“Hey, Macklemore! Can we go thrift shopping?”: Where to Start

Motivation has taken over! Dreams of swimming in that large pile of money that you have made are flooding your mind. Admit it, you are already driving that 2016 Tesla Model S on the way to your brand new lake house.

Pump the breaks.

Remember, start out small. Let’s make the first trip to the Goodwill before we start getting together the down payment for your new vacation spot.

You walk through the doors of the thrift shop feeling like Macklemore — “I’m gonna pop some tags” — and you stop. Beaming florescent lights overhead, shelves crowded with trinkets and knick knacks, piles of dusty books, rows and rows and ROWS of clothing. The clock has stuck midnight and your beautiful Tesla has turned back into a pumpkin.

Typically, going into a thrift store is not an anxiety provoking task. That all may change though when your purpose for being there changes.

1. Get to Know the Policies of Each Thrift Store

Each thrift store is a little bit different. For example, while the Goodwill’s corporate policies apply at all Goodwill’s each Goodwill might be slightly different. Here are some things you should get to know about your local thrift store.

Learn about the discounts!

The Salvation Army will discount 50% of merchandise after a certain date whereas the Goodwill will rotate discounts by color in 20% and 50% increments. Check those colors and/or dates before you even start looking at an item. I scored a vintage Gucci cross body bag for $20 just because its tag was the color purple — that week’s 50% off color!

Learn the return policy

Most, if not all, of the thrift stores that I’ve been to have a no cash return policy. They typically will do returns with tags within a certain time frame and give you a store credit. All are different, though! The Savers that I go to gives you 7 days whereas the Goodwill only will give you 3 days.

This is important, especially when you’re first starting out. Bryan and I still have a few items left in our inventory from our first few ventures to the store. We thought we’d struck gold on a few things that in reality we couldn’t give away. If we’d known the rules of those stores, we would have opted for the store credit, because we knew that we would use it. At our stores there’s no expiration on that credit as long as you keep the receipt.

No large bag policy

Just be ready for someone to ask you to put your bag behind the counter in order to prevent theft. A small cross body bag is OK, but backpacks are a no-no in most places.

2. Start in one area and make sure that your phone is charged!

Rows and rows and ROWS of clothing. Starting to feel a little overwhelmed. Starting to feel a little annoyed with Dawn and questioning why you would ever listen to this crazy girl.

Breathe. Start in one section.

For example, let’s start in men’s athletic pants. Make sure you have your phone out and open to the eBay app. eBay has been around since 1995, and it’s my go-to source when trying to guesstimate my profit margins while physically in the thrift store.

OK, so you have your fully-charged phone in hand and you start going through the rack. You may see brands you’re not familiar with, but you’re still typing them in to the search bar on the eBay app and filtering your search for the sold listings to see if you’ve struck gold. But then, you come across something you know: Nike.

You examine the pants and notice that they say “Nike Golf Dri-Fit.” There’s a plaid pattern to the pants. They look like this:

$6.99 X tax= $7.32

Your find: $6.99 + 4.7% tax = $7.32

You enter a description of the item into the search bar on the eBay app, the filter for only the sold items to see what similar items have gone for. You find a very similar pair that recently sold:

Sold Item: $34.99 +$5.99 Shipping

eBay Sold Item: $34.99 + $5.99 Shipping

Congrats! You’ve just found your first item!

Now if you’re lucky enough to have this exact scenario, after the 10% eBay takes out plus PayPal’s 2.9% + $0.30 fee, your profit would look something like this

  • Item: $34.99 + Shipping: $5.99 = $40.98 paid by the buyer
  • $40.98 x 12.9% + $0.30 (combined eBay + PayPal fees) = $5.69
  • $40.98 – $5.69 = $35.29
  • $35.29 – initial $7.32 = $27.97 PROFIT

You just made $27.97 off a pair of Nike pants you found on one rack among rows and rows and ROWS of clothing.

C’mon, aren’t you just a little curious to see what else you can find?

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Dawn

Welcome to Debt Free Dawn! I'm a social worker by day and second-hand clothing flipper by night (and weekends) trying to pay down $130,000 of student loan debt as quickly as possible. Please comment below with any questions and thanks for visiting my site!

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4 Comments

  1. Julie

    I love the information about learning the stores policies! I made this
    Mistake when I went into savers and did not know they had a store credit only policy! Thank you for all of the valuable info…”I’m gunna pop some tags”

  2. Patti

    Love it Dawn. I am going to try it, pay off some debt and see where I can go from there. I only hope I can do as well as you. Thank you for all your helpful information!

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