Thrift Store Shopping Like a Pro — Strategy

by Sammy in 8 Comments — Updated January 12, 2024

Thrift Shoping Goodwill Store

After you’ve researched and prepped for a successful day of thrifting, it’s time to do the one thing that all thrifters love to do most: SHOP!

But the tips to thrifting like a pro don’t end once you step foot into a store and actually start shopping. The game has only just begun.

When you’re on the actual thrift field, the pressure’s on and there’s a chance of choking once you’ve got the ball (or for thrifters, a really hot designer find!) So by sticking to a shopping strategy, it’s more likely you’ll leave victorious because you’ve executed a game plan for the best thrifting performance possible.

Keep reading after the jump to learn five tips to thrifting like a pro that’ll have you shopping the racks and scoring stylish steals like the MVT (most talented thrifter!) you have the potential to be.

Successful shopping once you’re in the thrift store is a practiced skill. As you’ll learn in this article, what separates the casual thrifter from the thrift pro is not so much what they choose to do, but what they choose not to do.

What are your top tips for thrift shopping? Do you have a special secret I missed here that you’d like to share?

Let me know by leaving a comment below the post, or by saying hello on Twitter or Facebook! 

Don’t forget to check out my 34 Tips on: How to Thrift Store Shop

xx, SD


Thrift Shopping Donations

Thrift Bin for Donations

The Strategy: Filter donatable goods from out of your closet to clear space and make room for new finds. It’s impetus to review your closet’s inventory and make mental notes of what you truly (and don’t truly!) need to thrift for.

Plus, donating before you shop is great thrift karma!

Why It’s for the Pros: Donating to the thrift store you’re about to scour is like making a sacrifice to the Thrift Gods. Sure, it’s a laughable metaphor but the true pro knows that a spiritual energy exists amongst the racks.

When you start your thrifting with a bit of do-good action, you’re calibrating on positive energy that just might manifest itself into a great thrift score. Do thrifting good, think thrifting good, receive thrifting great!

My Secret: Keep a donation bin (like a hamper) in your room where you can regularly toss the unwanted or hardly worn from your closet.

Think of your in-room donation bin as a visual calendar marking the timing of your cherished thrift ritual. When the bin gets filled to the brim, you not only know that it’s time to donate, but that it’s time to go thrift once again!

Thrift Shopping Focus

Thift Store Clothes Racks

The Strategy: Narrow your shopping to three sections or less to stay focused on your day’s goals without distraction.

It’s a rule-of-thumb that helps manage thrift time spent in any one store since approximately one section should take you 20 minutes to shop. With three sections totaling 40 minutes, that leaves you with 20 minutes of buffer time for trying on, reviewing and deciding which pieces to ultimately buy.

Why It’s for the Pros: Pros know that when you cap your shopping to limited sections, you’ll shop more smart and leave more satisfied. It allows for 100 percent engagement with each section versus a scrambled scour of the store as a whole.

With a three sections or less focus, no “style stone” will go un-turned, plus you can try-on, inspect and evaluate all your finds with less pressure from the clock. Oftentimes one section takes faster than others, giving you more time to meticulously shop and even perform a double combing of the racks — just in case fresh inventory was hung while you were gone!

My Secret: While thrift store prepping, I decide on the styles I need and their plan-of-priority.

If I want a new pair of denim shorts for summer (top priority), some blouses for work (second) and a cocktail party dress (not a necessity), I walk into the thrift store and immediately make a beeline for the women’s shorts department. Next I’ll head over to the blouses and if time allots, give the dress section a look.

No stopping in between means no senseless styles fall into my shopping cart, and I’ve stuck to a plan of time efficiency (no more than one hour per store) and keep on my thrifting schedule.

Thrift Shopping Try-On Clothes

Thrift Store Cat Suit

The Strategy: Wear the equivalent of a “catsuit” while thrifting, which is what I create using a tight top tucked into leggings with easy-to-remove boots. Or, you can wear a full body unitard like this one from American Apparel.

Why It’s for the Pros: The catsuit operates like a second skin so that you can throw on that great find without the bother of undressing down to your skivvies. Plus, you can try on whatever you want just about anywhere you want in the thrift store, which pays off with saved time and saved sanity.

Because who wants to wait in line for one of only two changing rooms when you can just try on between the comfort of the racks?

My Secret: I find the closest mirror and set up shop immediately in front of it. OK, I might monopolize the mirror a little bit but I know I’m moving faster changing from piece to piece in front of a mirror than I would be taking off all my clothes in a fitting room.

Often thrift stores have more mirrors than fitting rooms, anyway. Plus, if you’ve got a thrift buddy you can share mirror space while oohing (or aah! please don’t ever buy that!) one another’s pieces.

Thrift Shopping Review

Thrift Clothes Rack

The Strategy: Toward the end of your shopping limit take a time out to evaluate your goods based on initial gut reactions (yes, no, maybe) and then using thrift shopping inspection techniques, determine what’s truly a “yes” and what’s truly a “no.”

Why It’s for the Pros: Taking time to review your pickings is like a sports team taking time out for well, a time out! You need a breather to stop and gather your goods together in order to gather your thoughts together, too.

My Secret: I find a quiet area of the store where I can evaluate my pickings without people nearby. Typically I’ll go into the men’s section where I know other female thrifters aren’t lurking like vultures around my finds.

In this quiet spot, I push aside the hangers on a rack and hang my pieces in that space organized into three distinct sections: Yes, no and maybe.

It’s then that I give each piece a serious eyeballing based on my thrift shopping inspection techniques. Based on what I determine are the highest quality goods and best style value for my money, I wrap up my time out by creating a section of definite yes! purchases and one of absolute not-gonna-buy-it no’s!

Thrift Shopping Decisions

Thrift clothes ponder

The Strategy: To stay on budget, it’s not about what you’re going to buy — but what you’re going to decide not to buy that matters most. You can’t leave the store with every single piece in your yes pile.

So to whittle down your purchases, ask yourself a few key questions:

“Do I own a similar pieces already?” “Can I wear this immediately, or do I need to wait for a special event?” and perhaps the most important because it keeps pros on thrift strategy track, “Does this piece fulfill my thrift shopping goals?” are great questions to help determine the real reasons why you might want (or not want) to buy a piece.

Why It’s for the Pros: Even if the piece is one-of-a-kind and amazing, if it wasn’t on your list of wants and needs, then why buy it? Pros know that passing up a score not initially part of their strategy isn’t a loss but a gain, because it’s an investment in thrift discipline that will manifest itself into future finds.

Plus, when you own too much of a good thing, your appreciation of it lessens — like owning 10 pairs of jeans that you sort of like, versus only 3 pairs that you couldn’t live without. Pros remember this so that they don’t fall into the more-is-less trap of thrift addiction.

My Secret: The perspective that helps me to let go of unnecessary thrift finds is to remember that where there’s one great find, they’ll surely be another (and another and another!) in the future.

Perhaps that pieces deserves a happy home with someone else, and so it makes most sense that I leave it at the store to fulfill its true destiny. Each store bears special pieces for all of us.

But the best benefit of thrifting? The self confidence we get from the great style we find.

Now that’s a score that can’t be bought in stores!


34 Tips on: How to Thrift Store Shop
ADVICE: 10 Things Not to Buy at a Thrift Store
TIPS: 23 Tips for Buying Used Clothes
RISK: Avoiding Bed Bugs at the Thrift Store
VIDEO: Thrift Shopping the Goodwill Outlet
PLUS: The Complete Thrift Shopping Dictionary

8 thoughts on “Thrift Store Shopping Like a Pro — Strategy”

  1. Great post Sammy!

    • Thanks Miss Martina ;-) I hope you wear a “thrift suit” soon? xx

  2. I drool at every photo you post that shows your thrift shops! Even the biggest one near me is nothing compared to that.
    Great tips as always, I love reading your posts :D

  3. Some great tips here, thanks!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know! <3

      • ازت خوشم امده باحالی i love you sammy

  4. This is stupid. I don’t do any of this, and I’m a Thrift maven. i also don’t use sports metaphors.


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