Travel, Treats, Tips, & Traditions

10 tips for Thrift Store Shopping from the expert!

Posted on: by Kate


As you may have noticed, I enjoy thrift store shopping and garage sale shopping.  Spring Cleaning time is here which means thrift stores are going to be full of gently loved items that are super excited to live in your closet now for a fraction of what they cost new!  My friend Rena over at The Girl With the Smile is a Thrift Shopping Expert and she is here today to share 10 thrift store shopping tips.  If you love looking at awesome photos of cute outfits put together from thrift store finds you need to follow her blog (linked above).  Rena was kind enough to share ten tips for thrift store shopping!  I am going to be taking her thrifting advice with me when I go out next time because I am not nearly as gifted as she is in the thrift store shopping department!  With no further delay – here is Rena in her own words…..


Confession: I am obsessed with the word “totes”, short for “totally”. I realize it is equal parts awesome and ridiculous, but I can’t stop saying it. Does anyone else have this problem?! Something equally addicting is thrift store shopping. If you have never been thrift store or consignment/resale shopping, I really recommend it. I will warn you that your hands will feel dirty and gross afterwards, but the treasures you find will be totally worth it. People have told me that they don’t like wearing things that are used, but I like to think of them as “previously loved”. 😉


Here are some tips to think about:

1. If possible, wear specific clothing to go shopping.

-Not all thrift stores have dressing rooms, so sometimes it is a good idea to wear clothing that will be easy to try clothes on over. A neutral colored tank top works well to try on sweaters and shirts, a skirt to try pants on under and slip-on shoes that are easy to take on and off. Unfortunately you most likely won’t be able to return items, so it is important to know it fits you really well before you make a purchase.


2.When you go in, start in the area of the item you most desire.

-Depending on the size of the thrift store, you might not get to everything. That’s why it’s a good idea to start with the item of clothing you would most like to purchase (shirts, dresses, etc.).

3. Go in with an open mind, not something specific.

-I have always heard that the higher your expectations, the more likely you will be disappointed. It’s highly unlikely that if you are looking for a “forest green cardigan from GAP with 3/4 length sleeves” that you will find it. Instead, just look through the cardigans and hope to find something else that might fit in your wardrobe. You also might be surprised with the amount of things that you find that you WEREN’T looking for. So, being ready for anything is your best bet.


4. Look through the clothes quickly.

-Because you probably have a lot of ground to cover, it’s best if you skim the clothes quickly by looking at the fabric and colors and only stopping when you see something that pleases you.

5. Don’t be afraid to try on sizes that are not your typical size.

-Because most of these clothes have been owned before, there is the chance that the item has shrunk or stretched out, so feel free to try on sizes that are close to your size. I am a size 12, but have clothes that are size 10 and size 14. This could also have a lot to do with the manufacturers not having consistent sizing. If you hold it up to yourself in the store and it looks like it would fit, go ahead and try it on. This also applies to shoes. In my wardrobe, I have shoes from 7 1/2 to 9, even though I’m a size 8 1/2 normally. Just make sure to TRY IT ON!

6. Stick with brand names.

-I would not consider myself a “label whore”, but when I come across something in a thrift store that I like, I ALWAYS look at the tag. This gives me an idea of what size it should be to fit me, what the fabric is made out of and how well it is made. Get to know your brands as far as ones that might come from Ross, Target, Gap, Old Navy or Nordstrom because you are most likely to encounter these labels. This is not to say that if you find something that doesn’t have a brand on it, don’t get it, but just be wary of the way it is made. I have found some cool, possibly homemade things before. In this instance, judge how the fabric feels, how well the stitching is done and how it fits you.


7. Look for wear and tear & be honest about whether you would wear it a lot.

-Look the item over carefully for any rips, snags or material that looks like it could pill easily. Depending on the wear and tear will help you decide how much you like it and if you want to keep it. Also, make sure that it’s something that you would wear often and be a good addition to your wardrobe. Don’t just buy it because it is a good deal. It is helpful to shop with a friend in these instances to give you honest opinions about your purchases. It is also a good idea to check the tag for the care of an item, such as if it needs to be dry-cleaned.

8. Know what works on your body type.

-If you know that you look horrible in pencil skirts or cropped jackets, it’s probably not a good use of your time to bother trying it on. Go ahead and skip these items. If it’s an item you are unsure of, it could be a good idea to try it on because you could be surprised to find a new style that works for your body. Don’t bother with items that don’t fit you really well or are not comfortable.

9. Think about how you could accessorize or fit the item into your wardrobe.

-While I shop, I hold items up and make outfits with them in my head with items I already own. If I see a pretty cowl neck sweater, I think “this would look great with my denim skirt and knee-high boots”. This will help you decide whether or not to purchase an item.

10. Don’t get discouraged, be consistent.

-Thrift store shopping is hit or miss, so some shopping trips might seem like failures. But there will be those amazing finds that you get, that will make the search totally worth it. When you do start finding a lot of great deals, beware because it may get super addicting! You will want to go all the time to see what you can find.

Some other tips include: taking cash with you, checking store hours before you head out, since thrift/consignment store hours aren’t always the same as normal stores.


Thank you so much to Rena for sharing her Thrift Store Shopping Tips!  I hope you found these tips helpful!  Please follow Rena on Facebook at The Girl With The Smile – you will be glad you did!  Happy Thrifting!

Oh!  Do you have any thrifting tips you would like to share?  Please post them in the comment section!  Let’s all do a little more thrifting this year!

Until Next Time ~ Kate
Comments: 14 Responses
  1. Logan Can says:

    These are great tips! I love to go thrift shopping when we go to Florida. We don’t have very good ones where I live. The last time I went I fully expected there to be dressing rooms and there weren’t. You look great! I love all of your fun finds!

  2. Gema Diaz says:

    OMG, this was helpful. Ive been thinking about thrift shoppinf because a friend of mine is always so cute in ber outfits and Im on a budget now. This was a great post!

  3. Kelsey says:

    Love this! Nothing better than a good find at a thrift store! I will have to remember these tips next time I am out and about!

  4. I’m always hesitant to go thrift shopping. Not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t even seem to have any success when I do. This advice should take care of that issue! Thanks for sharing! xx

  5. Bethany Magnie says:

    I’m going thrifting today 🙂 Basically everything I wear comes from the thrift store (not undies of course) lol. This post is super inspiring!

  6. Lee Anne says:

    Great tips and finds!
    Lee Anne

  7. alyssa says:

    Awesome tips and super cute outfits! <3

  8. Kara Z says:

    I am terrible at thrifting so this should really help me. You have a great sense of style, so jealous!

  9. ashley s. says:

    I am always looking for ways to improve my thrift store shopping – Great tips!

  10. […] your eyes open! I have found several authentic American Girl Doll items at thrift stores and garage sales over the years.  Finding an American Girl Doll dress from the actual store or […]

  11. Melanie says:

    Great ideas. I didn’t even think about spring cleaning as a time to hit up the thrift store. Going to make it a point to check it out!

  12. Debnmike moretti says:

    Great tips! I also love, love hand-me-downs!

  13. ellen beck says:

    Honestly, besides uderclohes, I seldom buy ‘new’ clothes at all. There really is no need to! I am outside a whole lot, and all my good clothes from the thrift shop turn into work clothes. I am at the point in thrift store shopping I go into a real store and literally cringe. I can pay $2.50 for a pair of capris and see the same brand selling for $40.
    Don t get me started on kids clothes.. I mean really, unless youre doing photos or they need to be wearing a specific thing, no need to buy new!
    My only warning, is o put ALL clothes in a plastic bag and run them through a good cleaning before taking them out into your home.

    • kate says:

      Right?! Between thrift stores and garage sales we are typically set! Every once in a while we need something and I am like “$40 are you kidding me?!” haha!

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