Vanilla Joy’s Thrift Store Shopping Tips

by Kelsey Norwood

in Shopping,Stuff I Love

thrift store shopping tips

I am a pretty enthusiastic thrift shopper – I like the thrill of the hunt, the uncertainty, and reusing an item with plenty of wear left.

All winter long I looked for toddler snow boots and couldn’t find a single thing and now that it’s summer, they’re everywhere!

One of my favorite tips is to make paper patterns for things like shoes so that you know what you already have at home. I traced the two pair of snow boots we already have and I’ll keep these patterns in my purse so I can compare to what I find at thrift stores. Just writing down the size isn’t good enough because sizes vary from brand to brand.

Here are some more of my favorite thrift shopping tips:

  • Have a list. Think long term – you probably won’t find what you’re looking for the very first time you go, so try to think of things you’ll be needing in the near future.
  • Don’t be afraid to haggle. If you’ve bought the same item before at a lower price, tell the cashier. They’ll usually adjust it for you. (Be honest!) At yard sales, ask if they’ll take $X for your whole handful of stuff instead of counting everything up individually.
  • Go early especially for yard sales. The early bird gets the worm! For thrift stores, I find that they put new stuff out all through the day so it doesn’t matter as much if you’re there first.

For more yard/garage sale advice, read this article I wrote a while ago.

And here are 7 more great articles with thrift shopping tips:

  1. 12 Tips for Thrift Store Shopping from Simple Mom
  2. 10 Tips for Shopping at Thrift Stores from The Bargainist
  3. Embracing the Thrift-Store Ethic: 18 Top Tips for Buying Used Clothes from Get Rich Slowly
  4. 4 Helpful Tips for Thrift Store Shopping from Make and Takes
  5. Thrift Shopping Tips & Tricks from Dirty Laundry
  6. Cheap Tricks: Thrift Store Shopping 101 from Fashion Follower
  7. Tips for Thrift Store Shopping from Common Sense with Money

Thrift shopping is a great way to be environmentally friendly and save money. Happy thrifting!


1 Ruth May 27, 2010 at 7:51 am

Great idea for bringing the shoe pattern in your purse. I can’t ever seem to keep track of my kids shoe sizes. More than once I’ve bought them a new pair, only to bring them home and find the new ones were the exact size of the ones they grew out of!

2 Deborah May 27, 2010 at 9:29 am

I love shopping thrift stores and yard sales! It’s such fun to find things to make over for the house.

3 Michelle May 27, 2010 at 10:33 am

Great idea about tracing the shoes! Not just for thrift stores, but also for when you run into a sale you weren’t expecting.

4 FoxyJ May 27, 2010 at 10:51 am

I like the shoe idea–I should do that. I love thrift store shopping for both my kids and myself. The other day I got an adorable Playskool game still in the box from 1966 at DI for only 75 cents! I’ve also recently discovered that Kid to Kid really has the best selection of clothes in good shape for kids; DI kid clothes are usually pretty worn out and Kid to Kid has comparable prices for much better quality.

5 Jennifer M May 27, 2010 at 4:13 pm

I love to visit yard sales and thrift stores. You never know what you will find:)

6 Shopping Golightly May 28, 2010 at 7:56 am

I am a non-list shopper. That doesn’t imply that I’m not aware of my families future needs.

But, one never knows what they will find at the thrift. I find it best to have an open mind. It is similar to a meditative process. Having no sales people on the floor, only non-interruptive stockers, helps me stayed mentally honed. So I find that beautiful Pottery Barn classic butter creme sleeper sofa (that I always wanted but couldn’t financially justify replacing my old sofa) for $250. The only stains on that sofa are from my children and cats. It was off the floor pristine when I bought it.

I usually don’t self-promote in the comments section, but we’ve a series of posts on How to Thrift on our blog The Thrifty Chicks in the left hand column. With thrift becoming a bit more haute, I find many reporters are attempting articles on the how to’s and they lack the experience. Between us four Thrifty Chicks we have decades.

Our mission? Build a robust American resale market that is strong competition for the traditional retail. Americans have enough stuff already, instead of wasting world resources and buying new, why not participate in the reuse cycle? There is something for everyone it it.

Godspeed to all thrifters!

7 Sue D May 31, 2010 at 4:57 pm

I didn’t go to many yard sales when my kids were growing up but I do now and this is a great idea for my grandchildren’s sizes. I just bought my granddaughter some dress shoes and I think one is a little too tight even though they are both the same size.

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