Thrifting 101: Tips and Tricks


(Photo courtesy of @platosclosetbrighton)

Consignment shops such as Plato’s Closet Brighton feature a wide array of items for sale, often highlighting new pieces and discounted ones alike to attract customers.

Riley Coesens, Editor in Chief

Thrifting has revolutionized the way in which people shop for all items, but particularly clothes, in recent years. Whether you choose to engage in this activity as a form of personal environmental sustainability, to save money, to find creative or vintage pieces to restyle, or all of the above, shopping in thrift stores is on the rise, especially among younger generations. As a fellow thrift store enthusiast, I have acquired years of experience and knowledge on the topic and hope to inspire others to take up this fun activity for themselves. Here is some of my advice to make the most of your thrift store endeavors and hopefully score some good deals and interesting finds!


Tip #1: Establish rules for yourself

Though you don’t want to be over-constricting in this endeavor, it’s important to set a foundation for spending and what you are looking for. It is extremely easy to become overwhelmed, distracted, and impulsive inside any store, let alone one that is traditionally less organized and features a wider variety of items. Set a price range for specific items or an amount for the entire potential purchase that you are willing to spend, and stick to it! Part of setting guidelines for thrifting may also coincide with one’s reasons for doing it; if you are hoping to achieve environmentally friendly consumption in retail, then you must cut down the number of items you purchase to those most worth the investment long-term. Flexibility is needed at times; occasionally you may find yourself eyeing a higher-priced item that you see as invaluable to your collection, but for the most part, structure is critical in establishing limits and best accomplishing your thrifting goals. 


Tip #2: Know your intentions

This tip relates to tip #1 in that thrifters must know the difference between the types of alternative retail stores they are shopping in. The Salvation Army, for example, is a true thrift store; it features expansive rows of items organized by vague groupings and requires the shopper to commit more time and effort to find treasures within. On the other hand, many people also enjoy consignment stores, such as locally-owned Our Blessings, as they often showcase more name-brand items and have a higher standard of accepting previously-used garments; in return, these items generally come with higher price tags. Each will have hidden gems, but depending on the brands, conditions of products, and price range you are seeking, some options might be better to start with than others. Thrift and consignment stores also vary by location; some Salvation Army’s or Plato’s Closet’s generally receive better stock than others. It is key to decide which you prefer (or both) and have an idea of what you are searching for in each type of store since the results and spending from each differ. 

Tip #3: Don’t have expectations for certain items! 

When you decide to go thrift shopping, you never know what you will find; there have been many occasions in which I have walked into a store, cash in hand, only to find a single garment I liked. On other days, I go on a whim and leave the store with five new items to refurbish! It is truly a game of roulette, but that’s part of the excitement and adventure in shopping at unconventional locations versus going to the mall. It gives your wardrobe a unique, individualistic nature and allows you to narrow down your style while saving money. 


Tip #4: Customize your finds! 

One of my favorite aspects of thrifting is how versatile the activity can be, as anyone can do it and find things to match their style, yet having a good imagination throughout the process only enhances the experience. It is quite rewarding to leave a store only spending $20 on a few staple pieces; it’s even better when you get to make it your own! This can be done by cropping shirts/sweatshirts or remodeling jeans into shorts/other denim items–the sky’s the limit! Thrifted clothing greatly amplifies the expressiveness of a person’s clothing. 


Thrift and consignment shopping is a timeless activity for everyone to enjoy–find a thrift store near you and start searching for your new favorite items today!