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Monday, August 18, 2014

My 4 Best Thrifting Tips


Since this blog is called Thriftburgher, I think I've been long overdue for some great thrifting tips to share. I have years of thrifting experience, whether it be at thrift stores, flea market, rummage sales, you name it. I probably have enough experience that it would be resume-worthy if it were ever relevant.

Make a list.

The map pictured above is from a neighborhood garage sale Mark and I went to a few months back. It was heaven, because every garage sale was listed with what kinds of items they each had. We hit up clothes and housewares for me, and sports memorabilia for Mark.


Unfortunately, most garage sales don't make things that easy. I usually try to make a list, whether it's in my head or typed up in my phone, of things I'm looking for. It could be a belt for an outfit, a quirky bag, a teapot. Whatever the case may be, make a list. Because thrifting can be a dizzying/overwhelming/forgetful experience.

Be open minded.

Sometimes, there's that one item that doesn't seem quite right, but has so much great potential. Usually for me, it's a dress with a great print, with some unfortunate side effects: Sleeves, full length, shoulder pads. But don't worry. The 80's didn't ruin it. A great imagination and some willpower can go far. That was the exact fate of this dress, which I wore to a spring wedding awhile back:

While I wouldn't do this every time I go to the thrift store, sometimes, that potential item is simply worth picking up.

Also: I love reading The Refashionista, because she transforms seemingly hopeless outfits into great, current pieces. I am always inspired by her work.

Be selective.

This might seem contradictory for the last tip, but hear me out.

On clothes, always check for tears, stains and (when possible) fit. There are so many great things that were in my shopping cart that got tossed back because I found something wrong with it. This is especially notorious in thrift stores. Even if the tag is in your size, double check fit. A lot of times, clothes are hanging in the thrift store because they shrunk in the wash. I would also make sure zippers work, and check for any missing buttons. One exception are for tears within seams. I have a sewing machine, and since those can be easily fixed, I would make sure I really want that item.

Same thing with housewares, glasses, dishes. Is there fading? Any chips? Just remember you deserve the best. Inspect thoroughly and throw it back if there are too many imperfections.

Be patient.

There are times when thrifting is frustrating. Sometimes, I've been looking for a very specific item, to no avail. Looking for ugly Christmas sweaters in December? Forget it.

Sometimes, it just takes time. I find that if I'm looking for a summery item, it's best to look in the winter, and vice versa. Most shoppers are thinking in the now. Think ahead! Or, perhaps the item you're looking for is just too specific. If you're looking for your favorite American Eagle sweatshirt that your dad shrunk in the wash, except not shrunk and in your size, you're probably out of luck. Find a new favorite.

Just remember, there's so much out there. There's no need to fuss. You'll most likely find what you need, as long as you give it time.


  1. Great tips especially about being selective - I could do with being more selective at times because I just want to fill my house with vintage stuff lol.

    We always use estatesale.net to work out our weekend routes, granted though estate sales don't appear to be as big in the Pittsburgh region as they are in SE Michigan - which is sadly one of the reasons why moving back to Pittsburgh isn't on the books at the moment which is a shame.

    1. I LOVE ESTATE SALES! I wish I could make that a bumper sticker. Lol.

      Estate sales are actually a huge deal in Pittsburgh; the trick is finding them! Hah. I usually look in newspaper ads for sales. Keeping track of individual real estate sale companies that host sales through pamphlets and/or email lists in another great way to find them around these parts. And almost every estate sale I've gone to in the city is packed with people. (Especially if it involves a big house, is located in a ritzy neighborhood, has top ticket items, or has all of the above.)

      I wish Pittsburgh had one central estate sale directory online, but as of now, I'm not aware of anything like that being the case. The few I've seen are inactive or only list a few sales.

    2. That's good to know I shall have to tell my in laws who live just outside the city, they always get to jealous about how many we get around here in Metro Detroit (around 60 a week is about average). My husbands originally from the city and wondering about the vintage/thrifty scene (which is linked to my job) has been the one thing that has held us back from considering moving there, but thanks for the input!

  2. What a great post! Also that dress is beautiful.

    1. Thanks! I really need to get that dress out of the closet and wear it around more.

  3. Be selective! Yes, it's a must. We have a really great second hand store in town and they have some great bits but the fits must be checked, they don't size anything! I'm not so savvy with the sewing machine that I can fix that kind of thing yet!

    1. If you have a sewing machine or have access to one, you should try learning! I've been on and off with doing sewing machine stuff since high school, but I'm trying to get back into the habit again.

      Seams are usually super easy to fix because it usually just involves sewing a straight line and reinforcing it. It's kind of like taking shirts and dresses to the clothing hospital and fixing them. Lol. And it's a lot easier than it looks, I swear. :)

  4. I can't stress number 4 enough. If I had a dollar for every time I left the Goodwill empty handed, I would be rich. Plus, you have to shop off season just like you said. You can get a great $5 coat in June, but not when there is snow on the ground.


    1. It can seriously be words to live by!

  5. Ah love this list! I always have an open mind but also go with something specific I have in mind to buy if that makes sense? Also you have no idea how many times Ive been on the verge of purchasing something only to notice a stain! Ive learned my lesson to always check for stains now!

    1. You're a pro! And think of all the money you save by noticing the stains before buying things. ;)

  6. Awesome, awesome tips! My sibling is so into this... Bet you've been at some of the same places! And my husband totally had that pirates bobblehead pictured. For it for him at Goodwill before I started boycotting them.

    1. We should exchange favorite thrift stores! Haha. Are you boycotting bobbleheads or the Pirates?

      Just curious, since Mark and I are kind of frustrated with the team. He's been a season ticket holder for years and years, and they're kind of screwing him over this year with a ton of black out dates (no Saturdays at all), restrictions, significantly raised prices, etc. etc. We're probably not going to be season ticket holders next year.

    2. That is so lame. Nutting is a total crook. Third highest earning owner in the MLB, can't shell out to pay for a winning team, and screwing over loyal fans.

      Not boycotting them though lol. After that rant. Boycotting goodwill. http://femmefrugality.com/2013/07/goodwill-or-badwill.html