Thrift Store Shopping as a Frugal Hobby

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I’m not a huge shopper but I do occasionally enjoy it. Additionally, if I am shopping I really enjoy getting a good deal. I’ve found a very fun hobby in thrifting and would like to share some tips…

Find Some Thrift Stores You Like

There are thrift stores all over. You can choose an organization like Goodwill, the Salvation Army or the Volunteers of America. Additionally, you can choose some independently run thrift/vintage shop.

Here is a great article on the best thrift stores in every state.

The things I look for in a thrift store:

  • Clean
  • Organized. While I consider it a scavenger hunt, the clothing does need to be organized in some fashion (by color, size, type, etc.).
  • Roomy to where I won’t be bumping into others as I look quickly through every piece in every aisle.
  • Dressing rooms (it may freak people out to try on gently used clothing but I don’t care, I’ll try on a top or whatnot for the sake of not buying what doesn’t fit). It’s not like I’m trying on underwear. 😉
  • Quality clothing. Many thrift stores have a designer section while others just have them mixed in with the rest. The latter is better because it means the prices are not jacked up for designer names. Regardless I do like to buy quality pieces so I look for good name brand/quality pieces.
  • Plenty of staff. No one wants to spend hours in a fun scavenger hunt only for the finale to be a long line.

Once you start this little hobby, you’ll find the stores you like and will frequent them. There is always something new!

Treat it Like an Adventure

Like any adventure, you need to keep an open mind to possibilities. Additionally, you cannot be too rigid in your quest for great treasures.

Let’s face it, you are not going to have success walking into a thrift store knowing exactly what you want. Um, no. You’ll need to go in with the attitude that you have no idea what you’ll find! Sure, you can have a little direction, like I am looking for shirts or a dress but that is as specific as you can be. Even then, you may not find a shirt you like. However, you may just find a pair of pants in your size hanging there with a new tag on them.

The point is it’s about the hunt so have fun at it. Treat it like a scavenger hunt but be wide in the direction you give yourself.

I love to go up and down aisles looking quickly at each piece. I know what colors and styles I like generally so I can breeze through things quickly. This is even easier when the clothing is separated by color.

Give Yourself Time/Take a Friend

Thrifting takes time in that you’ll need to look through a lot of pieces before you’ll find some that you like. Again it’s not about going in with an exact plan of what you are looking for. It’s about being open to whatever you may find.

Set aside a few hours on a Saturday afternoon and make an escapade of it. Maybe take a friend with you? How about having breakfast together first? Then you’ll be fueled up and rearing to thrift.  Doing this with friends has several benefits:

  • Second opinion
  • Partner in crime
  • Quality time
  • Encouragement (or discouragement if the piece isn’t right for you)

Splurge but in a Thoughtful Way

Still had the retail tag on

For example, I went to a thrift store this weekend and found three pairs of awesome shoes in my size and two of them still had tags on them. I started to rationalize with myself that I didn’t need three pairs. On the other hand, I thought about the cost. Each pair cost $4.98. Heck if I loved all three I could get all three!!

I have one simple rule when shopping in general. If I don’t love it, I’m not buying it. That’s a fairly easy rule to follow; although, it is subjective.

Sometimes I catch myself considering something I think may work. But in the end, it really comes down to this final question. Do I love it? If the answer is yes, I don’t agonize over the cost of the purchase. Really we are talking trivial amounts that won’t make or break the bank. If I love it, I can afford it.

Conversely, if I don’t love it, I don’t need it cluttering my closet.

Thrifting is really the one time I don’t really follow a budget. Because of my litmus test, I don’t go overboard. However, even if I find a ton of things I love, I’ve never had a thrift store charge go over a two-digit dollar amount.

Everything in Moderation

I’m not thrifting every weekend but I would say I entertain this hobby maybe 4 times a year. Partly because I don’t want a huge wardrobe of clothing (I dislike decision fatigue in the morning). And partly because I appreciate it more if I do it less.

On the former point, I do try to follow a simple rule when I bring new clothing into my home. I get rid of something I don’t need and donate it.

Case in Point

I went thrifting this weekend and scored some good finds:

  • Thee pairs of shoes (2 still hag the tags on them) for $4.98 each = $14.94
  • Four shirts (which all fit the criteria for half off) for $1.99 each = $7.96
  • Three pairs of pants (two of which were brand new) for $3.98 each = $11.94

Yep, before tax, I was at $34.84. With tax, it came to a whopping $37.17! Seriously, that’s it for a funfilled shopping spree. Furthermore, that total approximately equaled the retail cost of one of the shoes with the retail tag on them.

What Else?

Now when I get home from this little shopping expedition, I do wash everything very well. Additionally, I spray the insides of any shoes with Lysol. Even if they had a new tag on them I spray them.

As a matter of fact, I do both of these things with new clothing I purchase from a retail store. Afterall I’m not sure of the condition of former people who’ve tried them on.

Mostly, it’s about having fun so go for it but be sure to do it with a light-hearted attitude and sense of adventure!

Oh yeah, it’s good for the environment. We’ve got a ton of supplies out in the world so why not recycle. Get something that has served its purpose for another and is ready for a new owner.

Closing Thoughts

There is a certain rush which comes from shopping when you find that item that you just cannot imagine being without.

Thrifting allows for these quick bursts of enjoyment but at a fraction of cost as retail shopping. It’s a creative way to splurge but without breaking the bank

Lastly, it’s a way to recycle and use what’s already out there. And when you are done with something, donate it back. It’s a beautiful cycle.

Theme pic by Becca McHaffie on Unsplash

5 thoughts on “Thrift Store Shopping as a Frugal Hobby”

  1. I’m about to hit up all the thrift stores, estate sales and garage sales I can get my hands on. New place means new things to get. I got rid of so much stuff when I moved to and from Minnesota. My kitchen is missing a lot of essentials….

    I love that thrill of the hunt though. You never know if you’re going to score the best deal ever (an entire plate set for $5!) or find a bunch of old lady clothing or baby toys.

    1. Nice!! It just makes sense, right? Instead of lugging stuff around, sell it and go thrifting at the new local!

      Thanks for your comment! Did you really get plate set for $5?? Well done, friend. 🙂

  2. Abigail

    I love hitting Goodwill on half-off days, which are every other Saturday! Value Village (which is Saver’s down here) has 50% off every Monday.

    I go once every couple of months on average to see if I can find something cute. It’s a fun game to see what you can find and score a great deal. I generally spend $15 or less — like you, I’m picky about what I buy — so I don’t have to worry about going overboard.

    I haven’t run into any shoes with tags still on them; that’s pretty amazing. In general, I try not to buy used shoes because everyone has a slightly different step, so used shoes may have wear that doesn’t match your step, which increases the chance of back pain/rolling ankles. That said, I may have to at least start poking around the used shoe section because I realized I don’t have a pair of basic black heels. I won’t wear them enough to make a new pair worthwhile, but if I could find them at a thrift store on half-off day…And since I won’t be wearing them a lot I won’t worry as much about the wear patterns.

    1. Love half off days! It really is fun to see what can be there.

      I can appreciate what you say about shoes/and different wear. The only shoes I buy at a thrift store are newly or gently used. However, I did just invest in orthotic inserts so that helps.

      I just bought two pairs of newish black heels at the thrift store. I hope you find your pair!

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