Thrifting Tips

The Best Time to Thrift: Getting to Know Your Local Store

There was a time when I’d devote almost every spare hour during my work week to scouring my local thrift store, taking pictures for my shop, and posting my listings. If you would have asked me the best time to thrift, I would have said 24/7! I’d pore over details, take measurements once, twice and then again for accuracy, and fuss over the images until they were the perfect angle, saturation, and sharpness. Then, what started as a fun hobby and creative outlet quickly turned into a bit of burnout. When you throw yourself so wholeheartedly at something then cease to do hardly anything else, even the most exciting endeavors can lose their initial appeal.

Additionally, as I went almost daily, I quickly discovered that certain times of the week were better for thrifting than others. The one closest to my work, for instance, would put certain colored tags on deep discount (50% to 75% off ticketed prices, which were already dirt cheap), but only on Wednesdays and Fridays. Sure, I could go on a Monday, Tuesday or Thursday, but it just didn’t make sense to, especially if I had my eye on an item that I knew would be marked down the very next day.

While you’re developing your own thrift store strategy, start by taking a look at your current schedule. Ask yourself when you really have time to hit the thrift store, not just when you’d like to or think you can squeeze it in. Personally, my local thrift store used to just be a mile down the road from my office.

So, if I wasn’t working on a major assignment that required me to work through lunch, up to my ears in unanswered emails that kept me from taking a break, or out of town attending one of the many technical conferences our department went to, I’d usually make the short jaunt over there and spend around 45 minutes shopping until it was time to return to my desk.

If you have the luxury to do the same, go for it! Otherwise, you’ll need to develop a smart thrifting schedule to keep your purchases and your finances in order. Here are a few quick tips.

1. Learn your store’s markdown policy.

Remember my colored tag discounts? I’d wait until those days to really make a thrift haul, because although these items are already way cheaper than you’d pay full-priced retail for, it never hurts to save a little change where you can. If you go often enough, take note of your local thrift store’s markdown schedule. Most will follow a set plan (e.g. yellow tags 50% off on Mondays, entire store 50% off first Friday of each month, etc.) If you’re unsure, ask an associate and take notes. Then, make it a point to prioritize those shopping days, as that’s when you know you’ll get the most return for your minimal investment.

2. Don’t emotion shop.

This is the thrifting version of emotional eating. When we’re stressed or tired or upset about something, we tend to gravitate toward those things that bring us joy and offer comfort. For me, browsing the thrift store aisle is just as reassuring as eating a warm slab of apple pie. Yet, if I go when I’m really in a tizzy, I’m either so overwhelmed that I can’t focus on the task at hand and end up starting at old Pyrex dishes for an hour, or I grab everything in sight and have buyer’s remorse as I’m driving home. Save your thrifting for a time when you’re mentally relaxed, charged up, and clear-minded enough to make smart decisions.

3. Go when the crowds don’t.

Going to my local store during my lunch break was a matter of convenience. It also worked well because I was one of the only people in my community who would rather look at vintage dresses for an hour during my sacred time away from the office rather than sit down and enjoy a proper meal. Give me all the PB&Js in the world, instead! So, the store was rarely busy and it felt like I had the place to myself most of the time. Popping in some earbuds, playing some relaxing music and strolling those empty aisles was so exhilarating!

One time, however, I waited and went after work, along with everyone else who had the same idea. And their children. And their grandparents. And their neighbors, co-workers, cousins, etc. While I’m glad to see so many people appreciating the art of thrifting, I found it difficult to concentrate. That’s how I know that for me, the best time to thrift is either early in the day or around the lunch hour. I’ve also found that Sunday afternoons can be a relatively slow time as well.

At the end of the day, deciding when and how to thrift is totally up to you. Yet, if you’re going to make the trek to the store and spend the time browsing the selection, it only makes sense to plan your trip out just a little beforehand. These tips can help you navigate around any issues and maximize your next thrifting adventure.