How to Shop Thrift Stores Like a Boss


Allow me to be my nerd-self-who-used-to-work-at-a-tech company for a moment. You’ve likely heard of the theory of gamification. Basically, it says that there is a direct correlation between difficulty, reward and engagement. If something isn’t challenging enough, we get bored and quickly become disengaged in that behavior. If something is very difficult and does not provide frequent reward, we become frustrated and thus disengaged. You’re likely right on the edge of disengaging right now because you’re wondering what the heck this has to do with thrift store shopping. If you’re anything like me five years ago, you haven’t yet discovered the thrill of the thrifting obsession because you haven’t learned how to gamify it for yourself yet. It takes too much time. You never find anything good. And all you ever find is overpriced crap you already have or will never need. Then, one day you’re at your girlfriend’s house and notice her gorgeous new mirror that looks like it was $300 at Anthro, only to discover she bought it for $20 at a thrift store. Why don’t you ever have that luck?!

Girl, I’m about to change your life. Well. At least your shopping life. Here are the five secrets to shop like a thrift store boss strategy:

Find 2-3 go to stores

Not all thrift stores are created equal. Some are organized. Some require digging. Some rarely have new stock. There are several thrift, second hand, antique and flea market type stores in my city, but I usually only shop at four of them and forget the rest. I look for a store with organized sections (I’m not a fan of junk piles), reasonable prices and frequent product turnover. I get easily overwhelmed in thrift stores piled from ceiling to floor, so I just don’t waste my time there. A good way to tell if a thrift store has good product turnover is to take a look at their donation drop off. High turnover stores generally have a team of people sorting and pricing in the back and will put out new merchandise weekly.

Make quick trips often

Get to the good stuff before it’s gone. The key to thrift store treasure hunting is looking often. But if you’re like me, ain’t nobody got time for leisurely shopping on the regular. I try and do a multi thrift store blitz every two to three weeks. My favorite stores are within a 10 minute radius of each other, so I usually set aside about an hour (10-15 mins at each store, sometimes less) to stop by each one. Someday I will publish a theory on exponential shopping favor, and the lack there of. I don’t know why, but I my quick blitz trips usually result in a jackpot purchase at each store, or striking out completely. This is why I love going often and not taking much time out of my day. If I don’t find anything that particular trip, I didn’t waste an entire afternoon.

Stick to the thing you love to shop for

My sister in law has the spiritual gift of finding gorgeous clothing in thrift stores. I, on the other hand, couldn’t find a wardrobe steal at a thrift store if my life depended on it. This is mostly because I have zero patience for clothes shopping. Scrolling through hangers is just not my thing. However, I could sift through old furniture and wall prints all day long. I have an eye for good pieces and always have a list going of what I could use in each room in my house, or what would resell quickly. Find the item(s) you’re most drawn to and let that be your thing. Don’t feel like you have to shop the whole store.

Learn about their sales and coupons

Most thrift stores have weekly discount days or coupon ads you can sign up for. One of my go to stores does 50% off all furniture every other Tuesday. You wanna talk about gamifying your shopping experience? There’s no better reward than getting half off an already dirt cheap item. I bought a gorgeous chair last week for $3, all because I knew about their furniture sale. Don’t overlook the deals, they really do add up.

Fund your own shopping by finding goods for others

I recently found a beautiful fall painting with this gorgeous antique golden frame. It was a little more than I usually spend on an wall hanging, but the same day I found a mid mod side table for $6. I don’t need any more side tables, but I knew I could purchase both pieces and flip the side table in no time to cover the cost of the wall hanging. When I find myself feeling the itch to redesign a room, I often pull together/shop for pieces I know others would want. It’s a great way to keep spending in check and also stay at peace with your mate.


Ok, my friend, now that you know the secret sauce for thrift store shopping bliss, let me know what treasures you find! Or if you’re already thrift obsessed like me, what did I leave out? What are your favorite thrifting strategies?


I’d love to hear from you. or on Insta @flowerandfig


xo – Bethany

More from the journal

5 tips for the awkward host

Don’t underestimate the power of a good playlist. It gives people something to talk about, dance to, and covers a lull in conversation. Start the music while you’re preparing dinner, well before your guests arrive. Let yourself jam out to your favorite tunes. It will calm your nerves and bring you out of the awkward zone.

5 tips for the perfect host

Everyone has their own version of makeup. It may be a spotless house. Or maybe it’s a “my life is wonderful” face put on just before guests arrive. Makeup covers what we’d rather hide and enhances what we wish was better.