Thrift stores get a bad rap. They are often thought of as dirty and dingy, and the items sold there don’t come off any better. Also, the people who shop there are thought of as poor. In reality, thrift stores are a great place to find awesome deals, sometimes on new, name brand items. However, while the deals and savings are great, thrift stores are often packed with items and you may have to do some digging around for the best things. Luckily, we created this comprehensive guide so you can get the most out of thrift store shopping.

1. Know what you want

Often times thrift stores are packed full of clothes which can get a bit overwhelming. Go in knowing what you are looking for and start in that general area.

2. But be opened minded

Thrift stores can be a wealth of bargains so you may want to look a little deeper. Keep an eye out for out of season stuff that are marked way down and children’s clothes that are a size or two too big. Look for new-in-box items or new-with-tags clothes for future gifts. Make sure that everything you buy will eventually be used, or else you are not only wasting money, you are adding more clutter in your home. No one needs that.

3. Leave your kids at home

Shopping at a thrift store can be a drawn out process. You may spend a lot of time pouring over racks and racks looking for the best items. Little kids may get bored, so if you can shop without them, do so.

4. Bring cash

Some thrift stores will not take credit cards. Larger ones like Salvation Army and Goodwill will most likely take credit, but smaller, privately owned ones may not.

5. Look for name brands

There are a ton of name brand items that get dropped off at thrift stores. Think Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, DKNY. You may have to dig for the clothes, and some may have to be altered, but they can definitely be found.

6. But be open to new brands

While it’s good to look for name brand (read: higher quality) clothes, also look at other brands. You may find a brand that you have never tried or never even heard, but the clothes are great quality and fit your well.

7. Always try clothes on

Nice and excessively cheap don’t mean anything if the article of clothing does not fit you. Try everything on to make sure it fits and looks good on you. Some smaller stores may not have dressing rooms, so arrive at the thrift store dressed in shorts or leggings, and a tank top or t-shirt. You do not want to wear anything too bulky so that you will still be able to comfortably slip clothes over them.

8. Be willing to look through a lot of stuff

Unless you prepare yourself to dig through racks and racks of clothes that may not always be organized well, you will be in for long and frustrating day. Mentally prepare yourself for the searching, and keep in mind that if you are diligent, there is a good chance you will find a great deal.

9. Think out of the box

There will be times when you find something you like, but it’s just a little too big or too small. Items of clothing can be easily altered or even layered to make them work with your body and wardrobe. Also, if you find a fabric that you absolutely love but the style and fit isn’t you, with a little creativity, you may be able to change it into something completely different.

10. Ask when the sale days are

Many Salvation Army stores have certain days where everything is half off. Even smaller thrift stores may hold similar sales, so call and ask about sales and special discounts before deciding which store to hit up.

11. Check everything carefully

Before you check out, check everything for any holes, stains, rips or other defects. This may not rule out the article entirely, many defects can easily be repaired. You just want to be aware before you make your purchased.

12. Try your hand at haggling

Many stores are willing to negotiate a better deal. If you are so inclined, go ahead and ask. The worst that can happen is they say no, and you end up paying the price on the tag.

13. Don’t just look for clothes

Thrift stores carry all sorts of items. Look through the accessories for purse and jewelry, and housewares for small appliances, furniture and kitchenware.

14. Do not buy anything that goes on your head or feet

For your safety and health, stay away from buying used hats, helmets, shoes, boots or socks. While you are at it, don’t buy used underwear.

15. Wash everything you buy

Usually thrift stores will wash the donations they receive, but you never know who has tried them on or touched them. Give everything a run through the washer before wearing it to be on the safe side.

16. Don’t be afraid to ask for something

If you are looking for something specific and couldn’t find it this time around, don’t be afraid to ask an employee to be on the lookout for it. Don’t expect them to rummage through all the new stock they get in, but they just may remember you if they happen to spot the item you asked about.

Thrift stores often associated with being poor and low-quality items. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You can find brand name, first hand quality clothes and household items for a fraction of what you would pay for them new. That’s not being poor. That’s shopping smart.

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