What Does It Mean To Go “Thrifting”? (and should you go…)

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It seems that going thrifting today is all the rage. I see dozen of hashtags on Instagram about people who are ready to “go thrifting” or just heading out in “thrifted” clothes.

So what is all the hype about? What does it even mean to go thrifting?

Going thrifting means going shopping for secondhand items at a thrift store. A thrift store is a type of retail store that sells used goods, such as clothes, furniture, and toys, that have been donated by members of the community.

Typically this means that the person is going to be going to a thrift store, popular ones include names like Goodwill, Savers, and Salvation Army.

However, some people use the term “thrifting” to also mean that they are going to yard sales, flea markets, antique malls, etc.

What Does “Thrifted” Mean?

The term “thrifted” is often used to describe clothing that has been purchased secondhand.

Typically it is called “thrifted” clothing as it came from a thrift store but the term can also apply to clothes purchased from yard sales, flea markets, or clothing exchanges from as Plato’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange.

Some people even extend the moniker of “thrifted” to pre-owned clothes that they’ve purchased online from marketplaces such as eBay or Poshmark.

Why Go Thrifting?

why go thrifting

If you ask a dozen different people why they go thrifting you’ll probably get a dozen different answers.

So we polled more than 300 hundred people on our Instagram so that we could distill the reasons that people go thrifting down into a few buckets.

Here are the reasons we learned that people go thrifting:

  • To save money. This was the most common answer and is probably the reason that thrifting is associated with “poor people”. Everything at a thrift store is cheap. I balk at the idea of paying $40+ for a t-shirt when I know I can go thrifting and find some gently used ones for $1-2 apiece.
  • To find unique items. There have been many times that someone asks my wife where she got a super cute dress (or other clothing items) and she responds that it’s thrifted. In essence, this makes the piece unique. If it’s a collection that’s a year or more old there is literally no chance that the person can find the same one for sale. This is even more true for people who love to wear vintage items which are easy to find in thrift stores.
  • It’s environmentally friendly. Fast fashion wastes billions of gallons of water and other valuable resources every year. Even the clothing itself ends up creating huge amounts of waste as it wears out quickly or is no longer fashionable and ends up in a landfill. Buying clothing second-hand bypasses the entire system and is a much greener choice.
  • The thrill of the hunt. When you go thrifting you never know what you’re going to find. I’ve found Gucci shoes, a Louis Vuitton wallet, and NWT Supreme pants…all sitting next to beat-up and worn-out items. The idea that the next thing on the rack could be their holy grail keeps a lot of people going back to thrift stores.
  • It supports the community/charitable programs. While not all thrift stores are charitable, many of them support employment in the community, animal shelters, or similar community programs.
  • To support local businesses. Not all thrift stores and big-box chains. Many of the best options are actually small mom-and-pop shops that are run by people in the community.
  • To make money. This may be counterintuitive, but hear me out. Because you can find luxury items (or under-priced mall brands) at thrift stores many people buy them and resell them on eBay or Poshmark. There are people who make tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars per year flipping items that they find at thrift stores.

So, while there are tons of different reasons why you might want to go thrifting, it seems like there is a reason that could convince just about anyone to step foot in a thrift store!

If you haven’t, give it a try, you just might become a thrift junkie like the rest of us!

Isn’t buying used stuff gross…?

Back in college, my best friend was looking to update his look to try and woo a specific girl that was in our church group (she had already turned him down once…).

I wasn’t a fashion god by any means but at least I didn’t wear flood pants and American Fighter t-shirts.

So I took him to Plato’s Closet. If you don’t know, Plato’s Closet is a store that buys people’s lightly used fashionable clothes. They sell only name-brand fashionable clothes for up to 80% off of retail prices.

The whole time we were there my friend walked around with his nose in the air and didn’t even look at a single thing. He’s not wealthy, he’s not very good-looking, he’s not very fit… (I still love you, dude….) but he was grossed out by the idea of buying something elses’ stuff.

It turns out he’s not alone. More than a quarter of the population say they would never wear thrifted clothes.

However, in my opinion, used clothes aren’t gross. If you’re one of the “grossed out” crowd, would you be grossed out if a friend gave you some nice decorations or clothes they have hanging in their closet? Probably not.

Every kind of person donates to thrift stores. So, while you can go thrifting and find clothes or home goods that are dirty and gross you can also find items that were donated by people who were much cleaner, more fastidious, and probably richer than you.

5 Tips For Success When You Go Thrifting

Despite what some people would have you believe, thrifting isn’t a skill. Most of it involves simply getting lucky and being in the right place at the right time.

However, there are a few things that you can do to increase your chances of getting lucky you go thrifting.

1. Go Often

The most important factor in whether you find good things while thrifting is how often you go.

Those who find great things are in thrift stores consistently (or daily in some cases).

The “luckiest” thrifters are those who rely on flipping their thrift finds to make money. They spend all of their time (literally hours every day) in thrift stores and find tons of amazing items.

If, however, you’re not able to spend all of your time in thrift stores you’ll want to figure out when your local stores restock so you can go thrifting at the most opportune time to get new goods.

2. Don’t Be Too Specific

If you go to a thrift store looking for some specific you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

In the thrifting community, people refer to things that they really want to find at a thrift store as their “white whale” and many spend years looking for specific things.

If you’re looking for something like “new clothes” you’ll be much more likely to find something cute that you love rather than having a vision in mind of what you want and then hoping that you find it.

3. Choose Good Thrift Stores

Some thrift stores are better than others. I wish I could make a blanket statement like “Goodwill is better than Savers” or “mom-and-pop stores are the best” but it comes down to a case-by-base basis.

We wrote a bit about what makes a good thrift store here but the short version is that you want to find a large thrift store in an affluent area that receives a ton of donations. They are the most likely to be well-stocked, well-staffed, and clean.

4. Take A Friend

When my wife and I go thrifting together we routinely find things that the other person wants that were placed on the wrong rack.

Having someone to bounce ideas off of when it comes to the odd types of clothing you may find can also make things way more fun and interesting.

5. Expand Your Knowledge

Every time I go thrifting I get crazy FOMO because I’m sure I’m walking past brands that are worth hundreds of dollars that I’ve simply never heard of.

There have been so many times that my wife and I found something that we like at a thrift store only to find out later that it was actually super expensive when it was new.

For example, my wife fell in love with the ugly little wooden troll and got it to put on a knick-knack shelf

It turned out to be a highly desirable wooden collectible from Norway so we sold it on eBay for $80.

One of the best ways to learn about the types of things to look for at thrift stores is to study brand lists. We have a couple to get you started if you’re new to this:


Hopefully, you not only know what it means to “go thrifting” now but you’re equipped to head out and find some great thrift stores to shop at!

Going thrifting can be a fun and rewarding experience that saves you money as well.

We’ll see you out there!

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