3 Pros & Cons of Shopping at Thrift Stores

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After a recent visit to the local Value Village, Anders and I were both blown away by the number of quality pieces we came home with for very little cost.  

I know people who swear by thrift store shopping, and others who turn their nose up at it. For me, quality is the name of the game. I’m also very aware of the old adage “The cheap man pays twice.”  That being said, if I can find something of quality at a cheap price…? Yeah, this girl is gonna snatch that up in a heartbeat. BUT…only if it’s something I could actually use.

“The cheap man pays twice.”

This is all part of my inner dialogue when shopping at thrift stores, and one of the many reasons why I fall somewhere in the middle with my enthusiasm for them. But rather than keep the rest of those reasons to myself, I’ve detailed them for you below.  

From my own experience, here are 3 pros and cons of shopping at thrift stores.

PRO #1:

Deep Discounts

Obvious.  This Coldwater Creek shirt (which I am socking away for a Christmas gift) was only $7.  A similar shirt is listed on their website on sale for $24.95, down from an original price of $49.95.  That’s over 85% off original price!

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Listen, if you can pay (or choose to pay) nearly $50 on a thin t-shirt like shirt, go for it…but I feel much better spending less than $10 if possible.  And with a quality brand name like this? This shirt was a real steal.

All in all we took home six items in this haul for a grand total of $31.25.  This included the shirt listed above, as well as two brand name mens dress shirts: one from Banana Republic and the other from Brooks Brothers. BOOM.

*Bonus Pro from Anders: “I really like shopping for dress shirts at thrift stores because you don’t have to go through as much hassle as department stores to try them on. I hate spending the time taking a shirt out of the package and removing all of those push pins only to find that the shirt doesn’t fit anyway.”

E7AD7016-A0A9-43E9-88C2-7D9BAAD4EB7ACON #1:

The Skeeze Factor

We all have our limits, so this is personal for everyone.  For example: Anders has a thing about second-hand shoes, so you won’t find him bringing those up to the checkout line.  For others, it might be hats (for good reason).  And while growing up with all brothers leaves little room for anything to gross me out, I doubt I’d ever be able to buy pre-loved undergarments.  (Yes, it’s a thing.)

PRO #2:

Rare Gems

There was a girl in my high school that always had the coolest shoes.  They weren’t some well-known brand name, nor did they look like anything I had ever seen before.  They were bold, funky, and one-of-a-kind. We all thought they were from an artsy downtown boutique, but it turned out that she often got them from our local discount store, Gabriel Brother’s.  

If you are patient (see con below), you might be able to find some cool, exclusive finds.  Worried of showing up at the party wearing the same thing as someone else? Forget splurging on something custom-made and go digging at a thrift store.  Talk about buried treasure.

But hey, this doesn’t just pertain to your wardrobe! Need to spruce up the home? If you’re cool with a mismatch of unique pieces, you can sometimes find some good quality furniture at thrift stores, too.  Furthermore, if you’re handy, you can fix up a piece of furniture to make it look the way you want. And if you’re not handy? Give it a go anyway! If it doesn’t pan out, at least your initial costs were low, right?

CON #2:

Digging Takes Time

Yes, we scored big this time around, but it wasn’t a quick stop.  Finding a diamond in the rough can sometimes be…well…rough. Furthermore, it’s not like this everytime we go.  Sometimes you win some. Sometimes you lose some. Better to not go into it thinking you’re going to find something.  Hey, low expectations mind leave you pleasantly surprised! (Or not.)

PRO #3:

Purge Perks

Many thrift stores will accept donations, and then reward you for them.  Some will offer you discount coupons to use in store. Others like Plato’s Closet or Uptown Cheapskate may actually buy some of your items from you.  Give your local store a call occasionally to see what kind of brands and items they are looking to acquire.  It might be a great way to make some extra cash when purging your closet.

CON #3:

Getting Suckered Into a Sale

YOU GUYS.  I’ve fallen for this trap for most of my money-spending life.  I’ll justify buying something simply because I’m getting a good deal on it, NOT because it’s actually something I need. Buyer beware, friends.  Buyer beware.


This last one really hits home for me, and as I’m making an effort to be more financially fit, it’s become a major area of growth.  For some bonus material, here are a few tips to keep you from getting suckered into the sale trap:

Fight against the impulse by asking the right questions, and go beyond the common Do I need this? question.

Truthfully, you probably don’t, but there’s a fine line between hard core save mode and limiting yourself from enjoying the fruits of your labor.  If you’re going to treat yourself, better it be with a cheap (yet worthwhile) purchase than an extravagant one, yes? Otherwise, in my experience, if I limit myself too much I later find myself surrounded by shopping bags and packages wondering what the hell happened.

And let’s be real – you can likely justify a reason for buying anything if you really want it, right?

Me, too.  So instead, try asking yourself some of these questions:

  • Do I have anything like this currently in my closet?
  • How many different items can I pair this with?
  • Can this work for both day and night? Work and play?
  • If I saw a friend wearing this, would I compliment them on it or ask them where they got it?

Other tips:

  • Have a rule where you can only add an item to your closet if you evict something else.
  • Try it on and ask someone for their honest opinion.  If you partner doesn’t love it on you, maybe put it aside.  
  • If you’re partner isn’t the best at giving you their honest opinion (either because they’re indifferent, swear everything looks fabulous on you, or are afraid to say the truth), ask a stranger by the dressing room.  Not being emotionally invested in a relationship with you may allow them to give a more real response.

What are your thoughts on thrift store shopping?  Do you ever find yourself in any of the situations I mentioned?  We’d love to hear about them in a comment below! Bonus points if you drop your favorite places to bargain shop!

Sporting one of my thrift store finds ($3!) while talking a stroll around Baltimore with Anders.