10 Simple Second Hand Shopping Tips

10 Simple Second Hand Shopping Tips

Save Your Money & The Earth With Second Hand Style

So you want to save money, practice sustainability, and build a wardrobe you’ll love? Don’t worry — you can do all three! Thrift shopping has been gaining popularity in the past few years as people begin to realize they can find high quality clothing at second hand stores. Don’t let those eerily specific Instagram ads trick you! You don’t have to purchase something online every other day to be “fashionable.” YOU create the fashion. And I am going to give you 10 tips to ensure you leave your next thrifty trip with clothing you love for a fraction of the original price. Oh, and don’t forget…all while saving the planet!

Step 1: Narrow Down The Best Thrift Stores In Your Area

I have visited enough thrift stores in my lifetime to tell you that not all of them are worth frequenting. Depending on where you live, there may be multiple options and you will want to narrow them down to one or two of your favorites to save time and avoid frustration. Some things to consider would be if the store is clean, organized, has enough inventory, and gives off an overall positive vibe. (I have been to some downright creepy thrift stores).

Step 2: Carve Out Some Time

If you think shopping at a run-of-the-mill retail store is time consuming, just wait until you give it a go at thrift shopping. The key to finding amazing items is time and unwavering patience. You are going to sift through 20 duds before you find something worth a second glance. It is not a glamorous job, but the hard work pays off! 

Step 3: Have In Mind What You Are Looking For

In a store where each and every item of clothing is unique in color, size, and style, it can be easy to become distracted. That is why I always walk in with a few ideas that narrow my search and help me to concentrate. For example, I may be hoping to find a new pair of shorts, a beach bag, and a casual dress. If after hitting those targeted areas in the thrift stores I still feel like browsing, I will branch out to other sections.

Step 4: Narrowing The Search – COLOR

Some thrift stores, such as Goodwill, organize their racks by color making it incredibly convenient for shopping. However, most leave their racks a haphazard mess of rainbow clothing and let the shoppers fend for themselves. Whatever the case, it is helpful to know what colors you favor when shopping secondhand. This streamlines the experience and helps you identify clothing that you are more likely to wear. If you hate the color yellow don’t buy a yellow shirt just because it cost $1. Focus on colors that match your style and are more likely to combine with the rest of your wardrobe.

YES. You are seeing this correctly. Lululemon leggings and tank top from the thrift store. Original price roughly $140 in total but I snagged these two for $15 only!

Step 5: Narrowing the Search – MATERIAL

Yet another way to focus your shopping is to pay attention to the material. A common misconception surrounding second hand clothing is that it lacks the quality of new garments but this is not always the case. Just by eyeing or feeling the fabric you immediately have a sense of its quality. If you are not looking for a cheap cotton t-shirt then simply skip over any and all cotton t-shirts. Set your sights on your preferred fabrics. For example, these days I have been searching for linen tops so I scan the racks with laser focus on linen items almost exclusively.

Step 6: Scanning the Item: SIZE

Okay, so you have found an item you are mildly interested in. Before you even pull it off the rack, take a quick peek at the size. This is the quickest elimination method as less than a quarter of the clothing on the rack will actually fit you. 

Step 7: Scanning the Item: IMPERFECTIONS

This is another very quick elimination strategy. Yes, you are willing to buy used clothing but not when there is clear evidence of it having been used! Some stores do a good job of filtering out dingy items but I have been to many that just throw everything on the racks and leave you to do the dirty work. If you pull out an article of clothing that is heavily used or damaged, next it! Please do not buy a yellow-stained blouse just because the brand is nice.

Step 8: Scanning the Item: BRAND & PRICE

This is the final check before you go into the dressing room. For some, clothing brand is inconsequential and not a factor in the purchase. However, it can be useful when considering the price of the clothing and if it is actually worth it. Use your previous shopping experience to determine the overall value of the product and if its price is fair. For example, I once went into a second hand store with many designer brands. However, I randomly found an H&M top priced at nearly $20 (basically the same or more than you’d buy it new from an H&M store). That was an obvious mismatch for price and value. If you see something like this, don’t even waste your time trying it on. If the whole store is like this, find a new thrift store!

Step 9: Time to Try On!

Don’t be afraid to try on an insane amount of clothing. It is not everyday you get lucky at the thrift store, so when you hit the jackpot you have to take advantage! If you keep finding clothing that passes all of your tests, then simply add it to the pile! Remember, you carved out plenty of time for this 🙂 But when trying on clothing, use the same standards as if you were paying the big bucks. If it doesn’t fit or doesn’t look good, don’t buy it just because it is unbelievably cheap. If you’re not going to wear it, leave it for someone else who it could be perfect for. 

Step 10: Wash & Sanitize

Woohoo! You found some winners and are walking out of the store with new threads that you love and that cost less than your dinner last night. Now what? Well, there is one last important step and that is of course to wash the clothes and yourself. Immediately throw your “new” purchase in the washer and take a shower. Actually, you should do this even if you are buying brand new clothing from the mall. In 2021, this is now self-explanatory.

Havana Club Bag: Originally priced at $30, I got it for $5 James Perse Dress: Originally priced at $85, I got it for $6.

Bonus Tip: FLAUNT IT

Get ready to brag to all your friends and family about the amazing deal you just got at the local thrift store. Oh, these Lululemon leggings? Just $6. This Columbia rain jacket… only $4. You will watch them shake their heads in disbelief and you will feel like an economically-wise, sustainable bad ass. Who says millennials have no life skills?