How to Thrift Shop [free printable]

How to Thrift Shop checklist

This minimal lifestyle that we have created for ourselves requires me to think through every purchase I make. Because I am trying to purchase less AND better… I am far more conscious of my buying habits. The one thing I have found disheartening is how difficult it is to be mindful of the environment and ethically produced materials when purchasing clothing and accessories. Shopping for groceries is easy peasy. Our society is VERY mindful of what we put in our mouths. On our bodies, not so much. While I love Macy’s and do purchase a few really, really great pieces for my capsule wardrobe here and there, I tend to lean towards Thrift Stores and Vintage Stores to help make-up my wardrobe for these reasons:

  1. The are environmentally friendly.– Already made, not creating more waste.
  2. They are ethically sound. –Already made, not employing more slave labor.
  3. They are frugal. –I save money.
  4. Often, there are fantastic brands. –I look better because of the great fits and styles.

I do realize, however, that shopping at Thrift Stores can be overwhelming and difficult causing many of us to take to the department stores for ease of use. I’ll be the first to admit I do the same on occasion. However, I’m hoping that some of the tips I’ve gained over the years and from my interactions with Arc’s Value Village will make you rethink giving your local Thrift Store another look.

Arc's Value Village

Arc’s Value Village has a fantastic program called the Personal Shopper Service. This program allows you to make an appointment with one of their talented personal stylists and come in for one on one time. The stylist selects clothing from the Thrift Store in your personal tastes and sizes (you fill out a questionnaire before you arrive) allowing you to spend your time simply trying on clothing and getting advice from them on the fit and style. This program takes out the need to spend hours looking and searching. As well, they find PERFECT items for you.

Granted, your local Thrift Store may not have this type of program but… ask. Call them and ask if they have anything special, if they are willing to watch for specific items, and more. If your Thrift Store doesn’t do it, I KNOW your local vintage store will. Call and ask what these stores have in place, or are willing to do, that you may not be aware of.

When we arrived at our appointment each of our fitting rooms were already sporting outfits picked out for each of us based on Pinterest images we had sent previously. It was so much fun to see these Pinterest loves translated into real life outfits for us to try!

 Thrift Stores are a great place for shoes and accessoriesShoes and accessories rule at Thrift Stores!

While I do score some great deals on clothing at Arc’s Value Village my favorite thing to look for at thrift stores is shoes and accessories. I can find fantastic brands and styles of shoes that I would NEVER be able to afford otherwise. Lucky for me, I also am a girl that loves boots with a bit of a worn-in feel or shoes in a funky color all of which are easy to find at Thrift Stores. And the bags, scarves, and jewelry at a Thrift Store seem to never-end. You can find some incredibly beautiful accessories for a fraction of the cost of what they are in the store. Often in fun styles that you adore and can only find here or there at a department store. It seems the accessory section of Thrift Stores are FULL of the statement pieces. For a t-shirt and jean girl, this is heaven!

On this Arc’s Value Village personal shopper night I picked up a vintage Coach bag in a classic style, multiple pearl necklaces, a beautiful scarf, and several one of a kind shoes. All of these items help my capsule wardrobe have more bang for it’s small size. On other trips to Arc’s Value I have hit up that section first to grab vintage wallets, beautiful bracelets, and more. Always hit up the accessories before you head out of a thrift store! Save the world, your wallet, and look good doing it!

Tips to using Thrift Stores for newbiesShop for complete outfits, not individual pieces.

Because I am trying to reduce the amount of clothing I own and maintain a capsule wardrobe, I want to be sure that each piece works well with others, something that can only be seen if you try it on as if you were wearing it in an outfit. Sure, you might not need a pair of jeans that day but grab a pair to try on with your shirt and scarf. You may walk out with a pair of jeans (be sure to swap them out for another pair you don’t love as much, not just add more to your closet!) but you’ll also be guaranteed not to just grab more clothing simply because it’s a good price. You will be sure it works with outfits and the rest of your closet.

The outfit above was picked out for me by Michelle, the personal stylist, at our contributor party. I didn’t keep the shirt even though I liked it because it didn’t fit into the colors of my capsule wardrobe, but I did end up keeping the jeans and replaced another pair in my wardrobe that had gotten too large. And I did keep that scarf, it looks great with a white shirt and jeans!

NellieBellie contributors at Arcs Value VillageNarrow down where and how you look through items at your Thrift Store.

Be aware of WHAT you want (short-sleeve t-shirts, jeans, plaid skirt, etc..) and stop only on those items. If you get caught looking through everything on the racks you will be utterly overwhelmed and distracted from your purpose. You really DON’T need that item that you didn’t even see, did you. Stop only on the correct colors, styles, and patterns and move past the rest. In this way you will also control how much you are bringing into your closet and life. But, if the piece has the correct color and style give it a chance. Try on items you may not have thought you would want. Thrift Stores often have gems of items that you find only because you give them a chance and bring them to the fitting room. For real!

Thrift Store haulFinally, grab all the items you think will work for you and try them on.

Every. Single. Item. Grab them, stick them in your cart, and head to the fitting rooms. Just like you would in a department store before you buy… do the same in the Thrift Store. Yes, many of these items are so inexpensive that it feels silly to bother trying them on because you could simply give them away but you don’t need more to think about or deal with in your life… try them on and leave them if they don’t work for you.

Lastly, I want to stress the importance of patience when shopping Thrift Stores and Vintage Stores. They won’t always have great finds (unless you are lucky enough to live at an Arc’s Value) and you will want to check in when you can. This is why I stress keeping things focused each time you go in. Have a snack and beverage before you head in, know exactly what you are looking for, and leave if you don’t find it. If you don’t have an easy experience you won’t want to continue shopping at your Thrift Store. And that is a shame.


Thrift Store “hopping” is great fun for a ladies day out! Have everyone come prepared with their list of desired items, snacks, and cash for coffee shops. Head into the thrift store for a certain period of time for “finding” and then meet at the fitting rooms for everyone to give input and look at each others finds before buying. Hit up a coffee shop or spot of grass for a snack in between each stop. And remember to have fun!

How to Thrift Shop:

  1. Check everything for stains, tears, missing buttons, etc.
  2. Watch for quality brands and skip brands that aren’t.
  3. Pay attention to sale days. Even thrift stores have major sales.
  4. Don’t purchase clothing that has wash requirements you won’t do, irregardless of how inexpensive it is. Let another person have it.
  5. Shop for winter clothes in summer and summer clothes in winter… you’ll score better finds because less people are looking.
  6. Don’t pay more than half what you could pay for it in the store. Ever. Ever. Ever. Frankly, even that is too much, in my opinion.

 Big thank you to Arcs Value Village and Michelle for the NellieBellie Party. To say it was a good time is an understatement. Hugs to you all!


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5 thoughts on “How to Thrift Shop [free printable]”

  1. I think frugal can mean different things for different people. And, being a minimalist was something that was being talked about a couple of years ago when this post was written. It was a way to help people interested in a certain way of living know that this article would be written for them. In all honesty, my home is a balance. We like to spend money in some places and not in others. Which probably looks completely different for another. That’s the beauty of the world, isn’t it…getting to hear the cool ways that people think and live ;).Thanks for stopping by and contributing to the conversation. So appreciated!

  2. Shopping at thrift stores is fun, but I will never understand advertising that you are “frugal”. Frugal means no computer or WiFi or cable tv. One (old) car. Homemade clothes. Not blogs and iPhones and personal shoppers. I love shopping at ALL kinds of stores. I also like nice cars and designer bags. I work hard, but I don’t feel the need to announce that I’m NOT a minimalist…

  3. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    I love thrift stores. They are full of treasure!! Sometimes you have to look around but usually I find something I really like. In fact, most of the time you can find better quality items there — sometimes brand new — than what you can afford at a department store. And just the other day Goodwill of Central Indiana sent me an email telling me of their new program which sounds a little bit like what you have there. :-) Woo Hoo!! Can’t wait to go shopping. Have a great Independence Day.

  4. Our 1/2 of 1/2 has a nice feature — when you park your shopping cart in front of the fitting rooms and have nobody to stand by and watch it for you, the clerks have a laminated sign that you can hang on the toddler’s seat back or handlebar that says “Customer’s Cart. Please do not remove items.” Now, it’s not guaranteed that people will leave it alone, but most people respect your space. And I have checked when I come back and have never “lost” anything. In fact, I liked this idea so much, that I have made my own sign to take with me to other stores. Fold it in quarters, slip into your purse and hang it up with clothespins or clips.

  5. I have a list of my favorite thrift stores on the side menu of my craft blog. I also shop at 1/2 of 1/2. For a BBW, I can usually only find accessories to fit me at thrift stores but 1/2 of 1/2 salvage carries clothes in my size. I once found a pair of too long jeans in the back of the store for 99 cents. Tried them on, fit everywhere but the length, but brought them home and hemmed them up on my sewing machine and my mother even noticed those nice fitting jeans I had on! LOL! I got a compliment on the new scarf I was wearing at church last Sunday. Looked kinda like the one you were wearing. I have never heard of a personal shopper for a thrift store before. Is it a free service or do the stores charge a little more to cover the cost of that service?

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