Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tips for the Thrifty

You all know about my love for thrift stores and resale shops. I have to confess that I haven't always viewed them as the storehouse of hidden treasures I do now.  I began thrift shopping in my twenties, when money was tight and I knew my creativity would come in handy. Over the years I've developed a strategy when it comes to thrifting and I thought I'd share some of my best tips with you, my blog friends.

1. Go shopping with a plan - Unless you have tons of time, you need to know what you're looking for that day. If you don't have a plan, you could end up buying things you don't need or want, just because they are a bargain. You may want a red, silk blouse. Determine what features are most important. Silk? Red? Style? That leads us to tip number 2.

2. Keep your mind and eyes open - You may have certain style, red, silk blouse in mind. The chances of finding that exact blouse are slim.  Determine what parts of that blouse you like most and look for those. By keeping your mind open, you may find something even better. By keeping your eyes open, you could also find a perfect skirt or pair of pants to wear with your new blouse. Classic styles are always in fashion.

3. Take cash - Many thrift and resale stores take credit or debit cards now but some don't. Check their policies by calling ahead. Cash will also help you stick to a budget and keep you from buying five shirts when you are only looking for one shirt. The reason you're thrifting is to save money.

4. Look for quality - A cashmere sweater by a quality label is a much better buy than a cotton sweater by a mass produced discount store. This is where keeping your mind and eyes open comes in handy. Check the seems for tight stitching, Check wool jackets, pants, and skirts for lining.

5. Check items carefully - That cashmere sweater won't be a bargain if you get it home and find a hole that can't be repaired or a stain that can't be cleaned. Check the care label. If you aren't willing to dry clean a garment, don't buy it. Look at the lining of vintage purses. If the lining is ripped and the leather is dusty or if the bag smells musty, it's not in good shape, don't buy it.  Check shoe heels, are they loose? If they are, leave them in the store.

6. Try on all clothing - Sizing fluctuates from decade to decade and depending on manufacturer. This is especially true of vintage items. Also, an item could have shrunk or stretched. If your store doesn't have a dressing room (most do), wear leggings and a tank top under your outfit, so it's easy to try something on quickly in the aisles.

7. Accessories are great bargains - Some of my greatest thrift store finds have been bags, scarves, belts, and jewelry. They are usually priced low and can change an entire outfit. You can wear a vintage bag with a brand new dress and give it a completely different vibe. You never have to worry about fit. You can try a belt on over our clothes.

8. Watch out for fakes - There are lots Coach, Kate Spade, and other designer fakes out there. Most thrift stores will sell them for the same price as the real items.  If you don't know the difference, you may get duped. Quality is the key difference between fake and real. Check the stitching, logos, seams, lining, hardware and materials. Check labels and attached logos. If they're attached with glue, it's a fake. A Coach bag for $10 isn't a bargain if it's pleather.

9. If you see something you like, grab it - If you walk away to think about an item, it might not be there when you come back. Someone else could grab it. If you change your mind, you can leave it at the store.

10. Wash or dry clean your new clothes before wearing - Even if the item has a fresh dry cleaning tag, it could have been packed with clothes that weren't clean. If an item is difficult to wash, like a tie or hat, I recommend putting it in a zip loc bag and storing it in the freezer for a few days. This will kill any germs or other things (like bed bugs).

11. Learn how to sew - I'm not recommending you become an accomplished seamtress. But knowing how to mend a pulled hem or seam or sew on new buttons, can come in handy.  You can make an old blouse or blazer look brand new with buttons.

12. Find a good tailor - You may find a fantastic pair of pants or a dress that needs a little altering. A high end designer dress that cost $300 new, cost $10 at the thrift store, $20 to alter and now fits you like a glove is still an incredible bargain.

13. Visit regularly - If you find a shop you like, make regular visits. You'll get to know the days that merchandise is replenished. Many stores also have discount days. They give a discount of 25% - 50% off of merchandise. You can also get to know the staff.  Their tips can be extremely helpful.

Here are a few sites where you can find thrift store listings:
The Thrift Shopper


Thrifty Planet

Salvation Army USA

These are by no means hard and fast rules. They are tips that I've learned over the years. Do you thrift often? What tips do you have to share?

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