Thrift shopping: it's one of those many things where the payoff depends on the amount of time you put into it. For cash-strapped college students, getting vintage clothing for the lowest prices seems ideal -- but often it requires a concerted effort to find even one piece of clothing that suits your style. Still, that one shirt or pant or jacket may become the most cherished item in your closet. To avoid all the hassle that comes with thrift shopping and find clothing, you'll love, follow these simple tips:
1. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty
It's true; some thrift stores will require you to dig through piles of musty clothing that may not have been touched by another human in ten years. Though this may be a little weird at first, do not despair -- at the bottom of this pile lies that one item you need. You may come out smelling like your grandmother's living room curtains, but that's okay. It's normal.
2. Check, check, check all the clothing before you buy it
I cannot tell you how many times I have walked out of a thrift store thinking I've found my new favorite t-shirt, only to discover that this shirt has a football-sized stain on the back. Remember, some of this clothing has already been well-worn, and this fact will show itself through loose threads, missing buttons, and the like. Don't get caught paying for dysfunctional clothing, and unless you have a sewing kit at home, don't fool yourself into thinking that you'll fix it one day -- you won't.
3. Ask for a better price
Given that thrifted clothing may be a bit battered by the time you get to it don't be afraid to negotiate a price that is fair to the item you're buying. At some smaller thrift stores, prices are fluid, and the cost of one jacket may not be the same for another similar one. If you're comfortable with asking for a small discount here and there, you may find yourself saving even more money in the long run.
4. Search online for coupons
At some thrift store chains like Value Village and the Salvation Army, you can find discounts by going online and looking through various coupon sites. Value Village even has a savings club that will get you in on exclusive offers in stores. It might take some time to find these sites, but it's worth a try.
5. Always wash before you wear
It's okay to try some clothing on in-store, but make sure that you put your purchases into the laundry once you get home. And make sure that wash is thorough, especially for heavier items. Here's why: after a successful thrifting trip, one friend of mine discovered a pile of cigarette butts in the pocket of her denim jacket. She put her hand inside the pocket and there it was, unbeknownst to her. Don't be that friend. Wash before you wear.
6. Be aware that sizing may be radically different from what you're used to.
Though it seems obvious, it's worth noting that you'll be sorting through a bunch of different labels and brands at any given time while thrifting. It's often difficult to decipher if one item will fit you or not regardless of the size that's printed on the tag. If you have any doubts about the fit, don't buy it. You'll only regret it later.
7. Shop online.
Did you really think that you couldn't do this online? There are plenty of sites that act as digital thrift stores with a wide variety of clothing that can be delivered right to your door. My personal favorite: ASOS Marketplace, where you can find cool vintage designs at a low price from independent sellers. Other popular sites include The Vintage Twin and thredUP.
8. Discipline yourself -- even thrifted clothing can cost you.
When you first enter a thrift store, you may be overwhelmed with just how much clothing is being sold. It's tempting to throw anything you love at first glance into your cart, given the cheap prices. But be mindful, you may be spending money on clothes that you'll never wear. Before you check out, take a moment to figure out what items you're sure you want, and leave those that you're feeling iffy about.
Thrift shopping can be kinda overwhelming. It's a tiring hobby, but it's also a useful one, and one that gets easier each time you do it. It'll also make you seem exponentially cooler. The next time you decide to thrift, keep these tools in mind, and you'll become a pro in no time.