Thrift store shopping is a wonderful way to get a bargain, while helping out a good cause. It's also good for the environment, as unwanted clothes get a second life rather than being discarded. You do have to be cautious though, as it's tempting to buy items just because they're cheap - and end up with a wardrobe full of 'bargains' you don't wear. So how do you get the best bargains and avoid making mistakes? Here are some ways to get the most out of shopping in thrift stores …
1. Call in Regularly
Since everything in thrift stores is a one-off, you should keep calling in to see what's new on the rails. To improve your chances of finding a fabulous garment, find out the day the store puts out new stock, so that you can browse before your fellow bargain-hunters get there. And call in as often as you can, so you don't miss out!
2. Think Creatively
Don't just buy pieces to wear as they are; if you have a sewing machine you can adapt and alter garments. Be creative and look for pieces that you can adapt. Could you make a dress into a skirt or a cushion? Sheets can be cut up to make a summer skirt, and the sleeves can be cut off a top. Look beyond the obvious and you'll pick up all kids of treasures that you might at first have dismissed.
3. Be Selective
The problem with thrift stores is that you tend to pick something up because it's a bargain - but it's money wasted if you get it home and decide you don't really like it after all. Be selective about what you buy; just because it's cheap doesn't mean that it's right for you. There's no point filling up closet space with things you're not going to wear much, if at all.
4. Leave Empty Handed
Sometimes you will stumble across an item that you weren't looking for, but pick it up because you love it. That's part of the thrill of thrift store shopping. But be prepared to leave the stores empty-handed; you won't find something you love every time you visit. It helps to have an idea of what you're looking for, so that you don't end up with lots of things you don't need.
5. Know the Value
Thrift stores aren't always the bargains you'd expect; many shoppers in the UK complain that many stores ask prices that are near to or higher than the original cost of the garment. So have an idea of how much labels are originally worth, and you'll avoid paying too much for a garment that's second-hand.
6. Be Realistic
Every thrift-store shopper dreams of thrifting a designer label or vintage piece at a bargain price. But this isn't too likely, as thrift stores increasingly do their research to see what a label is worth. They aren't likely to confuse a designer label with a high street store. Plus vintage items are often sold via their website or in a specialist vintage thrift store.
7. Check Items before Buying
Because of the vast amount of clothing that is donated, thrift stores won't be able to wash everything. Check an item before buying to see if there are any marks or stains on it. Some marks can be removed, and it's always advisable to wash an item before wearing it, but you don't want to buy anything that has an indelible mark on it.
Thrift store shopping is very rewarding, so enjoy your bargains! What's the best bargain you've ever found - did you stumble across a thrift store treasure?