If you read this site on da reglur, you know that I really dig going to thrift stores, especially to find weird records and strange knick-knacks to share here. But GUESS WHAT? At the same time, I find great clothes for me and my family, thereby avoiding ridiculously overpriced retail stores, thereby saving lots of money, and thereby have the funds for me to do cool stuff like buy weird records. WIN! I've been so happy with my thrifting that I thought I would share some tips on how to find clothing you will love, thereby saving you money to do cool stuff like travel, save for a special purchase, or pay your phone bill. Please to enjoy!

1. Know your store options. Thrift stores can range in size from huuuuuuge Goodwills to tiny church-lady operations. Any store can have great items, but you really have to get in there and check it out for yourself. Do an online search (or for you Luddites, use the Yellow Pages) and map out the stores in your vicinity. Consider some further afield from major metro areas or college towns, too, because those are more likely to get picked over quickly by pro thrifters and dedicated hipsters. Stores in affluent areas often get high-quality donations, but again you have to deal with the pros grabbing stuff first. So...

2. Go often. I try to visit my favorite thrifters at least once a week, and more if I can. You get to know how often stock is turned over, and have a better chance of finding something if you are there when items are new to the racks. If a store only changes stock out infrequently (seasonally, for instance), that's a good thing to know so you don't waste time going there and seeing the same olive green patchwork dress again. Ewww.

3. Go alone. To be able to get through some of these giant stores with any kind of efficiency, you have to be focused. I find that if I bring Miss Eleven along, even though I enjoy her company immensely, I am slowed down and am likely to leave earlier and look at fewer items with her there. If you are in a serious buy mode, your focus should be singular.

4. Train your eye to spot quality. Pro thrifters all have something in common: they are able to look at a rack of clothing all smashed together and magically pull out the best of the best that's there. How do they do it? Higher-quality clothing often has deeper, richer, brighter or more unique colors or patterns that hold strong through previous ownership -- even the blacks are blacker and the whites are whiter. The fabrics feel better, and the styling is sharper. Eventually, you get a sense for what might be a good item to choose out of the rack while passing by the 95% that you don't want. 

5. Look over potential buy items with a hard, cold stare. Even if the price tag is small, you still don't need to spend a penny on clothes that you don't really need or want. Anything that looks tired and used -- faded, pilled, ripped, broken zipper, misshaped, stained -- forget it. Funky smell? PUT IT DOWN. Sometimes you find new or almost-new items that seem wonderful, but upon further examination are weird and have landed in donations for a reason -- bizarre cut, gross color, short trend life, odd proportion, scratchy fabric. Don't buy anything marginal, because you don't have to. There's plenty of good stuff. Be patient.

6. Avoid shoes in general. I don't recommend buying shoes at thrift stores, because of the fact that the previous owner has already put in a "wear pattern" into the sole that is Not Your Wear Pattern, and that I am unconvinced that shoes can be disinfected to the degree I am comfortable with. Be very picky and look for shoes that were never worn or perhaps only worn once or twice.

7. No underwear, hats, socks, or pantyhose. No, just no. Save a few pennies elsewhere and buy these new. I have only one word to pass on to you regarding the trying on of hats: HEAD LICE.

8. Know what year it is. Fashion is a funny thing that goes in 20-30 year cycles of awesome/less awesome/boring/ugly/not so bad/pretty darn good/awesome. Attempt to find things that are on trend or trending up; generally things 5-15 years old are not your friends. Also, if you have lived long enough to see a fashion trend cycle (or cycle twice), re-buy very sparingly. Eighties-style neon or humongous '90s sweaters look cute on a 20-year-old but just sad on a 50-year-old. Sorry. That said, the right use of vintage pieces is an easy and fun way to show off your own style. You could avoid all this by sticking to well-made classic pieces that never go out of style, of course.

9. Shop out of your department. Do not hesitate to venture over to the boy's or men's clothing section, you women, because you very well might find those "boyfriend jeans" you've been looking for, better t-shirts, or oxford shirts that look great with the sleeves rolled and tails tied. Thrifting is an inexpensive way to try on different looks for very little money.

10. Get over your anxiety that people will look down on you for buying used clothing. You don't want friends who would think like that anyway, right? Well, right?? Saving money is cool!

Just as a small, very modest example, here is what I wore today: a typical weekday outfit for me of a sweater or hoodie, t-shirt, and jeans. It's entirely thrifted, and this is what I paid for it:

Merona (Target) cotton cardigan sweater: $2.99
Beatles Sgt. Pepper t-shirt $1.99
Old Navy "The Sweetheart" bootcut jeans $5.99
Total: $10.97

OK, so this is not runway couture, but for UNDER ELEVEN FRIGGIN' BUCKS, I have clothes that are my style, good quality, practical, and fun to wear. It works. I apologize for the selfie pic, but hey.

Good luck out there, frugal folks, and Goodwill hunting!