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! 


Twenty-Five Dollars

I’ve (only) got twenty dollars in my pocket.

No, really, I do.  That’s it.

It’s been a while since I’ve been thrifting, and just as long since I’ve done a related post.  So, first off, I want to thank my fellow thrifty bloggers that follow me for my second-hand content for their patience.  It’s been difficult to find time to thrift with most of my time spent staring at a computer screen at my desk job that I enjoy so, so much (sarcasm? can you hear it?), and sitting in traffic for hours on my daily commute picking my nose and watching other people pick their noses.  Okay, I don’t really pick my nose, but you get what I mean.

I’m also poor and trying not to depend on my parents for support.  Not like, living on the streets poor, but not able to spend $40 on anything besides food, gas, rent and bills right now.  Living in DC is expensive and it sucks every dollar out of me.  And why do they charge more for things up here?  Because they can.  That’s why.

And as much as I love thrifting, I need to limit the amount of material items I accumulate right now.  I’m thinking about going abroad to teach English at some point in the near future.  I haven’t talked about it on my blog because it’s still something I’m researching and nothing is set in stone.  However, a move like that means cutting back on purchasing things I might not necessarily need at this point in my life.

Anyways, I did have a thrifting adventure a few weeks ago with my mom at Diversity Thrift in Richmond, Virginia.  And well, she was the one with the twenty dollars in her pocket, or, in our case, the AmEx card.  I was mostly looking for clothes, because that’s actually something I can use.

And what did I get?

Blue Cropped Blouse $2.25 (with white shorts I already had)
NYC & Co. Orange Tunic $3

I also got a great dress jacket for work for $3 – not pictured because it’s at the dry cleaner, and a Gap light blue tank that ties in the front for $2.25.  I’ll update with pictures of these items when I can.

And then came the “Holiday Room”.  Somewhere a sign was posted with “Fill an entire basket for $3”.  Trouble?  Possibly.  Did we need more stuff?  No.  Yes.  The answer is always yes.

The most exciting part of this room is that the Diversity Thrift staff had just thrown boxes into the 8×8 ft. room without ever going through them.  So it was essentially a treasure hunt.  And for a thrifter, when you’re digging through a box and come across a smaller department store box circa 1960, you get excited.  Unfortunately, that box turned out to be bows.  But another box was filled with really neat glass Christmas ornaments.

They came in this Harry & David box marked “pretty/interesting”
The red and blue cracked glass are my favorite! The ones with dots are hand blown, And a UVA ornament? (Boooo) – pretty sure these all cost more than $3 at one point…

We also found some awesome 50 cent heavy duty wrapping paper.  I found this lovely pier one roll with images of SE Asia on it, which I’d love to put in a frame and make into wall art.  Ideas, ideas!

Mom also got some neat things that day, however, I can’t remember what they were.  Mom, what did you get?  I know you read this!  🙂  Thrifting has turned out to be a really fun mother-daughter thing for us!  And also, who doesn’t like getting a bargain?

I think our total bill came to $25.  We had two large paper grocery bags full of neat things.  I mean seriously, how much can you really do with $25 nowadays?

Afterwards, we went to Kitchen 64 for drinks and some yummy nachos!  Yay for mother-daughter thrifting days!

What neat items have you thrifted lately?  Do you usually go for clothes or housewares?  Does your mom (or dad) share a thrifting passion too?  Oh, and what fun things can you do for $25?

Happy Thrifting!

Update: Also for that $25, my mom got 4 name-brand dress shirts for my dad, as well as some other holiday decorations!

Why I’m Obsessed with Thrifting

I’ve always been a bargain hunter.  I was raised in a mindset of, “if you don’t have the money for it in your bank account then you will not be buying it today.”  It’s always been “sale rack first” because the thought of paying full price for something “made in China” or some other land where labor is cheaper is really beyond me.  Still, the sale rack can often be above my means – oh the life of a unemployed post-grad!

So this is where thrifting comes into the picture.  To be honest, I used to think I was so above buying things second-hand.  The only time I went to the thrift store was to find a costume for a performance, and in college, it was to find outfits for theme parties, because we all know you can only find that Reebok jumpsuit for the 80s party at Goodwill.

I’m not sure when I started buying non-costume items from thrift stores…maybe it was when I realized they had some pretty neat and great quality glassware that you can’t find in stores today.  Then I started finding great furniture pieces for cheap, made of pure wood, not particle board you find at those Ikea-like places.  And then, when a brand new Goodwill opened up in Williamsburg, VA (my college town) during junior year, my mom insisted we check out the clothes there.

At this point, I stayed away from second-hand clothes.  The thought of putting something on my body that another person wore was not for me.  But when I found a gently used 100% Cashmere J.Crew sweater for $3.99 I was hooked.  Logically, clothes can be cleaned and germs washed away.  If you don’t feel comfortable with the chemical wash that Goodwill and many other thrift stores use by law to disinfect clothing and other linens, then you can always take your 100% Cashmere $3.99 J.Crew sweater to the dry cleaner and they will make it good as new for $5.  Can you beat that? No, no you can’t.

Also, the lifestyle of reusing, repurposing and rediscovering items is really appealing to me.  As humans, we should always try to reduce waste, so to me, buying second-hand is a great way to do my part in lessening the waste that comes from the production line.  Perfectly good items sit in thrift stores and even landfills.  Why not do a small part in stopping deforestation by buying a wood kitchen table second-hand?  Why does stuff always have to be new? I am also a big fan of the fact that many thrift stores support local organizations through their sales.

Thrifting might not be for everyone.  Patience is a virtue when sorting through thousands of items of clothes to find that designer sweater for $3.99 that would cost you $90 new.  Maybe that frame needs a coat of spray paint.  Sometimes you might not find anything – it is often a treasure hunt.  If you have allergies, make sure you prepare by taking your allergy medicine because it can be dirty and dusty.

So it’s pretty obvious – I’m passionate about thrifting and will be sharing my finds in the thrifting section of this blog in hopes of inspiring others to thrift too.  Some of my crafting might overlap with the thrifting section because I find a lot of my craft/repurpose projects at thrift stores.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite thrift/second-hand stores on the East Coast, descriptions and their locations.  Feel free to comment with any store suggestions!

Happy Thrifting!

Diversity Thrift – Clothing, shoes, linens, housewares, furniture and books.  Awesome furniture selection.  Christmas room. Supports the Richmond, VA LGBT community. Takes credit cards.

1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, VA – (804) 353-8890

Goodwill – Clothing, shoes, linens, housewares, furniture and books.  Goodwill is hit or miss sometimes, but the one in Williamsburg is amazing!  Every week a “tag” color is selected and those items are half-off.  Supports job training and putting people to work.  Nationwide.  Takes credit cards. Here are the ones I frequent.

8018 West Broad Street, Richmond VA – (804) 565-6780

1260 Richmond Road, Williamsburg, VA – (757) 941-3140

Aggie’s Attic – Clothing (older – think vintage – not a great selection), linens, shoes, housewares and furniture.  Really great prices.  Supports the mission outreach projects of Laurel Park United Methodist Church. Cash only.

Laurel Park Shopping Center – Corner of Hugary Road & Woodman Road, Richmond, VA

Clementines – Consignment designer clothing, shoes and accessories.  Some items are new.  Pricey, but can sometimes find great deals. Takes credit cards.

3118 West Cary Street, Richmond, VA – (804) 358-2357

Value Village/Unique Thrift Store – Warehouse size.  Amazing selection, great prices!  Awesome clothes – good quality and well-known designer names.  Quality furniture at a really low price.  Also sells new items at a low price.  Think Big-Lots meets thrift store.  If I read the sign correctly, all items are 25% off on Mondays.  I could probably spend 3 hours in this place.  My new favorite thrift location.  Partners with and supports local nonprofits. Takes credit cards.

10121 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD – (301) 431-9670

Crossroads Trading Co – “Fashion Recycled”.  Designer second-hand clothing and accessories.  Some new items.  A bit pricey, but great brand names.  Check out the half-off rack first.  This is a nationwide second-hand store and it buys, sells and trades clothing.  I went to the one in Brooklyn, NY. Takes credit cards.

135 North 7th Street,  Brooklyn, NY 11249 – (347) 549-4005