Tip #1- Make sure what you are buying is safe. Clothing with drawstrings can be dangerous for little ones. You may also want to check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to learn about recalls on baby items and safety gates. I highly recommend buying new car seats, cribs, high chairs, strollers and playpens rather than buying them at a thrift store.
Tip #2- Check all clothing for rips, open seams, tears and stains being especially vigilant for tears near pockets, cuffs and inseams (stress points). Try the clothes on if possible and make sure zippers, drawstrings, buttons and Velcro work the way they're supposed to. This is a good tip for any kind of clothes shopping. It is better to find out there is a problem before you buy it; it may even be something that you can fix at home.
Tip #3- Know your store's return policy. Also a good tip for any kind of shopping. Will they accept returns? How long do you have to make returns? Will you receive cash back or store credit? What are the requirements for returns (tags intact, receipt, I.D.)?
Tip #4- Take a list of your family's clothing sizes with you.
Tip #5- Take a tape measure.
Tip #6- Make sure your items work. Ask if you can plug electric items in to test it. Check the battery compartment for corrosion or damage. If you know you will be buying something that requires batteries, take some along with you so you can try it out first.
Tip #7- Have access to a larger vehicle if you are shopping for furniture. You may have been out looking for a chair, but night find a chair with a matching sofa. Have some back-up to call in just in case. Some stores will also let you pay for the item and they'll hold it for you for a few days until you can arrange for transportation.
Tip #8- When shopping for larger items (furniture for example), make sure you bring rope, bungee cords and blankets. You may find a cool table and you'll want to cover it and strap it down so it doesn't get gouged during transport.
Tip #9- If you are clothing shopping, wear clothes and shoes that will be easy to change in and out of.
Tip #10- If you are trying to match something you already own, take it with you. Let the clerks know beforehand that you have brought the item with you so you won't get charged for it.
Tip#11- Think outside the box. You may not find that fabric you were looking for, but you can always recycle sheets, comforters and curtains for your project. A plant stand night make the perfect little side table for your patio or porch. Can something be covered, repainted or refinished?
So there are my tips for thrift shopping. If you have any, feel free to leave them in comments! Happy Shopping!!