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I love thrift shops.

There is no better place to discover amazing treasures. You just never know what you will find. What began several years ago as a way to simply save money, has evolved into a life style choice for me and with very few exceptions GW boutique  (that is Goodwill for any newbies out there:)  is my first place to shop whenever I am looking for a specific item.

Good bargain or not, thrift shops can still get you in trouble. Money spent on items you never wear or use, is money that would have been best put to use elsewhere. After a recent thorough closet purge I resolved to keep from falling into the “bargain trap”.

Here are some helpful guidelines that will insure nothing comes home that will wind up as clutter.

1. Know exactly what you want/need

Aimlessly wandering around until something catches your eye? Bad move. Just because you are in a store doesn’t mean you have to buy something. Take a few moments to look through your closet and make sure you don’t already own a specific item.

As I was going through my closet recently during the purge, I took the extra step and tried on nearly every piece of clothing to find out exactly why I never wore them much or at all. Through this little exercise I was able to pinpoint certain requirements for future purchases, like neck lines, sleeve lengths and shapes, etc. This will vary individually, but you can easily identify your own must haves and dislikes and save yourself lots of time and money.

2. Leave your credit cards in the car

When I began my thrifting adventures, thrift shops were cash only. But a few years ago they got wise to the fact that offering the option to pay with credit cards would be well worth the added fees. For the thrift shopper that translates into added temptation. Bring cash, set a budget, stick to it. If you truly find the bargain of a life time, it’s a short walk to the car. But I can almost guarantee you will rarely make that walk!

3. Try it on try it on try it on

Don’t buy something because it looks pretty. Buy it because it looks pretty on you. Even if you are not a fan of dressing rooms, never skip this step. Once I implemented this rule for myself I was astonished how many of the items I had chosen, didn’t make the final cut!

You can always return it if it doesn’t fit once I get home? Nah, never happens, besides, who needs that kind of stress,  right? Just today, I entered the dreaded dressing room with 2 pairs of pants, 1 pair of shorts and 2 shirts. None of them made the final cut. Make sure that anything you decide to buy fits you like a glove and makes you look like a million bucks.


Trying on is also a fantastic way to discover missing or loose buttons, zippers that don’t work…

Remember, items frequently wind up in thrift shops because they were not true to size! This applies to shoes as well. Always try on both.

4. Shop the displays first

Just like every other store, thrift shops will generally put the nicest items where they can be seen easily. I have had tremendous luck raiding the new racks as they are first rolled out and before clothes have been hung on the regular displays. Generally store employees will gladly let you take a look, provided you don’t get in the way of them doing their job.

Also remember that items are often not on the proper rack, if something catches your eye on a rack with a different size, take a look! You may just be in luck!

5. Know where you will put the item before you leave the store

This one is simple, but often overlooked. None of this “I will find a place spot for it when I get home” business. You know better than that! If you close your eyes and can visualize immediately where you will house the item and what purpose it will serve, you may consider buying it. Not sure? Back on the shelf it goes.

6. Don’t buy anything that will require work

Notable exception: you are looking specifically for something to make over – but be very picky.

Missing button? Tiny hole that needs mending? Pants that are too long?  Zipper not working? Leave them all behind. Let’s get real, you know it’s not going to happen, so why kid yourself?

Dry clean only? Run, don’t walk! Dry cleaning is added effort and expense that will make that bargain void quickly. The only dry clean item I have willingly bought was a super well made long black wool coat and that was worth every penny.

7. What are you going to get rid of ?

A fantastic habit to cultivate is to get rid of at least one item for each one you bring home. Excess shopping and thrifting ALWAYS results in clutter and guilt down the road. Knowing what you are willing to give up adds another layer of conscious decision making to your shopping. If you are not sure, you probably don’t need whatever it is you are coveting at the store.

8. Sizes and measurements

Whether you are buying an item for your home or clothing and shoes, keep a list of measurements and sizes  for other members of your family with you whenever you shop. Extra bonus points for bringing a tape measure! Mine stays in my purse all the time.

Since I don’t generally have my guys with me when I shop, knowing everyone’s size sure does come in handy. I like to keep list on my phone, one less piece of paper to forget at home. I know, I know, this goes against rule number 3. But for some reason, stuff just fits my guys better even without trying.

9. Know your brands

At the risk of sounding snooty, but I just don’t go to the thrift store to buy something from Wally Mart. I love well made clothing and yes, I do pay attention to the brand name. Why buy cast off Target shoes when you can have Prada for next to Nada. Think I’m kidding here? Check out these beauties!


Six bucks!

This actually happens frequently. I come across higher end brands on a regular basis. A friend of mine snagged an authentic designer purse not long ago!

Well made clothing and shoes, especially less trendy, timeless styles will often re-sell fairly easy. That can mean you will essentially wear them for nothing! Can’t beat that deal!

Being budget conscious should never keep you from looking great! Shopping thrift shops is a fantastic way to keep your wardrobe fresh! Stick to a few simple rules and save your hard earned cash for other fun adventures!

Let’s hear from you! Have you found any amazing items for next to nothing? Any thoughts or experiences you would like to share?

Keep it simple!


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