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Tips for Shopping Second Hand

tips for second hand shopping

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I’m a sucker for a good deal. And when I mean sucker – I legit was and still am. Shopping second hand is NOTHING new to me. I’ve thrifted my entire life to the point where my “finds” were getting a little out of hand. A.K.A. –  my garage and stockpile were filling faster than I could move items out.

But over the years, I’ve grown, learned from mistakes, and researched to figure out how I can make the most of second hand shopping with these tips. 

The Best Places To Second Hand Shop

So you’re ready to thrift but you don’t know where to begin looking. There are so many places that you can secondhand shops in person and online.

Some of my favorite places are also local shops that can be found in almost any city. Here are my favorite places to shop second hand.

Shop In Person

  • Local Thrift Stores (Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc)
  • Yard and Garage Sales
  • Closet Swaps
  • Consignment Stores
  • Family and Friends Houses

Shop Online

  • Poshmark (Earn $5 when you sign up)  or Mercari 
  • Thred Up (Earn $10 when you sign up)
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Offer Up or Let Go
  • Instagram

When it comes to shopping at your favorite second hand shops, you ALWAYS need to be prepared.

Tips for Shopping Second Hand

Bring a Buddy

It’s always more fun when you’re shopping for awesome finds with someone else to get a second opinion and set of eyes, but also to let you know when you really don’t need that extra basket or table (thanks husband!).

second hand shopping tips

Make a List

Anytime I go thrifting, I try to keep an ongoing list of items I either am on the lookout for OR items that I’d like to see, but don’t necessarily need for any immediate needs.

Bring a Fully Charged Phone

This is HUGE. I always bring my phone with me and sometimes a portable charger if there’s a possibility that I’ll be out for a while. While I’m going through different stores or sites, I will ALWAYS research a product before thinking about purchasing it.

Some things I look up include:

  • Exact item and item number
  • Description
  • Price for the item in used and new condition
  • Scanning barcodes

I also like to have my phone ready for unexpected finds that could potentially be gold mines. For me this includes furniture that may look a little rough on the outside. It usually has awesome bones, but needs some TLC. Or vintage cameras that are worth a lot – but may no longer work. Or even Longaberger baskets (if you know, you know!).

Having access to the internet allows me to look up this items with ease. Especially at garage sales, a lot of people do not know the value of the items they are selling, which brings me to my next tip: negotiation.

Other Items To Bring

Don’t make the mistake of not having some of these necessities while you’re out and about. Water or your favorite drink and some fuel-worthy snacks (I usually keep a protein bar, chips, and gum with me).

It’s also a good idea to bring a tape measure, safety pins, and any measurements you may need for items you’re on the lookout for. Plus, if you spot an item you love, you can see how much it needs to be taken it or if it’s even possible with your tool kit.

Salvage Items

Select large retailers “salvage” items that may not sell or are over inventoried on. As an example, most Targets salvage clearance items after the season ends. So a clearance item that was $20 dropped to $10 might show up in a Goodwill for $2.99!

It’s the luck of the draw, so you’ll have to check with your local thrift stores to see if they get shipments from any big retailers and on what days they are inventoried to their system for you to get the biggest selection.

Get Creative

I see so many good finds and imagine all of the possibilities. Bring a rinky-dink coffee table to life by switching out the legs and utilizing contact paper.

Turn a baby changing table into a bar cart. Paint that ugly green bookshelf and knock out the back board to get more depth from one side of the room to another (add wheels and you’ve got yourself a bar cart).

DIY Marble Coffee Table (2 of 2)

The possibilities are endless especially when it comes to pieces that have good bones. Remember, you can always transform that piece again in the future. 


Always, always negotiate. The worst thing the seller can say is NO. And at that point, you can renegotiate, purchase it, or not purchase the item.

When negotiating, some things to consider are the value of the item you are looking at, the seller’s asking price, and the highest price you are willing to pay. From there, you can successfully negotiate. 

Additional Discounts

If you’re new to thrift shopping, you may be surprised to know that most thrift shops have additional discount days. From student to senior discounts, it doesn’t hurt to find out if your local store offers additional discount days. These can be individual discounts or store wide to lower select items.

Take advantage of second hand shopping. I’ve found some of my favorite items from garage sales, friend’s closet swaps, and local thrift stores. There are so many awesome items and often well loved that are just in need of some TLC.

You’ve got this! Alright, who’s coming over to second hand shop with me? I’ll bring the snacks.

How do you shop second hand?