request info email to friend
Shopping at thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets is about saving money, certainly. But it also is about looking for buried treasure – unusual pieces that can spice up your house or wardrobe, or valuable pieces at a fraction of their usual price.
In order to find those hidden gems, though, you need to know where and how to look. The website Care2.com offers some tips for thrift shopping:
Try clothes on. There is a large range in size, especially in women’s clothes; all size 6 dresses are not the same size. This is especially important if you are interested in vintage clothes. Clothes manufacturers continue to make sizes larger, to accommodate the growing girth of the nation, so a size 6 from 2014 is not the same as a size 6 from 1994 or 1984.
Learn to recognize quality materials. Older clothes, especially vintage clothes, are often made from quality materials such as linen, satin, cashmere, etc. Learn to recognize these materials, because they make the clothes more valuable.
Shop favorable demographics. Thrift shops in wealthy communities are more likely to have high-quality merchandise. The same is true for yard sales or flea markets in upscale areas. Of course, rich people have fewer yard sales, so look for sales sponsored by a church or charity in a wealthy neighborhood.
Make sure things pass the sniff and scratch test. If a piece of clothing is permeated with the scent of old perfume or if it has serious damage, you probably want to take a pass.
Don’t overestimate yourself. Don’t buy a dress that needs to be altered unless you either are very sure you can do the necessary work or are willing to pay a tailor. And don’t buy something that you intend to craft into something else unless you are confident that you have the crafting skills and time you need. You don’t want to end up taking your thrift store finds to a thrift store yourself.
Get there early. Get to yard sales early on the first day, before things are picked over. Although you might get better prices later in the sale, all the really great stuff is likely to be gone. Also, check with thrift stores or flea markets to see if they have sales or special days for seniors, teachers, etc.
Wander over to some new sections. You never know what you might find in the bedding section, for example. Or check the book section for an unnoticed first edition. Poking around is much of the fun.
Look at kitchen things if you are just starting out, if you are helping a friend or a child get started, or if you are just trying to avoid spending a fortune on a kitchen gadget you might use only occasionally. Pots, pans and other kitchen things are virtually indestructible. Plus, you might find some really interesting vintage dishes, pot hangers or the like.
Go with a friend. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Plus, it doubles the fun.
Donate your own unused items. It’s only fair.