Shopping Tips: How to Score Amazing Thrift Store Finds

Thrift into High Gear

Thrift store shopping tips

We may not have an old ship, drunken drawl or gobs of black eyeliner, but we consider ourselves savvy treasure hunters nonetheless. After all, finding elusive vintage and retro gems in a sea of thrift store castoffs can be just as tricky as a chest of gold coins.


Uncover your own wardrobe booty with our key shopping tips and remember, when it comes to slashed prices, “X” marks the spot.


Check everything.
“Gently used” may not be the right term for some of the things you’ll find. Carefully inspect items for flaws in easy-to-miss places, including armpits. Some, like missing buttons or ripped seams, can be fixed, while others, like holes or stains, are nearly impossible.


Think outside the box.
Anything goes at the thrift store. Browse the menswear section for cool hats, scarves and even oversized flannel. Sometimes the best ironic T-shirts can be found in the little boy’s section. On the petite side? Take a gander in the girl’s section. You never know what you’ll find.


Keep track of savings.
Pay attention to when stores have discounts on certain items or tag colors. For example, Savers in Waipahu and Kalihi alternate which tag colors are on sale (older items get more and more discounted) in order to move their stock. Also, if you have generous friends and family, taking advantage of military and senior discounts – most fall on Tuesdays or Wednesdays – can make a good deal even sweeter.


Dress for the occasion.
Wear leggings or bicycle shorts and a cami so you can try on items even if there are no dressing rooms available, like at a garage sale or small vintage shop.


Expand your search area and schedule.
Hit garage sales in wealthy neighborhoods for potential high-end finds. For regular stores, plan your visit on a day you know stock will hit the floor so you get first pick. Savers, for example, gets large shipments in on Tuesdays, while Goodwill refreshes daily. And don’t forget to thrift shop when you travel. Some cities have really interesting and different stores with stock from a fresh, new demographic.


Don’t buy just because it’s cheap.
Ask yourself: Would you buy this at a higher price? If not, chances are, your “funky knitted watermelon sweater” will quickly morph into “that ugly sweater you never wear.”


Get creative.
Keep an eye out for possible DIY projects that can alter trash into treasure, especially if the fabric is right. You can always turn a pair of faded jeans into cool distressed cut-offs or slash a retro dress into a loose tunic. Start with something semi-simple from Internet guru thrifters and work your way up to a more intense project. (Just make sure you actually do it!)


Thrift store shopping tips Shops to hit:

Goodwill Beretania. An especially sweet multi-level thrift store find for college students, who get their own special discount day on Sundays. And with all of the donations from the surrounding Honolulu area, the daily refreshed stock means you constantly have new pieces to sift through. 1075 S. Beretania St.


Salvation Army Kailua. A good place to take advantage of some of the discards from a high-end neighborhood with all the proceeds going to a good cause (Goodwill has a similar model). 638 Kailua Road.


Savers Kalihi or Waipahu. Their huge warehouse-sized stores have enough stock to keep you busy for hours, including large housewares sections for bonus vintage vases and generous shoe and book areas as well. Kalihi: 1505 Dillingham Blvd. Waipahu: 94-300 Farrington Highway.


Plato’s Closet. For lazy thrifters, Plato’s Closet sources the gems for you with racks of young, trendy apparel, jewelry, bags and shoes. Think of it as an aftermarket Forever 21. 1161 S. Beretania St.