Cattails, Rabbit Trails, and Thistlefish: The Modest Budget: 6 Tips for Successful Thrift Store Shopping

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Modest Budget: 6 Tips for Successful Thrift Store Shopping

Thrift stores are such great resources, everybody knows that. This week I was able to find 3 work out shorts (one that was brand new!) a black pair of Gap boyfriend shorts and a chevron throw for only $12 total!!

Edited to add: The day after I posted this, I bought a dress and 4 pairs of like-new pants for $22! #thriftchamp

Thrift shops are great, not only for filling your closet on a budget, but also for finding unique pieces that can take your home or your outfit one step up.

And thrift store shopping has even become trendy! BUT...
Are you GOOD at thrift store shopping?? 
I seriously think it's a skill. One my mom is really good at! 
So today I'm sharing with you 6 tips that she has shared with me to help you take full advantage of thrift store shopping!

1. Know what you're looking for

If you're not looking for a prom dress, don't look at the prom dress section. I knew I wanted work out shorts and black shorts, so I stuck to hunting through the shorts sections. I casually flipped through the other racks, but stick to what you're looking for.
Having a list (mentally or literally) of things you know you need is a great way to snag a deal when you find it. I didn't plan on shopping that day, but I had made a mental note about shorts, so I didn't have to consider the purchase for very long.

2. Know your local thrift stores

The most important things you need to know about your local thrift stop:
a) when they restock their shelves - because there's typically only one of everything, you will find the best deals on the first or second day that those items are on the shelf! Some thrift stores are constantly shelving things, but other stores have days devoted to restocking. Know those days, and plan for them  when you're really hunting.
b) when their discount days are - I think every thrift store I've ever been to has different discounts on different days. The reason I was able to get all these shorts for so cheap was because half of them were tagged orange, and I happened to be there on their "orange day" (which made all of them 50% off!). Some places have military days, or 50% all clothing or furniture.
c) their return policy - Because every thrift store is different, pay attention to their return policy before you buy something. If you're anything like me, you're accustomed to going home and trying something on with other items in your closet before you keep it. Some thrift stores don't allow returns or exchanges, so beware!;)

3. Pay attention to the condition and washing instructions

Do you know how many times I've accidentally bought "dry clean only" items?? It's ridiculous. I'm trying to be better about reading all the labels before I buy something!
On the same note, be extra careful to inspect for stains, wear and tear on a product. Remember, it was loved before it found you; make sure it wasn't too loved!

4. A dollar for every day you wear

Find something a little bit outside of your comfort zone? A great way to think about your purchase is an item is worth $1 for every day you wear it. If it's $5: will you wear/use it 5 times? or more?? Go for it!

This can work for house things, too. This throw blanket was so cozy, and only $2.99. I have already used it on the couch three times for study nights! Which means it was money well spent. (And c'mon, how fab does it look on my chevron chair?? #chevrononchevron #chevronfordays)
Actually, this chair, the green luggage boxes, and the orange leather footrest were thrift finds, too!

5. Know what the best things to buy second hand are

The best items tend to be the ones that people get rid of because they are tired of the item or it's been outgrown, not because it's worn out. These items typically include:
- Jeans
- Skirts
- Dresses (esp formal)
- (some) Formal shoes
- House items
- Kid clothes (esp shoes and denim)

On the flip side, items that are typically worn out before their donated include:
- Basic T's & tanks
- Leggings
- Toys (except the durable, Tonka truck-type)
- Sleepwear
- Tennis shoes/flip flops

But of course, there are always exceptions! Which leads us to my final tip:

6. Don't be afraid to hunt!

Sometimes it will take a while to find what you want. Don't give up! The hunt is part of the fun. And when you finally find what you're looking for, it's going to feel so good! (For you and hopefully your wallet! ;)
I found these shorts at the end of the summer season, but for $2.50 they were a great investment for next year.
Hope these tips were helpful!

Have you found any thrift store deals lately?
What are your thrift store success tips and tricks?
Tag me with your thrift store finds on Instagram at #TheModestBudget!
Check out my Top 3 Fave Thrift Store Outfits here!

Linking up with some awesome parties here!


  1. These are great tips. Most of my clothing and my children's clothing comes from thrift stores (well, besides jeans...I'm picky about my jeans, lol). Agreeing with the list. I keep a list on my phone of the things I need to look for when I'm near a thrift store. #TuesdayTalk

  2. Love a good thrift store find. Thanks for the tips! I'm with you on the dry clean thing!

  3. Great tips, I really love your dollar a day idea. I normal put things into terms like, "Do I $12 like this item, or do I $7 like this item?", but now I'm going to use your dollar a day idea :)

    xo Jannine |

    1. Hey, that's a good way of thinking about that, too! I actually tried that out when I swung by a thrift store this morning. Sometimes I have trouble using that tip with things around the house because they aren't really being "used." So that's a great tip for household items!

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  5. I scored a genuine Hermes wallet for $3.00. In Montana I am certain no one knew what the heck Hermes was. I love making collages so I get the higher end mags with the thick pages, hence knowing Hermes. I literally screamed.
    We also have like $5 or $6 sack sales once a month. I basically get .42 cent shirts cuz I cram em in and working with lil kids, its golden if they ruin one, NBD. I also scored a pair of Chacos in the last $6 bag. Boom.
    Ive found Danskos hardly worn, dishes, pans, furniture, um... basically everything I own is second hand. I have a very hard time paying retail.

    1. I don't know what Hermes is, either! But hey, one man's trash is another man's treasure, right??

      I definitely have a hard time paying full-price for anything anymore!

  6. Great tips and ideas here. My mom found Chanel heels at her local Goodwill and the people there said a local well known real estate agent donated them so I think they were real. I also got a genuine leather Coach bucket bag at a Goodwill and knew it was genuine because of the feel of the leather make and number in it (forget the number name but apparantly it's official if the purse has a specific imprinted number on the inside). I personally have a hard time thrifting anymore and finding what I need, but I look though.
    Thank you for linking up to "Bloggers Who Have Inspired Me" link up
    Rachel xo

  7. These are great tips! I feel like most of the time when I thrift shop I don't find much. Finding out what day my local stores restock would probably help a lot. Thanks for joining us for the Wednesday Showcase!

    1. Yeah, that's the downside to thrifting... it's a little unpredictable!!

  8. I finally start thrift store shopping for myself a year or two ago. I couldn't believe the deals on jeans and so many other things! I don't know if I'll ever go back to the mall. ;)

    1. Same!! I like thrift stores so much better! Still can't believe I found four pairs of pants for the price of one!

  9. My older kids like to cos-play so we frequent the thrift stores for pieces that can be made into costumes. We have found such great stuff if you can look at things with a creative eye, thinking about what it could be made into. My son dressed up as the joker one time for a super-hero costume party and you know what, we found a PURPLE suit at a thrift store! Who knew they even made such a thing! And besides costuming, we have found amazing formal dresses too. that's our first go-to spot. But I would advise learning to look at clothing items very carefully. besides dry-cleaning, put your hand in the pockets, check the zippers, look at the hem and carefully for spots. you treasure can turn into wasted money if you don't look at things extra well!

    1. Oh that's so fun!
      And absolutely agree with checking them super well... I typically run into that problem with purses. Like finding the pockets are full of disgusting goop or something!! (how does that stuff end up in our purses anyways??? lol)
      That purple suit was a great find!!!

  10. Casey! You're a girl after my own thrift-loving heart! On mother's day this year I scored 2 pair of fancy name brand pants, 2 jackets and a couple of shirts for allll under $20! And I love your blog header! So pretty! Linking up with you at #sittingamongfriends today!

  11. These are great tips, Casey! I love thrift store shopping. I really love walking out with a $100 Ralph Lauren shirt with the tags still on it for $5.00 for my son. Thanks for sharing with Thankful Thursdays. I hope to see you again next week.

  12. Casey, All you tips are great, but my favorite is #4 - I love the question, and thought that is it work $1 a day - will I use it XX number of times then it is worth it. Thanks so much, I love thrift shopping and getting good deals. My favorite things to shop for are home decor interesting and unique pieces. I found you at #FreshMarketFriday today

  13. These are great tips! My favorite is #1 - I never have a plan for what I'm looking for and #4 is a good rule to follow!

    Doused In Pink

  14. Hi Casey. I love your tips and think they're all useful. Thank you! I find checking out retailers and online fashion outlets is useful to help your focus too. I often blog about embellishing thrift store finds for a designer look. It's my own special craziness ;-) Mimi x

  15. Great tips! I get most of my tops, jackets, and sweaters from thrift stores, but for winter coats, jeans, and shoes I buy them. Thank you for hosting at Home Sweet Home!

  16. These are great tips! I get overwhelmed by thrift shopping so I definitely need to try out these tips!
    Jeans and a Teacup

  17. These are all super great tips, Casey! I have never been thrifting, but I really want to! These tips make me want to go more! I love that chevron throw. You got such great deals!

    Thank you so much for linking up at Grace + Lace!

    Bows & Clothes

  18. I love thrift store shopping! I take my kids twice a year to get almost all the clothes they need for the next six months. I've actually had to get better about not getting too much. Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop!

  19. Love your tips! Especially love tip number 4! Valuing each time you wear it as a $1 is so genius! Definitely gonna always think about that now! Thank you!


  20. Would you believe I have never thrift shopped? Thanks for the tips . Might have to change that