Ballin’ On A Budget

Ballin’ On A Budget

Today I have a guest post by Molly from The Girl Behind The Brown Door. She is sharing her top thrift store tips and how to look bomb on a budget. Enjoy!

The one compliment I have received most in my life goes a little something like this: “Wow you look so cute today!” “I love your outfit!” “Work it girl!” For as long as I can remember, I was a little “out there” fashion-wise. Doing something before it became a trend, wearing something eccentric, being overdressed or a combination of all. I have always loved fashion.  

In elementary school, I designed my own little outfit lines, to then sewing what I wanted in middle and high school. I was completely determined that I would be a fashion designer someday. Something that I learned at a young age is that fashion and creating your own style doesn’t have to be expensive.

Something I learned at a young age is that fashion and creating your own style doesn’t have to be expensive

Molly Sarbacker

Being on the younger side of many older cousins and sisters, I was a frequent hand-me-down wearer. I enjoyed the second-hand clothes because although they weren’t new, they were new to me.

I think understanding that clothes can still be in great shape even if you are the second or third person to wear them has helped me become a better shopper. Spending hours at Savers when I was in middle school with my older sister was my favorite way to shop. It’s so exciting to dig and then find the diamonds in the rough. I quickly became an expert navigating second-hand stores. Savers, Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul and Plato’s Closet were the stores in my area that I had the best luck at.

Tips For Successful Thrifting

With all my success in thrifting, I figured the best way to spread the wealth would be to compile some of my best thrift store tips and tricks!

1. Thrifting is not a quick expedition

If you are looking to stop in quick and come out with treasures, you should go to Target. 

Thrifting is not a quick shop. It involves looking through many racks of different colors, styles and brands. You can’t just grab two of the same product to try on to see which one fits better. Thrift stores usually only have one of every item. It may take time to look through the racks, and look through the racks carefully.

With so many items that are all vastly different, the store is bound to be overwhelming. I’m sure others have noticed that some brands size a little differently than others, so looking through multiple sizes to find something is totally normal! With all of the products in the store, an employee may not notice if someone ditched their size 4 pants in the size 10 section, because the products change every day and are always different. So don’t be afraid to look at the entire pants section, you might find that your size is placed in another section or a brand you’ve never worn before sizes differently than you are used to.

2. Some items might not be perfect

You might find a super cute blouse that fits great, is the perfect color for your skin tone, and totally something you can wear to that party you have next weekend! But wait– it has a hole in the armpit. How dare this 4.99 perfect top do this to you?!

Unfortunately,  that is part of thrifting. Some people donate or consign clothes because they have too many things and need to downsize and others donate when they really should toss items instead. With the dozens and dozens of bags that come into stores every day, employees may not be able to catch every stain or armpit hole.

Before you put the item in the ‘no’ pile, go through my handy flow chart.  If you are going to put several hours into hemming these jeans so they fit you right, is it worth it to buy them? Think about the product and what you’ll use it for. Are you hemming jeans for a night on the town and you will probably only wear them a handful of times? Probably not worth your time and money. Fixing a couple of stitches on a blazer you could wear at work for the next year? You can definitely manage that!

3. Sometimes you have to use your imagination

To bounce off tip number two, re-vamping items is totally easy and fun! Shopping for items that I could personalize used to be one of my favorite parts of thrifting. 

I have found so many ways to make a clothing item something totally unique on Pinterest and would be buying men’s button-ups for aprons and making cutoff jeans, cropping t-shirts, etc.

My favorite part as an adult is now seeing how much money I save having not bought the item full price! Some scissors and basic sewing skills can turn an item from drab to fab in a matter of minutes.

My latest project was turning some basic wide-leg pants into fitted bell-bottoms and I adore these pants now!

Thrifting can be great for tons of DIY occasions. Going to a costume party? You could throw together lots of thrift store combinations to make a cheap costume.  Going to a sporting event and need gear fast? You’ll find tons of t-shirts and jerseys that could be cut or cropped to be more fitted!

Being a little bit imaginative with what you find will help you create your own unique style. Cutting, sewing, combining and layering are just a few ways to turn a basic item into something special. *possible foreshadow to my latest business venture?! Stay tuned! 

4. Is this sustainable?

When clothes shopping in general, thrifting or not, it’s easy to fall into the trap of fast fashion.  Buying something because it’s the hottest trend of the moment is so easy. 

“Ooooo I saw my favorite Insta influencer wearing this sherpa jacket so I am going to get this sherpa jacket” said hundreds of thousands of young fashionistas last fall. How long did that trend last? Just the season. Now all of those sherpa jackets are filling landfills everywhere after only being worn to girls night out twice. 

Something I do in my head when I’m shopping is think of how often I’ll wear the item and if it is still cost-effective. Take for example my Birkenstocks. As someone who rarely buys clothing full price, seeing a pair of Birks at 98.00 is S C A R Y to me. But when I think about it in my head, my first pair of Birks were thrifted and I wore them till they fell apart. Comfortable, versatile and will get lots of use. If I spend 98.00 and wear them at least 98 times, that’s a dollar use each time they are worn. My feet have stopped growing and I will probably wear this more than 98 times. Okay, I can purchase these.

Does my brain work in a totally weird way and this makes no sense? Maybe, but it is how I justify my spending and think about shopping sustainably.

At thrift stores, it’s easy to go overboard because items are cheap. Buying 13 tank tops because they are all 3.99 is fine, but are you going to wear all of them and wear them more than once? It is okay to splurge and spend 50.00 on a special occasion outfit but practicing sustainable shopping is not only financially responsible but also environmentally friendly.

5. Have an open mind

If you go in with the intention of finding platform sandals in yellow, you are going to be disappointed often.

You can’t be looking for a super-specific item because you are thrift shopping and finding one of the hundreds of items. If you go into a shopping trip thinking, I need sandals you’ll have better luck.

When you are shopping for something specific one tends to overlook all of the things you aren’t looking for and you might miss some really great finds!  Going with an open mind and checking several sections is the best way to find treasures! It’s also great to remember that new products hit the floor every day. So shop often! You never know what your store will have next.

6. Find the right store(s) for you

There are so many thrift stores that cater to different crowds and not every store will be great for everyone. I love Plato’s Closet. I have yet to find a location that doesn’t have amazing products.  But when I shop there I know I will pay more for higher quality products. They sell items that were bought in the last six months, so most items are still up to date and trendy.

I know if I buy something from Plato’s, I won’t need to re-vamp or alter it like some of my Goodwill or St. Vinny’s finds- which is some of the fun for me. I love finding jeans at Goodwill. They have tons of styles and brands from several years, so I would look for vintage high waisted here and not somewhere like Plato’s. Lately, I have noticed an increase in online thrift stores which is so cool! You can go online and thrift on websites, download apps or even just find thrifting accounts on Instagram! I threw together a list of some great online thrift stores if you like shopping from the comfort of your home. 

Thrift Store apps: Curtsey, Poshmark, ThreadUp, Mercari, DePop, Vinted USA, Relovv

Thrift Store websites:,,,,,,

Bottom Line

Personal style doesn’t have to be expensive, it can be as easy as just knowing your way around a thrift store or willing to try something outside your usual fashion comfort zone. I hope these thrift store tips, tricks and anecdotes help you become a better and more successful thrifter.