Find first-rate buys at secondhand stores
Bargain shoppers of all ages and incomes know that thrift stores have hidden treasures waiting to be discovered, such as surprise deals on home furnishings, books, antiques, clothing and electronics. Many items are new and make wonderful gifts. This makes them the perfect place for those looking out of necessity, savings, collecting or for fun.
Whether you’re a newbie or a regular, keep the following in mind to get the most out of your shopping experience.
CALL AHEAD: Make a simple phone call and learn store policies. You’ll want to know if they take returns and what methods of payments they accept. While you’re on the phone, ask them whether they have specific merchandise marked down on certain days and how they work their sales. Find out how often they restock and whether they have dressing rooms, too.
THINGS TO BRING: Bring spare batteries with you to test electronic items before you buy them. Consider packing a small toolbox in your car in case you need to disassemble items, such as furniture or fitness equipment, to fit in your vehicle. Bring baby wipes to see whether smudges or scratches wipe off. They’re great for washing your hands after going through racks and shelves, too.
Don’t forget a handy list of merchandise that includes information such as gift ideas, average retail cost and clothing sizes. A tape measure is a good item for measuring furniture or picture frames. If the thrift store doesn’t have a dressing room, wear form-fitted clothing so you can try clothes on.
CLOTHING TIPS: Take your time going through racks. Display racks aren’t always organized like they are in department stores. Often, shoppers will gather up clothing in one size and leave it on the ends of racks, so you might find baby items mixed in with teen sizes. Know your fabrics and brands, and check labels so you can tell high-quality clothing from the cheap stuff. This will also help you recognize fabrics that need extra care. Look clothing over closely and check it for missing buttons, stains and rips. Think out of season, because you’ll find clothes for all seasons on the racks.
BE INFORMED: Be familiar with department-store prices. Some prices at thrift stores are obvious deals, but others aren’t deals at all. This is where your list comes into play. Don’t buy something that has an “as is” sticker on it unless you know it’s in working order. Be sure to check safety standards and recalls, especially on baby items. If you have computer access, sheck www.cpsc.gov and www.recalls.gov.
FURNITURE TIPS: Don’t pass up furniture simply because it’s a little scratched or not exactly what you want. If the price is low enough, you can use slipcovers, refinish it or repaint it and still save money.
ADDITIONAL TIPS: Try shopping during the winter. There’s typically more inventory because of increased donations. Don’t forget to check your receipts to be sure you were charged properly. Thrift stores can be great places to purchase low-cost goods for resale, and, if you’re a crafter, look for items such as high-quality fabrics or nonserged sweaters for unraveling.