There is thrift store shopping treasure waiting just for you!

10 Secrets of Thrift Store Shopping

by Chantal King

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After years where wages are stagnant, more people are paying more attention to saving money. As a result, there are more consumers cutting coupons, forgoing luxury items and stepping into thrift store shopping for the first time.

Vintage, retro, gently used, call it what you like, but secondhand items can be twice as nice. It is catching on as well; Everyone from movie stars to thrifty Moms to wealthy individuals like to stretch their dollars. Here are ten tips to make your next thrift store shopping trip a success.

  1. Watch for sales. You can't beat the prices, but a sale makes it irresistible. The best times for sales are at the end of the season when merchandise is changing. Secondhand stores frequently run bag sales. This is where you purchase a large bag for $2-$5 and stuff it as full as you can. Last year, our family saved a bundle on back-to-school clothes and work outfits for my job. We bagged $59 worth of clothing for only $3!
  2. Furniture sales are common in the summer, when donations increase from garage sale leftovers. Stores often need to clear floor space, so larger items are priced to sell quickly. My daughter needed a new headboard so we scouted around and found a sturdy wooden one the exact size we needed for only $4. With just a little sanding, stain and paint, it is better than new.
  3. Become familiar with your favorite thrift store. Some offer specials on different days of the week or once a month. For example, consider Tuesday Two-fers (Buy one, get one free) or Friday Freebies (Buy $10 and take one item free from a designated area). Ask if there is a set day of the week when new merchandise is brought in.
  4. Collectors have known for years that their next find could be sitting on a thrift store shelf. I collect teapots and some of my best pieces came from secondhand shops for less than $5 each. Other treasures waiting for discovery include antique trunks, dolls, glassware, old irons, salt-and-pepper shakers, ceramics, coins and artifacts, to name just a few.
  5. Thrift stores are a book lover's dream. My eleven-year-old daughter heads straight for the bookshelves. Books by her favorite author are only $.20 each! The popular The Baby-Sitters Club #1: Kristy's Great Idea books sell for $5.99 new. I'm happy to pay a few dollars to foster the joy of reading, a joy I share. I've found hard covers, bestsellers and out-of-print books for under $1.
  6. My son likes the toy section. We usually find one or two for under $2. You can also find sporting goods, roller blades and bikes. When my son wanted a bike for trips to the lake, I found one in excellent condition for only $15.
  7. You can clothe your whole family for a lot less at thrift stores. Look through the racks for play clothes, work outfits and school clothes. If possible, try them on at the store to assure a good fit. You can find wonderful clothes in like new condition to supplement your wardrobe; some even have the original tags still attached. Shoes, belts, scarves, jewelry, purses and ties are usually available as well at a fraction of the cost.
  8. Be on the lookout for gift items. Coffee mugs, sweaters, a silk scarf, ceramics, a new purse, cookie tins and glassware are all terrific gifts I've found at thrift stores. You can find the perfect item for someone on your list this Christmas or for birthdays, weddings, graduation or other special occasions. The recipient won't know how little you spent, only how thoughtful your choice was.
  9. No matter what you're purchasing, look it over carefully. Some secondhand stores have a no return policy.
  10. Imagine how much simpler life could be if you were debt free. Now take the first step to getting there.

  11. Finally, give something back. At the end of your garage sale, donate your unsold items to your favorite thrift store. Or the next time you weed through your closet, take all your unwanted clothing to a local shelter. Many cities have a back-to-work program for women going into the workforce. Donate your barely worn business suits and professional attire. Call your local social services agency to locate these worthy charities.

You can even claim your generosity on your taxes! The ratio is about 4 to 1, so if you donate $400 worth of merchandise or clothing, you can deduct $100 off your taxes. See a professional tax consultant for specifics.

Thrift stores have something for everyone. You can stretch your budget, add to a collection, or discover something unique when thrift store shopping. Decorate your home or be fashionably frugal with gently used finds. Entertain your kids and feed their imaginations with deeply discounted toys and books. What's stopping you? There is a thrift store treasure waiting just for you.

Updated February 2015

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