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How to Shop at a Thrift Store

With the right approach and an open mind, a trip to your local thrift store can yield some fashionable bargains.


  • Step 1: Locate thrift stores Hop on a computer and search for thrift stores in your area. See if customer feedback is available for any of them. A visit to a secondhand store can last two hours or two minutes, so be prepared. Map a route to two or three stores in proximity and plan to hit one after another.
  • TIP: Before you set out, check online or at a store for the retail price of items similar to ones you’re shopping for.
  • Step 2: Lower your expectations Thrift shopping is unpredictable, so keep an open mind. If you walk in with your heart set on a specific brand or style, you’re likely to be disappointed.
  • TIP: Use your imagination: You can transform almost any piece of irregular clothing or furniture.
  • Step 3: Get details Strike up a conversation with a store employee to find out what day of the week they stock new items. You’ll get first crack at the merchandise.
  • Step 4: Try clothing on Since thrift-store clothing is preworn and often stretched out, try on everything to see and feel how it fits.
  • Step 5: Browse nonclothing sections Comb carefully through books, art, CDs, and the furniture section. Some of the real finds pop up here.
  • TIP: Bring a tape measure to check furniture dimensions, and carry a few batteries of different sizes to test battery-power toys or electronics.
  • Step 6: Inspect everything Inspect all clothing, appliances, and furniture thoroughly. Check shirts for holes and underarm stains, make sure zippers work, and plug electronics into a working outlet.
  • Step 7: Check out Be sure to bring plenty of cash -- many thrift stores do not accept checks or credit.
  • Step 8: Clean your purchases Most secondhand stores don’t wash their merchandise before they display it. Once home, throw your new clothes into the washing machine or have them cleaned. Wipe down furniture or appliances, and carefully clean upholstery.
  • FACT: In 2006, a retired truck driver who picked up an old painting for $5 at a thrift store was offered $9 million for it, after an art expert speculated that it was a Jackson Pollock.

You Will Need

  • A computer with internet access
  • A thrift store
  • Patience
  • A tape measure
  • Batteries
  • Creativity

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