Thrift stores can provide many essentials at a great price—clothing, shoes, furniture, and kitchenware. But finding the gems amongst the junk takes a bit of work. Don’t just wander into a thrift store on a whim. You need a strategic plan to maximize your bargain hunting.
The Thrift Store Schedule
Most people drop off their donations over the weekend. Staff and volunteers then sort and price everything, with items hitting the shelves by Monday or Tuesday.
Call the thrift stores in your area to confirm their restocking schedule. Jot down the details and plan on shopping on those days to get early access to newly-stocked items.
Additionally, many thrift stores have specific days of the week where they mark down all their stock—sometimes as much as 50% off. Even though you might not always find high-quality items on sale days, you’ll still score some bargains.
Days to Avoid
Going to a thrift store on the weekend is like battling Black Friday mayhem. The aisles are packed, the staff isn’t available to help, and most of the bargains have been claimed. Also, all those items people are dropping off on the weekends won’t get processed during the weekend.
Friday is just as bad. It’s the end of the week and before the weekend donations start rolling in. You’ll likely find the stained pillows and chipped plates nobody else wanted.
Also, avoid thrift stores during Halloween season. It’s chaos as everyone fights over the remaining nurse costume or that immaculate black cape. Consider doing your Halloween shopping in September, before the crowds swarm in.
Time Matters, Too
Early in the morning is ideal, when the doors first open. Compare it to bargain hunting at garage sales; are you going to saunter down there at noon? What will be left? Probably a broken toaster, a torn romance novel, and some old slippers. The hawks who descend on garage sales get there at 7:30 am, with wads of cash, ready to scoop up deals. The same holds for thrift stores.
This needs to be your mentality for thrift store shopping. Don’t expect to stumble on amazing finds late in the afternoon. Plan, plan, plan. And that means being an early bird.
Become Friends with the Staff
Introduce yourself, show your face often, and let them know what’s on your radar. Often thrift store staff and volunteers have periods of downtime and can give you a quick call or send you a text if they see something of interest. They’re a great ally to have if you’re determined to become a savvy thrift store shopper.
Consider shopping for clothes during the offseason. Go in the summer to stock up on winter coats and bulky sweaters, for example. These items will be marked down to ridiculous prices.
Spring cleaning usually happens in April and May, with people hauling carloads of unwanted belongings to the thrift store. Seize this opportunity and hit the thrift store circuit, stopping in at least twice per week.
The week after Christmas often has some good finds, too, with people donating unwanted gifts.
Shopping for Kids
Kids grow fast, and it’s tough keeping up with their changing needs. If shoes go on sale, buy the next three sizes. You want to act fast on a bargain before someone else does. Storing extra gear in your closet is easy. Keep in mind that a lot of people donate kids’ items at the end of summer, to make room for school shopping.
Hopefully, these tips will transform you from a novice thrift store shopper to an expert who’s ready to hunt down deal after deal. Remember, get up early and hit those stores this Monday or Tuesday. Those bargains are just waiting for you to claim them.