If there is one thing I pride myself style-wise, this would be my ability to bargain shop. I am a thrifter, bargain hunter, good deal enjoycer down to my core. (Thank you Momma and Papa Lally). As someone who works in retail, we’re expected to be an extension of the mannequins in the store and embody the company brand. For me, this is looking my Anthro best day in and day out. And while the discount is gloriously generous, one cannot survive on discounts alone. And in this case, by one, I mean me. My wardrobe and shopping habit simply won’t allow for it. And thus, I have learned to fit into the Anthropologie aesthetic without my entire closet consisting of Anthro (or Free People and Urban Outfitters for that matter).
Don’t get me wrong, I love everything we sell. LOVE. I do work there for a reason after all. But a girl’s gotta eat, go to happy hour with friends, and watch cat videos on the internet and those things don’t come for free. And so, with some much-appreciated guidance from my mom and developed strategies, I’ve come up with some (hopefully) helpful do’s and don’ts for the bargain shopper grasshoppers out there. (Did that reference just age me by 20 years? Yep. It did.) Firstly…
- Where to Shop
- Discount Stores – TJ-Maxx, Forever21, Marshall’s
My go-to destinations consist of discount stores like TJ-Maxx and Forever21 as well as semi-used/previously worn shops such as Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange. These are actually great places to find up-to-the-minute fashion at super low prices. I recognize that that previous sentence sounded like an ad, but I kid you not, it’s true. I think a common misconception about these places is that they’re behind on the latest trends, quality is cheap, and frankly, good stuff is hard to find. And while not every shopping trip will be a shopping equivalent of a slam-dunk, I cannot tell you the last time I left empty handed.
And boy, I could go on about all my favorite TJ-Maxx and Marshalls finds for days, but I’ll spare you the written love letters and just show some pictures instead. I’ve even found the same brands (and sometimes exact items) we carry in the store for a fraction of the price. Sometimes commercials don’t lie!
- Thrift Stores & Flea Markets – Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads Trading Co., local thrift shops and Goodwill
What’s great about these stores is that they actually seek out the latest trends. Previously worn shops like Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange even put on their websites what trends they’re looking for each season. You can get an even better deal if you sell some old clothes to them and take the store credit. Plus, they often have in-store brands that are brand new, but a quarter of the prices of places like Zara and Madewell. Sometimes, designer shops will literally drop off barely worn samples or items that didn’t sell in the boutique. Lastly, let us not forget the sacred lands of Goodwill and local thrift shops. These require the greatest amount of hunting and acknowledgement that you might leave empty-handed. But fear not, as the rewards are often stupendously awesome.
2. Why Buy Secondhand?
Buying used clothes will save you lots of dough because of the discounted prices. For those of us on a budget, it’s a great way to be fashionable and exhibit personal style without breaking the bank. Plus, you often get the same or even better quality for a quarter of the price than you would get at retail stores. The store buyers are trained to have keen eyes and keep a look out for even the simplest wear and tear so that we, the buyers, buy what they buy from the sellers.
My favorite part of buying secondhand is knowing that I won’t find the dress I just bought on five other girls that week. Thrift stores have racks and racks of clothes arranged by color and item style that not any two pieces are the same. The variety really helps you cultivate a style that’s all your own while also forcing you to think carefully about what you buy. Which leads me to my next point…
Thrift shopping is good for the environment! Companies like Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange pride themselves on this point, as they should. When you buy secondhand, you’re not only reusing old clothes, but you’re keeping them from filling up our landfills as well as reducing the environmental cost of manufacturing new clothes. I’m not saying you should feel guilty about shopping retail. Far from it. But just think if everyone bought one thing used instead of new this year; what a small, but big difference it would make!
As any bargain shopper will tell you, the best part about thrifting is the thrill of the hunt. Sure not every shopping trip will be as efficient as retail or online shopping and you make not hit the mark every single time. But more often than not, you’ll find something unexpected. And it’s that feeling of bliss that makes the whole process worth it in the end. Soon enough, you’ll have a closet full of items that you won’t get bored of a week later, are durable enough to last more than a few months, and will have contributed to your developing a personal style that’s unique to you and you alone. After just a little bit of practice, you’ll develop some techniques that help you learn what works and doesn’t work when trying to find the perfect used pieces. And that’s for next time!
3. How to Shop
- Don’t be afraid to dig and search
As every other bargain hunting guide might tell you, the best advice I can offer is don’t be afraid to dig and search. Look in other size racks than just your usual size – people will just stick things there and it’s hard for the employees to even know until the end of the evening. Sometimes these shopping rascals are trying to hide something uber neat, but are too lazy to wait in line and put it on hold. Secondly, try on sizes other than what you usually wear. All brands fit differently (especially when it comes to women’s apparel, thank you glamour sizing – extinguish ugh noise here).
- Condition Counts
Do the buttons button, the zippers zip and do you feel comfortable? If not, don’t buy it. Unless you absolutely cannot live without this item in your closet by the end of the night and you’re a master seamstress, it’s not worth the cost even at a bargain price.
- Look for Flaws
When thrifting, smell is key. Never buy something smelly or sticky. You cannot assure yourself that you can get the odor out. I’ve never met a professional odor taker-outer.
- Have something specific in mind
- Sometimes, it helps to have a specific item in mind before heading out into the abyss of thrift store shopping. It can be a specific trend like fringe, specific items like a leather jacket and black Mary Jane heels, or particular color you know you look good in and makes your eyes sparkle like Zooey D’s. But still be open to look for everything because you never know! And lastly…
- Have fun!
Bargain hunting shouldn’t feel like a burden. Sure, there will be those days that after hitting three stores you’ll want to hit the hay from pure exhaustion upon arriving home. But in the end, be excited that you just scored some unique finds at an affordable price. Mazel tov!0