For some people, thrifting is a way of life. If you’re anything like me, setting foot inside a thrift store feels like embarking on a scavenger hunt of endless possibilities, with hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. With the cost of living only going up, it can be worth checking out a thrift store or two if you’re in need of a quick outfit, or are on the market for a unique piece of furniture; you’d be surprised by the amount of money you can save.
But What Exactly Is a Thrift Store?
A thrift store is a retail outlet that sells secondhand or lightly used goods, typically at a discounted price. Though many thrift stores specialize in clothing, they can sell anything from furniture, books, and accessories to items such as collectibles and kitchen appliances. Thrift stores are typically run by a nonprofit organization or charity such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill, and proceeds from sales are donated to the charity or organization to support local communities.
Goodwill, which was founded in Boston in 1902, supports its communities by providing services such as job training, after-school activities, and programs to help people with disabilities or facing other challenges to find work. The organization also serves as a steppingstone for marginalized groups such as veterans and individuals who lack education, credentials, or other requirements; it hires them to work in stores and gain experience.
The Salvation Army, on the other hand, offers direct assistance by providing access to food banks, housing support, and disaster relief. Though both organizations provide services to their communities, the Salvation Army also runs charity shops and shelters for the homeless.
Goodwill has a large presence in retail — it has more than 4,200 stores across the United States and Canada selling donated items — whereas the Salvation Army focuses primarily on providing assistance to those in need.
@heavenlythreads___ wildest thrift adventure yet! 😮💨 *disclaimer* this is a family owned business & I am in no way trying to roast their shop, it was just so eerie in the way that it holds so much history! #thriftstores #vintage #fyp #thrifting ♬ Fairytale (From "Shrek") - Geek Music
The biggest difference between a thrift store and low-cost chains such as Marshalls and Ross is the source of the merchandise: Regular stores buy inventory from vendors and manufacturers, while thrift stores get items mostly through donations. This is an important distinction, as donations help keep the cost of merchandise lower than that of traditional bricks-and-mortar stores — and one can often find hidden gems selling for a fraction of their true value.
Thrift stores are also different from consignment stores, which are businesses that pay people for used items and resell them at a marked-up price. Consignment stores must pay the seller of the item; thrift stores take donations.
Another distinction between thrift stores and traditional stores is the variety of items that can be found. Thrift stores often have a wider range of items — from vintage clothing and designer shoes to antique furniture, electronics, and toys — making them a great place to find unique items for cheap.
Thrifting Hot Tips
Next time you’re on a scavenger hunt — I mean thrifting — keep these tips in mind to help you snag the hottest finds:
Research: Before you go, research thrift stores in your area to understand what kind of items and deals you can expect to find.
Make a list: Make a list of specific items you’re looking for and keep it handy while thrifting. This will help you stay focused and prevent you from getting distracted by other items.
Inspect items: Before buying, inspect items carefully for damage or signs of wear and tear. This will help you determine if the item is worth the price you’re about to pay.
Ask for discounts: Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts. Most thrift stores are willing to negotiate and offer discounts for bulk purchases or items that aren’t in perfect condition.
Wash items: Always wash thrifted items before wearing them. Even if the item looks clean, run it through the wash to make sure it’s disinfected thoroughly and free of dirt or bacteria.