Clothing at Uptown Cheapskate, one of the top resale shops in Austin. Often times at resale shops you can negotiate prices with shops if you find significant damage. Photo by Becca Alonso.
Thrifting: The act of visiting several thrift and resale clothes to find inexpensive, yet fashionable clothing.
Thrifting seems to be a hot trend in Austin, with many thrift stores popping up in shopping centers and neighborhoods alike. During a thrifting session, many hit up as many as 5 or 6 stores at a time, and with Austin containing dozens of thrift shops, it’s easy to find them. As one begins to thrift, they could be easily overwhelmed by the towers of clothing, and the hundreds of shoes and purses waited to be purchased at an inexpensive price. Being a person who a) works at a resale shop, and b) thrifts in the little free time that I have, I’ve collected a couple of tricks along the way to help beginners thrift and learn to style in the cheapest way possible.
- Know where you’re thrifting
Though everything in thrift stores are mostly inexpensive, there are different types of secondhand stores. There are thrift stores, which are the most inexpensive of the bunch. Most thrift stores are nonprofits, such as Goodwill and Salvation Army, who receive donated clothing items that are priced between $1-$8 on average. Then you have your resale shops, who buy clothes from people and resell then at a cheaper price. These tend to be more expensive, with average prices being $4.99-$11-99. The two most popular ones in Austin are Uptown Cheapskate and Buffalo Exchange. There are also vintage and antique stores that tend to be the most expensive out of the bunch. Prices can go above $100 due to the high demand of the items, but many stores contain gems that may be well worth the price.
- ALWAYS check for condition issues
Many stores have strict return policies, or final sale policies, so it’s best to make sure the item you want is in good enough shape for you. Check the collar and sleeves for any discoloration, the armpits for glitter (from the aluminum in deodorant), and all around the item for loose threads or any holes in them.
- Don’t be afraid of alterations
If an item you really want has a big hole on the side, or is slightly too big, it’s never a problem to hem it, or at least hire someone to do it for you. Alterations can be really cheap and won’t take long if you’re dying to wear your item.
- Ask employees about sales
This can be a little nerve wracking if you hate talking to people like I do, but there could always be secret sales happening. A whole chunk of the store could be on sale, and you’d never know because you didn’t ask. Where I work, we never had signs saying our jewelry was buy one get one half off, and we constantly got questions about sales on jewelry. You’d be surprised as to what you’re missing out on.
- CHECK THE WEBSITES
This applies to the store website and social media as well. Be sure to check before you head out, because sales and coupons could always be there too. Be sure to sign up for email lists, as stores often send you coupons, and let you know what sales are happening. Many stores have social media that can grant you discounts if you show them a certain post.
- Double check the price tags
This applies especially to resale shops. Though everything is below retail price, some items can retail at $300, so they could still be around $60 at the shop. Resale shops like Uptown Cheapskate take off around 75% of the retail price, but always be aware, because they’ll buy in some expensive items.
- Don’t get too much in one place
This was my first thrifting mistake. Having only gone to one store, I spent $50, which was way over my budget to begin with. After that, I went to three more stores and blew a ton of money. Only get a couple of items at a time, especially if you’re on a budget. There will be tons of clothes you’ll miss out on if you spend all your money in one place.
- Compare the price to normal retail price
If you’re trying to convince yourself to spend $9.99 on shirt you really like, just look up the retail price. At thrift stores, $9.99 could mean over $50 retail price. You save a lot of money when you thrift, and eventually you’ll come to realize spending $20 at one store is basically $80 in a normal retail store.
- Read reviews
Don’t waste your time. Some thrift stores are just not for you, or have a hefty price tag. See what other people think about the environment and the customer service, so you don’t have to make a stop at a place you won’t enjoy.
- Take a friend
Thrifting is more fun with friends! You learn a lot about your friends and their personal style, and helping each other find clothes can be a great bonding experience.