Thrifting Tips

When to Let That Thrift Find Go

Last week, we discussed how to salvage even the most questionable thrifted piece. If you love anything about it and it can be useful in some fashion, it’s often worth the inexpensive buy. After all, there are plenty of ways you can repurpose something! However, sometimes, it’s in your best interest to put an item back on the shelf. At this point you may be wondering how to discern between the two, and that’s why I’m here to help! Today, I’m sharing three simple questions to ask yourself before you put a thrifted treasure into your cart. If you can answer a definitive “no” to any of these, keep thrift shopping. The perfect find is likely right around the corner!

1. Can I find an immediate use for it?

When I first opened my vintage resale store on Etsy, I scoured my local thrift store literally every single weekday on my lunch break. I was in there so often that the store associates knew me on a first-name basis and I learned all about their families and shared details about mine with them. They’d alert me when new arrivals came in and steer me toward them as soon as I arrived. It was great, and the best part was this particular store always had one color tag that was 75% off! Usually, thrift stores work on a 25% or 50% off colored tag system, so to find one with such a deep discount was a major score.

The only problem? I came home every single night after work with my arms full of thrifted treasures. I justified my purchases two ways. One, I could put everything up on my shop and hopefully turn a significant profit on it. Two, I never paid more than around $3.00 a piece, so even my biggest haul barely cracked $25 or so. My sweet husband would just laugh a little as I came into the door with dresses, belts, and pocketbooks galore. I’d then march them down to our basement where I planned to store them until I got around to taking pictures, recording measurements and putting all the details up on my shop.

But like it always does, time marched on and my work got busy and we ended up decided to leave our little rent home so I was preoccupied with the move, and a majority of those containers of clothes just sat there until I eventually gave the whole lot away to Goodwill, losing my investment.

The moral of the story? If you can’t think of an immediate use for it, chances are high you won’t end up using it at all, so put it back and keep shopping.

2. Would I buy it if it were full-price?

My mama is the queen of a good deal. She’ll find an item she loves, put it back and wait until it goes on sale before she buys it. She cuts coupons and knows which grocery items are the cheapest at each local store. Yet, even she follows this motto, which she passed on to me and my siblings: “It’s not a good deal if you don’t need it.”

Similar to the idea above, if you’re just buying something because, “Hey! It’s .50!” then you’re venturing into impulse buy territory and that’s nowhere you want to be. While I’m all about letting the thrill of the thrift store hunt take you where it will lead you, this is why it really helps to start out with an idea in your mind of what you want to find.

For instance, I went to my thrift store last week specifically hunting for an Easter dress to wear to church this coming weekend. I knew I wanted a floral, knee-length sleeveless one and that helped me narrow down the massive rack of choices pretty quickly. I found one in my size, checked out, and the whole trip took less than 15 minutes. The best part? It was totally my style, my colors and my design and I would have paid five times the price if I’d have found it in a full-priced retail store. Good thing I didn’t have to.

3. Can I repurpose it if it doesn’t work?

A few months ago, I was on a thrift store mission. I’d bought a few lamp shades from a consignment store at the coast and I needed bases to match. I bet I spent hours sorting through the various options at my community thrift stores. Eventually, I found three bases that worked pretty well and I set everything up in my living room. Unfortunately, I’d failed to realize that the right way to light a home isn’t to just slap a few lamps on your tables and call it a day. My living room turned into a strange conglomeration of white light, soft light, and dim light that was uncomfortable and unsightly.

Thankfully, I was able to just move a few of them around to different spots in the house. That was an easy fix, but if I had made a different investment, I may have not had such flexibility and I would have been out all of that money I spent.

You might go to the thrift store with a mission in mind and find exactly what you’re looking for, only to go home and realize that it’s just not working. That dress you loved on the hanger might look totally different on, but if you can cut it up and use it to make a tank top, a head scarf or a belt, then all is not lost. However, if you don’t think you’ll be able to reuse it, you’ve just lost a few bucks and that can add up fast. The takeaway: Before you buy, make sure you’re OK with it not being the same at home and have a plan for how you’ll salvage it if so.

The next time you’re out thrifting, ask yourself these three questions before you commit. Even the cheapest item can cost you if you’re not careful, so avoid those traps and make sure you adore everything you bring home!