The 10 commandments of shopping in thrift stores

Thrift store shopping is all about the thrill of the find, that perfect clothing item that you never knew you needed until you found it. Then there’s always the satisfaction of knowing that you got a great deal on it, and knowing that everyone else is secretly jealous of your fabulousness. These are the cardinal rules I follow when thrift shopping, as well as a few pitfalls to avoid to make your shopping trip as smooth as possible.

1. Thou shalt go shopping with an open mind
I find some of the most fabulous and nice clothes just by trying out new thrift stores.There is one thrift store in our town that looks particularly run-down. I stopped in when I was six months pregnant and desperate to find some maternity clothes that would be suitable for work. I found several complete outfits for less than what one pair of maternity pants would have cost me brand new.

2. Thou shalt check the sale tag
This week the half-off tag color was red, so as I skim through clothes, I try to make myself fall in love with things that ‘just happen’ to have red tags. This can make your budget stretch twice as far and you feel great about the deals you get. I had walked in telling myself that if I found a pair of slacks that I loved I would not spend over $10. At the end of my shopping trip, I had three pairs of slacks and still came in under the $10 mark. (In my own defense, I really needed slacks.)

3. Thou shalt ask the employees
I always ask as well to see if the employees know what the sale color will be next week, some employees will tell me, others honestly do not know. If I do ask an employee who knows what next week’s color will be, I scan to see if there is anything with that color that I love so I can return for it next week if it is still there. If it’s not there next week, it wasn’t that cute anyway, right?

4. Thou shalt clean up after thyself
Honestly, nothing pushes my buttons more than seeing someone come out of a fitting room that looks like a tornado swept through it. I like to think that the people who are forced to shop second hard, or the ones with enough common sense to do so, would have the decency to put the clothes back on the hangers; and when they are done, to take the discarded clothes to the rack outside the fitting rooms where they go. But, hey, what do I know?

5. Thou shalt be nice to the employees
Another given that will make your shopping trips much more pleasant, if you are nice. At our thrift store, I have gotten to know a few of the employees and they make sure that I know about any deals going on, any promotions coming up in advance, and they get me the quickest checkouts. It’s the same concept of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

6. Thou shalt dress appropriately when going thrift shopping
It is a fact that you will be trying on a lot of clothes, so don’t wear an outfit that takes a lot of fussing or time to put together. I like to wear a simple skirt and a t-shirt or something similar. The main thing is to be comfortable, because once you start browsing the racks, you might be there for a while.

7. Thou shalt remember shoes make an outfit
I hate it when I am going thrift shopping and I take my own advice. I will dress casually with a pair of flats on, only to realize that I am looking at dresses that need heels to go with them. Because let’s face it, it is hard to imagine how awesome that skirt will make your legs look if you don’t have a pair of heels to show off your calves to their full advantage. Grab a pair of heels before hitting the dressing room, you don’t have to buy them, you don’t even have to like them, but you will appreciate that you get to see the outfit as you mean to wear it.

8. Thou shalt firmly say ‘no’
For the lack of a button, or because the seam needs to be taken up or in, there is a 99% chance you won’t ever wear it. It’s a sad truth, and I tip my hat to the few people out there who are able to do wonderfully crafty things like sew. The reality is that you will more than likely end up with a closet full of clothes that have minor flaws that will keep you from wearing them. So take a deep breathe, and realize that you can hope for a brighter tomorrow where you will find a wonderful piece of clothing that’s ready to wear.

9. Thou shalt not bring your small children when shopping for clothes
I know sometimes it is unavoidable, but please, don’t bring your children. I make sure that I go shopping on days when I can have someone else watch my kids. I have a three year old, after one mad dash after her from the fitting rooms with a shirt only half on and flapping in the breeze, I made the decision that it would never happen again. The fitting rooms are no place for small children when you are trying on clothes for yourself.

10. Thou shalt try on everything that catches your eye
Okay, maybe not that sequined and gold, halter dress, but if that floats your boat, go for it! I love nothing more than trying on clothes I wouldn’t normally pick out. I have found most of my wardrobe by saying “what the heck!” and throwing it in the cart to try on. The whole point is to find clothes that make you realize that, “Hey you look fabulous” and you did it for less than anyone else.

Do you have any other advice for someone thrift shopping or tips that you find helpful?