For some, the appeal of thrift shopping lies in the thrill of the hunt and the joy of finding items that are totally unique. Others shop secondhand because they’re DIYers and love to transform an item, and giving it new life. And for those on a budget, thrift stores provide a resource for home furnishings that don’t cost a fortune. Whatever your reason for thrifting, the trick to scoring the best finds at the best prices is knowing what to look for and how to search for the best finds.
Here are my top 10 thrifting tips to ensure you find the best secondhand deals.
For me, I love thrifting, whether I’m shopping flea markets, tag sales and even online marketplaces, and I shop them for every reason I mentioned above, and then some, and I’m always looking to find the best secondhand deals. I find just as much joy simply walking around a flea market as I do finding a hidden treasure that I can transform and bring to life in our home. And too, I’m always on a budget. Always. I wrote all about how to navigate flea markets, sharing really good tips, and you can read all about how to shop a flea market by clicking the button below.
Without a clear objective, it’s easy to become overwhelmed amid a thrift store’s sprawling aisles of home goods and racks crammed with clothing. But with the right shopping strategies, you can uncover some amazing finds at unbeatable prices. Read on to learn what to look for at thrift stores, how to find the best deals, and more secrets to successful thrifting.
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10 Thrifting Tips To Ensure You Find The Best Secondhand deals
1. Familiarize Yourself With Local Thrift Stores And Local Flea Markets
The best way to get comfortable thrift-store and flea market shopping is to start local. For thrift stores, familiarize yourself with the types of items they sell and how things are organized. Looking at the layout can give you an idea of what kinds of donations they get in frequently, and gives you the ability to pop in quickly to check for items on your list because you’ll know right where to go. When shopping flea markets, check out the lay of the land and how vendors are grouped. Most antique vendors are grouped together, as are clothing, tools, etc.
2. Know What You’re Looking For
Sifting through piles of stuff at a thrift store becomes much easier if you know what you’re looking for. Same applies for flea markets, and that hopeful tag sale that’ll have the one thing that you’re hoping to find. Of course, it’s always great when you stumble upon something special you didn’t expect to find, but it’s best to go in with a clear picture of what you want to avoid getting sidetracked or overwhelmed while shopping. I keep a list of things in the notes app on my phone that I have my eye out for, and then I browse often and wait to come across the right thing, and of course, I am ALWAYS up for surprises.
3. Take A Tactile Approach To Thrift Shopping
To help you distinguish quality thrift-store finds from more cheaply made items, use your sense of touch. I am always picking up things to get an idea of their weight, the condition of the piece and if it’s made with fabric, touching to see what kind of fabric and the feel of it. Get a feel for the item’s material, texture, and weight to help you determine what it’s worth and how long it’ll hold up. Even if you buy it at a bargain, you don’t want the item to fall apart as soon as you get home.
4. Check Thrift Stores And Online Marketplaces Often
Persistence is key to successful thrifting. New items cycle through thrift stores all the time, so finding the exact thing you’ve been looking for might take a few tries. Check back often and don’t be discouraged if you don’t find what you are looking for right away. When I’m looking for something specific, I check daily or multiple times a day because new things pop up all the time, especially on Facebook Marketplace.
5. Customize Your Search When Shopping Online
If you’re looking for something very specific, searching online is often more efficient than combing through various thrift stores. When shopping secondhand on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and eBay, you can often specify exactly what you’re looking for and set alerts for those items. When new items are posted that fit the keywords you set, you’ll be notified immediately. Be sure to specify the style, brand, or type of item you’re looking for, and try setting up notifications for a variety of similar keywords (such as “sofa” as well as “couch”) so you don’t miss anything.
6. Make Sure You’re Getting A Fair Price
Some sort of discount off the original price is generally expected for used goods, but prices can vary widely between various thrift stores and second-hand sellers. Thrifted items are usually less than half the price of new retail items, and you can often find deals at a fraction of the initial cost. Whatever the price, make sure it’s in line with your perceived value of the piece. For me, it always boils down to how much I’m willing to pay, and spot I plan to put it in our home.
If you’re not sure what price is fair, do a quick Google search and see what similar items (whether used or new) are selling online, on sites like eBay and Etsy. When shopping on a resale site like Poshmark, Chairish or Facebook Marketplace, you can simply screenshot the listing photo and search for the image in Google. It will often pull up the exact item being sold in other areas online so you can compare prices and read more about the item. And remember, if the price doesn’t seem fair, NEGOTIATE.
7. Verify Characteristics and Dimensions Before You Commit
Return policies at thrift stores can be tricky (if they allow returns at all), so it’s best to purchase only items you know will have a place in your home. Measure your space before you head to the thrift store, and bring your tape measure (I always carry one in my purse) so you can check dimensions as you shop. Carefully consider the item’s color, material, shape, and other characteristics to ensure it’s what you want.
Due diligence is especially important when shopping online because you can’t see the item in person before you commit to the purchase. Make sure you can see very clear photos from multiple angles of the actual item (not stock photos) and that you check the dimension. You can often get a sense from the photos and from communicating with the seller what environment the item is coming from. Watch out for any red flags that might make you regret your purchase.
Same goes at flea markets. And don’t forget your tape measure when shopping there, too.
8. Thoroughly Inspect Your Finds Before You Bring Them Home
Small imperfections and light wear can add character to thrifted finds, but major damage could be a deal-breaker. I always inspect items for cracks, breaks, and holes and see if it’s something I could fix myself or outsource a repair on before I buy. You should also look out for issues you can’t see, such as musty smells or pest infestations. Give the piece a thorough once-over, and be prepared to walk away if you notice any major problems.
9. Don’t Be Afraid To DIY
Never shy away from bringing new life to a thrifted find. Some thrift-store finds just need a little love. As long as the piece is generally in good shape, easy fixes might be all you need to give it a fresh look. I have been known to rewire thrifted light fixtures and give a new coat of spray paint. If you see a frame you like but don’t care for the artwork, swap out the artwork. Both quick are projects that offer personalization and an updated look. Just be realistic about the amount of time and effort you’re willing to put into the project as you decide whether it’s worth it. Sometimes these finds become my favorite treasures.
10. Keep Your Patience And Don’t Settle
This might be my most valuable piece of advice when searching to find the best secondhand deals. Even if you find the exact thing that you’ve been looking for, but it’s not in good acceptable condition, keep your patience and walk away. You’ll find exactly what you’re looking for, in time. Don’t ever settle.
If you haven’t already, be sure and check out more amazing tips for navigating big flea markets and more ways to find the best secondhand deals, by clicking the button below. Happy thrifting!