Style Mission: How To Score At A Thrift Store

Shopping at thrift stores is a great way to fill your wardrobe with unique pieces, save money, and rack up bragging rights: “Oh, this gorgeous silk scarf? Two bucks at Goodwill!”

Unfortunately, thrifting can also be overwhelming and exhausting. After the jump, a list of the supplies, strategies, and self-affirmations you’ll need to conquer an afternoon of hardcore bargain-hunting.

There’s no way to know whether you’ll come home with a fabulous new wardrobe or a Little Mermaid Pez dispenser.


Thrift shopping involves sorting through crowded racks, digging through bins, squeezing into vintage mini dresses and possibly fist-fighting for an authentic Prada clutch you just found on the $5 shelf. You’ll need energy and endurance. Start your day with a triple latte and you’ll be more likely to end it as the new owner of that authentic Prada clutch.


When you set out on a thrifting trip, there’s no way to know whether you’ll come home with a fabulous new wardrobe or a Little Mermaid Pez dispenser. This is both the wonder of thrifting and its downfall. Thrift store merchandise is constantly changing, so one day’s selection can vary greatly from the next. Your attitude can honestly make a big difference, so be patient, have faith, and keep trying! You will prevail (eventually). Some thrift stores only put out new merchandise every Tuesday or every Thursday, so make friends with a thrift store employee to find out when things get changed out.

Socks Or Tights

A must if you’re thinking about trying on shoes. I once excitedly slipped on a pair of cowboy boots only to find my toes mingling with unidentified slime. Not fun.

A Sense Of Humor

When you set out on a thrifting expedition, you never know what you’re going to find, from a pristine Versace jacket to a sequined cat sweater to a cowboy boot full of the aforementioned slime. If you’re not in the mood to laugh, you probably shouldn’t go.

A General Goal (Or A Few)

While it’s inadvisable to head to Goodwill looking for something as specific as a size 10 pinstriped Kenneth Cole blazer, it can also be overwhelming to walk in without a goal. When my mom and I go thrifting, we always park the car, take a deep breath, and state our missions. Example: “A colorful blouse, sunglasses, and a baggy men’s sweater.” This custom gives us some helpful parameters for our shopping trip and hopefully some Law of Attraction-style good luck.

A Plan

Thrift shopping can be hit and miss, and each store is different. This is why I recommend making an afternoon of it, bringing a friend or two, and planning out a strategy. Do you want to start at a smaller store or would you rather use your energy to sort through the pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet bins right out of the gate? Think about geography: thrift shops in affluent areas often have higher-end merchandise, but you’re more likely to find a hidden gems sitting on the racks of stores off the beaten path. Also, I highly recommend thrifting on weekdays if possible–weekends can get a bit crazy.

An Affirmation

“Thrifting is a journey, not a destination.” Try to enjoy the process, take a picture of yourself in a sequined cat sweater, and have a good time.

How do you feel about thrifting? Are you a seasoned veteran? A curious newcomer? Or has it never been your cup of tea? Plus, if you’ve got any tips, share ‘em in the comments!