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Ultimate Thrift Store Guide to Successful Clothes Shopping

I know that many people are totally overwhelmed when they think of shopping thrift stores and that is why I created the Ultimate Thrift Store Guide to Successful Clothes Shopping! I’ve also created a step by step guide for 5 Easy Money Saving Ways to Restore Thrift Store Clothing! Between these two detailed thrift store clothes posts, you should feel confident purchasing your next thrift store clothing!

We LOVE shopping for school clothes at the t .  The truth is..I love to shop at Thrift Stores no matter what and have written a lot ABOUT thrift shopping!

I have been doing this for many many years. Over the years I’ve learned a ton of clothes shopping tips and tricks for getting beautiful, stylish clothes at rock bottom prices. 

Trust me…You can find LOTS of cute thrift store outfits with these tips…and fast! I’m going to show you just how to thrift shop for clothes that will change the way you look at thrift shop clothes!

Thrift Store Shoppiing Guide

15 Pro Insider Tips in this Ultimate Thrift Store Guide to Successful Clothes Shopping!

With back to school just around the corner, now is a good time to jump on some super good deals and totally cute, trendy clothes for teens.  In case you haven’t noticed a brand new pair of trendy jeans for teens is about $50-$100!  Oh yes!

Many people don’t like to shopping at Thrift Stores for clothes for different reasons.  One reason..well they it just seems “icky” to them.  That’s perfectly ok, but you may want to consider it after you read my Pro Thrift Store Tips!

The other reason..It’s very overwhelming to them to search through tons and TONS of clothing that many times is not organized very well.  It’s a waste of time and energy to go to the Thrift Store and then come home with nothing or little to show for it besides frustration.

I’ve been shopping Thrift Stores FOREVER!  I’ve learned a lot of tricks and insider tips to save time AND money at them.  With school just around the corner I wanted to share some of them with you. 

Can you find good Clothes at Goodwill? 

You absolutely can find FANTASTIC clothing at the Goodwill, Value Village and just about any second hand store! Many even still have brand new items with store tags still on them! 

Is it safe to buy thrift store clothes?

Another YES. However you really need to wash the clothes before wearing. Also, follow my instructions at the end of this post for things that I DON’T buy at the thrift store for sanitary reasons.

Thrift Store Shopping Tips:

Know Your Colors – This is SUPER IMPORTANT! With racks upon racks of every color under the sun, mish mashed together with no rhyme or reason, it is a must to know what your colors are.

Example: If you are shopping for a sweater and there are hundreds of sweaters on the rack, you will need to go through each and every sweater that is on the rack to find that just right sweater. NO don’t do this..huge time waster!

Knowing your colors will keep you from sorting through each and every sweater. Then you can skim through the sweaters really fast and only look at the colors that you are specifically looking for. This will cut your time in half at least. You can still look at other colors of course, but keep your focus on the colors that are just right for YOU (or your kids)

If you are really lucky you will find a thrift store that keeps “like colors” together. The video below is about layering, but look at how many outfits she makes with these few pieces



The Art of Discovering Your TrueThe Art of Discovering Your True

Know Your Size and Shape – Another time waster. Most people know their sizes BUT do you know that different designers all fit a little different? Be sure you have an idea of what your size looks like and what your body type looks nice in…The fit of the legs, length, curve and body shape you have can make a BIG difference in the type of clothing you pick out.

You deserve to take a little time for yourself to learn what looks good on YOU!


&Make a list BEFORE you go – This may seem a bit of a no brainer but, it’s easy to overspend at a thrift store because the prices or so good.  Don’t buy clothing items that you don’t really need. Have a budget in mind

NYDJ Women’s Billie Mini Bootcut Jeans,

Know the Brands you are interested in finding – If you know what Brands you like the styles of..then besides the color this is another one of your biggest time savers!
It’s great to find other Brands that you might like, but like mentioned before..you could literally spend hours looking at every pair of pants/jeans and give up the search for a cute pair that you already know the brand you like.
For example I LOVE LOVE LOVE ~ Not Your Daughters Jeans (NYDJ) I will whip through a looong row of jeans/pants just to find that label! The days I find them…WHOOP JACKPOT! pssst. If I go too long not finding what I love…I’ll even buy these online because I love them so much 😉 (the advantage of knowing our style, size, shape and fit.)


You can ask for help – Maybe you didn’t know this..LOL but it’s perfectly ok to ask for help.  There are perfectly intelligent, competent people that work at Thrift Stores.  Can’t find something? Ask!

Learn the Thrift Store tags (color, numbers etc.) – When you go into one of the larger thrift stores, most of them have a color code or number code for a certain percentage off for that day.  Be sure you know it!  This can save you up to 50% off on already good bargains.

Ask the clerks what the sale cycle is – Many Thrift Stores have a little system which allows them to rotate their inventory.  Some are willing to share this system, others may not.  It’s definitely worth asking.  If you know the thrift store rotation..you can find amazing deals and plan ahead!

Shop early on sales days  – Don’t even think of going to major sales days in the middle of the day.  They are so packed it’s not worth the bargain.  Not at all (my opinion of course) Also don’t shop at the end of the day because inventory will be very picked over.  Go as soon as the store opens.  The early bird catches the worm!

Don’t settle for Shabby – Please don’t settle for Shabby.  There are too many beautiful and like new clothing items at thrift store to think you need to get something with stains on it or a rip.  If you don’t find something, come back another day.

Shop off Season – As with any store, thrift stores have bargain prices on items when they are off season.  (i.e.. buy Summer clothes in the Winter and Winter clothes in the Summer)

Check if your Thrift Store has Discount Coupons – Some discount stores have discount cards or coupons.  You can get in the day before the general public on big sales if you are a member!  Yay, no crowds!

Check to see if your Thrift Store has a Senior Discount – This one is new to us!  My husband is now a Senior!  Yay!

Try things on – It’s a pain to have to return things isn’t it?  Enough said.

Take things home and try on during BIG annual sales – If you have ever been to one of these big sales and turned around and walked out with nothing because the lines for the fitting rooms were just too long, consider buying and trying on at home.  If you know what you like, your sizes, your colors..etc.  Chances are that you may not have to bring anything back. But even if you do…it’s worth it, at the rock bottom prices you will be getting at these sales. 

Don’t get side tracked – There is a lot of great stuff in thrift stores so stay focused, unless of course you have whole day to spend there!

Be Brave! – Learn how to do a teeny tiny bit of mending and cleaning of small stains

5 easy Money Saving ways to restore thrift store clothing

Additional Thrifting Tips

  • Don’t buy Undies unless packaged and unopened..enough said.
  • Wash the clothing when you bring them home and are sure you are going to keep them.  Honestly I have never ever had a problem and have never ever heard of anyone having a problem, but…just in case.
  • Dress nicely when you go shopping at a Thrift Store.  There is absolutely no reason why you should feel or look as though you are “slumming it” just because you are choosing to shop wisely.

I hope you found some new tools for your tool chest today, to arm you with the best ways to have a Successful Clothes Shopping trip at a Thrift Store!


You may also enjoy ~  16 Fantastic Ways to Buy Thrift Store Christmas Gifts


If you are a Frugal Shopping Money Saving Fanatic like me, you may also like these posts:

50 Plus Guaranteed Ways to save $1000’s this Year!

Save Thousands This Year With These Creative Money Tips

Printable Planner 4 Sales Cycles  How to Choose a Food Coop

Easy Freezer Meal Ideas and Recipes

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  1. I work at a thrift store for a local non profit. just a few things. I’m sure each store is different but these are true for the stores I work in and many in our area. Many do not allow returns; so make sure you want it because it’s yours. also we put out items all day long every day, so no need to show up when they open necessarily. You need to take time many of our customers will come in 3 or more times a week. Wash before you wear them, I won’t go into all the reasons why but just know they are NOT clean. Also, never be afraid to negotiate a price especially on non clothing items.

    1. Absolutely great advice Stephanie! That is true, many thrift stores do not accept returns so you do need to be sure you know each stores return policy. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop and share with our readers! Have a blessed week!

      1. When I shop @ the no return stores I wear tank tops w’ a buttoned shirt & tights for easier trying on & no waiting for a dressing room,.. saving time & money.

        1. Yes I do this as well. It saves time and head ache. Heck helps where there are full dressing rooms too.

          1. I LOVE when they have dressing rooms Nadine! Sometimes I don’t have time to use them though…but when you know your style, colors etc…it doesn’t matter as much. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    2. I was going to post this also, but you said it perfectly. Yes, negotiate! Some stores will lower the price if something has a stain or rip that you know you can fix. This is great when shopping for vintage linens.

  2. I would add that you should plan to go when you have time to spare. Never think you can just breeze in and breeze out. You often won’t have time to find anything that way and you’ll leave feeling defeated. When visiting a thrift store, I always plan to have at least 30 minutes to shop. Also, thrift stores have great bargains on many things, not just clothing. I’ve found Fiesta Ware, Tupperware, small home appliances, bedding, etc. I love to thrift!

    1. I totally agree Kristen! Thrift Shopping definitely takes time! And boy oh boy you can find a TON of treasures for sure! I love that you have found Fiesta Ware! Thank you for your kind advice to our readers! Have a blessed day!

    1. Hi Jenny! Sizes are important aren’t they..otherwise a person would spend all day long at the thrift store..which isn’t a bad thing if you have the time! LOL Thank you so much for stopping by! Have a blessed week!

  3. Great advice! I mostly shop at thrift stores and love all the bargains you can get. Usually I find things that just need a little altering and they fit perfectly. Or I look for patterns and fabrics that I love and turn my thrifty treasures into something else – like blue jeans that I turn into pillows, baby bibs, purses etc. My favorite way to spend the weekend is hitting up the thrift stores and flea markets. 🙂

  4. These look like great tips to speed up the process for people who already shop at thrift stores. Personally, I don’t though. I have nothing against anyone who does, and I know you can find some great deals. But I’m so picky about fit–I’d rather just buy a couple pieces I LOVE than a few “eh” pieces that will do. I’ve just never found it worth my time…

  5. Hello 🙂 Great article and tips! I shop 2nd hand 90% of the time too! It is so much more rewarding than purchasing new (in fact, I don’t even go into malls anymore)! At the end of the day, when you tally your savings, it is very exciting 🙂

    Also, thank you for sharing on the Art of Home-Making Mondays this week!

  6. Great tips, Shari! I love bargain shopping, so I’ll definitely use your tips!

  7. As I was checking out your blog before I read your article I was noticing you had a lot of things I wanted to look at in more detail, then I saw the Coffee Drinks link on the side and I was sold! You are my kind of gal! Lots of kids <>, realistically frugal <>, loads of homemade foods <> Coffee lover <> Can’t wait to check you out 🙂 Blessings, Kyle

    1. Hi Kyle! So nice of you to stop by! It looks like we have lots in common! LOL Especially a good cup of coffee and lots of kids! Have a blessed weekend!

    1. Yes I love it when the organize by color Barb!! They don’t do it anymore where I go and it makes it more difficult to find things… hence this little guide LOL Have a great weekend! Blessings!

  8. I never thought about asking for a Seniors Discount. The problem is that I shop for my husband but he’s the Senior (clearly I am not one). Have you been able to buy clothes at a discount for him?

    Besos, Sarah
    Blogger at Journeys of The Zoo

    1. Hi there Sarah!! Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m afraid that they won’t let me buy for my husband or have a discount unless he is with me. 🙁 Wish they would..because it’s hard for me to get my husband to go too. However if I mention “discount” he’s more in than out! LOL Have a blessed weekend! 😀

    1. I rarely can shop at full price retail stores either! I’m so glad I’m not the only one! 😀 Great list of finds..it’s so much fun and so rewarding when you pay pennies as compared to full price! Thanks so much for stopping by and blessings to you!

  9. I love thrift store shopping (we call them charity shops over here!) Especially for the kiddos, I can’t believe the quality of the stuff people donate and it’s all in great condition. Saves me a fortune!

  10. I have never been thrift shopping but I have a friend who always looks awesome and she gets most of her clothes from thrift stores so maybe I should try it?

  11. Great tips on getting the most from thrifting. I especially like your tip on not settling for shabby. Congrats, you’re featured this week at Inspire Us Thursday on Organized 31!

  12. I love these suggestions,. I love thrift store shopping..the selections are awesome as apposed to department or mall shopping and you can’t get a better deal on kids clothing, they grow so fast. I find if i dont have the time i will go in for a specific thing ie..sweaters, work pants or an outfit. I only go to those that arrange by color, size, and type of clothing, and those that have fitting rooms and a return policy. We have many. I also suggest finding stores on the more afluent sides of town. Some have even switched from clipping a coupon to placing a coupon on there website and all you have to do is show them the website coupon on your smartphone.

  13. These are really good tips! I’m a thrift store shopper and they’re all great reminders of how to save money. Sharing on my Facebook page today!

    1. Hi Gail! I love thrift store shopping! Umm that’s why I’m sort of a pro 😉 LOL Have a great week and thanks for stopping by!

  14. Pingback: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up #4 - My Joy-Filled Life
  15. Awesome tips! I normally buy vintage items and home decor at my thrift, but really should check out the clothing sections!

    1. That’s awesome Pam! Yes you should check it out because there are brand new clothing items sitting and waiting for you to buy! LOL Just be careful because once you are hooked then it will be goodbye Malls! LOL Thanks for stopping by! Blessings!

  16. Just found this via Pinterest. As an avid thrift shop and flea market shopper I have to say great lis,t but I’d like to addd: If it is a little bit stained but you know for sure they are removable ones, try to haggle the price down. You are going to wash the piece anyway (at least I hope, I know I do). Stains I would never accept are stuff like “arm pit yellow”, but I managed to get a perfectly fine pair of pants for 2 instead of 3€ because it was slightly dirty and another because an easily replacable button was off. That said, I wouldn’t do that for every item, just for the really good ones.

    Alex – Funky Jungle

  17. I absolutely LOVE thrift shops! I seriously buy ALLLLL of my clothes from thrift shops! My best friend and I are the bomb dot com at finding clothes and books! I even got my older sisters into thrifting too! Why pay full price when you can save money and find just as good stuff somewhere! Most of the clothes that I buy even have original tags on them!! Thank you for this post! I LOVE it!!

    1. Hi Kaylie! Good for you!! I almost rarely go to a department store! 😀 I have a daughter who has 2 sons. She just started being a stay at home mom and thought she might “try” this thrift store thing. She’s hooked! LOL She’s from the corporate world and would never have bought from a thrift store before. Yep once you start…you can never go back! LOL Blessing to you and Merry Christmas!

  18. I would add to these tips; plan to take your time. Go thru the racks and don’t assume the size sections are correct. I often find my best pieces in an area not labeled for that size. Also, ask if they do returns. Goodwill does with receipts but not all other do. Take a damp washcloth with you. About half the things I find on clothes are surface blemishes that will wash off. Last, know your brands, no point in paying $8 for a pair of jeans that are $12 new at Walmart. Oh, thrift shops are also a great place to buy large size dresses in fancy fabrics for making pillows, covering a chair cushion, etc…

  19. I would like to add one thing…I try to always wear a tank top when I shop…there’s always something that I end up wanting to try on that just needs something underneath. If I forget to wear one, I’ll pull one off the rack and take into the fitting room with me 🙂 happy shopping!

  20. These are great ideas! If you are sewing savvy you can open up a whole new world when you thrift store shop. I alter hemlines, make dresses into skirts, and take things in a few sizes all the time.

  21. Knowing what size you usually wear doesn’t always help as there are no standardized sizes between brands. Always try clothing on or be prepared to give it to a friend if it doesn’t fit as many places don’t take returns, especially after big sales.
    Lots of Thrift stores are run by charities and have already priced their items at rock bottom so be prepared to get a flat turn-down if you try and negotiate for lower prices.

  22. These are great tips! It’s always best to have a game plan.
    Thank you for sharing this at Brag About It Link Party on VMG206.
    ~ Megin of VMG206

  23. Great advice… we have done very well shopping at thrift stores and appreciate the deals there. One note, though, is that none of the thrift stores we go to allow returns… something to keep in mind when buying…

  24. Almost all my clothes are from thrift and consignment stores. Same for my daughter. A list is an absolute must that I didn’t used to do. Now, I keep a list on my phone or on an index card in my wallet of what I, my husband, and my daughter need as well as sizes. Then if I’m randomly at a thrift store, I know what I need to look for.

    (visiting from the Work in Progress Wednesday link-up)

  25. It is my goal to never buy new clothes for myself ever again – thrift stores only with the exception of undies/bras and some shoes (need new runners because of foot issues). We’ll see how I do finding a mother of the bride dress for our eldest daughter’s wedding (first one). We also shop consignment for our teen girls and garage sales too. The thing I would add it to find out if the store has an email list or social media page where they advertise specials, A local thrift store here also lets you trade volunteer hours for their loyalty card points, which are like a gift card. FREE clothes. wooot

  26. I love thriftstoring and you are absolutely right! You do not have to dress like a frump because you are buying second hand.

  27. What great tips! I wish we had more than one thrift store in my area! I have to check back on a regular basis for good bargains. I find that going to “nicer neighborhoods” that have thrift stores in them are usually worth the drive as you generally get a higher quality of clothing and merchandise (a lot with the tags still on!)
    Thanks for sharing on From The Farm…this was chosen as one of the favorites this week! Hope to see you again this week!

  28. The biggest deterrent for me is the racks and racks of clothing – but we’re trying to budget and stick to it in 2016 so I might try this if I need something. I’m also trying to keep my wardrobe minimal so I don’t plan to shop much for myself. Thanks for the tips! Visiting from This is How We roll

  29. Hello Shari, I’m a huge fan of shopping, prefer to shop in my budget. So nice of you for sharing such impressive guide on clothes shopping from thrift store.

    Many times, I have bought from thrift store but hadn’t such ideas that could made me a successful. You are absolutely right on shopping from thrift store having these shopping guides. Most important thing shopping from thrift store is : getting good items at lowest price that makes me feel awesome. It helps to save money. We can get good outfits and accessories in our budget.

    I haven’t familiar with many guides which is described here. Glad to know these informative tip. This tip will really help me and everyone, who are interested to shop from thrift store. Love your tip #4 Know the brands you are interested in finding. I’m too. and #8 shop early on sales days.

    Thanks a lot.
    – Ravi. 🙂

    1. Hi Ravi, I’m so glad you stopped by and the guide has helped. Thrift store shopping IS such a super way to shop and can save a ton of money over the year. It’s definitely good to know the brands you like so that it narrows down the rows and rows of clothing and you can sift through them quickly. Thanks again for stopping by!

  30. Awesome guide! Getting started is always the difficult part, especially when going to a place like the thrift store, it can be a little intimidating but I find your article to be so helpful and absolutely useful! Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Hi Larissa! I’m so happy that you found this little guide helpful 🙂 I’m a bit of a pro when it comes to Thrift Store Shopping LOL Have a great day and thank you for stopping by!

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