How to Thrift Like the Pros

These days, there are entire Instagram handles and blogs completely dedicated to getting great deals. There was a huge surge of DIY a few years ago, and while that’s still around, I now see more focus on hunting down retail clearance finds or upgrading cheaper items from the Dollar Store, Ikea, etc. One of the best ways to find high-end items for a steal is thrift shopping. But there are techniques to master before you experience the thrill of the find. Here are some tips I’ve gathered from the pros to help you get your thrift game on.

Know the full value.

Most thrift stores are great about marking their prices fairly for inventory. In fact, often times the longer the items are in stock, the lower they get marked. Occasionally, though, you’ll see something that’s just way off and not that much less than buying the item at full price. If you are questioning a price, do a quick google search for the item to see how much it is brand new. A fairly marked thrift item will be anywhere from 50-75 percent off the full price or lower, unless it’s never been used or is in mint condition/high demand. 

Negotiate at the counter.

If you make a great find you love but can’t justify the marked cost, see if the store employees would be willing to shave $5-$10 off. Often the store managers are willing to do this if you are buying multiple items and spending more overall. Some even have frequent loyalty points where returning shoppers can get discounts on purchases after spending a certain amount. Others don’t allow price changes at all, so if you’re unsure, check for signage at the front door. I try to be very reasonable if I ask for a bargain, as many thrift stores support local charities and non-profits. It’s so nice to know buying someone’s used items is also helping someone at the same time!

Set some ground rules.

Savvy thrifters return to their favorite stores regularly, as new items are stocked as inventory is donated. They can turn over pretty rapidly, so if you’re looking for something specific keep an eye out when you have the time to visit.

As with any form of shopping, thrifting can be addictive. I like to set ground rules to avoid overspending. You know my philosophy — it doesn’t matter if it’s affordable if it’s not in your budget! So when it comes to thrifting, I only purchase something if I have a current or future use for it. If it’s something I really love but it’s purely frivolous, I often leave the store and give it a few days to think about it. If it’s still on my mind, I may go back and pick it up. Setting guidelines like these will help you avoid picking things up willy nilly that you like.

In your searching you’ll find that some thrift stores are cleaner and more organized than others, and some may have more of the types of items you like to peruse and buy. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to thrifting like the pros!

Kat’s Money Corner is posted in the Kansas City Star every week. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, follow us on Twitter @CommunityAmerCU.



some have days with discounts
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