It’s been a while since we’ve had a guest post around here! I absolutely love chatting with y’all five days a week but a girls got to paint… so when Megan emailed me asking if she could guest post here on my little corner of Happily Ever After, Etc. I was more than happy to oblige. I mean this gal is all about how to get the best deals from the thrift store… which means she’s pretty awesome! ;).
I have so many projects to share with y’all that I’m staying awake more nights than not… burning the mid night oil and all that jazz to get a few of these babies finished! The hubby and I may or may not be in the middle of a Harry Potter marathon while I paint the detail work on our new craft cabinet ( we’re already on Harry Potter 4 and I’ve completed both doors… once! I need to do a second coat and then the detail work on the trim! This is why I needed a great guest post!).
So without further ado… here’s Megan!
As the cost of just about everything rises, more and more people are looking for bargains. If you don’t have an aversion to recycled stuff and know how to look, thrift stores are a great way to get quality items that are gently used (or even new) for rock-bottom prices.
Check out these tips to get the most out of your next shopping spree:
It’s All About Location
Location, location, location — we’ve all heard the old real estate axiom, but with thrift stores, location really does matter. When people donate, they usually go to the closest store, so nicer neighborhoods usually equal better donations. Of course, there are always exceptions, but it’s still a pretty good bet.
It’s also a good idea to research areas where people are moving out heavily. Those are the areas apt to have a greater and more diverse inventory. If you see a few 8,000 lb. excavators on a large residential construction site in the area, it’s best to avoid this area for thrift shopping. A sight like that usually means an influx of people will be moving into the area, which means more people will be visiting the store, thus reducing your selection.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
If you already know the area, use The Thrift Shopper. Just enter your zip code, and the site gives you a list of all the thrift shops close to you, with addresses, hours and even reviews.
You can also enter the street name of an affluent area into Google maps, select the “nearby” button and type in thrift shops. This will generate a more specific list of stores where you can find more consistent quality — and often — like-new items.
Make a Day of It
Get together with some other thrift store junkies and make a day of it. Decide which places you want to hit and map out a route so you spend less time driving and more time shopping. Chip in for gas because you’ll definitely want to take the roomiest vehicle available. As tempting as it may be, ditching a friend to make room for your treasures just isn’t cool — and they probably won’t go with you next time.
Have a Strategy
Thrift stores aren’t like traditional retail establishments where there are multiples of everything and it’s all sorted nicely by size and style. In a thrift store, it takes time and tenacity to find the good stuff.
Knowing what you want is the first step. Have a general idea what you’re looking for and keep sizes, measurements, color swatches and a tape measure with you. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding that side table you’ve been looking for only to get it home and realize it’s an inch and a half too big for your space.
Start your search in the areas of the store you’re likely to find the items you want. If you’re looking for clothes, don’t forget to check back by the dressing rooms. People might leave things they’ve tried on, and just because it wasn’t right for them doesn’t mean it won’t be for you.
Watch for great deals, but beware of impulse buying. It might be a bargain, but if you don’t love it, it’s not a deal and will probably end up as junk in your garage or the back of your closet.
Plan for Sales
Thrift stores usually have specific sale days and events. Find out when these are so you can plan your trips accordingly.
For instance, Goodwill has half-price days, where everything in the store is half price, or tag days, where certain color tags are discounted. The specifics vary by location, so you need to check with your local stores to find out what kind of program they have. I picked up this plastic pot on a sale day so I can keep my plant on my desk without having to worry if my cat will swat it off of my desk and break it into smithereens.
If the store has a mailing list, be sure to get on it. Some stores offer special deals only for subscribers.
Try to arrive early on sale days, and if you find something you like, pick it up. You can always return it to the rack if you change your mind, but once the good stuff is discounted, it gets snatched up quickly. Hesitation can leave you with nothing but regret in your shopping bag.
Know What You’re Getting
Some thrift store items aren’t actually much of a bargain. Before you head out, it’s a good idea to have at least an idea how much the things on your list run new. Your phone is a great asset if you have doubts or are unfamiliar with a certain brand. If you find a pair of headphones like I did, make sure to test them before leaving the store! You don’t want to take home something that’s broken!
Apps like Amazon Price Check or Shopsavvy can be helpful if you know exactly what you’re looking at. If not, Google the brand name for a general sense of their prices. Make sure you’re really getting a deal before you hand over your cash. You don’t want to pay $20 for something you could have bought new for $30, because if it’s damaged, you’re stuck with it.
A Note About Haggling
While haggling may seem like a good way to stretch your dollar, the floor staff probably doesn’t have the authority to lower prices. However, items can get mis-priced, so it never hurts to ask if something seems unreasonably high. I found my mug for $5, and when I approached the manager and asked if the price was correct, she told me it should be $1. How about that for a sale price! A manager may be able to correct the error and give you a better deal.
You might also want to consider that most thrift stores are run by charities. If it’s only fifty cents or a dollar, think of it as a donation.
If you use a careful strategy, shopping at thrift stores can give you a million-dollar look on a ten-dollar budget. As a final note: You might want to make a point of donating something every time you shop, because thrift shopping can be addictive — and in the end, being featured on a TV hoarding show probably isn’t your best road to fame.
Megan Wild is an expert at decorating with a sense of discretion. She enjoys writing about her adventures on her blog, Your Wild Home.
Thanks for all the great tips Megan!
Next time I head out to find something amazing for the Thrift Store Swap I’ll keep a few of these in mind!