Thrift Store Shopping Tips from a Pro

Stylist Chad Sophia Suiter has been hunting and gathering in thrift stores and flea markets since she was a child. Follow her tips to thrift like a pro.

| November/December 2010

  • A collection of gifts is wrapped in antique linens and tied with vintage ribbon, corsage pins and jewels with old photos as gift tags.
    Photo By Dan Sidor
  • Vintage furniture and decor bring a one-of-a-kind element to your home.
    Photo By Dan Sidor
  • Tiny vintage trophies become cozy holders for GoodLight Natural Candles. (
    Photo By Dan Sidor
  • Writer Chad Sophia Suiter styles thrift-store finds into a pretty tabletop setting.
    Photo By Ron Atchison
  • Give a simple treat class and style by presenting it on lovely vintage china.
    Photo By Dan Sidor
  • Vintage butter dishes make great jewelry and watch holders.
    Photo By Dan Sidor

As a kid, I excelled at scavenger hunts. I parlayed this early hunting and gathering talent into an illustrious career with the 4-H club. I would scour flea markets and dig through thrift shops for antique fabrics and pretty trims to make my craft projects bold and memorable. With that, my signature style of mixing old and new and my love for vintage things was born. As a dress designer, photo stylist and set designer, I’ve followed my passion for savvy shopping. It’s an integral part of everything I do—and an important part of my efforts to reduce my environmental impact and stay within my budget.

Thrift Store Shopping Tips from a Seasoned Shopper

Have a plan. Google the best thrift stores in your area (or ask an experienced thrifter for recommendations). Call ahead to find out what days the stores re-stock in the departments you are interested in and what days they put items on sale.

Size it up. When looking for furniture, measure your space at home beforehand and bring a small tape measure with you.

Be decisive. If you’re on the fence about an item, put it back. If it speaks to you, buy it! You may never see another one.

Bring a friend. Find someone likeminded, with a good eye (and, preferably, who doesn’t wear your size!). In large stores, the two of you can start at opposite ends of long rows and meet in the middle.

Stay satisfied. Stop for lunch before you’re exhausted. Pack a few snacks (almonds, carrots, raisins) and lots of water.

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