Thrifting Tips – How to Master Second-Hand Shopping

Thrift Shopping for men's clothes

How to Always Find What You Want When Thrift Shopping for Clothing!

Do you want to master second-hand shopping? Do you want to build a complete wardrobe of well-coordinated men’s suits, sportcoats and related clothing by thrifting? That can be a challenge! Finding a specific garment in your size and color when you want it can be pretty difficult when thrift shopping. It often requires repeated visits to thrift shops to find something that meets your needs!

Thrift Shopping Tips - Men's Clothing
A stylish second-hand wool sport coat purchased for only $8.00 on

But it can be done if you have a plan! You can build a stylish wardrobe with only second-hand clothing that looks every bit as polished and well-coordinated as one purchased at full retail prices. With my strategy, you can thrift shop for clothing and always find what you want. Here’s a step-by-step guide to becoming a master at second-hand shopping!

Thrift Shop Finds - Men
Joseph Abboud Tweed Sport Coat – Purchased for $8.00 on

Step 1: Plan Your Wardrobe Well in Advance

Like I said earlier, you need a plan! Think months in advance about all of the garments you will need for a seasonal wardrobe.  For example, if you want a warm-weather wardrobe for the spring/summer season, what will it include? What will be the dominant colors in the suits and sportcoats you plan to purchase? What color slacks, shirts, and ties will be needed to tie your outfits together? Do you prefer lightweight wools, silk, linen, or cotton? What brands do you want to purchase?

It can be helpful to create a lookbook. A lookbook is nothing more than a small collection of photos of desired outfits. This can be a collection of photographs from websites and magazines that show complete outfits you would like to copy and add to your wardrobe.

Thrifting Tips - How to Master Second-Hand Shopping
A stylish speckled blue wool blazer purchased on eBay for only $18.00.

Let this wardrobe planning guide your thrift shopping efforts. Rather than shopping randomly, you now have a blueprint for building a well-coordinated collection of garments. Once you have done that, here’s the next step to always finding what you want:

Step 2: Start Thrift Shopping One or More Seasons in Advance.

This is the secret to becoming a second-hand shopping master! Don’t thrift shop when you need clothes. That’s too late and you will not have enough time to find what you need. Plan your wardrobe and start your search at least three months (or more) before you will wear the garments. Why? This will give you enough time to find exactly what you are looking for.

You need to start planning and shopping well in advance to build a wardrobe of second-hand clothing that meets your needs.

Here’s an example: I wrote this post in early March, during the final days of winter. During the months of January and February, I have purchased a summer weight wool suit ($16.00), a lightweight linen sportscoat ($8.00), two Brooks Brothers non-iron shirts ($10.00), and (my favorite) a stylish linen safari jacket ($20.00). These items complete my warm-weather wardrobe for the upcoming spring/summer season. All were purchased second-hand on eBay and Poshmark. Not only did I find everything I was looking for, but I also saved money by buying off-season when prices are lower.

I reviewed my summer wardrobe in December and decided that these were the items I wanted to include for the upcoming summer. I started my online search (on eBay and in December. I would also be on the lookout for what I wanted when I stopped by my local thrift shops. Slowly, I found everything I was looking for over a three month period. If I had waited until the start of spring to begin looking for these second-hand items, it is very unlikely that I would have them when I needed them.

Wool Suit - Thrift Shopping Tips
A $1200.00 Coppley wool suit purchased second-hand on eBay for only $25.00

You can do this! The earlier you start your search for the specific items you need in your wardrobe, the better. Try to start your search two seasons in advance. Build your winter wardrobe in spring and your summer wardrobe in late fall.

When to Thrift Shop for the Best Prices

While local thrift shops may imitate retail stores in selling casual clothing by the season, tailored clothing such as men’s suits, sportcoats, ties and dress shirts generally are sold as they become available year-round. Second-hand resellers of men’s clothing on online marketplaces such as eBay and tend to list everything they have to sell, regardless of the season. You will find lots of summer clothing for sale in winter and vice-versa. Prices are generally lower if you buy during the slow-selling months of January – February, and the warm summer months. Second-hand menswear prices tend to go up in the spring and fall when the demand for men’s clothing goes up.

By doing your shopping months in advance during the off-season, you will have more time to find exactly what you need at the best price.

Step 3. Cast a Wide Net and Cast It Often

My search for second-hand tailored clothing (suits and sportcoats) always begins on eBay (the world’s largest online thrift store) since they have the largest selection. It only takes about 15 minutes or so to search a selection of items in my price range by fabric, color, and size from my computer. I do this two or three times during the week. Also, as I visit local thrift shops I will keep an eye out for items that meet my needs. I will add, and other online reseller marketplaces to my search if I am not finding what I want.

My timing, persistence, and regularity are usually rewarded. Have a range of reputable clothing brands you will consider purchasing. Be flexible. If you shop for timeless menswear styles you will find what you want and at a great price.

It Really Works!

Using this strategy, I have maintained a wardrobe of well-curated second-hand tailored menswear for nearly three decades. I review my wardrobe months in advance, making a note of what items I want to add at least a season ahead of time.  As I do a search online or browse local thrift shops, that mental list guides my purchases. Of course, some flexibility is built into this strategy. Nevertheless, this is my secret to consistently finding exactly what I want by thrift-shopping without ever paying new retail prices. Try it! Your shopping methods will be frugal but your wardrobe will always be stylish and well-planned. -SplurgeFrugal!

One Final Tip!

I wanted to add this final tip! When shopping for suits in thrift shops you will often find lots of orphaned suit jackets without matching pants. If you come across a suit jacket you like, go over to the pants racks and search thoroughly to see if the matching pants are there. Many times the suit is inadvertently separated during sorting by store staff. I have on more than one occasion found a complete suit this way.