Nifty Thrifty Tips By Jo Rosenthal

I grew up thrifting and I hated it at first. My stepmom and dad owned a mid-century modern furniture store in Miami and I used to hang out there after school and touch everything. I also think that’s where my ability to fall asleep in any chair came from. I remember taking trips with my parents all around Florida to estate sales and warehouses to find cool furniture. It was so boring at first because as a nine-year-old, I thought old things were disgusting. As I grew up, my hate for thrifting changed. By the time I was a senior in high school, I became a regular at my local Salvation Army. I loved the cashier who wore 40 necklaces and had a tiny mustache to match. 

I feel like after spending half my life in thrift stores, I’ve mastered the art. So much so that when I visit my family in Florida, I plan my trip around when I can thrift. Here are some of my tips and tricks on how to make the most of any thrifting experience. 

Don’t be afraid to get dirty

I feel like a lot of people like the idea of thrifting, but when it comes to doing it they can’t stand it. To me, the whole point of thrifting is to dig and find that incredible piece you didn’t even know existed. It means getting dirty to find it. So many thrift stores are filled with things that no one wanted, and it’s your job to weed through to find something that you do. If you can’t stand the idea of going through bins of stained/used/dirty/stinky/ripped things, maybe the thrift store isn’t the best place for you. I’ve experienced everything from finding bloodstains on dresses to cocaine and bugs in cabinets, but that hasn’t stopped me from tying my hair up and continuing to sift through garbage until I find something I can’t live without. 

Remember you can always find it cheaper

Whenever I have my eye on something, I like to send pictures of it to my stepmom to see if she can find it at one of the local thrifts she goes to. Pretty much every time that’s the case, the goal is achieved. From mini dresses to Herman Miller knock offs, there really isn’t anything you can’t find at a thrift store if you’re willing to search. However, it’s important to remember that just because you found it in one place, doesn’t mean you can’t find it somewhere else. Whether you go to Ebay or Etsy or IRL to find gold, remember that you can pretty much always find what you’re looking for a cheaper price if you’re willing to do the research. 

Don’t mistake vintage for thrift 

New York loves to be the type of place to mark up prices on things you can find cheaper somewhere else. Since the rise of thrifting over the last ten years, vintage stores have popped up all over ready to take your money. Take it from someone who has experienced this first hand with my parent's furniture store. We’d buy things for anywhere from $10-100 and mark it up to 10x the price and sell it to someone who doesn’t want to go find it themselves. Sometimes it’s based on how limited something is, but most of the times it’s not and it’s just a matter of looking. If you’ve been eyeing a velvet couch from a vintage store in Greenpoint, don’t be afraid to look for it in other places because chances are if it’s $800 dollars in one place, you can find it for $500 dollars somewhere else. And I bet if you give the store clerk a smile, they’ll be willing to lower the price for you. 

If it doesn’t fit, tailor it! 

This one is obvious, but if you find something you like and it doesn’t fit, if it’s cheap enough, you should get it and take it somewhere to make it fit you. Sometimes it’s hard to find certain fabrics in other places, so if you find a fabric you can’t live without but the style is too big or small, just take it and figure out what to do with it later. 

Whenever I thrift, I like to plan out my experience. Most places are cash only and you should probably bring a friend. I like to limit myself to a $50 dollar experience because you really shouldn’t spend more than that to find used goods. Especially when it comes to clothes. I like to grab a cart from the front of the store and walk through every aisle grabbings things I like until the cart is full and I can go through it and choose things I can’t live without. I like to wash things at least 2 or 3 times before wearing them because I’ve gotten lice from trying on hats. Don’t forget to make the most of the experience and not take it too seriously because that takes away the fun and laughter of looking through things that might have an insane backstory. Thrifting is a fun and easy way to refresh your closet with gems that tell a never-ending story. 

Article written by Jo Rosenthal

1 comment

  • a guy I know got scabies from not washing his thrifty finds. but on the upside, it really was a beautiful jacket. thanks for sharing this story jo, very sweet read.

    cameron lee

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