Cashing Out is The Huffington Post Alberta's look into lives of Albertans who are trying to make their dollars stretch a bit further. We'll examine people who are spending less, cutting back and bucking the rampant consumer culture in a province where the jobs are abundant and the wages high.
Walking into any thrift shop, the racks packed with clothing and the shelves brimming with stock, can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned secondhand shopper.
But if you go with right mindset, armed with a few tips and tricks, you'll find scores of one man's junk ready to become your treasures.
Don't be overwhelmed by the often dingy floors and bad lighting -- we promise there are plenty of stylish and functional steals to found in almost any store...or yard sale or flea market.
Thrift shopping is not only eco-friendly, but can also be very good for your wallet, not to mention your wardrobe and home.
We've compiled 26 thrift shopping tips to help you navigate the world of secondhand shopping. In the words of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, you'll be poppin' tags in no time.
Do you have any great tips for thrift shopping that we missed? Share them in the comments section below.
Map Out Your Stores
A bit of research online will help you find the best thrift stores, yard sales, estate sales and antique malls in your area. Read reviews of these places online and decide which ones will have the most of what you're looking for.
Have An Idea Of What You're Looking For
Secondhand shopping is a great way to recycle someone else's used items, but if you go shopping without an idea of what you're looking for you could end up spending much more than you bargained for...or looking around forever with no goal in mind. Have at least one or two items in your mind and your outing will have more focus.
Bring A Set Amount Of Money
Leave your debit and credit cards at home. Secondhand shopping can be dangerous when we are scoring such great deals - we often feel compelled to spend more. By only bringing a pre-determined amount we lower the risk of coming home with more stuff than we need.
Don't Forget Your Smartphone
If you are a secondhand shopper with an eye for antique or vintage items, your smartphone is a must. When you find something you think might have value a simple search will help you decide if you're paying a good price and if there's the opportunity to resell the item in the future. As well, it's a good idea to search furniture brands. Often people will grab a piece of secondhand furniture, redo the finishing or upholstery, only to find out they completely stripped the piece of its original value.
Know Which Store Will Fit Your Needs
Each thrift store, yard sale, antique shop, etc...has unique inventory and finding what you're looking for is never a guarantee. But if you must find a gorgeous holiday dress you're probably better off at a consignment or vintage clothing store, while big box thrift stores are more likely to carry kitchen wares and furniture.
Don't Rule Out The Unusual
There's a lot of good, bad and ugly to be found of other people's unwanted stuff. And while a painting of a puppy wearing a muzzle might not be your ideal piece of artwork, it might just be a brilliant, unique conversation-starter for someone's home. Don't rule out items that you like but are in the wrong colour, either. Often a packet of clothing dye or a can of spray paint will breathe new life into something you otherwise wouldn't think of using.
Don't Be Afraid To Tailor
Just because a secondhand clothing item doesn't fit you right off the bat doesn't mean you have to leave it behind. Larger items can often be brought to the tailor and taken if for a relatively small fee. This is especially wonderful for designer items like coats, suits, dresses and jeans.
Ask When New Inventory Goes Out
Bigger secondhand shops like Value Village and Goodwill generally tend to stock their shelves all day everyday, but some stores will only stock on certain days of the week or at certain times of the day. Ask the staff when is the best time to visit to get dibs on the newest merchandise.
Know What Can Be Repurposed
Looking for a new bedroom set or coffee table, but can't find the colour of wood you like? Often, with a quick sanding, coat of paint and some new hardware an old piece of furniture can be transformed into something fresh and funky. The sames goes for old vases, figurines, picture frames, lamps and chandeliers. The possibilities are endless.
Take Your Time
Secondhand shopping isn't very fun if you're in a rush or not really in the mood for it. Take your time to browse the whole store - and this includes other clothing sections, too. If you're a woman looking for the perfect blazer, it might be hiding in the boy's or men's section. Don't skip the books, either. You might just find the page-turner you've been eyeing or find a great coffee table tome.
Come Dressed To Shop
Some stores, as well as yard sales and antique shops, may not have dressing rooms to try on clothing, so it's best to come prepared in a secondhand-shopping-worthy outfit. We like leggings paired with a loose top and a tight fitting undershirt. Add a pair of slip-on shoes and you have an outfit that's easy to slide in and out of, without embarrassment.
Make A List
Sometimes with secondhand shopping you have to wait to find what you want. You might intend to find a set of funky benches or the perfect set of glasses, but it might take several trips and months to find what you're looking for (which is all part of the fun!) It helps to have a list of items you keep in your wallet or on your phone, so you can remember your must-haves and remind yourself to keep an eye out for them on each excursion.
Bring Grandma (Or Grandpa!)
Lots of thrift shops offer a discount to those in their golden years, so you could reap extra benefits if you bring along grandma or grandpa.
Keep An Eye Out For Sales And Specials
Watch street poles for signs advertising yard and garage sales and ask about specials at your favourite shops. Often stores will have tag sales, days with an extra percentage off or fill-a-bag days.
Take A Good Look At The Item
Secondhand shops rarely take returns, so make sure you give your purchase a good go-over. Decide if items can be mended, upcycled or repaired and consider the cost to do those things. Make sure the quality is there, the item serves a purpose and it's not just in the basket because it's cheap.
Learn To Haggle
Lots of stores won't haggle because they're owned by larger companies, but antique malls, yard sales, estate sales and flea markets are the perfect time to practice your haggling. More often than not the seller is looking to get rid of items, so you may be able to knock a large percentage off the price or have the seller throw in an additional item or two.
Go Early...Or Late
This is especially true for yard sales, auctions and flea markets. It only makes sense that the really good stuff would go the fastest and often those who work in antiques and consignment are checking out the goods before the crack of dawn, so you have to be up early if you want to stand a chance against them. As well, a lot of sellers will offer deep discounts toward the end of the day - they don't want to pack it back up, so they'll pass on the big bucks to save themselves the labour.
When You Get It Home, Wash It
This goes for all secondhand items. Clothing and bedding should be washed in the machine, with warm water, or sent to the dry cleaner. Furniture, kitchenwares and household items should be given a good dusting and scrub.
Try New Spots
Trendy areas may have some funky, well-designed thrift and consignment stores, but these places also tend to charge the most. Try out lower income neighbourhoods or small town thrift stores, where thrift shopping isn't so hip. These places often yield the best stuff.
Shop Off Season
Don't wait for Christmas to look for Christmas decorations. Don't wait for summer to find neat patio decorations. Don't rule out purchases just because you won't use them for a few months...but also make sure you are buying something you will use in the future, so you don't waste your money.
One Item In, One Item Out
Thrifting can all too quickly turn into hoarding, so one good rule to follow is for every item you bring in the house one item should leave.
Insist On Trying It Before You Buy
If you're purchasing cameras, lamps, electronics or battery-powered items ask the seller if you can try it first. They should give you access to electrical outlets. light bulbs and batteries so you can make sure the item is in working condition before you buy. Don't necessarily take them on their word, as items could have broken since they were put on the shelf.
Learn How To Polish, Refinish, Rewire, etc...
The patina may have worn off your secondhand item over the years, but if you learn some basic domestic and carpentry skills like polishing, sewing, refinishing, rewiring, etc...your new item can turn out looking shiny and new. (NOTE: Rewiring is especially important when buying vintage lighting and electronics. If you don't know how to rewire items we recommend getting a pro to do it. It doesn't cost a lot and can save you from electrical fires down the road.)
Make Friends With The Sellers
People who shill their wares at antique malls and thrift shops are often making a livelihood of it, getting out in search of treasures every day. If you get to know them, and they understand you are looking for a particular item or piece, they will often agree to keep an eye out for you. Let them know specifically what you are after and agree to a price, so there are no surprises for either party.
Thrifting is often most fun when you're on the hunt for something to add to a collection. One of our editors collects vintage Pyrex, which takes her to the thrift shop, and from there she does additional browsing. She says the hunt for Pyrex makes setting out secondhand shopping extra exciting, and anything she picks up along the way - Pyrex or otherwise - is a fun bonus.
Thrift While Travelling!
Whenever we travel we try to hit up at least one or two thrift stores. The items you find will be uniquely one-of-a-kind, you can get a great memento from your trip for next to nothing and will have a cool story for when you arrive back home.
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