Shopping bargain, thrift, consignment, & vintage

B. Makowsky bag from T.J. Maxx

I’ll be the first to admit it—I have a love/hate relationship with bargain, vintage, and thrift/consignment stores.  With a few exceptions, I have not found them to be the most reliable places to pick up basic building blocks for my wardrobe.

That being said, I do shop bargain stores (such as T.J. Maxx and Marshalls) regularly for a few particular items, and often find special little “extras” at thrift and consignment stores.  So if you’re feeling really adventurous, here are a few things that I’ve found helpful when shopping these types of stores.

  • Have the right frame of mind.  I can’t shop these stores when I need to find something (although I highly recommend doing any clothes shopping before you need something.  It is a proven law that when you need jeans, all you will find is a dress, and vice versa).  Go with the realization that you may not find anything, but you may uncover a gem.
  • Don’t attempt to cover the entire store.  Unless you have an entire day to spend in the store and a constitution of steel, it’s too overwhelming.
  • Decide in advance what you’re looking for.  I generally shop bargain stores for bags (I have been getting fabulous, high-quality bags at a fraction of their original price for years at T.J. Maxx) and shoes.  Also, I have a favorite brand of T-shirt that I regularly shop Marshalls for (I can find them quickly because the brand name is listed above the rack). So when I go to those stores, I proceed straight to those racks and don’t bother with the rest of the store.
  • Some vintage and thrift stores have higher quality/designer items separated out into a special section.  I tend to go straight to those sections, as I find they yield the best results.
  • In a vintage or consignment store, if I find a piece I really like but I’m not willing to pay the price they’re asking, I’ll keep an eye on it for the next few weeks.  If it’s still in the store a month later, I may (politely) note to the salesperson that it has been in the store for a while, and would they be willing to take X dollars for it?  This works especially well in consignment stores (because many times, the store doesn’t make money until the item is sold).

This week, to inspire you to venture into bargain, vintage, and thrift/consignment stores, I’ll share photos of some of my favorite finds.  I’d love to know what your favorite items to purchase at these types of stores are.  Do you have any strategies for canvassing the store?

Happy shopping!

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