Ballin’ on a Budget: The Art of Thrift Store Shopping

When I was a little girl, my mom and grandparents would drag us into thrift stores any chance they got (or so it felt!). To this day, they still designate full days to going  thrift-store-shopping. While I used to be embarrassed or even dread going, now I love it!

Finding something at a thrift store requires a certain level of patience, know-how, and desire amongst other things.  I especially love it when people say, “Oh I love that shirt! Where did you get it?”  “Well let me just tell you….” the answer nine times out of ten is a thrift store! Then they usually go into a speech about how they never have luck at thrift stores.

Well, despite what some may think, you can find some FABULOUS, barely used things with these six tips!

Shorts + Shirt Thrift Store
Shorts + Shirt Thrift Store

1. Get Inspired and Ready to Hunt

Just the way you would look for inspiration before redecorating your living room, do the same before adding to your home/wardrobe. Find your inspiration first! This is one place you won’t be told what to buy. The various clothes aren’t on a mannequin, they aren’t neatly laid out, there aren’t multiple colors, styles and sizes to choose from. You actually have to roll up your sleeves and look for your finds (which I think is half the fun).

Nowadays there are so many sources of inspiration from diy/fashion blogs (or even pintrest, instagram, twitter), to magazines. If you have some self control, you can even go window shopping (that’s too much of a tease for this girl!).

2. The Nicer the Area = The Better the Selection

Eh, judge me if you want. The next statement is true. In the areas where people tend to have more money, there is a much better selection at thrift stores. People who are more “blessed” financially than others are more willing to say goodbye perfectly good, name brand, never worn items.

I have purchased things from thrift stores that still have the tags on them. Literally, another man’s trash has been my treasure. This is why my grandparents/mom have always designated a whole day to going, they hit up all of the nice parts of town (or even drive out of town) to find the perfect items. Call us crazy/cheap/whatever! We like to hunt for a bargain, what can I say?

Lovely stretchy sweater and maternity pants = thrift store!
Lovely stretchy sweater and maternity pants = thrift store!

3. Be Prepared to Put In the Work (Try, Try, and Try again!)

When I have time to REALLY go to the thrift store, I usually throw anything that tickles my fancy into the shopping cart and try it on. Sometimes I love it all, sometimes I find nothing. I have found that the size you wear can vary widely at a thrift store, as some items could have shrank/stretched since they were originally purchased (more than you may imagine)! My size can range anywhere between a Small to a Large, a 2 to an 10 depending on the manufacturing. So, I usually keep an open mind and look through everything within those sizes.

It’s always exciting when you find something you love, but don’t allow yourself to get too carried away until you have actually tried the item on.

**Also, since it can be time consuming, I usually try my best to leave the kid(s) behind. If I must take him, I usually make a B-Line for the toys and pre-purchase him a little grab bag of metal cars or toys to keep him busy (at least for a moment!). Even though I have one, I hate hearing screaming kids while shopping. BUT i do understand that ya gotta do what ya gotta do (even if you’re the lady with the screaming kid)!

Jacket, Thrift Store!
Jacket, Thrift Store!

4. Decipher Between the Junk and The Gold

In my earlier adult days as a broke college student, I would go to the thrift store and load up on everything I “kind of liked” that fit. I guess I got a little trigger happy. Quite honestly, it left me with a closet full of “eh” items that I wasn’t in love with. Nowadays, my motto is that I don’t buy anything I wouldn’t pay full price for or that I don’t love! This keeps my inventory lower and the quality of the items higher.

Also, keep an eye out on the quality of the product. Sometimes, the price is too much, especially when you can buy the same thing new for a few more bucks. On occasion, something like a missing zipper, a tear, a stain can slip through the cracks–unless you know how to work your magic on these things, look closely!

If you don’t absolutely love it, and the thought of putting it down doesn’t make you a little sad, don’t get it.

5. Weed Your Closet Frequently/Get Coupons When You Donate/Be Aware of Customer Clubs

This has only become a recent skill of mine. I have no problem getting rid of things that no longer serve a purpose in my life. We live small and I actually really like it. Looking back on when I first moved to Utah, even though I cut back a lot, I still had/brought so much JUNK. Fast forward to a few years down the road and I’d almost call myself a minimalist.

So donate your items….most stores like Savers or Goodwill will give you a coupon or store credit when you donate. I don’t usually partake in the tax deduction (as I don’t believe I donate enough to matter), but the coupon, YES PLEASE! Nothing beats buying a piece of furniture or even a kitchen gadget at an even better price.

Also, at Savers, they have a club card. When you sign up, you get secret emails in regards to sales (i.e. a few weeks ago dresses were 40% off and sometimes they let you come in a day earlier than a sale starts and get 50% off before things are picked through).

Me on the right, both tops, thrift store (although I am standing in a ga-jillion dollar home haha)
Me on the right, both tops and my jeans, thrift store (although I am standing in a ga-jillion dollar home haha)

6. Thrift Store Shopping Ain’t Just For the Poor

I have heard people say that you should “reserve the clothes at thrift stores for people who need them”, aka extremely poor people. While I understand the premise of the thought, I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with buying used clothes for a deal! It’s recycling at it’s finest!

If you think about it, it’s usually a WIN-WIN! You’re using/re-purposing items that someone else was going to throw away (rather green if you ask me), likely also donating your items, you’re helping to pay someone to work, saving a dollar you can spend towards something else, and MOST of the time, the money goes towards a charitable cause. See, WIN-WIN!

Dress, thrift store! :)
Dress, thrift store! 🙂

So remember…

“Thrift is poetic because it is creative; waste is unpoetic because it is waste.”
― G.K. Chesterton,

Just because you bought it at a thrift store doesn’t mean it has to be covered in fuzz balls, out of date, or out of style. Now that I am a mother and making certain financial sacrifices to be with my son more, I couldn’t be more tickled with my grandparents or mother for dragging me in and out of all of those damn thrift stores (or “junk stores” as they’ve always liked to call them). I feel smart, frugal, and also “green” as I find new homes for these once junked items. And believe me, I know I am not the most fashionable person–but would you have ever guessed that most of my clothes are indeed from a thrift store?! 🙂


For Further Reading & Thrift-spiration:

For furniture and home 

I found this cute article over at LiveLoveDIY

And I love Mandi’s taste at Vintage Revival 

For Clothing

I loved this cute little blog and it’s creator Julie

Another motivating, and darling lady named Lindsey looking good while thrifting!


For all else



2 thoughts on “Ballin’ on a Budget: The Art of Thrift Store Shopping

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s