Thrift Shopping 101: Tips & Tricks for Scoring the Best Deals

May 29, 2021 | How To Save Money, Shopping Tips

‘Tis the season for thrifting! No, really. Now is the BEST time for thrift shopping, and we'll show you how to do it like a pro. Ready to pop some tags?!

woman shopping at a thrift store, from Fun Cheap or Free

Did you know that Spring is the best time of year for thrift store shopping? It's true! With everyone in “Spring Cleaning” mode, the thrift stores start piling up with treasures.

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If you want to walk away from your next thrift shopping adventure with a haul, then keep on reading! We're going to share some of our thriftiest tips for scoring steals and deals at the thrift store.


woman making list before thrift shopping, from Fun Cheap or Free

You know what they say. Failing to plan is planning to fail. That's 100% true when you're thrift shopping! If you're not careful, you can walk out of a second hand shop with a ton of loot you don't need and a big fat hole in your wallet. Here are two quick tips to avoid buyer remorse:

  • Make a List – If you need frames for a gallery wall in your entryway, look for frames. Need shoes for the kids? Go for it! If you could use a new dress, look for dresses. Writing down what you need will help you keep focused, prevent you from buying things you don't need, and not feel overwhelmed.
  • If You Don't Need it, Don't Buy It – Even if it's only $1, it's a wasted dollar if you have no place for it. Stick with your plan, and don't be tempted by the sticker!

Thrift shopping is a lot like shopping a yard sale, so apply the same rules as you're budgeting for thrifting and searching for haul items! Just say no to pointless clutter.

Pro Tip: Out with the old! As you buy “new-to-you” items, get rid of things you no longer need or use. No need to live in clutter!


One of the biggest mistakes we see thrifting newbies make is scooping up items that aren't even a good deal at all. Do your research before you get to the store, and have your phone handy for price checks. We like to keep a running note in our phone to keep track of deals.

When we learn what a reasonable price is for something, we write it down. This works incredibly well for groceries, by the way. That way you really understand what things cost, and know a good price when you see it. Baby clothes, for example, aren't often the best deal. Sure, you can find a $4 dress, but you can often find similar brand new items for as low as $0.99 on clearance. If it's not a good deal, don't buy it.


two friends browsing in a thrift store, from Fun Cheap or Free

Thrift store shopping is a lot like a sport. You win some, you lose some, and persistence pays! Here are some quick tips for making the most of your shopping experience and increasing your odds of walking away with some hidden treasures:

  • Keep Trying – You might not find exactly what you need the first time around. The beauty of thrift stores and garage sales? Inventory is forever changing! Stores are completely different from one day to the next, so keep at it.
  • Shop in the Spring – Thrift stores are cram-packed in the spring due to spring cleaning, and garage sales start as soon as the weather perks up. Take advantage of this good time of year!
  • Use the Buddy System – Find someone who is savvy with thrift shopping or garage sales and go with them one or two times. It helps to learn their tricks, and sometimes a second set of eyes helps spot the best deals.
  • Look for Potential – Don't get caught up in minute details. Look at the “bones” of the item, including clothes. Could it look better when ironed? With new buttons sewn on? Freshly washed? New laces added? Whatever it is, look for potential, and try not to be too picky or critical.

Ready for a few more pearls of wisdom? Let's talk about how to decide whether or not an item is worth it!


Should you buy that collared shirt or look for a new one on clearance? Is that chair a good deal, or would Facebook Marketplace have better buys? Here are three things to consider as you're shopping:

  • Price – Remember how we suggested keeping a price notebook? Here's another trick: look to Amazon! If you can find the same item, in new condition, for just a little bit more than the thrift store is charging, then pass. Check eBay, or online thrift shops, too. As online thrifting becomes more and more popular, deals are easier to find. Don't be afraid to haggle or ask for a price match!
  • Condition – While we don't think it pays to be too picky, you should inspect your items before buying them. Is there a lipstick stain on the collar of that white shirt? Or yellowing in the armpits of that blouse you love? Don't forget to look for missing buttons or zippers and dings and knicks in furniture. If it's something you can fix on your own, no problem! If you'll need a tailor or upholsterer to help, be sure to get a quote before you commit to buying.
  • Usefulness/Fit – Last but not least, be honest about how well the item you're eyeing will fit you or your home. It might be the best deal on the planet, but if you'll never wear that bargain leather jacket or sit on that gently used chair, skip it.

Pro Tip: As you're comparing prices to online thrift stores, don't forget to factor in shipping costs. While you may find a better bargain online, shipping furniture is pricey, so make sure to do the math!


There you have it! Just a few words of advice for new or aspiring thrift masters. Hopefully, these will help make your next haul a success!

Do you have any tips to add to the mix? Leave a comment below!

Image with text that reads "thrift shopping tips" from Fun Cheap or Free

Looking for more shopping tips and tricks?

Happy hauling!


  1. Katie

    Ah my closet is about 90% thrifted! Its kind of addicting.. My friend returned 2 pair of Gap cargo shorts, got $60 odd dollars back, i took him to a local salvation army on their half price the entire store day (yeah you read that right.. 1/2 price on everything every wednesday!) and he ended up with SEVEN outfits! AND had $10 leftover, but that snot even the best part, prior to that experience he turned his nose up at thrift stores, but now every time he is home from college he wants to go look.

    P.s, im 19 and i watch Nate and read your blog every day!
    My recent post Sample Heaven!

  2. funcheaporfree

    Katie!!! Love your comments, love your story, and love YOU! I'm so glad you found this blog, I love your story. Be sure to check back on Friday, I'm excited to feature your comment 🙂

  3. superhero t shirt

    Yeap, That is creative writing on Thrift Store shopping tips and tricks. There have some informative tips which is really helpful for everyone. I am also looking forward to site fpr knowing more tips and tricks. Thanks for good head up 😆

  4. Kelcy

    College towns are a great place to thrift. College students get rid of so much. Especially at the end of the Spring Semester when they are leaving the dorms.

    The Goodwills in our area have half price days. I am on their email list.

    I worked at an antique mall and when customers were looking for something specific (a certain sized table or dresser, etc.) we would write their name, number and item they wanted down in a notebook. If we got something similar in we would text them a picture. A lot of people found what they wanted that way. This might work at a locally owned thrift store too.

    • Fun Cheap or Free

      GENIUS tips, thanks for sharing!



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