1. How Much Time Ya Got?
If you're going thrifting, this is not the time that you run in to grab a gallon of milk and run out. That's not how thrifting works. You need to go with a clear mind, and hope of not finding anything specific. Thrift store aisles are generally marked by "Blazers", "Long Sleeve", "Pants", "Skirts". And that's about it. They don't break down by year, style, clearance - it's all lumped together.
Now some people find this overwhelming. And trust me, it can be. But that's why I suggest you go in not only with a clear slate but also with more than twenty minutes to spare. Otherwise what can happen is you start looking, you find pieces, and realize you haven't even looked at half the store and you're out of time. Hence, why people get overwhelmed. So start small; chances are you'll find a piece here or there. There are TONS of hidden treasures in Thrift Stores - tons. Not just clothes either; old collector items, gently used furniture (which can be made into crafty updos!, aka Pinterest Projects), beautiful jewelry, cute handbags...you name it, they have had it at one point or another. So build some time in so that you HAVE time to find those hidden treasures, and to do that secret victory dance inbetween aisles a the steal you just scored.
2. Lacking Thriftspiration, aka Thrift Mojo
This is pretty clear cut - if you're not in the mood to thrift, Don't do it. You need thrift mojo to get you through, and the realization that you might go in there finding an amazing item - or you might not. And being okay with that. Thriftspiration generally comes when you have the time (see #1) to dedicate to it. With Thrift Mojo . . . anything can happen!!
3. Ignore the Size Tag
Ladies let me tell you - a size 14 back in the day is close to a size 4 or 6 today. Makes no sense, I'm tellin ya', but it's true. I can't tell you the number of thrifted items I have gotten that are generally vintage that showed a size 12-14 on the label, and when holding it up looks more like a size 2 or 00. Wow have times changed! So I do the "Hold Em Up" test for these situations...if you pull something out that you think is cute, look at the label and realize it's an older item or that the size tag is larger than what you're currently wearing, Hold Em Up to try and judge. If it looks too small to fit a baby's toe, try it anyways. If it looks too big and you think you'll swim in it, Try it anyways.
Thrift stores are like that story, "the sisterhood of the travelling pants". It might look like it won't fit - but thrifted purchases are magical.
4. Vintage vs. Thrifted
Speaking of vintage, I think it's important to note the distinction between vintage and thrifted. Vintage purchases are any items that are 20 years or older. Vintage is specific. But thrifted items can be vintage or non-vintage; it's unspecific. Thrifted items sometimes can include clothing you've recently seen in stores, but that someone decided last minute they didn't want anymore (And probably didn't have the receipt for). Thrifted can also mean that a store had a surplus, and sent the extra items packing to the local thrift store. I see this a lot in my area - Target especially sends a lot of things to thrift stores with tags still on them, so I've actually gotten many things brand new but at almost 80% off!
5. Ignore the Label
Just as you should ignore the size tag - ignore the label. Who cares if it's not from a high-fashion company, or even name brand. If it's something that caught your eye, and you gave it a second look or actually pulled it out for more than a quick second - then it's worth considering. No one will know what's on the label but you, no one will know it's vintage or came from your gramma's closet. If you want it, then take it! Fashion and styles come back; and some pieces are timeless. A cobalt skirt from the 1980's could be passable today because cobalt is a hot color right now, and no one would know the difference. AND you'll get away with paying $3-4 for something that others will pay $50-60 for, and will look almost exactly the same!
Some of my favorite pair of shoes have come from thrift stores. But I've also ended up purchasing shoes just because I was so excited, only to realize that they really aren't that comfortable or didn't actually fit in the first place. Take your time in store, just as you would in a regular department or shoe store, and see if the shoes are really worth the purchase. Just because they're only a few dollars doesn't mean you need them, or will wear them. Buy your normal wear and tear, day-in and day-out shoes at stores that you trust and love, and leave thrifting shoes for when you're just looking for some fun! You can get lucky and find both, but never go with the intention of doing so.
7. Dresses & Skirts
There are so many amazing dresses and skirts I have found at thrift stores; vintage or other. You can take old dresses or skirts from the eighties and tie a belt around them, giving them an updated look with patterns that can still be wearable today! And if you're especially skilled, you can always hem dresses that aren't the appropriate length. Or if you're redneck like me - just take a pair of scissors to 'em.
8. Pants - BEWARE
There are generally rows upon rows of jeans and pants at thrift stores; apparently no one wears pants anymore. It's interesting as well because these are some of the items we spend the most money on, yet they flood thrifting stores because most people never have just one or two pair. That being said, if you're going to thrift a pair of pants you need to realize that while skirts/shirts from previous periods can be trendy, some pants might not be. They've really changed a lot from a few decades ago, so I'd really sift through and ALWAYS try pants on. Shirts you can get away with, but pants and cut need to be tried on.
9. Buying What you Won't Use
We've all done this, thrifting or not. You pick something up, say "oh I might have a use for that", and then it sits there and you eventually re-thrift. If you hesitate on it, it's not worth it. Thrifting especially can fall to this because you adopt the mentality "oh it's only $3" - but that $3 is still $3 wasted if you don't use it. Unless you're dying to have it - move on.
10. HAVE FUN!
A lot of people have the mentality that thrifting is a bad thing, or that it's dirty, or this or that - and sometimes you do need to give items a look-over before purchasing. But all in all you can generally tell what the wear is on an item, and if you're open and willing you can grab some great pieces for extremely low prices. As well when you thrift, those dollars go to help individuals in need of shelter and employment - it's a win win!
If You TOO are a Thrifty Thrifter, aka a Thrift-A-Holic, make sure you add this button to your blog so people know! It's on my right-hand sidebar.