5 Thrift Store Shopping Secrets for the Savvy
Trust me when I say that it’s not you…
It’s the economy.
The numbers are in, and retail prices are rising a good bit higher than expected. And it’s not just a summer thing. This has been happening for a while. This means that you’ve been spending a lot more money on everything from shoes to furniture to bananas, and you’ve probably known this for quite a while now. Unfortunately, wages haven’t exactly been following suit; so, basically, life costs more, while the vast majority of us get paid the same.
However, that shouldn’t stop you from thinking outside ye old box, because there is a lifehack that can actually assist you in coming out ahead.
It’s time to get thrifty. Here’s the big reason why this works better in 2016 than it did in recent years.
The Science Behind the Thrift Store
Time Magazine did an article back in 2012, discussing the fact that thrift store shopping isn’t “just for penny-pinching grandmas anymore” (and if you are a penny-pinching grandma, then research shows that you’re one of the cutting-edge cool kids in the world of consumers). Why? Well, do you remember those wonderful days before 2008, when we weren’t all freaking out about the economy? In those days, we earned money and we bought things—lots and lots of brand spankin’ new things. But this is where things get interesting, according to the Times article I just mentioned…
“Shoppers today, it seems, are reaping the benefits of years of overconsumption. The donations delivered to thrift stores often come directly from the overstuffed closets of the rich, or at least people who once shopped like they were rich—and who barely wore the clothes before passing them on to the secondhand market.”
Which is why, according to USA Today, Goodwill alone saw $3 billion in total revenues on donated items in 2012, and from what we can tell, it’s not declining anytime soon.
So here are a few stellar ways to hop on this gravy train. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to get thrifty.
#5 – Fabrics
There’s an interesting stigma about thrift store shopping and fabrics. You see, most people are a little freaked out by purchasing fabric items, because they fear that the Salvation Army’s $20 retro-style couch may secrete many years-worth of icky substances from the cushions. This, however, is an irrationally-based fear. According to The Huffington Post, there are laws prohibiting the sale of fabrics without a good old fashioned washing/sterilizing …and because your local Goodwill doesn’t want to be forced out of business by the government anytime soon, they’re going to do their darndest to make sure that the couch they sell is clean as a whistle.
What does this mean for you?
Well, since most people are unaware of these laws, thrift stores still have a tough time selling such fabric items. Thus, a couch that could otherwise sell for $60 is now selling for $20, due to an irrational fear of cleanliness, meaning: you win.
#4 – Know What You Want (for a Strategic Approach)
If you’re not careful, thrift stores can actually cost you more in the long run, due to the same principle of how dollar stores work: because things are usually cheaper in a thrift store, psychology tells us you’re more likely to compulsively purchase items than you otherwise would have in, say, Wal-Mart. Sure, you might have purchased a Mario Bros dog bowl, a 1920s statue of a cupid, and a Polaroid camera from 1993…
But chances are, these very same items may likely end up being donated, and placed back into thrift store circulation within a year. That’s why, if you’re thrift shopping for utilitarian-type cost-savings purposes, it’s best to go in with a strategy. Know exactly what you want, and know what to look for:
- Watch for noteworthy product labels
- Determine the year of manufacture
- Be well-versed in the items you seek
- Be able to spot those items with ease
- Bring along a flashlight (since the bottom shelf is often not well-lit)
#3 – Keep Away From Electronics
It’s one thing if you’re just thrift shopping for kicks, but since we’re purchasing items that we specifically need (instead of heading to a corporate retail franchise), then value is something that we should be taking seriously in this scenario.
For that reason, it’s best to stay away from purchasing electronics at thrift stores, and here’s why: electronics depreciate VERY fast. Essentially, electronic items, like cameras and laptops are almost always overpriced at thrift stores for the simple fact that these items can go from $800 (retail) to $7 (resale) in value over the course of 5 years. If you’re looking at a computer in a thrift store for $50, then chances are, you could probably purchase the exact same thing on Craigslist for $10.
Unless you are particularly savvy when it comes to electronics, it’s best to wait a year and purchase the new game console online.
#2 – Time Your Thrifty Shopping Sprees
One of THE biggest influencing factors on thrift stores is timing, because there are natural ebbs and flows that can occur with such a short supply chain. To explain, here’s what happens: items get donated all week long, however, these items must get sorted out, priced, cleaned, and placed on the shelf when space opens up in the showroom …and this work is done by volunteers in most cases. So, if you want a showroom that runneth over with fresh items, then you’ll have to time your thrift shopping, based on these ebbs and flows of volunteers and donors (rather than on the items themselves).
- Seasonal – For instance, if you’re looking to do some Christmas shopping, then it’s best wait until super late in the season and in the few days after the holidays. After people purchase new items from retail stores, they tend to donate the items that are about to be replaced. Additionally, many people enjoy doing volunteer work during the holidays, meaning that items are flowing rapidly into the showrooms around those times.
- Sunday – Speaking of volunteers, most of us are busy from Monday to Friday and we tend to prefer a good rest on Sunday. This means, Saturdays are when most of the work gets done in thrift stores and most housecleaning donations are dropped off. If you give a day for the thrifty dust to settle, then that brings us to Sunday morning/afternoon to pick the best items.
#1 – Location, location, location
People donate items to the nearest possible thrift store, which means that location matters greatly. Not only that, but it’s actually fairly easy to think there’s only 1 thrift store in the area, when actually, there are 4. For this reason, your best bet for getting the most out of thrift shopping is to know exactly where you’re shopping.
- Mapping via the Web – These days, everything is on the web and, chances are, if they’re not on the web, then you’re probably not going to have much luck finding the treasures you seek. Mapping out your thrift shopping adventures is the best way to take advantage of timing, since you probably can’t be in multiple places at once. If you’ve got a Sunday morning on your hands, then you’re going to want to hit the best stores first.
- Neighborhood Conscious – How do you determine a good thrift store when you see one? Well, you might not actually need to even see it. All you really need to do is determine the income level of its neighborhood. Wealthy people donate some really great finds, so don’t be afraid to stop by the ritzy side of town to get thrifty.
Grandma Knows Best
Time’s article really nailed it on the head with this one, because it turns out that grandma really does know best when it comes to getting some great deals at the thrift store…
After all, it’s not like they’ve been doing this for several decades now, right? Which is why, for a bonus tip, one of the best things you can do is spend some time thrift shopping with the elderly loved ones in your life. Trust me, they’ll know what to look for, because experience is always the best teacher. And if you are an elderly shopper, then offer to take those youngins to thrift school, because they could learn a thing or two these days.
So get out there, people, and get thrifty.