Unexpected thrift store gold mines

There are some things that I hardly ever pay full price for at department stores. But for every 30-dollar sweater is an even better piece at a better price at your local Goodwill. You just have to know where to look!

Picture of cluttered vintage shop.

Photo by Onur Bahçıvancılar on Unsplash

Exercise clothes

Before I begin, a word of warning: you need to be extremely selective when buying sports clothes in a thrift store. There are some pretty gross thrift store workout clothes out there that should probably just be burned. However, hanging in your local Goodwill are some new Nike and Adidas finds with the tags still on. Just think one of the Golden Rules of Thrifting – Be Patient. Even if you don’t have any luck the first time you look, keep checking back. The next time you go, there could be a slew of new donations on the rack waiting to be dug through.

Turtlenecks

I refuse to pay 30 dollars for a turtleneck at H&M or Express when there’s an entire rack of great turtlenecks at Goodwill for five dollars. Maybe even color coordinated, and in your size. Ribbed sweaters and turtlenecks are a huge trend right now — but it was in the early 2000s, too. There’s hardly any difference between the older versions of the newer trends, except maybe $25.

The entire mens’ section

Any thrift-shop-loving girl will tell you this. But I will tell you again, and shout it from the rooftops. The men’s section of Goodwill is possibly the best section ever. Patterned pants, sweatshirts, t-shirts anything. All of my favorite cozy patterned-knit sweaters are either hand-me-downs from my dad—or they’re from the men’s section at Goodwill. Everything in the men’s section is oversized, warm, and has pockets. Deep pockets, too. Like nothing you’ll ever see in any women’s clothes. Ever.

Skirts

Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. All year round, I love wearing a good skirt. The best thing? I never, ever buy them new. All of my shirts are thrifted. Thrift stores have the best plaid and denim skirts I have seen. Honestly, their construction and aesthetic is normally better than anything I would find at the mall for four times the Goodwill price.

Belts

This is the tiniest and most overlooked section in any thrift shop. And belts are probably some of the most overpriced accessories on the market. Some of my favorite thrift store finds are my belts. You never know what you’ll find – colorful patterns to western belt buckles. Again, don’t overlook the men’s section here, too. If you want a cool western belt buckle, the men’s section is the first place to look.

Ankle Boots

The shoe section at Goodwill is where I get all of my black ankle boots that are so en vogue at the moment. Again, they were a trend about fifteen years ago, as well. One of my favorite pairs of shoes is a pair of black Aldo ankle boots from Community Aid that I paid nine dollars for. I swear, I saw an identical pair at Forever 21 for thirty-five dollars a few days later.

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Those are all of the gold mines that I have discovered in my thrifting trips. If I overlooked your favorite section, let me know down in the comments!

Tips for your first time thrifting

When I mention thrifting in conversation to a friend, a lot of the time they voice their interest in the idea of thrifting, but also express to me how intimidated they are by it. I completely understand. Not everyone gets excited when they walk into a messy, unorganized Goodwill. But lucky for you, there are ways to make your first time thrifting easier.

Open sign on shop front door.

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

Take a friend.

Shopping is always a task that is made better by companionship. While I typically do thrift alone, I would recommend taking a buddy with you on your first couple of outings to your local thrift shop. I think it would be an especially good idea to bring a friend who enjoys thrifting, or even just knows your style. If you’re captivated by a bright floral dress, sometimes you need a friend there to say to you, “Girl, you only ever wear black and grey. You’re never gonna wear that.”

Don’t allow yourself to feel overwhelmed.

Although I don’t recommend it for your first time out, sometimes your only local thrift shop may be a big Goodwill or Salvation Army. But if you can, go to a smaller place first if possible. Church thrift shops and sales are always small and manageable. However, they almost always have funky pieces that some eighty-year-old grandmother had in her closet or attic forever before she decided to donate it to her church.

Know what you like.

Know what you like and what you’re looking for, and stick to those sections. If a pattern in the sweater section pops out at you, explore that section for a while and find other things that intrigue you. If the knick-knacks are looking especially eclectic and interesting, concentrate on those. You are not roped to any one section, of course. But you’re also not obligated to root though every section in the shop. Take your time, don’t overwhelm yourself.

Don’t bog yourself down.

My favorite trick for navigating a thrift shop is just skimming the racks and finding textures, patterns, or colors that stick out to me and looking at those. Don’t dedicate yourself to flipping through every piece of clothing on the rack. It’s exhausting and just not worth it if you wouldn’t even try on half the clothes you’re looking at.

On the other hand, leave the shopping list at home.

Leave yourself open and free for exploration. It’s so easy to forget that trying new things is fun. Don’t make your first thrifting session into a shopping trip. In other words, don’t make thrifting an errand to run. This is another reason why taking a friend is important – it’ll instantly make a possibly overwhelming situation way more fun!

Don’t expect an Instagram worthy haul your first time out.

Trust your gut (if you don’t like something, you don’t like something. Don’t buy a dress or a sweater just because it’s vintage or it’s a name brand. No matter what, if you don’t like it, you won’t wear it. Lastly, remember possibly the most important Golden Rules of Thrifting: be patient.  A good thrift haul takes time. Dedicate an afternoon to the thrift shop, not just an hour in-and-out.

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Out of all these points to consider in your first time thrifting, what is the most important thing of all? Have fun!

The Golden Rules of Thrifting

Thrifting isn’t that complicated of a process, but there are still some things that you should keep in mind while thrifting. I list them here at the true Golden Rules of thrifting.

Dark clothes hanging on wooden rack with colorful hangers.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Be Patient

This is my number one rule when thrifting, and I repeat it to myself all the time. Magic doesn’t have to happen now, or even my next trip to the thrift. Just have fun. I’ve found the best pieces that I wear the most when I’m just rolling with the punches and having fun.

Know Your Style

There’s a pair of perfect Levi overalls hanging on the rack. They’re in your size, and at a fabulous price. But if you’re a skirts-and-blouse kind of girl that wouldn’t normally wear a pair of overalls, don’t waste your money. It may be a cool piece, but it’ll be an even better find for someone who wears denim daily.

Not All Thrift Shops are Made Equal

There is a difference between a consignment shop and a thrift shop. A consignment shop pays for the clothes that people bring in to sell, so thrift shopkeepers are more selective in which pieces they take and pass on. Therefore, the clothes they sell are probably more expensive. Thrift shops like Salvation Army and Goodwill take donations, and therefore they have more

Then, of course, you have trendy vintage boutiques that curate their selection. They go out to Goodwill and find that beautiful jacket, fix it up, and charge you forty dollars for their trouble. These places have great pieces, no doubt about it, but you pay a premium for their selective services.

Therefore, Buffalo Exchange (consignment store) and Salvation Army (thrift store) are two different breeds of the same animal.

Picture of light wash denim jacket with a donut patch.

Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

Do Your Research

Don’t feel like you need to sequester yourself to your local Goodwill. Do your research on new places to thrift! Find estate sales to go visit. Find advertisements for church sales and donation centers. Go to a garage sale in your neighborhood. There are way more options than just Goodwill and Salvation Army. You just have to dig them up out of the abyss of the internet, or your newspaper’s ad section.

Also, know if you’re being ripped off. If someone is charging more than $20 dollars because it’s a name brand, make sure it’s legit. Look up online what other people are selling similar pieces for. Look up different ways to tell if something is fake.

Shower After Thrifting

This should be a given, but you don’t know where those clothes have been before they were donated, and before you even tried them on. Some of thrift shops clean the donations that they receive before putting them out on the floor, but don’t count on it. A lot of thrift shops don’t. Shake it out before you try it on, and always shower when you get home.

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If you follow all these rules, you’ll be golden for your first trip to the thrift shop! Happy thrifting!