Yesterday I wrote about our successful thrifting excursions of late and I thought I'd enumerate a few thrifting tips we've learned along the way. Thrifting is not just being frugal, it's making good use of your money while enjoying the hunt. It's smart shopping.
- Not all “thrift” stores are equal. The better known ones, Salvation Army (aka Salvos), Good Will, St. Vincent de Paul (Vinnys), etc. differ from city to city and even store to store within the same city. More affluent areas seem to have better quality merchandise. Some shops are great for clothing; others for books or furniture or brick-a-brack. Check them all out and find which one(s) suit your needs.
- Not-for-profit thrift shops are many times exempt from charging sales tax ... an 8% savings here in Las Vegas.
- Check out discount days and shop those days to get the best bang for your buck. It's not just seniors who are eligible for discounts, by the way. Students/teachers, police/firemen, military or other organizations many times have special discount days, too … up to 50%. Some shops in Las Vegas have casino discounts and just having a player's card from any casino entitles you to discounts on certain days.
- Most thrift stores have a date or color code that indicates specifically tagged items are on sale that day at a discounted price. You can sometimes combine your senior or other discount with the discounted price making your purchase even more economical.
- Frequent thrifter discounts are available at some thrift shops. Some Salvation Army stores participate in Flok and offer your first item purchase at 50% off, then subsequent special deals/discounts on purchases with significant savings. Once a month, the whole store is 50% off except for a few specialty items. Check individual stores for programs they offer.
- Savers, a thrift store chain that seems to be everywhere these days, offers a SuperSavers Club Card for bigger discounts based on frequency of purchases and also special discounts for those who donate used items to Savers. I find their prices higher than other shops, but the selection and ease of finding sizes, etc. are better than most other stores.
- Go with a list because it's easy to get carried away. I pile everything I like in a cart and walk around with it for awhile. Just before I'm ready to check out, I review all the purchases and usually end up putting several things back.
- Go for brand names and quality. Mary, my sister-in-law, got a nearly new pair of Levis for $1. David got a Nautica jacket for $4.99. Also, be on the lookout for antiques. I found a Staffordshire teapot in perfect condition for $2. The bargains are there … you just need to look for them.
- Try on before purchasing. Check the zippers and buttons; make sure there are no stains. Check out your furniture purchases well, too. Make sure the drawers work, the hardware is in place and the chairs are solid. Items are usually sold “as is”. Most thrift shops do not accept returns although some Good Will stores offer a store credit for returned goods with the tags still on and the receipt.
- It's not just thrift shops that offer good bargains. Consignment shops are another source of good quality, used items at significantly lower prices than new. There is less room for discounting in consignment shops. Since the seller is going through a middleman (the consignment shop), he/she has to forfeit a percentage of the selling price. There are consignment shops that specialize in high end designer clothing; others specialize in good quality furniture and accessories.
- Consult Craigslist for specific items, especially furniture that might be offered very reasonably. That's how we found our dining room set. Craigslist also lists yard/garage and moving sales. Again, making purchases from individuals also alleviates the sales tax and gives you some room for bargaining.
- Estate sales are listed on Craiglist as well. These are usually liquidations of estates of people who have died and it's relatives that are selling off the furniture and merchandise. Be aware of the emotion that might be involved in the sale of some items.
- Don't forget used furniture stores, junk shops, flea markets, pawn shops and, of course, auctions … all good opportunities for bargains.
Be patient. If you haunt enough shops and your expectations are realistic, you're bound to find what you're looking for.