but not limited to, Federal, State, and nonprofit partners for program review, monitoring, auditing, research, and/or oversight purposes. In addition, you authorize DRS to have your credit report pulled two additional times to conduct program evaluations. You also agree to keep DRS informed of any changes in address, telephone number, job status, marital status, or other conditions which may affect your eligibility for a program you have applied for or a counseling service that you are seeking. Finally, you understand that you may revoke consent to these disclosures by notifying DRS in writing.

Client Privacy, Data Security, and Client Rights Policy

NOTE: This sheet is to inform new or returning clients about our services, records, fees, and limitations that may affect you as a consumer of our services. This form also discloses how we might release your information to other agencies and/or regulators. If you do not understand a statement, please ask a Debt Reduction Services (DRS) counselor for assistance.

Debt Reduction Services, Inc. (DRS) has put into place policies and procedures to protect the security and confidentiality of your nonpublic personal information. This notice explains our online information practices and how we use and maintain your information to conduct our financial education and credit counseling sessions and to fulfill information and question requests. This privacy policy complies with federal laws and regulations.

To provide our financial education and credit counseling services, we collect nonpublic personal information about you as follows: 1) Information we receive from you, 2) Information about your transactions with us or others, and 3) Information we receive from your creditors or a consumer reporting agency. We do not share this information with outside parties.

We use non-identifying and aggregate information to better design our website and services, but we do not disclose anything that could be used to identify you as an individual.

You hereby authorize DRS, when necessary, to share your nonpublic personal, financial, credit, and any information that you provided (including any computations and assessments produced) with the following entities in order to help DRS provide you with appropriate counseling or guide you to appropriate services: third parties such as government agencies, your lender(s), your creditor(s), and nonprofit housing-related and other financial agencies as permitted by law, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

To prevent unauthorized access, maintain data accuracy, and ensure the correct use of information, we have put in place appropriate physical, electronic, and managerial procedures to safeguard and secure the information we collect online. We limit access to your nonpublic personal information to our employees, contractors and agents who need such access to provide products or services to you or for other legitimate business purposes.

Debt Reduction Services, Inc. complies with the privacy requirements set forth in the HUD housing counseling agency handbook 7610.1 (05/2010), including the sections 2-2 Mc, 3-1 H(2), 3-3, 5-3 F, and Attachment A.5. At all times, we will comply with all additional laws and regulations to which we are subject regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of individually identifiable information.

  1. Services: DRS provides the following housing-related services: counseling that includes Homeless Assistance, Rental Topics, Pre-purchase/Homebuying, and Home Maintenance and Financial Management for Homeowners (Non-Delinquency Post-Purchase); Education courses that include Financial literacy (including home affordability, budgeting, and understanding use of credit), Predatory lending, loan scam or other fraud prevention, Fair housing, Rental topics, Pre-purchase homebuyer education, Non-delinquency post-purchase workshop (including home maintenance and/or financial management for homeowners), and other workshops not listed above.

Please refer to DebtReductionServices.org for details of our services.

  1. Limits: Our services are limited to our normal weekday business hours. We do not provide individual counseling or education services after hours or on weekends, although our education courses are available 24/7.
  2. Fees: We do not charge fees for our financial management counseling and education. However, if you use them, you may have to pay for our Debt Management Program, Student Loan Counseling, Bankruptcy Certificate Services or certain financial education courses (homebuyer education, rental topics, fair housing, predatory lending, and post-purchase-non-delinquency including home maintenance and/or financial management for homeowners).
  3. Records: We maintain records of the services you receive, including notes about your progress or other relevant information to your work with us. You have the right to access and view your records by making a request to your counselor.
  4. Confidentiality: We respect your privacy and offer our services in confidence with the understanding that we may share such information with auditors and government regulators. Certain laws or situations may also lead to disclosing confidential issues, such as those involving potential child abuse or neglect, threats to harm self or others, or court subpoenas.
  5. Refusal of Services: You have the right to refuse services without any penalty or loss.
  6. Disclosure of Policies and Practices: You will be provided our agency disclosure statement.
  7. Sharing of Information: Sometimes we will need to contact other agencies or we may need to share your information, including your records, with other agencies or with regulators. We will do this only if you sign this form that gives us permission except for limited reasons; please see # 5 above for examples of such situations.
  8. Other: You have the right to be treated with respect by our staff, and we expect the same from you in return. We encourage you to always ask questions if something is not clear. We also encouraged you to express your thoughts and advocate throughout our services.

You acknowledge that this authorization will remain in effect for the duration of time that DRS serves as your housing counselor or financial education provider. You also acknowledge that should you wish to terminate this authorization, you will notify DRS in writing.

Disclosure  Statement

NOTE: If you have an impairment, disability, language barrier, or otherwise require an alternative means of completing this form or accessing information about our counseling services, please communicate with your DRS representative about arranging alternative accommodations.

Program Disclosure Form

Disclosure to Client for HUD Housing Counseling Services

Debt Reduction Services, Inc. and its financial education arm, Money Fit by DRS, offer the following housing counseling and educational services related to housing, personal finance, and bankruptcy certificates to consumers:
  • Housing Education Courses: DRS offers many online self-guided education programs classified as Financial, Budgeting, and Credit Workshops (FBC), Fair Housing Pre-Purchase Education Workshops (FHW), Homelessness Prevention Workshops (HMW), Non-Delinquency Post Purchase Workshops (NDW), Predatory Lending Education Workshops (PLW), Pre-purchase Homebuyer Education Workshops (PPW), and Rental Housing Workshops (RHW). These courses help participants increase their knowledge of and skills in personal finance, including home affordability, budgeting, and understanding the use of credit, as well as predatory lending, loan scams, and other fraud prevention topics, fair housing, rental topics, pre-purchase homebuyer education, non-delinquency post-purchase topics including home maintenance and/or financial management for homeowners, homeless prevention workshop, and other workshops not listed above relating to personal finance and housing. Course details are found below under “Housing Workshops.”
  • Home Equity Conversation Mortgage (HECM) Counseling (RMC): Via telephone and virtual platforms, we offer the required HECM counseling nationwide in addition to in-person counseling in Boise, Idaho. We also offer in-home counseling options in thirty counties across southern Idaho for an additional fee to cover our travel and additional staff time costs.
  • Home Maintenance and Financial Management for Homeowners (Non-Delinquency Post-Purchase) (FBC): Clients receive counseling and materials on the proper maintenance of their home and mortgage refinancing. Clients can find help and resources by phone, in our Boise office, or virtually on all topics related to stabilizing their long-term homeownership.
  • Services for Homeless Counseling (HMC): Clients receive phone, virtual, or in-person (Boise) counseling to evaluate their current housing needs, identify barriers to and goals for housing stability, establish a path to self-sufficiency, and connect with emergency shelters, income-appropriate housing, and/or other community resources (e.g. mental healthcare, job training, transportation, etc.).
  • Pre-Purchase Counseling (PPC): Clients receive counseling through the entire homebuying process. Assistance may involve creating a sustainable household budget, understanding mortgage options, building their credit rating, and putting together a realistic action plan to set and achieve homeownership goals.  Additionally, clients will receive materials and resources about home inspections and other homeownership topics relevant to successfully maintaining a home.
  • Rental Housing Counseling (RHC): Via phone, in-person appointments (Boise, ID), or virtual platforms, clients receive housing counseling relevant to renting, including rent subsidies from HUD or other government and assistance programs. Topics can also address issues and concerns having to do with fair housing, landlord and tenant laws, lease terms, rent delinquency, household budgeting, and finding alternate housing.
DRS also offers the following services:
  • A Debt Management Program (DMP) for consumers struggling to pay their credit cards, collections, medical debts, personal loans, old utility bills, and past-due cell phone accounts;
  • The Budget Briefing and Debtor Education Certificates that are required during the Bankruptcy filing process;
  • A Student Loan Repayment Plan Counseling and application service.

Relationships with Industry Partners

Through such services, DRS has established financial relationships with hundreds of banks, credit unions, and creditors such as American Express, Bank of America, Barclays, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, Credit One, Discover, Synchrony, US Bank, USAA, Wells Fargo, and others.

No Client Obligation

The client is not obligated to receive, purchase or utilize any other services offered by DRS or its exclusive partners to receive financial education or housing counseling services. Alternatives: As a condition of our counseling services, in alignment with meeting our client services goals, and in compliance with HUD’s Housing Counseling Program requirements, we may provide information on alternative services, programs, and products available to you, if applicable and known by our staff. Alternative DMP services include negotiating better repayment terms directly with your individual creditors, paying your debts as agreed, or, in extreme cases, filing for personal bankruptcy. Alternative credit and education services can be found through MyMoney.gov or the Jump$tart Clearinghouse of online financial education resources. Housing counseling alternatives can be found through HUD at www.hud.gov/findacounselor.
Finally, you understand that you may revoke consent to these disclosures by notifying DRS in writing.

Housing Counseling and Education Fee Schedule

 

Online Education Program Fees*

Homebuyer Education Course: $59 per participant

  • Self-paced course available here, our online housing counseling and education center. Certificates will be automatically generated upon completion of the course (approximately 6-8 hours)

RentalFair HousingPredatory Lending / HOEPAPost-Purchase (Non-delinquency post-purchase workshop, including home maintenance and/or financial management for homeowners) Online Workshops: $49 per participant

  • Approximately 1 hour each

Other Self-Guided Financial Literacy Webinars (e.g. creditbudgetinghomeless preventiondebt prevention): $0

One-on-one Counseling Fees*

Pre-purchase Homebuying Counseling, Rental Counseling, Post-purchase Ownership Maintenance and Financial Management: $75

  • Session by the hour

Reverse Mortgage/HECM Counseling with Required Certificate:

  • $200†

Credit Report Fee: Paid Directly by Client

*Fees for all but our online education courses and workshops can be paid online by debit card, credit card, or PayPal or in person by cash, check or money order to: “Debt Reduction Services, Inc.” Registration fees are non-refundable 24 hours or less before the start of an in-person course or workshop. Certificates are non-transferable

*Fees may be waived for households with income of 150% or less of that identified on the US Department of Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines Page

†Home visit counseling is available in 30 southern Idaho counties for potential HECM borrowers at additional costs to cover our travel (IRS reimbursement rates apply) and staff time ($50 per hour or fraction there).

Housing Counseling and Education Fee Schedule

 

Online Education Program Fees*

Homebuyer Education Course: $59 per participant

  • Self-paced course available here, our online housing counseling and education center. Certificates will be automatically generated upon completion of the course (approximately 6-8 hours)

RentalFair HousingPredatory Lending / HOEPAPost-Purchase (Non-delinquency post-purchase workshop, including home maintenance and/or financial management for homeowners) Online Workshops: $49 per participant

  • Approximately 1 hour each

Other Self-Guided Financial Literacy Webinars (e.g. creditbudgetinghomeless preventiondebt prevention): $0

One-on-one Counseling Fees*

Pre-purchase Homebuying Counseling, Rental Counseling, Post-purchase Ownership Maintenance and Financial Management: $75

  • Session by the hour

Reverse Mortgage/HECM Counseling with Required Certificate:

  • $200†

Credit Report Fee: Paid Directly by Client

*Fees for all but our online education courses and workshops can be paid online by debit card, credit card, or PayPal or in person by cash, check or money order to: “Debt Reduction Services, Inc.” Registration fees are non-refundable 24 hours or less before the start of an in-person course or workshop. Certificates are non-transferable

*Fees may be waived for households with income of 150% or less of that identified on the US Department of Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines Page

†Home visit counseling is available in 30 southern Idaho counties for potential HECM borrowers at additional costs to cover our travel (IRS reimbursement rates apply) and staff time ($50 per hour or fraction there).