Life is all about enjoying simple pleasures. For me, one of those joys is scouring sales for a great deal on something I love.
I didn’t always enjoy thrifting. I found it overwhelming, time-consuming and difficult to find things that fit in with my style. Over the years, I’ve come to realize buying secondhand is a skill that takes time to acquire.
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Brittany Philbin, owner of Vintage Thrifts and Flips, stumbled upon thrifting when looking for ways to live more sustainably. She has since turned it into a business, garnering more than 13,000 followers on an Instagram account from which she sells her finds and, more recently, opening up a storefront in Parma.
I recently hopped on the phone with Philbin to rack her brain for her best tips on finding gems among junk.
1. Shop with a list and budget.
The first step to sorting through the clutter is having a concise idea of what you’re looking for in your mind. Philbin said she keeps a running list of things she needs for her home and refers back to it while shopping. It also helps when browsing on places like Facebook Marketplace and eBay, Philbin said, because you can save specific searches and get alerts for when those items are on the market.
Philbin said she always has price points in mind for each item on her list, too, so she doesn’t end up paying more than she wants to on a whim. (The more you browse, the better you get at determining a fair price point, Philbin said.)
2. Estate sales can be a gold mine.
While different buying avenues each have their advantages, Philbin’s favorite way to thrift is at estate sales. A simple search on estatesales.net shows not only all the estate sales going on in your area (which are run by a professional company), but also photos of each item for sale. With estate sales, you have the added advantage of shopping an already curated collection, as these sales typically contain a single person’s items they’ve collected over the years.
“When you find an estate sale that has your style, you can find so many things there,” Philbin said.
3. Prepare to negotiate — or “gamble.”
If something you really love doesn’t quite fit your price point, you may have other options. For some independent vendors, like people selling through social media or at garage sales, there’s always the possibility of negotiating. Philbin added that estate sales typically offer staggered discounts in the later days of the sale. I’ve seen consignment shops do this too, albeit over longer periods of time.
“Sometimes it’s a risk [to] hold off and hope it’s there the next day at a discount,” Philbin said. “… It’s always a gamble of what to leave.”
If you’re willing to take that risk, Philbin also suggested trying to look the item up online to see if you can find it cheaper.
4. Be picky.
I’ve made the mistake far too many times of hastily buying something that I end up stashing away. Philbin said she runs through a list of questions before she decides to buy something: “Does it fit my style? Does it fit with other things I own? Do I have a place in mind for it?” she said. “I’m not going to buy it unless I have a spot for it in my head.”
5. Be patient.
Some things on your list may seem like they’ll never come. And then, one day, you see it: The exact item you’ve been looking for at the perfect price. At that point, it’s about more than just finding what you’ve been looking for — it’s the rush of satisfaction that comes with knowing your wait was worth it.
“A lot of finding things for a good deal is the waiting game — and that kind of makes it more fun,” Philbin said.
I second that.
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