Thrift Like Me

This blog, with its plethora of topics, has turned into a sort of “look what I got” brag-bag.  It is what it is.

Granted, I feel like I have every right to brag about some of my amazing finds that have come from the dusty and disorganized racks at thrift stores.  And I only do it in hopes of inspiring others to go on a treasure hunt, save a lot of money, and more importantly, express their creativity while becoming greener citizens.  Yes, thrifting is so eco-friendly!

Anyways, I thought I’d share some more wisdom on what I do and how I do it.  Friends and family are always asking me, “How do you find these amazing things at thrift stores?”  Well readers…here you go!

The scanning method.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the quantity and underwhelmed by the quality of items in a second-hand store.  After becoming a serious thrifter, I’ve developed a technique for going through the racks quickly.

a) Quickly look at tag

b) Look at the garment to see if you like it

c) Check size

d) Check for any damage/flaws

I am also going to suggest that you smell the item.  I know that sounds funky.  But do it.  Thrift-stores usually “sanitize” clothing.  Which basically means they spray the same stuff on clothes/fabrics that the bowling alleys spray into rented bowling shoes.  But this doesn’t mean that some smells from the previous owner don’t linger.  The most common is cigarette smoke (yuck!), which is hard to get out in the wash.


Find a cheap $2-any-item dry cleaner.  You will be using it for all the things you buy that can’t be washed.

For everything else, I suggest hot water and bleach for whites or buy the bleach for colors.  For people grossed out by second-hand clothes, just think, the clothes you buy at the department store are not really that different.  I worked at a clothing retail store once, and every night we would throw a lot of stuff on the unclean floor before we refolded it. People also try things on in the dressing room, leaving oils and whatever else on the clothes.  You’re going to wash it either way.

 Don’t always rely on the tag sizes.

These are my reasons why:

a) Sometimes, due to previous washing or other random factors, a large might actually look good on a person who usually wears a small.

b) A lot of today’s fashions are loose blouses and oversized sweaters.  Embrace the boho, thriftique-chic!

c) If you find a designer dress that retails for $300 for $5 and it’s just a little bit too big, a simple trip to the tailor and a $15 alteration later will still make that dress an incredible bargain.  It might even fit better after alterations than if it was in your size!

 Use other people as a resource.

Check the dressing rooms, “go back” rack, and the beginnings of racks/racks near the dressing room.


You’re not the only one who knows a good deal.  Goodwill/second-hand stores aren’t just for the low-income anymore.  People like the “thrill of the chase”, and you will see all sorts of bargain hunters, thrifters, and fashionistas in second-hand stores nowadays.  For many, like myself, it’s a hobby or a passion we just can’t get enough of.  So, while we all would like to say we found that awesome designer shirt hidden between a grungy t-shirt and grandma’s blouse, it’s likely that someone else has gone through the racks thoroughly and pulled some amazing finds.  Maybe they pulled a fantastic shirt that didn’t fit so they either put it on the “go back” rack, or, if they were lazy, left it in the dressing room.

Consider location.

In some instances, I’ve found that the quality of merchandise at thrift stores directly correlates to the location.  For example, the Goodwill in Williamsburg, Virginia, has the best selection of designer clothes, and clothes that appeal to a younger crowd.  Perhaps this is because the College of William & Mary is a few blocks away.  Maybe this store is filled by student donations.

 Deals & Discounts.

Get in the know about how you can save even more money!

  1. Goodwill donation punch card (Central Virginia and Tidewater Goodwill stores) – you get a punch for every donation.  When you reach 4 donations, you get %20 off your purchase.
  2. Student ID discount – The Goodwill in Williamsburg, Virginia has a %20 off the entire purchase if you show a student ID.
  3. Goodwill tag “color” discount (Central Virginia and Tidewater Goodwill stores) – Every week, a certain tag color (usually that of older items) is 50% off
  4. Discounts on certain days (Northern Virginia Goodwill stores) – Customer Appreciation day is Tuesday.  All clothing is %25 off.
  5. Discounts for items that have been in the store too long 
  6. Frequent shopper discounts
  7. Coupons on store website
  8. Discounts for seniors 

 Wear clothes that you can try clothes on over.

Some thrift stores have dressing rooms.  Some don’t.  That’s just how it goes.  Most Goodwill and Salvation Army stores have them, but I’ve found the Value Village stores do not.  If you’re shopping for skirts or dresses, wear leggings or tights.  If you’re in the market for a new shirt, wear a tank top.  Don’t be bashful to try things on over your clothes in the middle of the store.

 Make friends with the employees.

Ask what days they get shipments in so you’re first in line to see all the new merchandise.

And the most important…Prepare to spend the time (I suggest 1-2 hours).

I was in a Goodwill one day when a group of twenty-something girls walked in.  They were shopping next to me, and I overheard one girl say: “I don’t understand how anyone finds anything at Goodwill.  This stuff is all ugly.”  True.  A lot of it is ugly.  I probably wouldn’t wear about 97% of the clothes in Goodwill.  But she said this as soon as she walked into the store and started looking at a rack of clothes.  If you expect to walk into a second-hand store and have that designer dress in your size sitting in front of you then you’re in the wrong business.  People ask me all the time, “How do you find all these awesome clothes?”  A large part of what I do involves patience and dedication.  On this blog, you get to see all the awesome things I find second-hand shopping.  But what you don’t see are the hours I spend in a store going through each and every item of clothing or whatever else I’m looking for that day.  I might spend 3 hours in a store only to find one shirt I like. And, it’s dirty work.  I’ve had allergy attacks in dusty thrift stores.  I’ve sweated my butt of in non-airconditioned ones.

I hope my suggestions help in your thrifting adventures.  And as always, please feel free to ask any questions or leave comments!  I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

 Happy Thrifting! 


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