One of my favourite things to do in my spare time is op-shopping (what we call thrift-shopping here in Australia). I have been op-shopping for many years ever since I was a teenager and my mum would drag me into them against my will (funnily enough, I go op-shopping more than she does now). Even though I don’t think there's that much to it, many of my friends say that they just can’t do it and often ask me how I manage to find the good stuff. So to help them and you, if you would like to give op-shopping a go, I have put together my top 10 op-shopping tips.
Go with time on your hands. There is no point going if you only have 10 minutes to spare. Op-shopping does take a bit of time, and it’s usually good to visit at least 3 different shops if you can, to get the best variety and best chance of actually finding something decent. I like to spend one morning (9am-12pm) a fortnight op-shopping and in that time i visit up to 6-7 different op-shops. A bonus tip I would also say is to plan a route to save time. I’m pretty lucky because I can count 6 op-shops all within a single 5 minute drive near where I live, making my driving time really short and instead maximising my shopping time.
Make sure you have cash. Although most op-shops have card facilities nowadays, many still have a limit on how much you can spend before using them. It kind of defeats the purpose of op-shopping if you have to find up to $10+ worth of rubbish you don’t even want just to make up enough $$ to be able to use your card.
Make an op-shopping wish list. I always have a list of particular items I’m looking for that I like to just keep in my wallet (you can view my current list here). It helps me to remember what I might be looking for (op-shopping can be pretty overwhelming if you don’t have a solid goal of what you might want to find), and gives me even more motivation to get out of my car when I stop at an op-shop to check whether or not this might be the one that has the thing I have been searching for months for!
Be thorough. You never know what you might find in the most unexpected places. Even if I’m not looking for furniture or clothing on a particular op-shopping day, I always check those sections just in case. It’s how you find the ‘brand new with tags’ dress and the cute vintage cabinet you’ve been looking for ages for. The first section I check when I enter an op-shop is the linen and soft furnishing sections, however I’ve often found many a cushion cover in the furniture section instead later on.
Be sure you want/need it before you take it home. I’ve made the mistake of buying without thinking at op-shops many times, only to bring whatever it is I’ve bought back to the donations drop off only a week later. There are some items that as soon as I see them they get put into my basket, however more often than not I have to stop and think about whether I love what I’ve found enough or actually have a purpose for it before I commit it to my basket. If it’s a homewares item think about whether or not it will go with the other things in your house and if it’s a clothing item and you’re not sure, then try it on. If you’re still not sure then it’s ok to hold onto the item until it’s time to pay and by then I have usually already made a decision in my mind whether or not I’ll take it home.
Find out what specials are on offer. I know it sounds pretty cheap considering they are op-shops, but unfortunately op-shops are becoming more and more expensive every year, and to keep it affordable you need to take advantage of the specials. For example, for most of last year I made my op-shopping day Tuesday as I received 50% off clothing and soft furnishings as a student from one chain of op-shops and 20% off everything at another. As I’m no longer a student I’m going to have to figure out what other specials are on offer to determine what my new op-shopping day will be.
Look at the Brands. I always do this when shopping for clothing, as I only like to buy good quality brands or vintage clothes from op-shops. For years I would buy clothes I liked whatever the brand, until I got sick of them not lasting long or finding them brand new in their original shops for nearly the same price I bought it at the op-shop. Often, the brand will speak out to me before the item of clothing actually does. Don’t only limit this tactic to clothing though, I also like to check the brands of china teacups and other collectables as you never know your luck, although just a warning, they will be priced accordingly!
Go op-shopping regularly. As I mentioned above I go op-shopping at least once a fortnight. This is pretty regular though, and if you go once a month or even once every 2-3 months you will definitely begin to reap the sweet rewards. It’s good to go regularly though, as op-shops constantly have different items being added to their stock, and due to op-shopping becoming such a popular activity the good stuff goes fast.
The least likely shops are often the best. This is one of my op-shopping secrets and it couldn’t be more true. The less popular op-shops are the ones where you will find the gems. One of my favourite op-shops is located in a pretty rough area of my city and even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable going there (*trying not to stare in a judgmental way at the lady in her pyjamas*) I always stop there because the majority of people that shop there aren’t buying the types of things that I’m buying, meaning I always find lots of bits and pieces there.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t find anything. I have had it many times where I’ve gone to all of my most reliable op-shops and have found nothing. It can be easy to see the hours you spent sifting through the second-hand goods as a waste of time, but try not to think like that. It will only make you not want to try op-shopping ever again. When this happens to me, I like to remember all the good times when I have found more stuff than I could even fit in my car, or I like to think that because I missed out this time then the next time is going to be extra good. And truthfully, it usually is. x