With fall right around the corner, you may feel inclined to revamp your wardrobe. While buying secondhand clothing isn't a new way to cut costs, being savvy about it can help you save even more when hunting for gently used threads — both online and at traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
"It takes a lot of time and discernment, but...the thrift store is a great place to start if you're on a budget," says Morgan Wider, an Atlanta-based personal style expert.
And your savings from thrifting can add up fast: A $200 outfit purchased retail could run you just $20 at a thrift store, says Latrice James, a Charlotte-based thrifter and lifestyle blogger.
Here are some tips from Wider and James to help you save money on clothes you're excited about.
James says that saving money when you're shopping begins with taking stock of what you already own. Sorting through your clothing will give you a clearer idea of what you should put on your wish list, she says, so that you avoid wasting money buying items you already have a version of in your closet.
Going through your wardrobe could boost your clothing budget, too. Consider reselling your unwanted items online and using your earnings for new threads.
"Do you need essential items, [like] a basic white button-down for work or a simple black dress, casual clothing, work clothes, workout apparel?" she asks. Once you've assessed what your needs are, you can start scoping out bargains in person and online.
Start by tapping into your social network or Facebook groups for valuable secondhand finds, suggests Wider: "Think of it as an online party or an online swap where you can sell to your friends. Trading groups on Facebook are filled with great, low-priced items as well."
To save time and maximize your resale potential, consider using the same sites to both sell your discarded clothing and buy new items. Wider and James both recommend checking out Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark, and Depop for gently used pieces. Thredup, a digital consignment shop, also lets you browse for gently used items.
And if you want to take your wardrobe up a notch, seek out luxury secondhand items on sites like Therealreal.com, where you can save up to 90% on brand name clothes.
Before adding anything to your cart, though, Wider and James agree that you should do a little research on the seller and the brand of clothing you're purchasing: "Returns are usually not available for online resale markets, so the more that you can know about the brand or that seller, then that's a safer bet," says Wider.
James also recommends following stores' social accounts on Instagram and Twitter so that you'll be the first to know of any special promotions.
And your smartphone can help you find secondhand stores and pop-up thrift sales. Location-based applications like Thrift Buddy tap into local charity stores, garage sales, or resale shops in your area.
"Really be strategic about what you need," says Wider. "Does an item fit into your life immediately, or will you be holding onto this for that special date or that special occasion or that new job? Be aware of the value of it."
To determine the value of the items you find, James turns to the internet. "Google is my best friend," she says. "I always search for the brand online and look into the actual item to compare the price of the item at the thrift store, versus what it's going for online to help me determine if I'm getting a good deal."
Wider also suggests factoring in extra costs like alterations or dry cleaning, which may be necessary depending on the condition or size of the garment. And make sure to examine each item carefully for any stains or tears. Some you might be able to fix or get repaired, but others you won't.
Plan ahead and try to shop for clothing at the end of the season to get the best discounts. Whereas a high-quality winter coat can cost upwards of $200 at the start of winter, waiting until the weather warms up to snag that coat could save you 30% or 40%, says James.
Since retailers tend to donate or sell their unsold inventory after a season has passed, consider thrifting for winter clothes in early spring.
While most major retailers only keep in-season merchandise on the racks, thrift and secondhand stores tend to carry clothing all year long. "Say you're looking for a bathing suit and retailers typically put out their suits in February," says James. "By August, they'll be discounted and you'll likely see a whole slew of new bathing suits at the thrift store around that time."
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