More For Less

Thrift stores are an amazing resource for getting second hand, high quality, inexpensive clothes. Often the offerings are perfectly good things that somebody has outgrown. For college students it’s a great way to stay trendy and stay on budget. You can score some hip clothes if you go with the right mindset.

Rebecca Jackson is the store Manager of the Crossroads thrift store in Chicago and has been thrifting for years. “I love it, it’s the only way to shop for me,” said Jackson. She said more then half her closet is filled with clothes and accessories she bought at thrift stores. Since Jackson is an expert on thrift store shopping she’s handing out some tips for beginners:

  1. Find thrift stores in your area. Big cities tend to have more options. You’ll likely have to hit a few to find what you want. “The best areas to thrift in Chicago are Wicker Park and Boystown. You can walk block after block and find great thrift stores,” said Jackson.
  2. Set a budget. It’s easy to spend a lot of money at thrift stores because everything is so cheap so you buy more. “Stay focused on what you really need and only get pieces that are true gems,” said Jackson
  3. Bring your own bag. A lot of thrift stores might charge extra for bags. Your already getting a deal so might as well be eco friendly and bring your own.
  4. Be patient. Shopping can wear the nerves thin, especially in a hectic and disorganized space like a thrift store. “What’s great about thrift stores like Goodwill is that you can have fun with your clothing because everything is so cheap. I always end up trying on crazy outfits just for the fun of it,” said Jackson.
  5. Bring cash. A lot of thrift store don’t take credit cards.
  6. Look for brand names. Designer clothes are made with good quality fabrics so they’re going to last. “It’s always a good shopping day when you find a designer item. They’re always in such good condition because they’re made so well,” said Jackson.
  7. Decide why you’re going. Do you have something in mind? Or just shopping in general? “In big cities we narrow down the clothing. We have specific things for different seasons in the store and we post that all on our website to let our shoppers know what we’re carrying so they don’t leave empty handed,” said Jackson.
  8. Start looking. Some stores are more organized than others. Try to understand the system if you can. “When you shop at thrift stores, it’s just like shopping any other store. Everything is labeled and sized,” said Jackson.
  9. Watch for bargains. Many thrift stores have sales or clearance racks to unload items that haven’t been selling.
  10. Before buying an item, take a good look at it. Did somebody get rid of it for any obvious reason? Is it in good shape? “Be super-cautious. Check it out before you buy it because a lot of thrift stores don’t take returned items,” said Jackson.

Jackson’s co-worker agree with her on a lot of her tips. Alex Pine works at Crossroads and really stressed that thrift stores are just as qualified as regular stores. “I think people sometimes get the wrong idea about thrift store shopping if they’ve never done it. We are very careful about the clothes we sell, obviously we want people to buy the clothes so we only pick ones that are attractive and worth buying,” Pine said.

Pine has been working at Crossroads for two years and is a student at DePaul. He said thrift store shopping always keeps him in budget and fashionable. “People always compliment my clothes and they’re so surprised when I tell them where I bought it!”

Fashion is an ever-changing part of life, and thrifting makes it possible to stay up to date on fashion trends within budget. So the next time you want to pop into Nordstroms for your designer outfit, try stopping into a thrift store first. You won’t be disappointed.


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