Elsie’s Thrift Tips

 

1

My sister, Emma, and I started thrifting together when I got my drivers license in high school. There are several shops in our town that stay open until 9PM, so that is what we would do for fun several times a week. With absolutely no knowledge of vintage we collected dresses and accessories from the decades that we loved, the 1950s-1970s. We also collected little boys cartoon t-shirts from the 1980s and a pretty sweet collection of "hope chest" items like fondue pots and retro coffee mugs. We started thrifting because it was a way to be unique (something very important to our high-school-selves) and a way to stretch the small budget we had for clothing.

 

Fast forward ten years and we still love thrifting. We might not collect polyester jumpsuits anymore, but we still love fashion from the mid-century and we still get a thrill out of finding a great treasure for $2! Here are a few tips that I've picked up along the way…

 

2

Thrifting can be overwhelming when you start out. There are racks and racks of clothing to sort through! I have found it helpful to keep a list in my purse of things I am in the market for. That way, if I'm short on time, I can go straight to the dresses, blouses or scarves. Keeping an organized focus never hurts!

 

 

3

This next tip can be a little tricky. On any given thrift trip, I will find maybe 10 things I like and 2 things that I absolutely love! I've learned that it's best to only leave with the things I love. When you thrift often it's easy to amass a collection of b-list vintage… focus on only purchasing pieces that you are super excited about!

 

 

4

The nature of thrifting is that you choose pieces you love from the most random assortment. Charity thrift shops run on donations, so you have to keep in mind that you never know when an AMAZING estate is going to be donated. Sorting through racks of clothing from the 2000s to find these vintage gems is part of the fun! Always keep an open mind when thrifting. It's ok to buy things that are out of season or out of style if you love them. I try to rely on my instincts more than anything.

 

 

5

Sometimes you'll find a piece that could maybe work, but you aren't sure. I find myself asking Emma, "What do you think?" or "Where would you wear this?" a lot. If you aren't sure about a piece, just skip it. As I said above, it's easy to collect too much. If you aren't obsessed over it, you probably don't need it! Think of it as saving room in your closet for the things you REALLY want.

 

 

6

Emma and I try to thrift every week. It's always best to go in the middle of the week because the shops are freshly stocked. On the weekends things tend to get picked through. We know when our favorite shops are open, when they run sales and when they put out new stock. If you keep a consistent schedule, you'll always find better treasures!

 

 

7

A couple years ago I had to have a HUGE garage sale and simplify my home because I had just collected too many things. Most of the things I had collected were "future D.I.Y. projects" that never happened. After this experience I learned to be more selective about what I bought. Now I only actively collect a few things… vintage luggage, dresses, jewelry and records. Choose what you want to collect and focus on those things. This will help keep you safe from ending up on an episode of Hoarders!

 

 

8

Many thrifts are "cash only" or run weekly sales. Keep a list of this kind of information so you can always be prepared. Depending on where you live, garage sales might be a good option too. Since they are almost always "cash only" it's always good to keep an envelope of cash handy for a quick trip!

 

 

9

I always check the racks for purses, belts, fabric (including vintage sheets and drapary) and jewelry. Don't forget to look for these little things. Most thrift shops have a glass case for jewelry at the checkout counter. If you're looking for something special, don't be afraid to ask.

 

 

10

When you find a piece of clothing you love, ask yourself the following questions…. Does it fit and flatter my body? Where would I wear this? Is it my style? If you are happy with your answers to all of those questions then you should definitely purchase the piece!

 

 

11

Sometimes people buy things just because they want to find a treasure that day. It's totally ok to walk out empty handed if nothing strikes you! I love vintage thermos', but I already have about twenty in my kitchen. As much as I want to buy every single one, I don't. It's ok not to buy every cool piece of vintage you find. Save your money (and space) for the pieces that are most special to you!

 

I hope these tips have been helpful! Thrifting is one of my favorite hobbies and I hope you have fun on your next adventure! xo. elsie

  • I really want to find good vintage shops. Our local salvation army ended up being turned into a boutique, and doesn’t carry anything uner $15.

  • Elsie,
    That was a great post. I love thrifting and always tell my husband there are treasures to be found! I found your blog about a year ago when I was on bed rest, expecting my twins. ANd I love checking in and reading your posts!!
    Thank you for sharing!

  • Thanks for the tips. Keeping lists, buying only what I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT, and being OK with not finding a treasure, have definitely spared me disappointment, regret and being overwhelmed when thrift shopping.

  • Thrifting seems to be amazing and I loved to read your tips! It’s such a shame thrifting is more of a US-based tradition and not common in other countries. I don’t know one single thrift shop/spot in my country, it’s really a pity because everyone seems to have a lot of fun and actually saves a few bucks 🙂

  • Such great tips! Boyfriend and I have a master list of ‘wants & needs’ that we carry with us on our weekend thrift excursions, too! SO helpful when I’m feeling tired and draggy at the end of the day and can’t remember what exactly I’m looking for.

    We also have a master list of all the pieces in our rather large vintage Pyrex collection so we don’t buy duplicates in a rush of excitement!

  • Ha – I love this! I thrift often, too, and have learned every one of these. My current rule is to not buy any DIYs until I catch up with the ones I have. Well said. Thanks a bunch – passing this along.

  • yes. yes. i’ve learned that being selective is key. i’m totally guilty of re-donating thrifted items that haven’t even been worn or used! so pathetic!

  • I’ve started thrifting very recently – when I moved to my new apartment – there are still many things I really need in my new home, and since I don’t have too much money, thrifting is extremely helpful. Thank you for sharing your tips xoxo

  • Good tips! I find that a lot of these are pretty much what I use during normal shopping as well. Thrifting is great, but I don’t have many in my area. I’d love to be doing something like that weekly, then I would probably stop buying things for the sake of it and only start buying if I really loved it.
    <3 Linda

  • ive wanted to start thrifting lately so thanks for the tips! im finally losing some of my baby weight and geez am i excited to get some cute clothes back on my bod!

  • What a great list! This is really helpful. I think you’re right about Tip #2 being super hard to stick to, but so important! 🙂 It’s hard for me because there was a time that I bought something I only liked (and didn’t LOVE) in the store and it turns out that I love it now, so that always sticks in the back of my mind. I always think, “But that one time…” Need to shake that. It’s too rare of an occurrence and I’ve already got enough stuff at my house! 🙂

    Thanks for the list. This is awesome!

  • I definitely use the ” love it ” rule! And I admit to having plenty of future DIY projects! I have gotten around to a few this summer, so I can’t quite let them go.

  • You both are so adorable. I love this post! My wife and I plan on starting a thrifting/garage sale adventure this Autumn. If we go thrifting, it’ll be my FIRST time! :O EEEE!!!

    Thank you, again!

  • Your posts are so great! This one is excellent b/c many people that are beginning thrifters have a hard time with to buy or not to buy. I totally agree with ONLY buying what you love! Unless you’re specifically scouting to re-sell buy what makes you happy and what you want to surround yourself with!

    Awesome as always Elsie!

    PS – I purchased your BlogLove E-course! I tore through it last night I couldn’t stop reading! Now time to read and soak! 🙂

    <3

  • Great tips, Elsie (of course)! Being selective is so important – I’ve recently institute a “don’t buy unless you LOVE” rule, and find that I’m much happier with my shopping because of it.

  • Brilliant tips! I began to thrift about 13 years ago because I was a skinny teenager living in a country in Africa where women are curvaceous and clothes really too big for me. The thrift shops were the only ones who had clothes from Europe and US at the right size!! So I began to have a different style… and very happy to be kind of unique!
    Excellent thing to say buy only what you LOVE, I have a tendency to buy too many craps (you know when you think “maybe…” “one day” “so cheap, why not?” and vlam! Crap!)

  • These are so great! I often find that the thing I love about thrifting (unique finds) is what can also get me into trouble. I always think to myself “What if I say no, and then later wish I had bought it?” Since it’s not like Target, where you can just go back the next day and it will be there almost for sure, I’m always wondering if I should go ahead and get something just in case. Only a few times have I said no and regretted it, though.

  • Cool list of dos and don’ts! I’m amazed by how many thrift stores there are here in America. I still have to learn about thrifting, so this was useful ;).

    Hope you’re having a fab day!

    Miki.

  • fantastic post, elsie 🙂 love that you consider thrifting a hobby – that’s a great way to think about it!

  • This is a great post!! Thank you so much for posting your tips. I love thrifting but always wonder if I’m missing things. I’ll make sure to keep these tips in mind the next time I go thrifting. :]

  • thrifting is my favorite! Thanks for the great post!
    Especially about #10…I always have the need to find one thing! I’ll think differently next time!

  • Awesome tips 🙂 I have been 2nd hand shopping (thrifting) for as long as I can remember with my mum and sister but for us it was out of neccessity, we couldn’t afford to buy new clothes but I never minded I always loved going 2nd hand shopping and searching through the racks and I loved turning up to school wearing something I knew no one else would have 🙂 In New Zealand (or at least the towns I’ve lived in) 2nd hand shops (thrift stores) are only open on the weekdays until 3 or 4 so I didn’t get to go very often while I was in school (I did manage to go on ‘sick days’ though ;)). Anyway I really enjoyed this post.

  • thanks for the great tips 🙂 along the way i have discovered lots of them, and definitely know what you mean about having wayyy too much stuff! 🙂

    Steffys Pros and Cons

  • haha, i just got back from thrifting =)

    with little money, i often walk away from items i’d like to buy. sometimes i regret it, but really it helps with buying only what i really really love.

    fun post

  • This is an amazing post, Elsie!
    Thrifting is kind of an art, or even bit of a science, and as such, it sure has its rules. Thanks for putting these together! Sometimes, I guess, all of us forget about the quantity vs. quality rule so it’s good to keep this one in mind 🙂

  • I love thrifting so much and this is such a helpful post!
    Thank you so much, I’m inspired to go to different thrift stores further away from my town.
    Faye xo

  • Thanks so much for this helpful post. I love vintage, but find myself paying too much for it because I would rather buy it online and not have to ‘sift’. I just get so overwhelmed in thrift stores! I would love to get over that though, I know you can find great things!

  • I’ve been obsessed with thermoses for a long time too! actually, that one looks almost exactly like one of mine! I have to agree with all of these tips (so funny, I started thrifting as a teen when my big sissy started driving too! Hah) and I’ve ended up giving away so much thrifted stuff because I just didn’t love it and shouldn’t have got it even tho it was cute! Greats tips!

  • excellent post! thrifting has been a passion of mine since junior high. my mom used to be so happy b/c she could buy my whole yearly wardrobe for about $35 while other people were spending that on one pair of pants! and i always had a style that no one else did. i love it! and still do.

    and you two look so adorable in those shirts!!

  • Thank you so much for this post!!! I’ve been shopping in thrifts stores ever since that I was a child. I love it because it is relaxing. It is rewarding to me to find something unique and special. It is my opportunity to use my creative side. Nothing to me beats the feeling of finding that treasure that I’ve been searching for. Best of all it is great for the environment because it is recycling! 🙂

  • what great advice! I never thought about finding out what day the shops get restocked. I’ll have to have a talk with my local op shop, I think!

  • thanks for this post Elsie. Thrifting is certainly something I want to have more time for again. Cant wait to put a few of your tips into action. 🙂

  • oh thanks so much! these are fantastic tips! i often fall into the category of buying something just so i don’t leave empty handed. i also love you tip to go regularly and know when stores stock/have sales.

  • Amen to that sista friend!

    I always try to only buy what I absolutely love with the exception of some basics that are important but not thrillingly exciting.

    I am currently in the process of redecorating my room and some advice I was given recently was really good. When buying furniture (antique or thrifting) things can be fixed up fairly easily but it is also okay to spend a bit more money on something you are in love with because it will last longer.

    Well that was quite the ramble…
    Love the post though!

  • Aw, I loved this post. I love thrifting and follow all these rules also. It’s awesome to know that other thrifting ladies do the same things.

    Thanks for another great post.

  • Really helpful post, Elsie! I’m always a bit lost when entering a thrift store and tend to wander about aimlessly, picking things up that I really have no use for. Will keep these in mind =)

  • been reading your blog for several months now. can’t remember how I found it.
    anyhoo…i just realized that you are in springfield, missouri!
    That is where I call “home”. I graduated from Hillcrest.
    Visited there last year after being away for over 20 years. Wish I had known about your shop…I would have stoppped by.

  • I’m actually posting this comment to tell you I had a week of thrifting tips planned for next week, and I didn’t want you to think I copied your idea. It would make me really sad if I felt like someone had taken my idea, so I just wanted to make sure you knew that, on the off chance you or any of your readers check out my blog next week. Your tips are really great!

  • thanks for the tips! i recently found a 105 year old Alice in Wonderland book in a thrift shop, precious!

    loving the new layout!

    Addi x

  • Great list, Elsie! I’ve been wanting to start thrifting more, but it usually seems to be a waste here. Maybe with some of your tips I could actually have some great thrifting trips.

  • I love thrifting and these are great ways to do it effectively!! I think keeping a schedule is a great idea that i will definitely put to use.

  • Love this post! I’m not sure if anyone mentioned it, but don’t forget sale days at the thrift shop! I love the 50% off days!

  • I absolutely agree to some factors that you have tackle down on this review. I will certainly take into some consideration some of your tips.

  • That was great advice! I can understand from a point because I grew up thrifting, and always enjoyed going. It is always good to keep an open mind when shopping, and always double question yourself when thinking about buying something. You never want to end up with too much of the same items, so you should always have a plan before thrifting.And yes, you can always find a treasure hidden among other stuff 🙂

  • I’ve been thrifting and yard saling since I was a little girl with my papaw, so I Love this post on treasuring hunting! I too try to keep in mind certain things I am looking for and have made lists before, especially if I am looking for friends. I really like the idea of keeping a running list, maybe even a small note pad handing while shopping. This is a fantastic post!

    I would like to add wearing something easy and comfortable for trying pieces on, really helps. Also making sure to inspect items for flaws, missing buttons, zippers that work, basically making sure it is in great shape or something I am willing to spend a little time and love into fixing.
    xoxox

  • This post is really great…except for the fact that I found myself distracted by the hat that Emma is wearing. I’ve been trying to find one JUST LIKE THAT. I’ve even tried a few knitting patterns and they’re just not remotely close. Any idea where the hat came from? Do you know of any patterns that would come close?

    keep up the good work! you’re an inspiration!

  • You guys are so inspirational and practical! These tips will definitely enhance my thriftventures! crumpledfantasies.blogspot.com

  • I definitely consider myself a master thrifter as its just about the only place I shop anymore and I could stay in one for days (much to the chagrin of my husband who has to watch our 3 kids)… this is a great list!

  • Love this! I have recently gotten into thrifting… and off to a good start so far (a faux silk old lady blouse that looks like this season’s J.Crew shirts, a chair to paint & reupholster, necklace to wrap twice and wear as a bracelet, etc), but totally still get overwhelmed and need guidance!

    Meggy from Chasing Davies

  • i am sooo obsessed w/ thrifting these days and it’s soo easy to just buy EVERYTHING (esp. w/ the great prices). these are some great tips though to keep a good head on my shoulders!!

  • I thrift with my sister too, and often with our mom – It’s such a fun family tradition! Sometimes my husband comes too. My mom receives a senior discount at some places for being over 60 and we always shop sale days, sometimes a different shop every day of the week.

    Great rules, I think I agree with them all. [And I think I’m going to include you on my Sunday Link Love list this week 🙂 ] One thing I would add is that most places will let you put items on hold. So like with any purchase, you can mull it over and ‘sleep on it’.

  • Thank you so much for the tips!
    My husband is an AVID thrifter and finds AMAZING things when thrifting – im talking barely used $700 boots for $25! We will walk into a store and he will go straight to a section and find something amazing! I realize now that the reason he found things so quickly is because he kept a list in his mind of what he was looking for and would go straight to what he was looking for!
    Thanks for this post.
    It was a huge encouragement for me!
    I LOVE YOUR BLOG!
    ps, those nutella cookies are a hit with my friends and i!

  • Elise, if you would make a list of the thrift stores in Springfield you shop at, that would be PERFECT! I never know where to thrift at..

  • I definitely just tagged this in my blog. 🙂 Hope you don’t mind! I whole-heartedly agree with all of this. <3

  • Great post Elsie!
    ‘If in doubt, don’t…’This is so true!
    I hate the feelings of regret the items when I have bought some items in doubt 🙁

    Vanesa
    The-Bel (Fashion Blog, Street Style, Shop Online)

  • I’ve been thrifting for many years also, and I think you did a terrific job with this list. I came home today with 2 pairs of Dockers that I did not try on, and that have ended up not fitting after all, I would like to emphasize your point that it needs to LOOK GREAT on you. IE. You have to try things on! I don’t know how many times I’ve re-resolved to keep this rule, only to get lazy and screw up again. Fortunately for me, Goodwill takes things back giving you credit toward future purchases. (No problem there!) Again, good job!

  • What an awesome list. I should create a Want List as well. I always go in the shop so confused & just end up being there forever!

  • I keep meaning to make The List. It sure would help my random thrift store trips. I’m starting the list right now!!

  • Great tips, I always try to question my purchases. And…
    I actually thrifted a thermos identical to the one in picture ten!

  • Another rule:

    Take stuff back.

    Never wear it? Get tired of it? Run out of space? Release it into the wild to become someone elses thrift store find.

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  • All I can comment on is, I’m not sure what to comment! Except naturally, for the excellent tips which are shared using this blog. I’m able to think of a thousand fun strategies to read the articles or blog posts on this site. I’m sure I will ultimately make a move with your tips on that matter I could never have been able to address alone. You were so thoughtful to permit me to be one of those to learn from your helpful information. Please realize how considerably I am thankful.

  • These are some really fantastic tips. When I was growing up my mother always brought me thrifting and now that I am older I love it. I definitely have those “maybe this could work if..” moments and then never wear it. Thanks so much for posting.

  • That’s really neat! I love to thrift shop with my mom when I get my laptop for Christmas I am going to create a blog because I was so inspired by yours, your very creative just like me! 🙂

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  • I really need to work on only buying the things I love. I get to the checkout counter each time and have to tell the clerk that I’ve changed my mind about half of the items. i’m sure it’s incredibly annoying.

  • I live in Missouri, and I was wondering what are some of your favorite midwest thrift stores?

  • As a rule the idea of thrift shopping terrifies me – I lack focus and inspiration but you’ve made me want to give it a go!