How To Save Money Via Thrift Shopping

One of the easiest ways to save money on clothing is to go thrifting. But a barrier to shopping for used clothing for many is not knowing where to start. Enter our guide, which we hope helps you the next time you want to bump up your wardrobe on a budget. 

Define your Style
I’m a huge proponent of using Pinterest to distill my style. I regularly pin things I would wear and would look good on my petite frame. Reddit’s r/FemaleFashionAdvice forum is a great place for inspiration, as well as through Man Repeller and Racked. If you’re not into Pinterest, you can collect images you like through Instagram’s “save” feature or by just creating a folder of images you like on your computer or phone. 

Once you do this, you’ll likely see a pattern emerge. Based on my own Pinterest board, I can see that long tan coats, checkered skinny trousers, neutral sweaters layered over collared shirts and clogs are some of the key elements that define my style. These are things I would then keep an eye out for at thrift stores in person and online. 

Start Simple
On to the actual thrift. It may be simpler to start in upscale consignment stores, where designer duds are aplenty and prices are somewhat reasonable. These stores are easy to trawl because they are quite selective about what they bring in. If you’re not interested in shopping consignment in person, you can shop online at The RealReal. The site is incredible if you know what designers you’re looking for; they also run sales often, so keep your eyes peeled. Alana Massey wrote an awesome breakdown on her experience using The RealReal to thrift. 

Poshmark is one of my favorite places to thrift shop online because  I can access pricey brands that I love. The site has a comprehensive search tool, allowing you to hunt by size, brand, color and price range. I have a few searches saved on this site for brands like Sezane, Reformation, Madewell and Loup, among others. Once you dig in, be sure to avoid taking the items’ prices at face value. You can barter on Poshmark, just like you can on eBay. Most sellers are game to barter, which can sweeten the price tag for some of your favorite brands.

Dig Deeper
Beyond that, and perhaps more fun is shopping at a spot like Goodwill, Housing Works or Buffalo Exchange. To find these shops, ask a trusted friend. We all have our favorites (and I’m happy to share mine from Brooklyn or Pittsburgh). You can also look to Yelp for recommendations. There are usually comprehensive reviews of local thrift stores on the site that include tips on the best days to shop, and most have tag sales throughout the year. These sales are often used to clear out seasonal clothing. 

Sifting through these shops is much easier since I’ve sort of defined my style. It also keeps me from making silly buys like fluffy leopard coats or vintage polka dot dresses that I may love on the rack but will never wear in my real life. 

When starting to search for clothes, stick to colors, fabrics and patterns you know you’ll wear. Bonus points if the item is from a store like Ann Taylor or Theory - these brands are known for their workwear, which means they’ll fit in at the office well. That being said, brands are certainly not everything when it comes to thrifting. 

Bonus Tips
Be sure to scan different sizes and even venture into the children’s section to search for options. Older clothing and different brands often use a totally different method of sizing measurements, which means that you have more options when you visit a thrift store. That old adage, “size is nothing but a number” really applies when you thrift shop. With that, though, comes the need to try everything on before you buy it. 

Finally, it’s important to give whichever items you plan to buy a once-over before taking them to the register. Sometimes there may be a tiny stain or a rip, which is why these items were at the thrift store in the first place. Don’t forget to ask if the store has a student discount. Goodwill accepts student IDs for 15% on certain days of the week.