Thrifting Tips for the Fashionably Frugal

February 18, 2016

I have always been a pretty frugal shopper. After dabbling in thrift store shopping for a couple of years, I recently decided to make the leap and exclusively shop for my clothes at the thrift store. What started out as a way to mix up my wardrobe is now one of my favorite hobbies!

As a teacher, I have a limited discretionary income. Thrifting allows me to add a wide variety of interesting and high quality pieces to my closet without the hefty expense. I have become so accustomed to thrift store price tags that when I shop at “regular” stores, even in the discount sections, it is difficult for me to wrap my head around the prices!

I get many questions about how I thrift so here are a few pointers for the novice thrifter:

Set a price limit.
It is good to set limits for how much you are willing to spend on items or per trip. It can be easy to buy more than you need when prices are so low. If you are trying to save money, it’s important to keep your budget in mind and stay within your limits. My thrift store only accepts cash, which can be another way to limit spending. Knowing what days your thrift store has sales can further cut prices. Often they have daily sales and specials to move merchandise more quickly.

Consider the clothing tag.
The tag will be a make or break for many items. Know what sizes you can get away with wearing, some brands run big and others small. For example, for Ann Taylor I wear a size smaller than my “normal” size; however, vintage clothing is usually not true to my real size so I have to buy bigger. I also look at the tag to see the material, the brand, and where it was made. If you are looking for quality over quantity, make sure what you are buying is worth it.

Try stores in a different part of town.
Different stores get donations from different places, which affects what kind of clothes they have available. Try a couple of different locations before you decide whether or not thrift shopping is for you. Also remember if you are thrifting in a “hip” part of town, the prices will reflect that and the selection of quality pieces will often be slimmer.

Make the clothes do the work.
You don’t have to look at every item on the rack. By just skimming the aisles, patterns and colors will jump out at you. If you are looking for a specific color or clothing item you can be more precise with your searches. If you are not sure what you want, quickly glancing at the rack will do the job.

Be creative and have fun.
The items you find may not be your staples. It’s best if you don’t go in with the expectation of finding a particular item. If you are new to the game, start out by looking for something for a special event or night out. These items will pop out more than your everyday wear. If you are only going to wear something once the thrift store is a great place to start.

It can take a while to develop your thrifting skills so be patient and don’t give up right away. In the end you might just decide it’s not for you; however, before you knock it, give it a try! You never know what kind of gem you might walk away with.


This post was written by Nicole Ortiz, a blogger on frugal fashion and a special education teacher for Denver Public Schools. If you’d like to submit a guest post, please email us at