Any time is a good time for thrifting! But, I recommend going when you have a shopping "craving." We all know the feeling. Your life won't be complete (or at least you won't look cute tonight) unless you buy something new. At least for me, these cravings often lead to spending too much money, buying things I don't really need, feeling a rush and then feeling guilty. Thrifting is a great solution because you are bound to spend much less money, and buying used items is more eco-friendly. Also, the rush from thrifting is distinctly different and, in my opinion, much better than that from regular retail shopping.
Take Your Time
Quick thrift trips are fine, especially if you're a seasoned thrifter or you're just looking at one type of item like shoes. If you're just breaking into the world of thrifting, however, I recommend allowing yourself plenty of time. You're much more likely to be successful.
Monday through Friday
Consider going on a weekday if you can. There will be fewer shoppers, and the store will be less picked over. Also, if you plan to frequent the same thrift store, find out if they have specials on certain days. You can even ask what day or days they restock.
Explore Your AreaNot all thrift stores are created equal. Visit all the thrift stores in your city or town, and travel to those nearby to get an idea of prices and selection. Generally speaking, thrift stores in small towns are likely to be cheaper and less picked over than those in more urban areas. Don't give up on a store after just one visit, though. Thrift stores are constantly changing, which is one reason they're so great!
Be PatientOne of the reasons thrift stores are considerably cheaper than, say, a vintage boutique or an antique mall is they don't filter through the merchandise to find the best items. You have to do that part! But it can be fun and rewarding, and the savings make it worth the effort. Be prepared to comb through a lot of clothes before you find something good.
Be ThoroughLook through everything. Just scanning a rack like you might do at a regular store probably won't cut it. Take it one section at a time, and look at each item. If the entire store seems too daunting, you can focus on one area per visit. Also, take a quick look in the men's and kids sections. You may just find a cute little blazer on the boys' rack or a men's denim shirt that would look great over leggings.
Be PersistentIt's easy to give up on thrifting when you put in the time and effort and come away empty-handed. I've had just as many failed attempts as smashing successes. You just have to keep trying. Often! I probably thrift at least once a week. The more you thrift, the more you'll find. You'll get better at it with practice.
See the PossibilitiesIt's important to recognize a garment's potential. For instance, a pair of pleated, high-waist "mom" pants from the '80s hanging on a grungy thrift store rack is not going to look as appealing as a similar pair styled on an H&M mannequin. Besides context, some items will actually need to be altered to unleash their style possibilities. A frumpy long dress or skirt may look totally chic with a more modern hemline. A ridiculous blouse may become quirky and cool once you remove the shoulder pads. Considering how little you're spending, it's okay to get some fixer-uppers. And if you're not a seamstress, consider enlisting the help of a tailor. Even after the cost of alteration, you'll probably be spending less or the same as you would in a store, and you're getting a more unique piece.
Cheap & Trendy
So you want to get on board with the latest trend, but you don't feel it's worth an investment. Try thrifting it! You would be surprised what you can find.
Take RisksBecause thrifting gives you more freedom financially, you don't have to be as safe with your purchases. You may only wear that multi-colored sequin blouse one time, but you paid $5 for it. You can always donate it again. That being said, don't buy things just because they're cheap. Money is money, and even small amounts add up quickly.
Though they're usually cheap, thrift store items are not exempt from being overpriced. Evaluate what an item is worth to you, so you don't overpay. Also, examine items carefully for stains or other defects before you purchase them.
A Little Dirt Never HurtI've gotten a few questions from people concerned about the cleanliness of thrifting. Personally, I'm not at all grossed out about the idea of wearing clothes that belonged to someone else. The only advice I have on this matter is wash before you wear.
Hopefully I didn't just state the obvious. Feel free to ask questions in the comments. Fellow thrifters, please share your own tips!