4 Tips for Thrift Store Shopping Success

By Frugalista Elizabeth McGuirk for GalTime.com

Here's the 411 on thrift store shopping..Here's the 411 on thrift store shopping..how to shop at secondhand stores

I don't know about you, but I love digging for bargains at local consignment and thrift stores. Not only can it be fun to shop at secondhand stores, they can be great places to score name brand clothing for students, deeply discounted housewares, and popular toys. Before you embark on your treasure hunt, it helps to have a strategy. First off, know the vocabulary:

Consignment shops are stores to which people bring items they wish to sell, and the store sells them for a cut of the purchase prices. At a true consignment store, the seller (and store) don't get paid unless the item sells. However, some stores simplify the process by just buying the item from the seller outright and then selling it for a profit. Consignment stores tend to have fairly high-quality merchandise, since they often have strict standards about what they will accept.

Thrift stores, on the other hand, accept donated merchandise. These stores are often run by and support charities - think Goodwill, Salvation Army stores, Junior League and hospital thrift shops, etc. The quality of merchandise can vary widely at these stores. Some weed out a good portion of the donations; other can have tons of junk. However, with patience and a little digging, many treasures can be found. Here are few tips about shopping at these kinds of stores.

Related: Top 5 Ways Moms Can Save Money

4 Tips for Thrift and Consignment Store Shopping Success

1. Call first - Check on hours, since these are small businesses often with limited hours. Depending on the location, you might want to check on parking as well.

2. Shop frequently - On some visits you'll find nothing; other times you'll hit the jackpot. Check back often, and try to find out the days that the store restocks.

3. Check over items - Especially at thrift stores, where the merchandise may not have been checked thoroughly, examine items before you buy. Check clothes for stains and tears; open and close drawers and cabinets on furniture; look for all the pieces of toys.

4. Make sure you're getting a bargain - At higher-quality consignment shops you have to be careful; sometimes the consignment price is high enough that you could get a comparable item new on a good sale. Remember that just because it's at a consignment shop does not necessarily mean it is the best deal.

Related: How To Coupon: 4 Simple Steps

Finally, here are few ideas about what items tend to be readily available and/or great bargains at these types of shops.

Thrift and Consignment Store Bargains

  • clothes (especially children's)

  • books

  • toys (check for parts and damage)

  • baby items (same as above, also check for recalls)

  • holiday decorations

  • formal wear

  • shoes

  • baskets

  • small kitchen appliances

  • puzzles and games

Share your tips for thrift and consignment store shopping!

More from GalTime.com: