The Birth of a Frugal Fashionista…

Growing up as the oldest of four, I remember that shopping for clothes was an event that was few and far between. Near my tweens, we started visiting my maternal grandparents, who were 6 hours away, more often and usually in the Summer before the start of the school year. You can imagine my excitement when my grandmother told me one year that she was going to take me clothes shopping for school.

When we pulled up to her “favorite shop”, I’ll be honest, I was less than impressed.  Staring at the thrift shop in front of me, my excitement melted into a pool of dread. My tween brain could not imagine how I was going to find anything stylish or fashionable to wear amongst the old toys and broken electronics this store was sure to contain. I already envisioned being teased for wearing clothes that were faded, out of date, and that didn’t fit properly.

As we got out of the car, I faked a smile and reminded myself of the old adage, “It’s the thought that counts!”  Walking in, I was impressed by how clean and organized the store was. My grandmother, a thrift store regular, took me right to the clothing section. As she looked through and pulled out pieces, she began picking out pieces and showed me what to look for…

“Look, this is new, it still has the tags on!” she said, pressing it up to my neckline.

“Always look for tears or pinches in the fabric…”

“Check the bottom pants for wear…”

“If a stain can be hidden, why does it matter?”

“Look for discounted items!”

On and on she went filling the cart and my brain as we navigated our way through the narrow aisles and sections of sizes and styles. On our way out we paid $20 and we walked out with TWO large trash bags full of clothes. This was the start, the start of my love of thrift shopping, bargain hunting, and saving money. I had an entire year’s worth and more of clothes for what I would have spent on one, maybe two nice pieces of clothing at a large retailer.

These cherished trips became a regular occurrence during our annual trips to visit my grandparents. And, with those sweet memories fueling my enthusiasm for dressing well on a budget, I would continue to clothe myself by finding the best gently used and sometimes brand new clothing from the thrift shop. Learning from many successes and failures thrift shopping, I now have my own set of rules I adhere to while shopping to get the biggest bang for my buck.

Set a Budget for Your Trip

I always set a budget for my shopping trips! It’s so easy to get caught up “saving” on clothes and accessories that you can end up spending way more than you should.  To protect myself from overspending and changing my original budget amount, I hit the ATM on the way and pick up cash. No matter how many shops I go to, once I’m out of cash, I’m done.

Inspect the Clothing

Unlike department stores, you can’t take your purchases back, making it imperative to check your selected pieces before you purchase it. As a rule of thumb, I always check for these things and try them on.


Having so much Inventory from so many different sources, sometimes the clothing is not properly labeled for its size. This is why it is important to check the tag on the piece itself and dare I repeat myself, always…try…it…on…


One reason that clothes are donated to the thrift store from a retailer is that they may have some irregularities. Most of the time, these irregularities are not a problem. (Think unseen stitching in the wrong color.) But, something like uneven legs, sleeves, or an irregularly sewn zipper can easily make a purchase not worth it. (That is, of course, unless you can fix it yourself!)


Picture this, you get home on an unbelievable high! You just got so much beautiful stuff and all within budget!  Then, you see it…damage… Getting home after an amazing day of thrift shopping and seeing damage on one of your diamonds in the rough can bring on an overwhelming feeling of failure. Been there, done that!  Check it inside and out for stains, pinched fabrics, and tears. Be sure to check all of it!  Most oversighted are the dreaded neck stain on button up shirts and wear on the bottom of pants. Absolutely love the top and its the only one? If the imperfection is in a spot that is not noticeable or will be layered over, why not grab it? Always ask yourself, can I live with this?  If the answer is yes, take it!  And, don’t forget to ask for a discount mentioning the damage. Some stores have an AS IS policy, but it never hurts to ask!  Sometimes they’ll give a discount just to make room for new inventory.

Shop During Sales/Deals

Many thrift stores have sales, deals, or coupons to help get inventory out and make room for their new donated items. Sometimes these sales are not advertised so be sure to ask employees if they have a print out of coming up sales dates. Check to see if your local shop has a website or a Facebook page. Some of these sales are as good as 50% off or buy one get one free! During these extra bargain days, be sure to get there early for the best deals.

Have Fun!

Thrift stores are sure to have one of a kind be great as accent pieces or the focal piece for any outfit. Getting clothing at the thrift store allows the shopper to be creative with their attire. For me, thrift store shopping is fun and will always bring me back to the unforgettable memories with my grandmother, whom I wish I had more time to be able to shop with more often today.

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