A Modern Day Fairy Tale: Tips for Successful Secondhand Shopping!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tips for Successful Secondhand Shopping!

As I've mentioned many times before, I am an avid thrift shopper. If I can get something we need used, rather than paying full price, I usually will!  I like to think that I'm actually pretty good at finding great deals, and often have people asking me how I do it! So today, I wanted to share a few tips with all of you!

  • Know your area! Since moving, I've found Goodwill, Once Upon a Child, and Plato's Closet to be the best places for us. In some areas, these places aren't as good. In California, the Plato's Closet wasn't close by nor were the prices as good and the Goodwill was not as nice, and did not price all items the same, so if you found a nice name brand top, you'd pay accordingly. Still better than full price of course, but not as great as they could have been. Even the Once Upon a Child there was not as nice (or as big) as the one here. In California, I turned more towards yard sales and websites like Bookoo, and Craigslist and even Freecycle. Find out if your area has these type of sites too! (If you live near a military base, you'll likely have a Bookoo, though it may not be as active as some areas!)
  • Have time to look around! This is particularly true with Goodwill stores (and other not upscale second hand stores). Let's face it, some Goodwill stores just really aren't that great. We're lucky ours is, but even in the ones that aren't, you may be surprised at what you will find if you take your time to really look. Somewhere between all the outdated, 'who would wear that?' pieces, you might make some wonderful discoveries. In stores like Plato's Closet and other higher end consignment shops that only take newer styles, this isn't as much of an issue but it's still nice to have the extra time to look through everything.
  • Know your discounts! I've mentioned before that our local Plato's Closet offers a 15% military discount (and I believe extend that offer to police officers as well!). In California, the Once Upon a Child offered 10%, here they do not. Available discounts vary by store, but it never hurts to ask. I'm not sure what other discounts might be available, but ask your local stores, you just never know! These discounts make those already low prices even lower...awesome!
  • Speaking of discounts, see if your store offers rewards/loyalty cards! Here, both Plato's and Once Upon A Child do. For each $5 or so spent, you get a punch on your card and when it's full you get a discount. I know for Plato's Closet it's 20% off! It can't be combined with the military discount, but is a better deal than that alone!! Goodwill has a rewards card as well, though I've not yet looked into much to see all the details!!
  • Negotiate. When it comes to yard sales, Craigslist, etc, prices are generally not set in stone. If you find something you love, but don't love the price, consider asking them if they'll negotiate. Most people are willing, at least to an extent. I never considered negotiating prices until I moved to California and saw it in action...it's very common there! In fact, it's so common that if I am selling something, I will usually intentionally price it just a bit higher that what I'm actually willing to take for it, because I know I'm more likely to get what I actually want than if I just priced it at that price to begin with. (Just make sure your items are still worth the price you're actually asking too- not everyone will negotiate and you might just end up actually getting your asking price out of it! Even better!)
  • Barter. I know many of you might be thinking- does anyone actually do that anymore? YES! It's a great way to not only save money, but also clear out things you don't need! Double win! In the past I've traded for clothes, home decor and more. I've also traded coupons in the past, another awesome money saving idea! This is usually done through sites like Bookoo, or Craigslist. Some areas have Facebook groups for selling and trading as well. And if you work in direct sales, do crafts or offer another type of service (photography, house cleaning, etc) you can use those for barter as well!
  • Don't be afraid of free! Freecycle, Craigslist, yes even Bookoo are great ways to find things not only cheap, but free as well. I think many times you expect that if it's free there must be something wrong with it, but that's not always the case! Sometimes the person giving it away doesn't need the money, and would rather just give it to someone who could use it. Sometimes they don't have time to sell or take to Goodwill. They need items gone now. This is particularly true around military bases it seems, because if the moving trucks are coming and you don't have the room for it all, you'll either have to pay if you go over your weight, or pay for leaving it at the house (bulk trash). Seems like a much better option to give it away, right? We did the same ourselves before our move! Sometimes, yes what you get might not be so great, but other times you'll be amazed with your luck! For instance, I once replied to an ad for some free clothes, size small. No pictures, I had no idea what it would be or how many...imagine my surprise to find three trash bags full, name brand clothing, some new with tags, all in great condition and even the jeans were in my size...pretty awesome! Adult clothes aren't as common a find, but kids clothes definitely are! Sometimes they're stained, but a little stain remover can fix that problem, and if not, kids need play clothes anyway! I actually once got a bag of clothes for my niece, and the lady told me she couldn't sell them because they were stained. I opened the bag and the 'stains' were tiny, barely noticeable! Had she not said they had them, I wouldn't have known, and they were great clothes otherwise! Free can be a good thing!
  • See the potential. This is mostly talking about furniture and home decor items. Sometimes things just need a little TLC and they'll be good as new...or better! A coat of paint can make a world of difference! So if you see a piece of furniture that looks old and outdated, but has a great shape, think about how you can give it new life- pieces like that are usually fairly cheap too!! If you're creative when it comes to fashion, you can probably bring some new life into old clothing finds too...I'm not nearly that good!!
  • Know the value. Just because something is used, doesn't always mean you're getting a great deal. This is particularly true on sites like Ebay, and even Craigslist at times. Sometimes you can actually find the same item for cheaper new on sale, so make sure you look around too. I've seen this more with baby and kids items than anything. Sometimes, people really do pay more for an item and the price drops considerably after the fact. Other times it seems people deliberately are trying to overcharge you for it. Not cool.
  • Watch shipping charges. I don't do a ton of secondhand shopping online, but when I do, I'm always sure to check shipping prices first. Sometimes what seems like a great deal isn't after shipping, so definitely take that into consideration as well!
Here are a few pictures of some of my personal deals (that I'd already had uploaded anyway!):

1950's Vintage Apron-50 cents at a yard sale!

This one wasn't technically a yard sale find of mine. My mother in law actually gave me this mirror, but it is an example of what a difference some paint can make!

This one WAS a yard sale find, and just 50 cents! A can of spray paint and some lace I already had, and it looks fantastic, and only cost about $4! This is one of my favorite pieces in my house now!

This shelf was also a yard sale find, at just $5!

This was from my Plato's Closet grab bag event trip! (Any clearance item you could fit in a bag-about the size of a newspaper bag- for $10.) I want to say I had about 40 pieces total, for just $40!! Definitely my best shopping trip so far!

This was another Plato's Trip, and also cost around $40 total...but with three pairs of shoes, still a deal!

Yes, I've shared this picture twice in a week already! But this outfit is a great example of thrift shopping!
Top: $4 Goodwill
Jeans (Banana Republic): $2 Plato's Closet. (These were actually on clearance because something had been spilled on them at the store, I took them home and washed them and they were like new!)
Boots: $12 Plato's Closet.
Total Cost: $18!!

Whew, that's a lot of information there! If you stuck through until the end, I hope you picked up some tips that will help you save some money! Have more ideas? I'd love to hear them! And I'd love to hear about your greatest/latest thrift finds as well!!!


  1. I love consignment shops! I've never had much luck at Goodwill but we just moved so I'll have to give the one out here a try.

  2. I love thrifting, just need to find a time when my littles are not with me!

  3. Great ideas/tips. Thanks.



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