If you aren't shopping at thrift stores, you're missing out. If you hit them on the right day and are willing to do a little digging, you can find steals on clothing for everyone in your family as well as deals on electronics, furniture, housewares, toys and more. We recently spoke to bloggers Mary O'Regan, J. Money and Donna Freedman of Art of Wore, Budgets Are Sexy and Surviving and Thriving, respectively. This trio of thrift store-savvy bloggers gave us some tips on how to do secondhand shopping right.
Q: Why do you like to shop at thrift stores?
O'Regan: You're hunting for the incredible one-of-a-kind treasures normally found at vintage stores but at a fraction of the price. I also love that it's good for the planet. It makes sense to pick things out from the abundance of stuff that already exists rather than propagating a need for more new merchandise.
Money: Main benefit is the price. Things are crazy discounted anywhere from 50 to 90 percent, so it's a no-brainer money-wise. The other aspect, which is even more fun in my opinion, is finding the deals and coming away with all these awesome things you may not even have known were out there. It's dope that you can find a brand-new bike right next to an 8-track player all for under $20.
Freedman: The major benefit is the obvious one: Things can be obtained cheaply there. Another benefit is the book section. Not only can you get last year's bestsellers for a dollar or so, you can find a wide variety of interesting older books as well.
Q: So it is possible to find big-name labels at thrift stores?
O'Regan: Yes! It doesn't happen often, though, at least not at the thrift stores I've visited, which tend to be in less cosmopolitan places. I'm sure (stores in) New York and Los Angeles have tons of designer castoffs, but they're probably not $3 each.
Q: Do you think there is a stigma to thrift store shopping, or are we beyond that?
Money: Yes, most definitely, probably the major one being that only people who can't afford nicer things shop there, and thus it's more of a "lower-class" type of place, which I obviously disagree with. But it's the same reason people don't shop at Walmart or other discount stores and instead shop at perceived "higher end" places — even if the items are exactly the same. Everyone has their own preferences, though. So in the end, as long as you're getting something you truly believe to be valuable and for the right price, then you're all good.
Q: Some people are grossed out by the idea of buying used clothes, no matter how great a deal they are getting. What would you say to them?
Freedman: Most thrift stores do have a certain "air" about them. I don't know if it's the smell of some older fabrics or the Febreze they spray or both. There's a fairly simple solution: Wash the garments you buy!
Q: Do you have any tips on how shoppers can ensure they are getting quality clothing in a thrift store?
Freedman: Check labels, obviously. That Eddie Bauer down coat is a well-made garment that I expect to wear for years and years. I'd inspect items in thrift stores the same way I would in retail stores. Are the seams loose? Buttons sloppily sewn?
O'Regan: With clothes, check the seams for unraveling threads, and do a once-over of the entire garment for any discoloration or stains. Don't discount an amazing piece that has a mark on it, though. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to simply spritz on a little stain remover, throw it in the wash and have a like-new garment almost instantly.
Q: Are there some items that you wouldn't buy at the thrift store, no matter how cheap they are?
O'Regan: I don't buy undergarments, old beauty products, most electronics or bedding.
Q: Any tips for someone who is going to buy furniture or electronics?
O'Regan: Don't buy stained furniture, and only buy things you would actually take the time to fix if needed, like a nightstand that could use a coat of paint. Plug in all electronics before buying them. If the store doesn't have outlets nearby, wander around till you find one. You wouldn't be the first person to do this.