Growing up I hated going to yard sales and second hand shops with my mom. And there was no way she was dragging me to an auction! I was like, could we just buy it new?! Painting a swell picture of my pre-teen sweet disposition, amiright? Fast forward to college and rooming with my BFF, Mel and my view on thrifting started to change. This may have had to do with our useable funds available (read: we were broke). We followed our mothers’ advice to hit up the stores and do a little digging to furnish our apartment. Side note, Mel’s mom is thee very very best thrifter I have ever met. Her house is so impeccably furnished and I guarantee if you ask where she got an item, it will be, “Goodwill. For a dollar.” People line up for her annual garage sales.
After a few rounds of shopping, we quickly realized we were the worst at second hand shops. Unlike Mel’s sister, Karlie who could run in and find like 18 things (always clothes and accessories!) and look so chic. We resigned ourselves that some people have an eye for finding treasures and we were not those people.
I’m here to tell you people, you can get better at thrifting! It is actually a skill. The more you go, the more you know. Here’s what’s helped me hone my eye and pick up some steals among the um, less desirable items?
– Go early and often (weekdays are best). The inventory rolls over very quickly in thrift and consignment shops. If you’re on the hunt for something specific you are more than likely going to have to go to a lot of shops, a lot of times. The professionals (antique dealers/resale shops) all go during the week so the weekends might be a bit picked over but it’s still worth it to check, just get there early (like doors opening early) for the best selection. My favorite shop in Santa Monica was on my walk home from work. I would stop in probably twice a week for a quick browse. This holds true for garage sales too. Go early for the best selection but stopping by towards the end of the sale will get you a better price if the item is still there.
– Take a list. I have a running list on my phone of things I would like to find second hand. I use the app Cozi but a simple notes page on your phone would definitely work.
If you’re looking for furniture, remember to keep some rough measurements for the space you’d like to fill because if your new purchase doesn’t fit in your house, you’re still stuck with it. Most shops have a no returns policy or a very strict one. The main reason I like to keep a list is to help me mentally weed out all of the other junk on the shelves. I know what I’m looking for, I can quickly scan the shelves and move on. It keeps my trips short and efficient, I can now scan a shop in about 10 minutes. It also keeps me from falling into the trap of buying things off list just because it is inexpensive. I’m trying to be intentional with what I’m bringing home, not just more decorative filler items.
– Know what you’re willing to pay. Based on my list above, I know what I’m roughly willing to pay for each item. For example, I almost never pay over $8 for silver plated items (mint julep cups/bowls/trophys). This is because I just enjoy collecting these pieces and don’t necessarily need another one right now. I can wait for the next item to come along in my price point. If you don’t have luxury of time or collecting do some research and know a fair price. That being said, almost all shops are willing to negotiate on price. If you’ve done your research, you know what’s fair but can always ask, is this the best you can do? What if I pay cash? Goodwill and Salvation Army have weekly sales too. I bought all of my items this weekend for 40% off because it was before noon.
– Have a game plan. This might just be my OCD tendecies showing their crazy but with any shop I go to I hit the furniture first, then the small housewares and then linens/pillows. I’m almost never shopping for clothes. Not because I don’t think you can find awesome deals, you can! But finding house stuff is more thrilling to me than clothes. I do love an online consignment clothing shop though (obviously).
Those are the ways that I’ve become a little bit better of a thrifter over the years. Patience is the number one thing to have while shopping second hand. The perfect thing is out there, you might just have to wait a bit for it to find you. Enjoy the hunt! Do you have any tips that I missed? What is your very best thrift score?