A beginner’s guide to thrift shopping

Thrifting is a great way to explore new styles, mix and match pieces of clothing, and find hidden unique pieces. Buying second-hand is one of the things I find most comforting. It’s a way of expressing who you are and what your style is. It’s also inexpensive, and you’re also helping your environment and community by giving clothes, other knick-knacks, and accessories a new home. Here are some tips and tricks for finding your unique pieces at a thrift store.

1. Decide why you are saving

Are you saving up just for fun or do you currently need clothes? Saving can be fun, but it can also get really expensive. Decide whether you’re going to the thrift store to find something you’re looking for or just to pop in. When you don’t know what you’re looking for, you can be overwhelmed by the number of clothes they have. So keep in mind to narrow down your main objective for your hunt. If you don’t, it can be very tempting to fall down the rabbit hole buying endless clothes. Believe me, I’ve been there. I recommend having a plan or making a list before your trip to the thrift store. Write down what you need and narrow it down to the patterns, materials, and sizes you want.

2. List and separate needs and wants

In addition to listing and planning your trip before the thrift store, you need to separate your wants and needs. Do you actually need those ripped jeans, or is it more for an aesthetic? I find it’s best to buy clothes that can be versatile: items that can be paired with a simple pair of jeans, or something that really fits into the overall look. These pieces can stand out, like platforms or a necklace, or something more simplistic, like a crop top, graphic tee, or velor briefs. Buy things that you know will pair well with things in your wardrobe. If you know you don’t have room in your closet for more thrifty clothes, donate your old clothes. We all cling to the clothes we promised to wear, but be honest with yourself. If you know you haven’t worn it in a while, maybe it’s time it found a new home.

3. Maintain a budget

Most thrift stores sell their clothes at reasonable prices. However, if you’re looking for something vintage, you’re more likely to see a higher price tag. Items from local thrift stores can range from $2 to $50, with $2 being a book or small piece of jewelry and $50 being a desk or television. Clothing can cost between $7 and $16, depending on the style, material, and size. If you’re looking for more rare and vintage items, your best bet is outside your area, at vintage or antique stores. Don’t make impulsive decisions and take your time shopping.

4. Check out your local thrift stores

Now that you’ve planned your savings trip, it’s time to shop! Some of the best things you can find on your first thrift trip can be found at your local thrift stores. You never know what you’re looking for until you start with the basics. Explore your town for thrift stores you’ve always seen but haven’t visited. Once you become familiar with thrift stores, you will become an expert in what you are looking for. All thrift stores organize things differently. A windbreaker might be down an aisle and plaid pants might be right next to it.

Don’t be overwhelmed, frustrated or discouraged. It takes time to find the perfect thing you are looking for. Then again, some days your favorite thrift store doesn’t have what you want, and that’s okay. When it comes to saving and finding that one-of-a-kind piece, you need time, and lots of it. Sometimes for a garment it takes 30 minutes. With that in mind, it’s best to start with your local thrift stores, as they are smaller.

5. Materials and style

Everyone’s first trip to the thrift store can be overwhelming. You don’t know what you’re looking for, what fits your style, where the clothes are, and it can get frustrating. It’s times like these that I wish there was a rack with my name on it, with all the pieces I imagined in my head. Ultimately, you want to look for clothes that match who you are, not what you see on social media, and certainly not the trendiest clothes every influencer wears. I find it best to take pictures of your favorite clothes in your closet ahead of time. This helps in establishing what you wear and what you like. Find pieces that match your wardrobe favorites. I also recommend that you write down your sizes. You never want to buy something that fits too big or too small and regret it after your savings trip.

Everyone has different sizes for different clothes. You might have one size for a t-shirt and an entirely different size for a denim jacket. Sizes can also depend on the material. Some fabrics like denim, velor and corduroy can be loose or tight on the body. Keep that in mind and be sure to watch the tags.

Also, find items for the right season. I find it best to shop before a season. I shop for fall in summer, shop in winter for spring. The great thing about thrift stores is that they have all the clothes for all seasons. Play with different materials, aesthetics and styles. Get clothes that you know will make you look and feel confident and good, because that’s what it’s all about.

6. Hidden Gems

The best things aren’t in the obvious places, it’s all about the hunt. The best places to shop are hidden away. It takes time, you have to really know your town, your city, your region, just really explore around you. Some good thrift stores are in side streets, small squares, in your town center. It’s different for everyone. I can say that it takes patience, effort and determination to find what you are looking for when you save. You cannot give up the first trip. With each trip, you get to know your area better, where the right clothes are, and where the best discounts are. You start taking note of which companies have the best vintage records or decorative pieces. With time and with each hunt, you’re just more likely to find better clothes. The best part of saving is hunting.

7. Thrifting online

Another option you might consider is online shopping. Some popular online savings websites include Depop, Poshmark, and ThredUp. Each of these websites offers the option to sell or buy clothes, so it’s good to clean your wardrobe and find your favorite clothes. ThredUp has been one of my favorites lately. I found so many of my favorite things there, many of which are vintage at a great price. ThredUp gives you the ability to enter your sizes for many things, including dresses, pants, shoes, jackets, and shirts, so you automatically get the right size clothes.

It’s no problem to scroll until you find something that suits you. Another great thing about ThredUp is the homepage. ThredUp has categories for every season and every garment. For example, they separate categories for summer dresses in a certain price range and fall sweaters and sweaters in another category. If you buy something that’s too big, too small, or not quite what you had in mind, you can send it back and get a refund with store credit.


Thrift can be a great way to find new clothes without spending a ton of money. No need to wear the most trendy clothes to have style. It’s about being creative and using your clothes to express who you are. You are not what you wear or what you look like. Clothes just give people a sample of who you are. Don’t get frustrated if you arrive empty on your first savings trip. This gives you one more reason not to give up the hunt for that one-of-a-kind piece.