When to Thrift: Chic on the Cheap

Frugal Hound Loves to Thrift

Frugal Hound Loves to Thrift

I got my winter coat out of the trash. More on that here. But seriously, frugalizing your wardrobe is a stellar way to save dough.

 Think about it:

  • Clothes meander in and out of style

    Frugal Hound Shows off her Thrift Store Boots

    Frugal Hound shows off my thrift store cowgirl boots!

  • Your size may fluctuate (it happens to all of us!)

  • Most importantly, clothes depreciate immediately!

Clothes and shoes are not, I repeat NOT, investments. They do not appreciate in value and you cannot (except in rare instances) sell them for a ton of money in the future. Clothes are immediately worth less than you bought them for, just by virtue of no longer being brand new. But, fear not, this is great news if you’re in the market for used clothes!

Thrifting is both art and science. Over the years,Mr. Frugalwoods and I have honed our knack for finding excellent deals on sweet threads.

Here’s the Frugalwoods Table of Thrifting Elements:

  • Scout thrift and consignment stores in pricey zip codes.

    • Wealthy people have the nicest clothes and they discard them at a rapid rate.

    • My fave thrift spot is in a wealthy Boston suburb where, I swear to you, people drop off clothes immediately after buying them.

    • My best finds here: a brand new (tags still on) Banana Republic raincoat for $30, a J Crew bridesmaids dress (worn once I think) for $20, a barely-worn BCBG shift dress for $25, and a bunch of other fancy stuffs!

  • Do NOT fall victim to brand names!

    • I know I just threw out a bunch of brand names, whoops, but heed this: Just because it is at a resale shop doesn’t mean it’s a good deal!

    • My aforementioned fave shop has a “designer” section with “designer” items, which are totally overpriced. I do not care if it’s an Oscar de La Hee Haw, it’s still $100, which is way, way, way too much to pay for a depreciating item.

  • Set price limits ahead of time.

    • Don’t get thrift store blinders–not all things are a deal. A t-shirt for $30 is probably not a value, so don’t impulse buy.

  • Don’t be afraid to haggle!
    • If an item has an imperfection–like a hole, stain, or missing belt (my personal fave)–don’t shy away from asking for a discount. Most resale shops want to turn over their inventory pretty quickly and won’t be fazed by offering you 10-20% off. Hey, it never hurts to ask.
  • Know when to buy new.

    • This always happens to me with jeans. I don’t know why, but my thrift stores price their jeans too high. I know I can get them for about $30 new at Kohl’s and so I do.

      Frugal Hound checks out the latest thrift store finds

      Frugal Hound checks out the latest thrift store finds

  • Be creative and don’t limit your search!

    • I often try on everything in my size that’s a reasonable price that I might like. It’s hard to analyze stuff on the rack when it’s smashed and crumpled. So, give yourself the time to try things on and figure out where the deals are.

    • Don’t be overwhelmed by the layout and disorder of a thrift store. Most shops categorize by size, so, only look at the racks of your size.

  • Don’t specific-shop.

    • Don’t go into a thrift store with a super specialized goal in mind. As in, I need a knee-length red dress with a llama print on it. You’re not going to find it. Keep an open mind and buy out of season–you know, sweaters in the summertime.

  • Plan ahead.

    • If you know you’re going to need a dress for the Star Wars-themed wedding at a fairgrounds you’re attending in 6 months, start looking now.

    • You’ll maximize your chances of running across it over several months rather than scrambling at the last minute.

  • Don’t binge shop.

    • Just ‘cause its cheap don’t mean you need it! Only buy what you actually need and are going to wear. It kind of defeats the purpose of thrifting if you buy a ton of stuff you don’t need.

  • Have fun!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods and I find thrifting much more enjoyable than shopping new. We tease each other with bizarre finds and are in and out much faster than a conventional store. The liberating thing about thrifting is that there’s only one size and color of everything–they either have it or they don’t!

Are you a thrift store maven? What are your tips and tricks?

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26 Responses

  1. Tarynkay says:

    That is weird about jeans at your thrift store. They are $4 a pair at mine, which definitely beats buying brand new.

    My biggest tip is figure out where the rich people donate clothes. For women’s clothing, domestic violence thrift stores are a great bet. Rich ladies LOVE domestic violence charities. When we lived in Los Angeles, there was a chain of thrift stores called Out of the Closet which benefited HIV/AIDS charities. They had the best practically brand new designer men’s clothing.

    Since we moved across the country, we haven’t been able to find used men’s clothing so easily. It seems like around here, men are more inclined to wear stuff till it falls apart. My husband is 6’5″, so it is just hard to find clothes that fit him in the first place.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Wealthy areas definitely have the best thrift stores! We don’t find as much used men’s clothing as women’s either. I think you’re right that men are more likely to wear it ’til it falls apart! Mr. FW is 6’3″ and we have plenty of trouble finding clothes for him–I can’t imagine how difficult 6’5″ must be! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing!

  2. MEL810 says:

    Rich ladies also love cancer and hospital charities! Also scout rummage sales at churches in fancy zipcodes !
    My only problem with the rich ladies shops is most of them seem to be a size 0 or less and I ain’t! I have lost weight and look decent but I still am not as skinny as those social x-rays types.

  3. ShortStuff says:

    I stumbled across your blog via a blogger’s guest-post on a UK FIRE blog, who then linked me to your lunch recipe. I was thrilled to see the Frugalwoods family is in Mass, as we are too! I hope I can put your tips into practice locally.
    Husband and I have really increased our cooking from home this year, but I’d like to extend the cost savings to other areas, like clothing. I have never bought clothes from a thrift store, but I will try to visit one this month. I work in Boston so there should be a few nearby. Is there a thrift shop locator site you know of?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      So glad you found us, thanks for reading :)! And, congrats on your frugal journey! I don’t know of a thrift store locator site, but that would be pretty awesome. My favorite stores are Revolve in Belmont, Buffalo Exchange in Davis Square, and then of course, Goodwill! If you just search for “thrift” or “consignment” stores in google maps, you should have nearby results pop up. I wish you all the very best in your thrifting adventures!

  4. thea says:

    consider borrowing things from a friend with similar taste- a respectable raincoat for a trip, costume jewelry for an occasion- and take good care of all items!

  5. Mrs. Cheapheart says:

    A great Mr. Cheapheart trick for getting super high-end clothing on the cheap is to know your size in your favorite fancy brand (go into the fancy store and try it on, but don’t buy it), then search for what you want on eBay. Men’s shirts and ties are a dime a dozen there.

  6. Katie says:

    GREAT list!! A friend and I host “Thrift Night Out” events with groups of girlfriends and we share similar tips to teach them how to thrift. I totally agree with you on shopping off season and searching early for random things you might need. My kids finally nailed down what they want to be for Halloween so I’ve started that process… I scored some $2 overalls just the other day at Goodwill for my son’s Minion costume! One of my other favorite tips is to always check the rack right outside the fitting room. Usually the people who came before you that day found some good gems that didn’t fit, so they’ll be hanging right there for the taking!!

  7. J says:

    Oscar de la Hee Haw… lol!!! Great post!

  8. Amanda says:

    One of my favorite things about thrifting are taking advantage of regular sale days. Goodwills in my area (and I think everywhere) do 50% off everything sales on the first saturday of every month. They also do a special twice a week where clothes are 99 cents! If you keep your eye out, there are even further wonderful sales to find on already inexpensive items 🙂

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