How to shop at the Thriftstore like a pro

thrift shop

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Finding that vintage gem at the thrift store is really not all about being lucky. If you want to increase your chances of thrifting success, you want to approach it with a plan. You are on a mission here. There is a system that goes into thrifting like a pro.

I’ve been selling vintage for over ten years, and I’ve been in many thrift stores during that time. There are definitely a few tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way.

You don’t have to be a vintage dealer or reseller to shop second hand. You might just love a good bargain. Or you support the idea of sustainability, keeping things out of the landfill and reuse them. You want something different from the common high street. Maybe you are decorating your first home and are on a budget. There are many reasons to choose to shop at the thrift store.

How to shop at the thriftstore like a pro

Have a list.

Start by having somewhat of an idea of what you are looking for. Keep an open mind, you never know what you’ll find. But if you don’t have a plan of attack, it could get overwhelming. I call it my thrifting wish list. I have a list in my phone, and each time before I go inside, I will go over the list real quick so my focus is front and center.

When to thrift?

The short answer is to go as often as possible. The more you go, the more chances of finding that gem. Stock can change quickly at some locations. So you will most likely find ‘new‘ stuff on each visit.

I understand the reality of busy schedules, so if you can’t find the time to thrift a lot, be strategic and think about when people tend to donate. Weekends are often used to de-clutter and organize, and spring cleaning brings many boxes of donations to the thrift stores. Try to plan your visits around the peak donation times.

Bring your tools.

A few things you want to have before you dive into your thrift buying adventure.


You probably already have your phone with you. Just make sure is charged. You never know when it could come in handy to discreetly look up a brand name, or maybe the value of something.

Measuring tape.

When you are looking for something specific, like a night table or a rug, know the measurements of your space, and have a measuring tape ready.

Hand sanitizer.

Because sometimes, thrift stores, well, eww. Yuck. Sanitizer, please.


You might or might not need this depending on your eyesight. I must admit my eyes aren’t very good, so I carry a small magnifying glass on my key chain. Brand and date marks tend to be in very small print. And some damages can be small and easily overlooked.


Some items don’t seem like anything at first but give them a second look. What are the possibilities? Can that side table be painted? Can you mend that dress to make it fit better? Can you re-purpose those jars? A little imagination and creativity go a long way here.


Make sure you have enough time to completely browse the store. You might have to sift through a lot of No’s, but the better it feels when you uncover that YES treasure.
Thrift shopping like a pro

Have a system.

Once you are inside the store with your tools and plan of attack, it’s time to focus. Don’t get distracted by what’s ahead.

Pick your favorite section and start there. Go straight to the dresses if you’re a fashionista, or head to the kitchen items if you are a foodie.  Work your way down the isles. Go section by section. If you spot something that speaks to you, maybe a piece of childhood nostalgia, or something you have never seen before, put it in your basket quick! You don’t want another shopper to scoop it up while you are debating to buy it or not. For now, just put it in your basket.

What I like to do when I’ve seen the whole store, and if I have some time left, is to walk the store again. This time back to front, at a quicker pace. Just scan all the isles to be sure there’s nothing you missed the first round.

Before you check out, inspect your finds one more time. Do you really want it? Are there stains you hadn’t noticed before? When in doubt and it’s not too expensive, I say Get It! It probably won’t be there next time. My biggest thrifting regrets are the items I did not buy.

The great thing is you can always re-donate. Bringing something into the store is like donating some thrift karma for your next shopping session.

Don’t forget to look at the bottom shelves and those boxes in the back of the store. You might find that hidden gem that nobody else noticed.

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