top-secret thrifting tips you may or may not already know (plus one i’m sure you dont.)

so the other day a friend of mine was whining (i mean, cheerfully reflecting,) about how she never seems to find any of these so-called amazing “scores” while thrifting.  we weren’t very far into the conversation when she turned on me.  “oh yeah…  you’re the bitch who found the brand new chanel pea-coat for $6!”  she said.  i would like to note that she was not using her inside voice at this point.

she then demanded that i “hand over” my secrets.

some good came from all this abuse though.  it got me thinking about all the “thrifting tips” i’ve come up with over the years.  then i remembered how much i like making lists, and i decided to combine the two.  

would you like to see it?  of course you would.


diana’s thrifting tips 

  • go regularly, and go on off-hours.  the first helps you acquire more goodies.  the second is for sanity’s sake.  seriously though, if you don’t go on a regular basis. you’re just asking to miss all the good loot.  you can take this a step further and inquire about “restocking” day.  as in, when do they do it?  then mark that day down in your little black book and make sure you go.
  •  a lot of the larger/more “established” thrift shops – especially in bigger towns and cities – have “last chance,” “outlet” and “as-is” shops.  what this really means is “this is the place where we send all the goodies that didn’t sell in our full-price shops.”  (tucson has “outlet” shops for both goodwill and the salvation army.  all clothes are $1-$3, except for on “half-price” day, which seems to be every day i’ve gone in.)  i can’t even begin to explain how wonderful these places are.  it’s amazing what treasures make it to these shops.  the ladies at the goodwill outlet told me clothes only get one week on the full-priced store racks before they get bundled up and shipped to the outlet.  (i didn’t tell my bitter friend this, but it’s not just a chanel that i’ve thrift-scored – i found a vintage burberry trench at one of these “outlets” recently, for $2.98.  seriously.)  
  • make a list of what you need, and refer back to it to avoid stocking up on things you don’t need.  also, racks of $3 clothes are not an excuse to inundate your closet with heaps of poor-quality crap.  there is no excuse for that.  maintain your standards, ladies.
  • shop off-season.  you’ll find the best deals and have a better selection to pick through.  (winter coats are plentiful and purchased for pennies in tucson in august.  i would imagine the same would go for vintage sun dresses during january in vermont.) 
  • give some thought to a “thrifting uniform.”  you want to wear something that is comfortable and easy to try things on over. (in case of long lines for – or even non-existent – changing rooms.)  i like leggings, long, slim fitting tank or tee-shirt style dresses, a loose-fitting cardigan and slip-on flats.  if you’re not wearing socks, at least slip a pair in your bag for trying on shoes.  not doing so is gross.  and i will judge you.
  • you can also take an even easier route and throw a flexible sewing tape in your bag for taking measurements right there at the racks.  make sure you have accurate measurements of yourself before doing this though.
  • approach things with an open mind.  if you go out with specific desires – “i want a pale yellow floral house dress made in 1953.  in a size small.” – you’re probably going to be disappointed.  remember that things can be shortened, re-sized, altered entirely – by you, a crafty friend, or even a tailor.  and even factoring in the tailor’s fees, it’s still cheaper (and cooler) than buying something brand new and mass produced.  
  • try to find shops off the beaten path.  shops in areas with a high population of amazingly hip college students will be a) picked over, and b) pricey.  look for the ones near ritzy 55+ communities.  go wild.
  • i’m a little nervous about sharing this last tip, out of fear of a good lecture from anyone will a little self-respect, but just hear me out, ok?  flirt.  not in that creepy, “unwanted attention” sort of way.  i’m not even suggesting you give out your phone number.  but putting on a big friendly smile and striking up a conversation with the occasional employee – male or female – will do some pretty amazing things.  i’ve actually found this to be useful in all areas of life.  my brother once told me, “you could flirt a dog out of biting you!” which i take to be a compliment.  i don’t see anything wrong with securing a “50% off everything, just for you…  shh!” by using some (genuine) friendliness.  it is my opinion that it brightens both party’s day.
compiling all this in one place has given me an uncontrollable itch to hit up my favorite thrift shops right this second, so i’m out, guys.
but before i go, i thought of one more thing – bring your own earth-friendly canvas shopping totes with you, and stuff those, rather than taking plastic bags.  but i’m sure you already do that, right?  high-five!

If you like this post, make sure you check out Amber’s thrifting tips in this related post:

Ask Painfully Hip: How do you make great finds at the thrift store?


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