Smart Strategies for Secondhand Shopping

It’s no mystery that secondhand shopping can be a boon to your bank account. As the ultimate “go-green” option, thrift store and garage sale shoppers can reap even bigger savings and better value with the following list of strategies.

Secondhand shop

Not sure, keep it in your cart anyway. While shopping in traditional stores, consumers have the option to mull potential purchases over before finally placing them in their cart. Not the case with successful secondhand shopping. If you’re on the fence about a particular purchase, place it in your cart while you decide. Leave it on the shelf, and you might as well say goodbye because chances are pretty good that someone else may very well pick it up and place it in their cart while you decide.

Know when to take a risk. There are definite benefits – even outside of the financial ones – to secondhand shopping. I love being able to tell right on the rack whether or not a shirt is going to need ironing after each wash, for example. That said, due to the nature of pre-owned clothing, much of what’s on secondhand racks will have small stains and or need minor repairs. Know what kinds of stains you are adept at removing with your arsenal of products at home and be willing to replace buttons here or there or even make minor alterations to size and fit.

Know when to walk away. Just because something’s cheap, does not make it a good deal. Avoid making impulse purchases simple because the price is good. Admittedly, it’s a good idea to always keep your eyes open for items you may need in the future, it’s not a great idea to over purchase and fill your home with superfluous stuff while depleting your bank account. Like with any other shopping, stick to a list. Successful secondhand shoppers maintain a list of current and potential future necessities from which to shop from.

No price? No problem, ask and ask again. Come across a great find, but despite your best efforts you cannot find a price on the item anywhere? All is not lost, in fact, it might be a great opportunity to snag an even better deal. Ask to speak to a manager and have the item priced on the spot. Don’t like the price quoted? Suggest the price you’d be willing to pay for the item. Smart shoppers know that secondhand is not retail and bartering, to some extent, is allowed. Smart managers know that a ready and willing to pay customer on the spot is worth a reduction in price. So, speak up! Those who don’t A-S-K don’t G-E-T!

Know your stores schedules. Usually inventory and selection is at its best on Mondays and after any major holiday, but that may not be true for the thrift stores nearest you. Ask employees when they usually receive the bulk of their donations and when those donations are priced and hit the shelves. Unlike traditional stores when inventory and stock are usually a constant, great thrift store finds are often left up to chance. Increase your luck and tip probability in your favor by figuring out your store’s schedule.

Check alternate sections of the store. Even the most organized of secondhand stores, have occasional misplacements where items are put in an incorrect area of the store. Thrift stores are truly organic in that the inventory always changes and it’s often a matter of employee preference or decision making as to what items really go where. That said, it can be both a blessing and a bane for shoppers. If you’re really in need of a particular item, go out of your way to check out different areas of the store. Looking for a mirror? Check out the furniture section and the picture frames or wall hanging section. Need a pair of pants for your child? Check out both the girls and the boys racks. The extra few minutes it takes you to check could very well leave you happy with the desired item in hand.

Photo credit: minus1dave

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Author Info

This post was written by Shannon M. Medisky. Shannon is an educator turned parent turned writer and focuses on sharing new and innovative ways to not just survive, but thrive on empty. Visit to learn more. Her newest book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Stretching Your Dollar is available in bookstores now.

4 Responses to “Smart Strategies for Secondhand Shopping”

  1. Credit Cards |  Nov 01, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I benefited when I needed something only for short term so the second hand product did the work and even helped in saving money.

  2. pam munro |  Nov 03, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    My trick for testing whether stains are easily romoved it to put some salive on a small part of the stain. If it partly dissolves, then it will be easy to clean by washing. Also some small dark spots are easy to bleach out….Otherwise, forget it if it has spots…