Bargain-hunters, take note! August 17 is National Thrift Store Day. While thrift stores can offer some great second-hand bargains, it’s very easy to spend more than you anticipated — especially if a purchase backfires. We spoke with thrift store enthusiasts, experts and seasoned bargain hunters to get their recommendations to help you land the best deals at your local shops. Check out their advice below.
Have a plan in mind
Make a list of what you’re looking for first. If you know summer is coming, write a list to look for T-shirts and shorts, and if you know you don’t have a winter coat — by all means add that to your list. Even if you saw an outfit in the latest magazine you would like to recreate, rip out that page and bring it with you. You will be surprised how close you get to that look with items you find at the thrift store.”
Griffin also suggests learning the best days to visit your local thrift store. “Most thrift stores have one day scheduled during the week where everything will be half off the ticketed price. Some stores have particular tag colors that are half-off or items of the day, such as all pants and skirts being half-off. If you plan your thrifting outing around these special half-off days you can buy more without spending more money.”
Know what to avoid
Although you can score a good deal, there are some items you’re better off avoiding when it comes to thrift shopping. Linda B. Condrillo of FrugalLinda.com warns, “Unless you are shopping at a resale shop such as the ReStores operated by Habitat for Humanity, stay clear of electronic items in general.” Thrift stores are often eager to sell electronics with an as-is disclaimer, rather than merchandise that they have tested and know works.
If you’re in the market for an electronic appliance, and are willing to take the chance, Ashley N. Dedin of AENDEE.com recommends bringing your smartphone along. “If you’re planning to buy electronics or kitchen appliances, always Google the items first to read reviews. If people didn’t like a product even when it was brand new, why would it get any better with use? Also, never spend more than $10 on an appliance at a thrift shop, just in case it doesn’t work at all!”
Condrillo adds, “Beware of ‘gimmicky’ kinds of merchandise, no matter how good a deal.”
Know your local stores and know what they have to offer. “I’ve found that different thrift stores have better selections of specific items,” Dedin notes. “For instance I have a clothing thrift store, a furniture thrift store, a kitchen item thrift store and a book thrift store. Not all thrift shops are created equal, so browse around and find out which stores carry the best selection of a specific item.”
If you know you’re looking for an electronic item, fashion expert and Creative Director at Musee-Solomon, Beverly Solomon suggests keeping batteries on hand. “My husband always carries batteries to check out electronic items. Also, ask to plug in appliances to see if they are working.”
Know your abilities and limitations
“Some furniture repairs are easy — re-gluing loose legs, etc. Other repairs can be very expensive — replacing missing pieces, upholstery, etc.,” Solomon points out. Know which fixes are quick and which are costly, then make informed decisions before making purchases.