Thrifting can be overwhelming at first, especially if you are used to shopping at mall retailers. Every thrift store is different, some stores arrange clothing by size, others arrange clothing by color, and not all thrift stores have fitting rooms. You have to be open minded while thrifting and understand that you might be heading home empty handed. And that’s OK! Below are some pro tips to thrift shopping if you are just starting out.
ITEMS YOU SHOULD BUY NEW V. USED
Though you can find anything and everything at the thrift store, there are some things that are better left behind. I have found that certain items I buy from thrift stores don’t tend to last as long as when I buy them new. On top of that, there are just some things that I still find too gross to buy second-hand… like underwear.
There are only a couple of items that thrift stores sell that I have deemed “too gross to buy.” They are as follows:
•Shoes with fur linings
•And maybe sneakers… depending on the store
But that’s pretty much it. Otherwise, I always feel comfortable wearing thrifted items after I wash them.What about shoes that you dont wear socks with? Bought it, wore it, no foot fungus. What about bathing suits? Bought it, washed it, wore it, still alive. Bras, lingerie? Same. Long story short, most items are totally fine! Of course, you should still inspect all of your clothes and shoes before you try them on or buy them. Just keep in mind that you are buying previously owned clothes, and people typically keep themselves and their clothes clean.
There are also items I recommend buying new because they are typically better quality or will last longer if you buy them from the mall:
•The pair of shoes that you wear everyday
•Business wear (i.e. blazers and pants that should fit you a certain way)
It depends on the shoes you buy from the thrift store, but I can’t tell you how many times I have been walking around in the cutest pair of sandals and suddenly the sole falls off. The problem is usually that the sole is glued to the shoe and, depending on how long those shoes have been sitting in the thrift store, the glue loses it’s stick.
I go back and forth all the time on my advice about thrifting shoes. One night my shoes will break and I will promise myself never to buy shoes from the thrift store again. But one day I’ll wear my favorite pair of shoes to class, which I thrifted and have held up great, and the next day I’ll find myself in the shoe section of a thrift store. In summary, it’s really hit or miss. I’m not going to tell you to buy all of your shoes from the thrift store, but I’m also not going to stop you if you want to.
For the shoes that you are wearing almost every day, I recommend buying shoes from a retailer that is known for their shoes. Like Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Vans, Converse, Merrel, and the list goes on.
Finally, business wear. I highly encourage you to explore your local thrift store for business clothes, but I have found that it’s typically hard to find items that fit you just right. For these items I also recommend visiting a retailer where you can try on various sizes of the same item. This will ensure you are buying items that are comfortable and fit you right.
You might also consider buying business wear from the thrift store and having items altered to fit you correctly. In some cases, this might be cheaper than shopping at a mall retailer.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE THRIFT STORE
The thrift store experience can be exciting and thrilling up until you are in line to check out and discover that there is a $10 minimum for credit/debit cards and you are out of cash. I don’t know how many times this has happened to me. This problem is totally avoidable by carrying cash and it’ll usually save you $8 that you can spend elsewhere.
1. Research before you go – Being successful depends on what you want from your thrift shopping experience. Are you looking for the cheapest deals? Are you hoping to find a specific item quickly and leave? Are you looking for a hunt? The first thing you should always do before heading to a thrift store is research. Find out the hours of the store. If you’re planning to shop an hour before closing, don’t expect to try things on; many thrift stores close their fitting rooms an hour early. Read the reviews; I have found that thrift store reviews are usually very accurate and they can give you insight on the pricing and quality of the items sold.
2. Bring cash– some stores have a minimum dollar amount for card purchases, bringing cash definitely saves you time and money!
3. Wear clothes over which you can try stuff on – many thrift stores have fitting rooms, but some don’t. Unless you know the store you are about to enter has a fitting room, wear clothes that over which you can try on tops and pants. I have bought items without trying them on because there were no fitting rooms and although it’s not a huge expense, it does suck to get home and discover that those pants just don’t quite fit. It helps to find a quieter isle or a mirror so that you can try on items in less of an awkward rush. The same thing goes for trying on shoes; wear shoes that are easy to take on and off and wear thin socks to make trying on shoes much easier.
4. Wear clothes you can throw in the wash – some thrift stores are dirty, and every once in a while I pick up an item that was washed with the most pungently sweet laundry detergent. Basically, you might not leave feeling as clean and fresh as when you walked into the store, so I suggest wearing clothes you can throw in the laundry after your shopping trip.
5. Bring a friend – I usually go with a friend for two very important reasons. The first is that if you are travelling to a new thrift store (or anywhere new, in general), you don’t know what kind of area you might be in or what situation may present itself. I get approached every once in a while in the parking lot, but usually someone just wants a couple coins for the bus. In case you want some reassurance, I have never felt unsafe while browsing items inside the store. The second reason you should bring a friend is that your friend can give you amazing advice that can save you $5. If you are on the fence about a dress, having a friend there to convince you to spend that $5 or put it back on the clothing rack is really awesome!
6. Inspect clothes closely before you try them on – Remember that you are browsing used items, and though most items look as good as new, some items actually looks used. Stains or rips that aren’t noticeable at first glance, often rear their ugly heads in the fitting room, so I suggest inspecting seams for rips and patterned items for subtle stains, before you get to this phase of your shopping trip.
7. Keep an eye on the line – There have been plenty of times where I walk into a thrift store and there is no one in line, but by the time I’m done searching for and trying clothes on, the check-out line is 30 minute wait. When this happens I usually have to abandon my collection because I don’t have enough time to wait in line. If you see the line is starting to get long, grab your definite purchases and be proud of what you found!
8. Ditch the plastic bag – when you pay for your clothes, ask the cashier not to put your clothes in a bag. Chances are you can carry these items from the store to your car and then from your car into your home. By doing this you are avoiding the unruly accumulation of plastic bags in your home and you are reducing your footprint on the environment!
Donating the clothes you don’t want anymore is what keeps the cycle going! Most thrift stores have a donation area, which is super convenient because it allows you to part with the old and buy new in the same place! What about clothes that are in too poor condition to wear? Some thrift stores may take these items anyway and recycle them for you. Otherwise, there are textile recycling bins in San Antonio where you can bring your unwearable clothes and they will be recycled into something new!
As far as recycling your old clothes goes, you typically have three options depending on the quality of your items:
1. Sell your good-as-new clothes at a resale shop like Buffalo Exchange or Plato’s Closet.
2.Unfortunately, the Buffalo Outlet on Olmos here in San Antonio doesn’t have an exchange program, but there is a Plato’s Closet and an Uptown Cheapskate in San Antonio that will buy the trendy items in your closet that you no longer want.
3. Donate your gently worn clothes to a thrift store.
4.There are many thrift stores in San Antonio that will gladly accept donations. Most thrift stores will also take shoes, jewelry, household items, and furniture on top of your clothing items. Here is a list (that doesn’t even scratch the surface) of thrift stores and their donation drop-off locations in San Antonio:
Of course, Goodwill: 406 W. Commerce, 1533 Austin Hwy, 3401 Fredericksburg Rd, 2514 SW Military, 2902 Goliad Rd
Salvation Army: 2711 West Avenue, 301 Sw Military, 8741 Grissom Rd
Texas Thrift: 6776 Ingram Rd, 4114 W Commerce St, 7500 Suite 104 I-35, 6708 S Flores St
Thrift City: 6804 Huebner Rd
Thrift Town: 2864 Thousand Oaks
RMYA (Roy Maas Youth Alternatives) Thrift Shop: 3103 West Ave
Boysville Thrift Shop: 307 W. Olmos Dr.
I do recommend that you look up the hours of these locations online or give them a call as a few have donation hours that differ from their store hours.
5. Recycle your rags by dropping them off at a textile recycle bin in your area.
6.I was surprised too, when I discovered that there is, in fact, a place that will recycle your old clothes and shoes. The ATRS (American Textile Recycling Service) will accept used clothes, shoes, and other household textiles. What’s great about this is that you can drop off items in various conditions and they will sort through them to decide where they go next. Items that are still in good condition are sent to second-hand stores, items in worse condition become stuffing or upholstery, while other items become wiping rags. Additionally, a few types of donated items, like blankets and warm wear, are used for disaster relief.
A few of the ATRS bins in San Antonio are located at: 2926 N St. Mary’s, 102 E Josephine, and 3500 Broadway
You can find the locations of other drop-off bins by contacting ATRS.
Of course, there are more fun ways to recycle clothing, like swapping with your friends or altering items so that they last a bit longer (i.e. turning your jeans into shorts – make sure you send those unusable pant legs to an ATRS bin!). However you like to recycle your clothes, the point I cannot stress enough is that they never need to go in teh trash. Whether the condition is “like new” or “like ew” your clothes are definitely recyclable!