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Twenty Tips to Make You an Expert Op-Shopper

by Colleen P Moyne (Colmo) (follow)
I'm a freelance writer living in the beautiful river town of Mannum in SA, dreaming of the day I can retire from the 9-5 to write full time.
Save Money (126)      Saving money (118)      Frugal (111)      Frugal Living (55)      Shopping (45)      Op Shop (2)      Charity Shop (1)     

Interior of Thrift Shop
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons

When my children were younger and money was tight, finding the best bargains at thrift shops was a matter of necessity, but over the years it has become an enjoyable pastime and a great (and inexpensive) day out with friends. It’s also good to know that by shopping in charity stores, we are supporting a very worthwhile cause.

Here are twenty handy tips to ensure you get the best out of your op-shop experience:

1. Remember that op-shops are great for all sorts of things besides clothing, furniture and home-wares. Some of the useful bits & pieces I've found by chance are: A roll of curling ribbon for gift-wrapping, curtain hooks, a rubber date stamp and blank notebooks. I could go on but you get the picture. Be prepared to look through some strange things to find what you’re after.

Interior of Thrift Shop
Image courtesy of cheriedurbin / morguefile.com

2. Always carry a list with you of things you need or want. Chances are you may well find it. It also helps to have an idea of your children’s clothing sizes and maybe bring a tape-measure.

3. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Make sure that you are wearing clothes that are easy to get on and off when you’re in the fitting room.

4. Remember when trying clothes on that they may look quite different with a different pair of shoes or different accessories.

5. Are you handy with the sewing machine or even a needle and thread? Try looking at garments in a different way. Would a dress make a good top if cut down? Would a shirt look better with the sleeves shortened? Would those pants look good as shorts?

Interior of Thrift Shop
Image courtesy of cheriedurbin / morguefile.com

6. Look at other items in the same way. Could you turn that old cupboard into a funky wine cabinet or that CD rack into a wall shelf?

7. Fashions are cyclic so something that was fashionable 20 years ago could well be fashionable again now if you’re lucky enough to find something from that long ago. Some stores have a great ‘retro’ section.

8. Try not to shop with kids if you intend to make a day of it, although some stores have a busy box or freebie box where you’re bound to find something to keep them occupied if need be. Keep in mind that op-shopping can actually be a good lesson for older kids in minimizing waste and choosing an alternative to our mass-produced and commercial culture.

9. If you buy toys or items for young children, take them home and sanitize them – I’m not suggesting that the store has not cleaned them thoroughly first, but they may have since been subjected to other children’s sticky fingers or drool while sitting in the store.

10. Don’t go into a small shop expecting them to be able to change a $100 note. Many do not have EFTPOS facilities either. Take change. It’s also a good idea to take along your own shopping bags as they are often short.

Interior of Thrift Shop
Image courtesy of Seemann / morguefile.com

11. Be nice to the staff. Remember they are volunteers. Don’t expect to be waited on as you would in a boutique, but you can certainly expect friendly service.

12. Call in regularly – just because you found nothing last week doesn't mean you won’t this week.

13. Get to know how your favourite stores operate. Different stores receive their stock in different ways, and knowing how stock arrives will help you find the best deals. Some stores get their stock entirely from over-the-counter donations (i.e. things that are brought into the store). Other stores, usually in big chains like Salvos and Goodwill, get their stock delivered from a central warehouse on certain days. Some stores use a combination of both methods. Ask.

14. Learn which stores have markdown days and when. Take advantage of coloured tag days and ‘fill-a-bag’ sales but be wary of buying unnecessary items just to fill a bag.

Clearance Bins in Shop
Image courtesy of cheriedurbin / morguefile.com

15. If you can afford the sticker price, don’t ask for discounts. The money that a thrift store raises goes to fund their charity work.

16. If you are struggling financially and genuinely can’t afford a $4 top, let the staff know and they will advise you. Many charity-run thrift stores will arrange vouchers for clothes, furniture and/or food if you’re seriously struggling, but please don’t abuse this if you’re not. They can also refer you to financial counselling if you need it.

17. Are you a bit of a hoarder? Why not get into the habit of taking a bag of goods with you each time you go to an op-shop, so that you can make room for what you’re going to undoubtedly bring home.

18. Be warned – thrift shopping can be addictive! - And it makes a great day out with a friend. See who can find the best bargains first then add up your savings over a cup of coffee and pat yourself on the back not only for the money you've saved but for the support you've given to a good cause.

19. Think about volunteering for an op shop yourself. Seriously. They are often in need of reliable staff. This does not necessarily mean you will have first pick of the stock but believe me– the satisfaction you will get from giving a few hours of your time each week will come to be much more important. There is no better way to appreciate the work of volunteers than to become one yourself.

Clearance Bins in Shop
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons

20. Second-hand stores only exist because people like you and I regularly donate unwanted items. It may be clothes that our children have outgrown or an item that we consider no longer fashionable. But let’s face it. Most people donate clothing to charities because they:
- Have too many
- The fit is not right
- The colour is not right
- It needs to be altered
- It’s hard to keep clean / Iron
- The style doesn't suit us, etc. etc.
This is usually because we have shopped impulsively.

So I’ll leave you with these final words:

A bargain shirt is not a bargain unless we love it and wear it. A bargain dress is not a bargain if it hangs in the wardrobe and never sees the light of day, and a bargain dish is not a bargain if we have twenty just like it clogging up our cupboards. Enjoy your op-shopping but as with everything, choose wisely because remember there are no refunds.

#Save Money
#Saving Money
#Frugal Living
#Charity Shop
#Op Shop
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These are amazing tips! Thanks for sharing!
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