5 tips for bagging a thrift store bargain

Every day after I had my first son, I’d walk around the neighbourhood pushing the pram. It kept me (somewhat) sane during that initial period of extreme sleep deprivation, and over time, helped me lose my ‘baby weight’ too.

And every day, we’d pass by the local St Vincent de Paul shop. Even though it was a busy store, whose aisles were not quite big enough for my Mountain Buggy, I’d often pop in to browse around and point out some of the more ‘unique’ curios to my baby. And more often than not, I’d roll on out with a fabulously stylish and unexpected bargain for me to wear that’d cost me less than a tenner.

But time has moved on, and the days of babies in prams are long gone, replaced by two barrelling boys whose only mode of movement seems to be “run”. Yet we still regularly pop into the local thrift store, and I’m still scoring some awesome finds.


Here’s 5 tips for finding treasure at your local thrift store – fast – even with the kids in tow.


1. Skim the racks for great fabric.

I literally walk down the aisles letting my hand softly brush against the fabrics, and stop when I find something that feels like it’s great quality. Look for silk, wool, linen, or any fabric that feels a little special to you.


2. Keep an open mind.

I’d probably never actively seek out a bright pink blouse with high ruffles at the neck, but the  one I took a chance on has become one of my favourite thrift store purchases ever. Why? I kept an open mind and tried it on. If you think something looks kinda cool on the hanger, why not give it a go? You never know.


3. Be sure that you love it.

You try it on, it fits perfectly, and it’s only – OMG – $4! Before you race to the counter with a couple of gold coins lest anyone else spots your amazing find, ask yourself “Do I really love it or am I just loving the bargain?” Be sure it’s the former, or it’ll just end up clogging up valuable space in your wardrobe.


4. Check it over for flaws. And check it again.

I once bought a pair of beautiful cream Carla Zampatti pants for just $3 only to discover a small blood stain near the crotch when I got them home. Ewwwww! It’s not a bargain if it’s ripped, holey, or stained, so check the garment carefully before you buy it*.


5. Give the kids $2 and let them go crazy.

To a little kid, two dollars – or even one – is like winning Lotto. And if you give them carte blanche on how they can spend their cashola, they’ll be happily occupied while you try on clothes.

Over the years, my boys have left thrift stores with arms full of books, toys, and even an entire set of  wrestling action figures which they totally flipped over. And they always, always leave with with massive grins on their faces.

TIP: Head to the book and toy sections before you hit the racks, and get them to bring a bunch of their finds into the fitting room with you so they can decide what they’d like to buy while you’re working your way though your discoveries.


For more tips, check out How to go shopping with your kids without looking like a crazed fembot. Because we’ve all been there.


*And please don’t donate garments to thrift stores in this condition. There is such a thing as ‘Thrift Store Karma.’


What’re your tips for successful thrift store shopping? And what’s been your best ever find?

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  • Now I’m going to have “I’m gonna pop some cash, only got $20 in mah pocket” stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Not that I’m complaining!
    (For reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QK8mJJJvaes – NSFW warning, song contains the F word)
    I love op shopping. I found all of our wedding centrepieces at op shops and swapmeets, mismatched candelabras that I sprayed to match.
    I’ve also gotten some great clothing finds, although I do have to remind myself of point 3!

    • FoxInFlats

      “this is f***** awesome!” ’tis cool Chrissie I’m fly with ‘dat tune (and it cracks me up everytime I hear it).
      Sounds like you’re a pro.
      And re Point 3: I had a wardrobe clear out earlier in the year – bags & bags of clothes that I bought from Vinnies went back for that reason. Most I’d only worn once – so the cost per wear was pretty good but really? Just closet filler..!

  • These are excellent tips! Rachel x

    • FoxInFlats

      Thanks Rachel – I didnt mention that ops shop finds always seem more awesome because they feel like you’ve uncovered a hidden gem!

  • Mrs Woog

    I love LOVE visiting these shops. Thanks for the tips Foxy x

    • FoxInFlats

      Me too – kinda obsessed. x

  • Lisa mckenzie

    We have an amazing St vincets here that I try and visit at least once a week,I have gotten some amazing things from there silk sussan dress,vintage Royal albert cup saucer and plate sets,new linen especially sheets and the most divine dresses new with tags and even some Alannah Hill once ,i have scored so many great things from there that there is too many to list.Our one is a special one though I think the woman who runs it gets paid and she gets the pick of the good things,and she saves me things she thinks I would like ,the the amazing Zara white pants ,which I love,she is a keeper.

    • FoxInFlats

      OMG you are in with the shop keeper! That’s so awesome. x A

      • Lisa Mckenzie

        Yes I am ,and yes it is she is an old lady and I make sure I talk to her each time I go in and that helps,try it xx Lisa

  • Kelly @ kiwiwomensstyle

    Hi my name is Kelly and I’m a Thriftaholic!!! Retail stores make me nervous these days I love opshopping so much. I have loads of tips but my top 3 are:

    1. Look at clothing in other sizes, kidswear (if you’re small) or the mens section
    2. Approach thrift shopping just as you would any other day – consider what you need/want and then search for it (looking through the whole store can be quite intimidating for the uninitiated), and
    3. First look at the labels – I prefer to buy fashionable fad items secondhand as I know they won’t last, but it’s also a great way to find real investment pieces that weren’t right for someone else!

    • FoxInFlats

      GREAT tips Kelly! Noted. xA

  • Imogen

    Still excited by finding a georg jensen candelabra for $8.99 at my local thrift store…win of the year!

    • FoxInFlats

      WIN! WIN! WIN!