Shopaholic goes to Salvation Army

I had a fantastic thrift store outing today, and I decided to use my experience as a springboard to write up a list of tips about shopping for secondhand clothes.

For as long as I've been thrifting, I've encountered incredulous people who seem amazed that so much of my wardrobe is secondhand. When I tell them I found something at a local thrift store or rummage sale, they always say, "Oh, I can never find anything that good," or "I just don't have the patience to look through all that stuff." But if you know how to approach it, there's really nothing to it. Here are my top tips for buying secondhand clothes:

1. Bring a friend. 

I always have a better experience shopping at thrift stores when I bring along someone else. As my editor always says, "A second set of eyes never hurts," and it's just as true when it comes to shopping as it is in the newspaper business. A friend will see things you've overlooked, and will sometimes encourage you to try something that's outside of your comfort zone. A friend can also provide a reality check for you when it comes to fit or other questions. Obviously only you know who to choose for your companion, but I'll just say it doesn't have to be someone who shares your taste; just someone who understands it.

2.  Take your time. 

It's one thing if you are doing a targeted strike — i.e., looking for a new pair of dark-wash skinny jeans. But if you're just shopping to shop, give yourself ample time to really look through EVERYTHING. This is especially true for rummage sales or yard sales, where things are often poorly organized or not organized at all. If you are rushed, you risk missing a real gem or, worse, buying something that you didn't take the time to inspect, try on, etc. Which brings me to No. 3 ...

3. Grab first; edit later. 

I'm an editor by trade, so my shopping method involves a lot of editing. You can't be afraid to make mistakes as a writer, and neither can you as a shopper — as long as you take the time to correct your mistakes before it's too late. Especially if you are at a rummage sale or bag sale, if you see something you like, grab it. You never know when someone else is going to come up behind you and snatch it if you walk away. And you can always put it back later. That's where the editing process comes in.

4. Be a ruthless editor

The should include considerations like price/budget, quality, condition, fit, need and love. By "need," I mean, do you really need ANOTHER pair of gray slacks? And by "love," I mean, are you so in love with it that it doesn't matter if you "need" it? If the answer to those two questions is "no," then put it back and walk away. Don't get sucked in by something that's a "great deal," like a $50 sweater marked down to $5 If you're never going to wear it because it doesn't fit, it's stained or it isn't your style, it's not a great deal at all. Be honest with yourself and listen to your friend if you trust her/him; but don't let your friend talk you into buying something that isn't "you," either.

5. Add it up

The bargain prices of secondhand clothing can make anyone go a little bit crazy. But once you've done your editing and you know what you're going to buy, take a second and actually do the math (or at least estimate it pretty closely). Don't forget about tax, if you're in a location that charges sales tax on clothing. (If you're not sure, ask.) If the total is a bit too steep, go back to the editing process all over again and ask yourself, "Do I love this? Will I wear it? If I don't buy it, will I be disappointed later?" Don't let low prices be an excuse to waste your money. Again, if you're never going to wear it, there's no sense in buying it.

I'd love to hear what other people's tips are for secondhand shopping; I feel like everyone has a different approach.

Don't forget that you can still enter this week's giveaway until midnight tonight! Click here for all the details. Winner will be announced tomorrow. Have a great weekend!


  1. I agree with all of these tips except for "bring a friend". I personally hate shopping with another person, especially since I have yet to meet someone else who wants to spend 2-3 hours perusing like I usually do.


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