Thrift store and antique shopping can be overwhelming and and you may even think it's not for you. I have put together a few tips to help prove that even you can find amazing deals and beautiful pieces at affordable prices.
1- Be Patient. Don't expect to find something amazing every time you walk into a thrift store. A good thrift/consignment/antique store will have new inventory coming in every couple of weeks (some even more often) if it looks like the same exact stuff has been sitting on the shelves for years, it probably has and most likely it won't be worth your time to sift through the junk. Talk to the shop owners and find out how often they get new things in, those are the shops worth re-visiting every so often. If you go in thinking you are going to find gold, you won't. Have realistic expectations and then you will be pleasantly surprised when you find a hidden gem.
2- Spot the hidden gems. Remember, it is a second hand store so things won't be in perfect condition and some one got rid of them for a reason. But also remember that their reason may have been something as simple as the color, outdated style, fabric, or function. Keep an eye out for the shape not the color and it's ability to be fixed. For instance, the brass lamp above has a great shape just an outdated and tarnished finish. All it needs is a coat of paint and it can be an updated statement piece (keep an eye out for it's update next week).
3-Be realistic. If you have zero handy man skills, don't buy an item that needs complete reconstruction. Know your abilities or at least someone that can help you and stick to items that you can improve yourself. Don't spend $5 on something that is going to cost you $50 to fix when you could have just bought a new one for $10. Look for furniture that just needs cosmetic repairs not structural (unless minor) lighting that you can re-wire yourself, and accessories that just need a little cleaning or spray paint.
4- Spot a good deal. If you are looking for something in particular research what that item would cost if you were to buy it new or from a few different shops. For instance, if you are looking for a new kitchen table, check out the pricing at a few different furniture stores (you can check online and save yourself a trip). Having an idea of what a new table costs will help you determine if the used table you find is actually a good deal. Also, take into consideration the condition of the table. If it just needs a little cleaning up then you will probably be willing to pay more but if it needs a complete makeover then it should be drastically less expensive than a brand new table.
5-Don't be afraid to haggle. I tend to feel bad about asking for a better price (I don't know why, I know they mark up the price so they have wiggle room) so I have learned to ask in a way that seems a little nicer. I ask if they offer any kind of discounts; military, student, designer, ect. Or, mention that you really weren't wanting to spend more than $___. Or just flat out ask if they would take $___ and always start off a little lower than what you really want to pay. Don't be ridiculous, you will just anger them and they won't want to work with you at all. Having worked in sales myself, I was always more willing to adjust the price for customers who were nice and realistic about their expectations. 10-15% off is probably a safe amount that most sales people are even allowed to give without getting special permission from their manager. Some stores do have hard pricing and can not make adjustments but it doesn't hurt to ask.
6- Start small. If you are new to second hand shopping, don't jump in full force and buy a piece of furniture that is going to become a 6 month long project. Take baby steps. Start with a few small accessories, candle holders, picture frames, etc. You may find things that don't need any work or even just a coat of paint. Not every project is going to be amazing and you may have to try a few before you really get an eye for potential. This will also help you find the go to stores that are worth your time.
7- Not a DIYer? Don't worry, there are still plenty of great thrift store finds that don't need any work. They may take a little more searching but they are out there. Also, you are in luck because more and more stores are refinishing pieces themselves to sell. With DIY being the 'in' thing right now, many local shops are bringing in artists to refinish a few pieces (the table in the picture above). These pieces may cost a little more but they are still unique and affordable.
Why do I thrift? Not only is it an affordable way to handle my shopping addiction but it helps me add a unique and personalized touch to our home.