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Tips based on how I thrift

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about second-hand shopping, so I thought I’d share a bit about my methods. Enjoy!

Keep a list on your phone
You’ll be surprised what you can find that is very specific to what you want. I didn’t learn this trick until recently, and I’m continually amazed at how often I find exactly the right item. When I was in high school and went thrifting with my mom, I mostly browsed to see what was available and usually found something I liked–maybe even vintage! Ooh!

Now I tend to browse for kids’ clothing and keep my list of my clothing and housewares very specific.

That’s been my list for the last six months or so, and I’m pleased to tell you I’ve found the first four items on it. Is that wild or what?

I couldn’t believe I found the cork trays, which were an oddly specific item (same shape, almost the same size or same exact size, plain wood so I can stain, light enough to hang on wall).

Just for fun, the finished product:

Make it a habit*
You won’t find every item on your list the first time you go or even in your first few trips. There’s an element of patience at play here, and because the stock at thrift stores is constantly changing, you’ve got to be willing to go every few weeks. This is also a good way to figure out which stores are your favorites and when to visit. I go to our local Salvation Army once a month / once every six weeks or so, and I always go on Wednesdays when clothing is half off because I mainly buy clothing and housewares there. I skim their furniture from time to time, but I’m usually reminded that their furniture isn’t the best. There’s another thrift store that IS great for furniture, so I make sure to visit that one when I’m in the market for a dresser or end table or whatever. And now that I know the layout of the stores, I’m able to get in and out pretty quickly without wandering each aisle.


Disney Cruise costume pieces, all thrifted and cobbled together by yours truly

*Or outsource it
If thrifting just isn’t something you’re interested in or have time for but you’re looking for something specific, ask a friend who thrifts to keep an eye out. Chances are, he or she likes the thrill of the hunt as much as I do and would be happy to help you. My mom and I keep each other posted about items we’d love to find and text each other pictures if we stumble upon anything that might fit the bill.

Be clear with yourself about the level of quality you’re looking for
It can be so tempting to compromise on quality, especially on half-off clothing day when I see something for $1. I’ve determined that I’m willing to bend on quality when it comes to certain things:

  • costume pieces
  • items we really, truly need but rarely use (like one very warm outfit in the proper size and dress shoes–we never need dress shoes until we do, you know?)
  • items that don’t need to look nice but do need to hold up (like rain boots and what I call “playground shoes,” which are exactly what they sound like).


Rain boots that fit now and dress shoes that will fit in a few years when we will inevitably need them

But as you can see, the last two items on the list I keep on my phone have reminders to myself to pursue quality when it comes to these:


(and no, this is not a pregnancy announcement, although I wouldn’t fault you for thinking so–just planning ahead!)

It can be tempting to buy an okay item just because I see it and it’s inexpensive, but I want to make sure I don’t compromise too much. A few weeks ago, there was a Graco double stroller for $30. Like a middle schooler on a scavenger hunt, I had the momentary rush of excitement that I’d found an item on my list, but I didn’t have to look too closely at the condition of the stroller to know that it just wasn’t what I really wanted . . .

. . . unlike when I found this MacLaren umbrella stroller in black as I was literally on my way to my sister’s house to borrow her umbrella stroller for a trip.

The wheels showed that the stroller wasn’t brand new, but other than that, it was perfect. For $13, I’d found exactly what I needed. Crazy, right? But that Graco double stroller had been well-loved, and I knew I’d rather keep searching for something in better condition.

Create a few rules for yourself
These will vary from person to person, of course, but I think it’s a good idea to have some rules you stick to no matter what. For me, those are that I don’t thrift if I’m going to have to rush and that I only buy clothing for the child I have right now (i.e., I don’t buy something too small for him, no matter how cute it is; or girls’ clothing, no matter how cute it is; etc.).

Ask yourself if you’d buy it full–price
If you’re worried that thrifting will just make you accumulate more than you need or that you’d shop second–hand more than you do for new stuff, make this a part of your thrifting. It helps determine if this is an item you really need and / or love or if you’re just buying it because it’s a steal.

Okay, I think that’s it! I’ll try to pop in from time to time with thrifted finds because it always amazes me what you can find second–hand.

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