Tips for Thrifting

A guide to all things shopping second-hand


Gracie Ahmann

Start reading if you are unsure how to get into thrifting or how to be successful at it!

Gracie Ahmann, Staff Writer

Increasing in popularity every year, thrifting has taken hold of Gen Z, including me. I started thrifting about four years ago, and now, the clothes I thrift make up a large portion of my closet. Not only is it sustainable and inexpensive, but it also offers the opportunity to find clothes that no one else will be wearing. I decided to jot down some tips and tricks for those who have not been successful thrifting or simply do not know where to begin.


Some of the easiest pieces to find when beginning to thrift are basic tank tops. I would crop this and pair it with sweatpants or black jeans. (Gracie Ahmann)

1. Thrifting Takes Practice

My first piece of advice is that thrifting takes a lot of practice. I know it probably sounds stupid, but it is true. The first few times you go thrifting, you will most likely be overwhelmed and walk out with little to nothing. Finding your favorite stores, favorite clothing sections, and what styles you like will inevitably take awhile. Now when I go thrifting, it is rare that I walk out of any store without buying anything or something catching my eye.


2. Take Someone With You

My next tip is to take someone with you, preferably someone who has gone thrifting before. Having someone next to you to help navigate the store and to give a second opinion can make the experience much more enjoyable. As I was getting into thrifting, I would often go with one of my sister’s friends. Over time, I saw how she sorted through items and how she chose what to take home, which helped me learn how to do so too.



I think the wide straps and lettuce detailing on this tank top are super cute. I would crop this and wear it with blue jeans or blue jean shorts. (Gracie Ahmann)


3. Only Shop Your Size

Another suggestion I have is to only look at your size or the size you are shopping for. I always recommend to people that they thrift at Goodwill their first time because the clothes are often split up by size. Although it is great to look at every piece of clothing in the store, it can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Even now, after thrifting for years, I tend to lean toward this method in extremely big stores or when I am limited on time.


4. Look for Potential

Even when looking solely at your size, it is important to note that a small number of clothing items you pick up will fit perfectly or be exactly what you are looking for. Having an open mind and looking for potential in everything you see is essential to thrifting. Over the years, I have picked up numerous questionable pieces and cropped countless shirts. If what you bought does not work out, chances are, you did not spend a fortune on it.


On an average thrifting trip, this what my cart looks like before narrowing it down to the items that will fit me best and diversify my closet. (Gracie Ahmann)


5. Grab, then Revise

A very useful tip is to grab every item that sparks your interest, and then decide what you really want to purchase later. As you start thrifting and get excited about it, you will probably want to buy everything you see. In order to work through an entire store, I suggest grabbing a cart and putting everything into it. In hopes of not spending too much money, you can try things on or think about what you already have in your closet before making a decision.


6. Trust Your Judgment

My last and key piece of advice is to trust your judgment, no one else’s. Shopping with friends and getting opinions on what is cute or what you should buy is great, but you should not place too much value on it. Although it is hard, it is so much better to buy whatever your eye is drawn to. Some things you find might be unique, or your friends might not like whatever you are picking up, but in reality, if you like it, you will look and feel good wearing it.



I know not everyone would like this tank top, but I love the color and sweater material. I would tuck this into cream pants to style it. (Gracie Ahmann)

My Favorite Stores

Here, I listed my favorite thrift stores near us, from favorite to least favorite. I do not dislike any of these stores by any means, but the top couple are my go-tos. Aside from both Goodwills being split up by size, this list is based on the store’s selection when I shopped there and the success I have had at the location. Keep in mind that what you find thrifting can sometimes be luck and that any thrift store you drive by is worth taking a look at.

  • Goodwill of Central Iowa – 1600 Valley W Dr, West Des Moines, IA 50265
  • The Salvation Army Family Store & Donation Center – 9997 University Ave, Clive, IA 50325
  • Goodwill of Central Iowa – 4520 NW Urbandale Dr, Urbandale, IA 50322
  • St. Vincent de Paul Vintage & Thrift – 520 Army Post Rd, Des Moines, IA 50315
  • DAV Thrift Store – 2627 E University Ave, Des Moines, IA 50317
  • Hope Ministries Thrift Store – 500 E Army Post Rd, Des Moines, IA 50315
  • The Salvation Army Family Store & Donation Center – 4620 SE 14th St, Des Moines, IA 50320
  • Many Hands Thrift Market Clive – 8801 University Ave, Clive, IA 50325


I could talk for hours about thrifting and how to do it well, but the most important thing is that you have fun. I have so much fun turning thrifting into an activity to do with friends, and it is also a great way to go about buying gifts. I always enjoy introducing people to thrifting and hope these tips give you an idea of how to easily get into it. Your thrifting abilities will only improve over time and hopefully, you will come to enjoy it as much as I do.