Use These Expert Thrifting Tips to Find the Best Buys

There are amazing finds out there at second-hand shops and thrift stores, but like any type of bargain-hunting, there are tricks of the trade to snag the best items.

Whether you’re in the market for household items, furniture, clothing, coats or shoes, thrifting can save you money and yield great finds. We’ve reached out to three shopping experts for tips to boost your thrifting experience.

Plan Your Visit to a Thrift Store

Use these strategies to make a plan before you get to the store. Then, stick to it when you arrive to avoid overspending.

Give yourself time to browse. A thrift store visit may last for two or more hours, depending on the size of the store and how thorough you want to be. “Within that time, the staff is constantly putting out new items,” Alyssa Evans, owner of Elocin Boutique in Atlanta and a Poshmark top seller, says.

Carefully examine the merchandise. Look through each rack within the section, as merchandise may not be labeled correctly. “For example, if you’re shopping for a top in a size medium, still look through all the tops in every size section,” Evans says . “Thrift stores are becoming more organized, which is great, but gems can be put in the wrong section so you may miss out if you don’t hunt.”

Learn about special-incentive shopping days. Some thrift stores have certain days where they offer discounts, like 99-cents deals on Mondays or 50% off certain color-tagged items, Evans says. Get to know the deal days at your favorite retailers so you’re in a better position to make the most of your purchases.

“To fully take advantage of these discounts, show up to the thrift store as early as you can,” she says. “If there’s a discount on blue-tagged items that starts on Sunday and ends the following Saturday, show up on Sunday when it starts, because the likelihood that you’ll find items you like by Wednesday or even Monday is significantly lower.”

Also, typically, thrift stores put discounts on items that have been sitting longer than the others, so they are very unlikely to add items to the sale after the first day it begins, she adds. “Once the good stuff is gone, it’s gone, so act quickly.”

[Related:Do You Have Money Hanging in Your Closet? Clothes with the Best Resale Value]

Know your desired brands. Doing research on brands before you arrive at a store is your best bet for finding the best items. “Sometimes the most expensive brands may not look expensive at all, especially so those items could be hidden in plain sight,” Evans says.

If you don’t know the brand, take extra time to examine the garment as it may be a high-profile brand. “Feel for quality, look at the stitching, material and hardware to recognize quality and higher value items,” Evans adds. “Look at the material tag to see if it’s 100% cotton, wool, silk, leather or cashmere.”

[READ: Best Buy and Sell Apps for Used Stuff.]

Try Thrifting Online

Less traditional than looking through in-person thrift shops, Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings expert in Bakersfield, California, suggests searching for second-hand gems online.

“There’s a number of online resellers that make thrifting easier to access since you can search for the brands and items you are looking for by simply typing in the term or name in the search field or choosing a category from a menu such as women’s clothing, accessories, girl’s clothing and more,” Woroch says.

Sites to visit include ThredUp, Poshmark, Swap, The Swoondle Society for kids clothing and TheRealReal for high-end designer fashion and handbags, Woroch adds.

[READ: Best Online Outlet Stores That Save You Money.]

Raise your online savings even more. Elevate your online thrifting experience by searching for coupon codes to save even more money on thrift items via deal aggregators like CouponCabin. “The site will even give you cash back for your thrifted purchases,” Woroch says. For example, you can get a code for 25% off and 4% cash back at ThredUp, 30% to 40% off at Swap and 20% off with 2.5% cash back at TheRealReal.

Another tip is to utilize a browser tool like Beni, which finds thrift items for you by hunting down the same or similar clothing styles at partner resale sites when you’re looking at brand-new items online.

Use your profits for shopping credit. To boost your thrifting budget, Woroch suggests selling your own items for credit toward purchases at the thrift stores and sites you want to shop.

“Often, you get more for your sale when you apply it as credit towards future purchases rather than cashing out directly with the store,” she says. And remember, don’t limit thrifting to just clothing — you can find just about anything you need secondhand including sporting goods, memorabilia, home goods and decor, she adds.

Try a smaller store. Trae Bodge, shopping expert at TrueTrae, said if you’re new to thrifting, start with smaller boutiques and consignment stores.

“The selection will be carefully curated and more approachable for a newbie,” Bodge says. “The owners and staff have done the work for you, and in many cases, it won’t feel much different than shopping in a traditional boutique except the merchandise will be more one-of-a-kind.”

Move on to a larger thrift retailer. Once you’ve mastered smaller stores, go big, Bodge says. Stores like Goodwill and the The Salvation Army USA are treasure troves and the prices are “significantly lower than smaller shops,” she says.

Review your expenses and set a budget. Even though you can snag great deals on thrift store finds, experts remind shoppers that overspending isn’t a great habit, so stick to a budget.

“Doing this allows you to see how much you can afford to spend on clothing to avoid debt and reach other financial goals such as saving up to buy house or start a business or simply save for retirement or college for your kids,” Woroch says. “When you realize how much more you can get when buying secondhand to fit in your spending limit, it will help guide better buying decisions.”

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Use These Expert Thrifting Tips to Find the Best Buys originally appeared on

Update 06/03/24: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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