How to Get the Best Deals at Thrift Shops

*Song “Thrift Shop” from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis plays in my head.* Seriously though, my sister and I used to blast that song when we would go thrifting; that was our anthem and our jam!

Thrifting is a great way to save money and a great way to find some amazing items but it can often feel like a stressful scavenger hunt the second you walk in the door.  Well, it is a scavenger hunt but thrifting doesn’t have to be stressful if you keep a few tips in mind.  

Don’t Shop on Weekends

The best time to go thrifting is during the week at off-peak hours since weekends and after 5 pm on weekdays will be incredibly packed.  Off-peak hours during the week will yield the best results since you will be able to nab the best deals and best items before anyone else does.  Thrifting is a game of “who gets there first” and can be hit and miss.  Therefore your best option is to utilize the times when the store will be the most empty.  Google also offers the option of letting you know, generally, when the stores are busy and not so busy.  You can find this information by entering the name and location of the thrift shop and looking under the store information on the Google search page.  Personally, I find this to be pretty accurate.


Visit Different Stores Regularly

If you go thrifting every so often you could possibly get good deals but since thrift shops are very hit and miss it’s suggested that you go more often than not.  The general thrifting rule of thumb is that you visit at least 1-2 times a week.  My sister and I used to go to thrift shops once a month and while we occasionally used to get good deals we didn’t find as much as we wanted to.  More recently my mother and I started thrifting 1-2 times a week and we constantly find great deals now.

Another suggestion and something I’ve learned is that you should visit different stores in your area to get a variety of different deals.  When you visit more than one store in your area you double or triple your chances of getting the best deals.  Different stores get different items donated and therefore every store is different!

Tip: If your area has a Goodwill Outlet, definitely shop there!  Goodwill Outlets sell items that ordinary Goodwill stores don’t sell within a set period of time.  These outlets price their items by pound and you can get amazing deals and save a ton of money this way.  For example, the Goodwill Outlet in my area (NY/NJ area) price at $1.69 per pound for the first 24 pounds.  I know that after the first 24 pounds the per pound price drops, I just don’t remember exactly how much.


Ask Associates When They Restock

First off, I highly suggest that you get acquainted and built rapport with one or a few of the employees at the store.  Doing this can have some advantages: If the employees know what you’re looking for they may save good deals for you, give you deeper discounts, or give you a heads up when I get some great deals into the store.

It’s also important to ask the associates what days the stores restock at each individual story visit. Personally, I have found that usually Mondays or Tuesdays are good days during the spring/summer to visit stores because unsold yard sale items are frequently taken to thrift shops for resale.  Make sure you find out when the restocking days are in your area since you get the best deals and first pick at new items on the days that they restock.


Always Shop for Off-Season Clothes and Accessories

Just like at retail and big-box stores, off-season clothes and accessories are cheaper than clothes for the current season.  Shopping for shorts, bathing suits, flip-flops, sandals or any summer accessories are bargains during the winter time.  I do find that some stores only stock in-season items, if your store does that then shop directly at the end of the season to get the best deals.

Note: Be careful purchasing bathing suits or other intimate clothing.  Personally, I only buy bathing suits if they have tags and the hygiene sticker in the crotch of the bathing suit.


Try to Think Creatively

Being a creative person myself I always go into thrift shops with a very open mind.  I like to find items that can be repurposed and upcycled because those can be great bargains.  An item may not look like much if it’s knicked or tattered but once you refinish or repurpose an item, it could be something amazing!  There’s nothing a fresh coat of paint can’t fix! (That’s literally the motto I live by!)


Test Electronics Before Purchasing

I add this in as something extremely important since I once bought a broken VCR from Goodwill because I didn’t think to test the item!  Don’t make the same mistake that I made!  For testing purposes, thrift shops usually have outlets and/or extension cords throughout the store.  I don’t know this for a fact, but I highly doubt that all thrift shops test items before putting them on the shelves.


Target & Goodwill Agreement

Target has an agreement with Goodwill that any clearance items that don’t sell get sent directly to the store for resale.  I’ve scored some amazing deals by looking for the items with either Target-brand tags or Target clearance tags on them that have been marked down even more.  This is a great way to get brand new items at absolutely rock bottom prices.


Save More Money at Goodwill

When you donate any items to Goodwill they will give you a coupon for 20% off your entire purchase.  I’m not sure if other thrift shops do this too, but it’s something to look into.  Alternatively, most thrift shops, including Goodwill, have certain days for certain sales.  Goodwill has sales daily on items with certain color tags.  For example, my Goodwill discounts items an additional 50% with red tags on Tuesdays.  You can combine any of these deals with accumulated rewards from your Goodwill rewards card to get even more money off!


Ask for Discounts on Damaged Items

Thrift shops usually sell items at the same price regardless of quality so occasionally you may see an item that is broken, stained or damaged in some way with a price tag that doesn’t reflect the quality.  If something is too worn or damaged it doesn’t hurt to ask an associate or manager for a better deal.  Usually, they will comply and give you an additional percentage off.  I have encountered some associates or managers who have argued with me on this but the majority of the time I have no problem getting deeper discounts on damaged items!


Look Through Everything

You probably know this already but the size on the rack or the hanger doesn’t always dictate the actual sizing of the clothing.  Since there are so many people who browse thrift stores on a daily basis, occasionally clothing is put back in the wrong places or the clothing can even be missized on the tag.  I will spend an hour or two flipping through every piece of clothing on the racks to find the best deals and trust me, it pays off!  I’ve found some designer brands at rock bottom prices by doing this!


Search for Stores in Wealthy Areas or Small Towns

Wealthy areas or small towns are the best places to find amazing deals.  Smaller towns may not have enough donations to fully stock their stores so they get their inventory sent to them from larger stores in the area.  These small town stores also may not have as much foot traffic as stores in a larger area. Stores in wealthier areas have better items for three reasons:

  • Their donations are higher quality, better quality and occasionally even designer items.
  • Those who donate to these stores don’t care about getting money for the items they have.
  • Stores in wealthier areas have less foot traffic because of the area the store is in.  Those who have more money will tend to go to actual stores to purchase items instead of shopping second hand.

I’ve gotten some great deals at thrift shops in wealthier areas.  In fact, this is where quite a few of my designer purses and clothing are from!


Goodwill Window Sales

Did you know that the items in the windows of Goodwill stores go on sale on a specific day of the week?  Goodwill will have window sales once or twice a month on certain days, usually Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays.  These items are usually designer items, items that would have a higher retail price or items that are brand new!  The stores have strict rules for these window sales and distribute numbered tickets that are given on a first come, first serve basis.  If you are thinking about shopping one of the window sales I suggest that you get there at least 1-2 hours early.


Know How to Spot a Fake

If you go into thrift shops and happen to find some designer items, make sure you know how to check if the item is fake or authentic.  Sometimes thrift shops don’t know how to spot fakes or don’t even check for fakes, so you should always do this yourself.  Make sure you know each brand’s serial number and where to find it but also familiarize yourself with the distinct characteristics of each brand.  If in doubt always look up the serial number or details about the brand while you’re in the store.  There are a number of online resources that will help you to authenticate items for just about every designer brand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *