Smart ladies love thrifting, how to save money on your clothing budget


As I’ve mentioned before, I am a hardcore thrifter. I have physical withdrawal symptoms if I go more than a week between stops. I like that I am saving money, doing something great for the environment and unearthing really cool treasures.

I post thrifting scores on my social media accounts and I regularly get stopped by my friends who ask when I will take them thrifting. I reply, “Any time! I go every week!” and none of them ever follow up, probably because they don’t want to wake up at 8 am on a Saturday.

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A recent stack of winners. I did not go to Ohio State, nor do I know anyone who did, but I like the font on the tee shirt. Also: a sweater cape (“capardigan”) that makes me feel like Liza Minnelli, a gorgeous orange-red wool crepe skirt, a black tee from Anthro, a light blouse and a swingy spring jacket

How do I find stacks of clothes like this every week for super cheap (I think this stack was $20-ish total)? I wrote down all my crazy tips I’ve come up with after doing this for over 15 years.

There are hundreds of posts like mine. This is not new. But as someone who is on a “No New Clothes in 2013” mandate (I’ve only slipped once), I thought my money-saving tips might help you!

1. Note the day

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This is important for two reasons: the half price sale day (my local Goodwill marks one tag color half off each week, many other thrifts do the same thing) and because of the pre-weekend stocking. Thursdays usually are the best days for the freshest merch, because stores want it on the racks for the weekend. The last Thursday I went the racks were stuffed. Sunday is the first day of the half-price week so that color is plentiful and hasn’t been pulled by employees (I’m guessing that stuff goes to Goodwill outlets or some charities).

2. Go early, go often

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Start yr engines.

I probably go out 2-3 times a week and take about 1 vacation day a month to drive around town and hit the thrifts. [I can’t take too much time off in a row because of school so I take refreshing almost mental health days semi-frequently.] My favorite spot near me has about fifteen parking spots so I don’t go there at the busiest time of day, right after work. I go at 9am when it opens.

3. Plan ahead

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That’s a lot of fucking jeans and most of them are from Old Navy. AVOID.

I plan one hour per store, minimum. This allows me to search my preferred clothing racks (at my favorite store, it goes: dresses/skirts/blazers/tops/jackets; I rarely look at pants) and then try everything on.

4. Hit the road

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A recent trip to Chapel Hill. I bought some fantastic books.

Every city/county/township is different so sometimes it helps to leave your area and go somewhere else. When I’m visiting my in laws, I spend some time thrifting because it is cheaper and there are more vintage clothes on the racks than in my town.

5. Know your budget

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When you buy shit like this mug that you have no use for, it’s a waste of money. And space. I learned the hard way.

Even though I go all the time, I probably spend $50 a month on my habit, including housewares (I could probably help you find shit to sell on Etsy, but I just buy decorative items for me because I love them). This is less than my husband’s guitar pedal/Instant film budget so I don’t feel bad about it.

6. Don’t get discouraged

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I call this “the day everything was too small.”

Some days you will find nothing. I know digging through racks of 80s Leslie Fay blazers and extremely short Forever 21 skirts can get a girl down. If you’re sad, go home. It sucks to go thrifting when you’re not in the mood. But if not, press on and hit the next place–you may get lucky!

7. Catch and release

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Give it right back.

This is the most important tip of all, and one I learned from Yardsale Bloodbath: if you buy something and it ends up not working, enjoy looking at it for a little while and then get rid of it, either by donating it to your favorite thrift (tax write off!) or selling it in your next yardsale. It’s just stuff. If you can’t use it, let it go.

There you have it–my most helpful of thrifting tips. If you are committed to a lifetime of thrifting, you will find what works for you.

I’m going to do a more specific post about how to shop at thrift stores–what to look for, etc.–in a few weeks. Stay tuned!


  1. Some good tips here, a bargain hunter’s bible!

  2. Pingback: Smart ladies love thrifting, how to find the best clothes | smart ladies love stuff

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