How to Thrift Shop Like a Pro

Thrift Store Shopping
Thrift Store shopping in Ventura, Ca.
So many of us love to "Thrift" at second hand stores. You might live in an area that has some good spots around the corner. But you might need to travel to the area "hot spot" 20 - 50 miles away. Regardless of where you go, you need to develop some "Mad Thrifting Skillz" to take your game to the next level.

Here's your game plan for coming out ahead.

Know what you want
You can't just go and look around. If you want to redo a room - or a wardrobe - or a kitchen, make a list of items that you need and have in mind the "look and feel" you're after.

Look up and research the brands. For example, if you want a toaster - research the ones you want. Cusininart? Dualit? Krups? Figure out what brands and models you want and what you're willing to pay.
I wanted a $400 Dualit Toaster from England for our Kitchen. 8 months later, it's on our counter for an outlay of $9. Nice.

Know where to go
In our area, north of Los Angeles, there are three distinct Thrift "hubs". Those cities that somehow seem to specialize in a certain type of item. Here, its Santa Monica for Furniture and Decor; Burbank for trendy clothes; and Ventura for a catch-all of kitchen, kids clothes and Target clearance items. Don't forget to check out garage sales and to keep a constant scan on Craigslist.

$1,150 Italian Coffee Grinder
My Husband wanted a new Coffee Grinder - because his $80 Krups wasn't "good enough." He had his eye on a $190 Conical Burr Grinder he had seen on Amazon. Seriously,  I can do better. Craigslist turned up a $1,150 Italian made commercial grinder. I turned up and nabbed it for $75. Best coffee I ever had...

How things are priced depends on where you shop. From low to high:
Garage Sale - Thrift Store - Craigslist - eBay - Retail 
Patience is a virtue
Thrift stores don't stock what you need. They stock what they got. So once you've visualized what you're after - you can jump at the deals when one comes around.
I was looking for an 8' x 10' Wool Rug for our family room. It needed to be good quality and the right color palette. I found some new ones online for $1,500 - $4,500. Beautiful - but I'm a thrifter. I can do better.
And Better I did. It was an 8 month hunt before I finally found the perfect rug. It retailed for around $2,400 - but it was mine for $90. Score.

Know When to say When
Things get dropped off at thrift stores on a predictable schedule. Unwanted household appliances in January and February. These are the Espresso Machines and Food Processors that people didn't want for Christmas.

Rugs, Bedding, Household furniture shows up in late spring - because people are either finally cleaning up - or moving.

Kid's Clothes show up year round for the under 4 crowd. For 4+, about a month after the season changes from hot to cold or vice versa. Kids outgrow clothes and when they take them out of the closet 6 months later, the clothes get dumped at the local Thrift Store.
A friends vacuum was on the fritz. She was going to drop $500 on a new Dyson. Now a Dyson is a great machine. The best part is that all the parts are easily replaceable online. Used ones usually need a new filter, belt and roller brush (about $40 total) and they are as good as new. Knowing when to go helped me grab a late model Dyson for $19.

Don't be deterred
Some Thrift stores are nasty. Bad carpet or cement floors. No Air Conditioning. Smells Funny. But hidden in that wrecked Spanish Galleon of a store is the buried treasure you're after. So don't run away. It's best to take a friend for moral support.

Sometimes you might see this:
Twilight meets Mark Cuban Statuette
I know. You can't un-see that. It was worse in person, because there were two of them. What were they for? Who is that. My best guess is that it's a some sort of "Twilight meets Mark Cuban Commemorative Statuette."

Thrifting with Kids
If the kids are coming along on the trip, make it a treasure hunt! We pick out a book series that we want to collect. Maybe Harry Potter, Magic Treehouse, or A Series of Unfortunate Events. The kids get to scour the book sections until they complete the set. Make sure you put a price limit on the books - I wouldn't pay more than $2 for any hardback...

We wanted the Lemony Snicket series. It took about 4 outings - but eventually we had pieced together two sets! One for us and one for the cousins. Total cost for both sets? $21.84. Not bad for 26 books.

Do you have any tips? Let us know in the comments below - and Happy Thrifting! Diane Rodriguez