31 Days · Good to Know · Thrifts

31 Days: The Thrift Project – Day 3: My 5 Best Thrifting Secrets

Today, instead of a project, I’m sharing some of my best tips to becoming a thrifting pro.

But first, a story (because typing the word “tips” made me think of “tipsy”).

Big Boy and I were driving to a thrift store over the weekend. (Yes, I’m instilling my love of thrifting early.  No, this isn’t a story about thrifting.) We passed one of those big farms that get turned into corn mazes and pumpkin patches this time of year.  From the backseat, BB yells, “MOM! Did you just see that tipsy? I saw a big tipsy back there!” I’m trying to translate in my head what on earth a tipsy is. (I mean, I know what “tipsy” means, but he doesn’t.) Is it something he’s learned at preschool? I mean, I grew up in the south, but I’m definitely not an “ag” person, and we live in a very “ag” area, so I start thinking, maybe this is a term for some sort of farm machine, like a fancy tractor.

So I say, “I didn’t see it, tell me what it looks like.” “Well, it’s really sharp on top, you know, a tipsy.” OK, sure, farm equipment. “You know, it’s white, you can go inside it.” Thinking, thinking, thinking…then it hits me.

A teepee. “Sharp” means pointy. A tipsy. Hee hee – love that boy.

OK, the secrets!

Maybe you’re new to thrifting. Or you’ve tried it a few times, and you just don’t see what all the fuss is about. Well, get out your notebooks, because I’m about to tell you how to thrift like a pro.

Note: For these tips, I’m mostly referring to clothing, but they apply to any kind of thrifting – furniture, home decor, whatever.

1. Gather inspiration.

You need to know what to look for, so you need some inspiration. This can be from magazines, catalogs, fashion blogs, and the best thing since sliced bread, Pinterest. Find things you like – tear out pages, pin images you like, take inventory of what you’ve got in your own closet, then see what you need.

For example, I pinned this outfit:

Silver tank (check), jeans (check). Need: mustard cardigan.

Then I pinned this one.

Jeans (check), orange cardigan (check), leopard flats (check). Need: gingham blouse.

I added the “need” items to my wish list, which is tip #2.

2. Keep a wish list.

I use the Errands app on my phone.  I currently have 4 thrifting wish lists – clothes for me, clothes for kids, housewares, and shoes. (Some of you may say, “Eww!” I’m looking at you, Mom. Thrifted shoes don’t have to be gross – you can usually find new with stickers or almost new ones at any store.  Just be smart, don’t buy nasty looking shoes, use Clorox wipes before wearing them, and you should be good to go.)

After pinning the inspiration images above, I used my wish list the next time I went to the thrift store, and I found these:

Score! The gingham blouse is vintage Levi’s, and the yellow one is not perfect, but it will be when I finish tweaking it – will post the results soon.

Another trick I’ve learned is, when I see something inspiring or think of something I need, I make a note on my wish list of what I want to wear it with (or what project I have in mind). Sometimes I see “red belt” and I don’t remember that I want it to wear with my navy striped sweater. It helps to have a plan.

3. The best shopping usually happens at stores that are organized.

Goodwill is fantastic about this. They are almost always organized by clothing type and color, and sometimes by size if you’re really lucky. When you have a wish list that says, “Red pants, mustard yellow cardigan, black maxi skirt” you can tell at a glance if they have what you’re looking for and move on. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t….

4. Browse everything if you have time.

I usually don’t have this kind of time, but it’s a great luxury when I do. This includes browsing clothing that is too big for you (you can always alter it), the men’s department (making a shirtdress from a men’s oxford is on my to-do list), the linens (fabric!). Once you get a little more practice in thrifting, you will see possibilities everywhere.

5. Seek out vintage.

Vintage is having a heyday right now. Browse the racks of a trendy store and you’ll see many pieces that are vintage-inspired. Why not buy the original? You don’t want to dress head-to-toe in vintage, or you’ll look like you stepped off the set of Mad Men. (But really, would that be so terrible?) You can find a really great dress or blouse of exceptional quality at an amazing price. But watch out – shops that specialize in vintage tend to be a bit pricier because the owners have done all the searching for you.  If you’re looking for a deal, do the vintage hunting yourself in a thrift store.

And one bonus secret I just learned – October thrifting is GOLD!

Many thrift stores save a lot of their inventory for Halloween because people head there first for costume shopping. The Goodwill stores in my area pull out Halloween bins FULL of items they’ve saved throughout the year and stack them up in the aisles – bins with labels like “Boots” and “Animal Print Shoes”. Designer leopard print heels that have been saved for a costume? Yes, please, you need to be in my closet.

FYI – Halloween isn’t the best time to take little kids thrifting. They don’t hold back on scary costumes. Just letting you know.

Now it’s your turn – what are your best thrifting tips? I’d love to hear them!


Click here to see all the other posts in this series.


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9 thoughts on “31 Days: The Thrift Project – Day 3: My 5 Best Thrifting Secrets

  1. from the pro…I love it. You really have been my thrifting inspiration since the day you told me you did it. I can’t (my husband, and my pocketbook) thank you enough!

  2. Thank you for the inspirations, I am obsessed with collecting men’s button downs for some reason, I love to make things with them (aprons, pot holders, womens shirts and skirts). Can’t wait to see what you do with the yellow sweater and checked oxford, I picked one up this week just like it, I need a new idea. My thrifting tip is 1/2 price colored tag sales at Goodwill, usually on the weekends where I live, they will mark down a certain colored tag 50% for the day. Two weeks ago they marked down yellow tags, jackets and dresses all in one day, it felt tlike Christmas!

    1. Jennifer, that’s awesome! I don’t think our Goodwill does the 1/2 price sale – I’ll have to check it out. That would be fantastic.

  3. I started thrifting as a poor college student and loved being able to dress in my own unique way. My family..mostly my mom…was disgusted but now she joins me and has become a devotee. My kids wore thrift clothes and my daughter, now in college, can put together an adorable outfit for almost nothing. I am more on the artsy home decor side now and usually thrift for supplies. I love to go to ecothrift and thrift town in South sacramento. A few hours thrifting is just the best. You have great tips…without a wish list…it is easy to get out of hand. :)

  4. Now I know why I’ve been unsucessful at thrifting so far! I never go with a plan. The idea of pinning outfits for inspiration is brilliant. I’m going to do that from now on! By the way, I found you through the #write31days hashtag on Instagram!

    Cindy Swanson at Notes in the Key of Life

    1. Sorry to take so long to reply – your comment got buried in spam. Hope making a plan helps you thrift – it makes all the difference for me. Thanks for letting me know you found me on Instagram!


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