7 Secrets of Expert Thrifters

My dear friends! This week I am taking a break from researching safe, natural makeup, and will be posting tips, tricks and secrets of the vintage and thrifting world as my way of participating with the TRAID #secondhandfirst week. The event is on from November 23 (today) until November 29, and I suggest you check out the TRAID website or peruse some of the looks using the hashtag #secondhandfirst on Instagram! I hope my posts will inspire some of you to take up thrifting as a hobby, since it’s such a great way to move toward sustainable living, and you can become expert thrifters – aka save money and score great fashion finds.

Thifting, consignment shopping, vintage shopping, or whatever you like to call it, is a trend that’s been picking up a lot of steam in the last few years, and thankfully so! I like to think all the hours I spent as a child scouring the Sally Ann for something cool were a well spent investment into my future as an avid thrifter…and I believe they were! I now consider myself pretty dangin good (dare I say an expert?) at finding steals and deals at vintage and thrift shops, and on figuring out which shops hold the best used goods for the best prices.

Here are some of my most helpful hints for you, so you can up your vintage shopping game. Enjoy!


1. Give yourself time. In many instances I have walked into a consignment or thrift store and BINGO, my perfect item is sitting right there waiting for me. However, sometimes you don’t find the perfect item on your first trip. Sometimes you need to visit another store or come back at another time, and that is TOTALLY OK! It’s all part of the fun – hunt around, try your best, celebrate when you score an awesome sweater for $6.

2. Don’t be afraid of a little DIY. I recently turned some frumpy $4 jeans into awesome fashionable distressed jeans. All I needed was a YouTube tutorial, 20 minutes and a little bit of elbow grease. They are now some of the comfiest jeans I own! I also once took a very awkward denim shirt and chopped the sleeves off – presto, a bas-ass sleeveless denim top that could easily be paired with anything.

3. Think outside the box. You may have to think a little outside the box if you’re going to be an expert thrifter. Try to be imaginative with colours, patterns, combos, and even what a garment could be with a few minutes of TLC. Thrift and consignment stores aren’t usually laid out like big-box shops with some outfits already assembled for your inspiration. When thrifting, you need to dig deep down and find your own inspiration – which can be so rewarding!


Women's Jumpsuits by People Tree

4. Keep your eye out for $5/bag deals. Many thrift shops host events where you can stuff a plastic bag for $5 – with anything you can fit in it. This was how I always scored big as a kid. We’d wait for the $5/bag events and just go nuts. Nothing like coming home with a bunch of fun new pieces that you literally paid  pennies for!

5. Don’t be afraid to ask. This goes back to #3 and thinking a little out-of-the-norm… because  thrift shops sometimes arrange their stuff in bizarre ways. Those distressed pants I talked about in #2? I found them in the men’s jeans section, even though they were clearly women’s jeans. Don’t ask me why, it’s just what happened. Don’t be afraid to ask if there are other sections that could potentially hold the item you’re looking for.

6. Know the market. “Vintage” and “consignment” stores generally hold different types of clothing and goods than “thrift” stores. If the shop markets itself as “vintage” or “consignment,” it probably sells higher quality, more expensive items. If it’s a “thrift” store, chances are good that prices are low and you’re going to have to do a little bit more hunting to find a high quality item. The reason for this is people who donate to thrift stores are saying goodbye to their items forever. People who donate to vintage and consignment stores often get a commission off their item, which means those stores will charge a bit more for each item. The benefit to you is that they generally get the best items (like brand name and designer pieces) that are typically like-new, yet they’re usually way cheaper than actually buying new.

7. Know the area. A vintage shop on Main street is going to have different stuff than a vintage shop in North Van, mainly due to the demographic of people living in that area – which affects the types of things that get donated. Try to imagine who lives in the area you’re planning to shop, and that can give you a hint as to what types of things you’ll find, and what prices you’ll find them at.

I hope you found this post helpful, and I’d love to hear your tricks and tips for finding great deals on second-hand items. If you’ve got any bright ideas, leave them in the comments below! Have a fabulous day, everyone!

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7 thoughts on “7 Secrets of Expert Thrifters

  1. Your post reminded me how much I miss the local shop that had $5 bag days though they used the larger paper bags. I once got a never worn cocktail dress with hand beading with a tag with an almost $200 price tag still attached I wore to masquerade balls as part of a $5 bag purchase. I find the linens sections of thrift stores are great places to shop for material to use for refashioning as well. Vintage curtains are great for decorating or even making a skirt.

    1. I love that you love thrifting! It’s honestly so rewarding when you find a great steal like that dress! I also once paid $10 for a clutch purse that was originally like $150!!
      Thanks for the comment!

  2. […] So I hope this helps you Vancouverites who read my blog to find a new shop to visit. If you’re not from Vancouver, I hope this inspires you to explore some thrift, vintage or consignment shops near you and see what they have to offer! It can and will be so rewarding, but if you feel you need some help with how to thrift shop, check out my post on 7 Tips To Become an Expert Thrifter. […]

  3. Another tip with thrifting is when you are looking for a specific item you will most likely have better luck at bigger thrift stores like Value Village or Salvation Army but usually you will pay a bit more too. If you are looking to just treasure hunt and aren’t looking for something in particular, check out smaller local charity shops which will be cheaper as well. 🙂 Some of my best finds have been at the smaller second hand shops!

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