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HOW TO MAKE MONEY THRIFTING
Have you ever wondered if it really is possible to live the dream by making money from thrifting?! Well, here’s the good news, it is! Especially if you have an eye for style and a bargain. Here’s a guide on how to make money thrifting that will have you on the way to running your own business empire before you know it.
WHAT IS THRIFTING?
Thrifting is the pursuit of finding things to buy at cheap prices in thrift shops, charity shops, second-hand shops and anywhere else that sells second-hand stuff. All these retailers are grouped together under the ‘resale’ sector.
The resale sector is trending upwards at a rate of knots as the Western world shifts to deal with the environmental crisis. According to an in-depth study by Thredup, the secondhand market is becoming a global phenomenon, expected to grow 127% by 2026.
This leads me neatly to how you – YES, YOU – can make money thrifting.
FLIPPING THRIFT: THRIFTING IS A BONAFIDE WAY TO MONEY
Thrifting is a brilliant way to make money. What I love most about it is that you can start small by doing it as a side hustle, and then once you’ve found your feet, there is the potential to turn it into an actual business.
I started making money from thrifting when I was in the early days of parenthood. I lived in Hackney, East London and had access to some brilliant charity and second-hand thrift shops.
At first, I was browsing for stuff for myself, but after I’d found success selling stuff we had at home that we no longer needed, I realised it wasn’t too big a leap to try and flip the thrift bargains I found and make a profit.
The best thing about starting out flipping thrift is that the overheads are so low you really don’t need to invest in anything other than buying a few low-cost thrift store items to get started.
Read through my list of tips if you want to find out how to make money selling stuff you find in thrift stores.
TOP TIPS FOR MAKING MONEY FROM THRIFT
1. RESEARCH THE MARKET
There is absolutely no point in buying random stuff and hoping you can sell it. You need to make sure that you can both sell it and make a profit from selling it.
So your first step towards becoming a successful thrift flipper (don’t you LOVE the idea of telling people that you are a professional ‘thrift flipper’?!) is to research and determine the types of items that could sell well.
Pick a couple of categories of thrift that you have an eye for, then look at some of the biggest auction and online selling platforms and see what things are selling for.
- Etsy (you will need to set up a shop)
- Facebook Marketplace
- Mercari (US only)
Your aim is to prove two things:
- That there is an active market for the type of items you are thinking of selling
- There is potential to make a profit – profit equals the money left once you’ve bought, marketed and shipped the item
2. SET YOURSELF A BUYING BUDGET
You might be starting out small, but you want to start out on the right foot if you are serious about making money from selling thrift.
So set a buying budget, and don’t spend more than your budget on a few well-chosen thrift store items until proven that you can sell the stuff you buy.
Once you’ve started making a profit on the things you sell, you can reinvest some of the profit to buy more ‘stock’.
3. PLAN YOUR BUYING TRIPS
Once you know what you stand the best chance of selling for profit, you can start planning how to find the best stuff to buy – think of it as creating your thrift inventory!
I think the best plan of attack is to start locally and work your way around all of the thrift stores you can get to regularly without spending much money getting there and back.
Don’t just stick to thrift stores in the main shopping areas because everyone goes here. Look for the stores that are off the beaten track. These can often be where you will find some really great pieces.
Start to build relationships with the people working in the stores. Over time, you might find they put stuff aside that they know you will want to buy.
Once you have a few sales under your belt, it is worth seeking out thrift stores in wealthy areas. The finds may cost you more to buy, but there is potential to make more profit.
It is also worth looking at listings to see if any car boot sales, garage sales, estate sales or other popup thrift sales are going on. Always check the start time of these sales, as you will need to arrive early to find the best pieces.
Always go armed with lots of bags to bring stuff home in.
4. DON’T JUST LOOK; DIVE IN
Don’t just stick to browsing in a store. Look high and low and rummage for the hidden gems others have missed.
Make sure to scour the entire store. It is amazing what you can find that has been put back in the wrong section, for example, a branded women’s sweatshirt in the men’s or kids’ section.
Now let’s look at some things to remember when choosing what to buy.
5. BRAND NAMES SELL
Brand names tend to sell well. It is worth keeping a finger on the pulse of which brands are currently popular.
Designer clothing from leading designers, like Louis Vuitton, is also a safe bet, but you must be confident that you can resell it because it will cost you more to buy.
The brands don’t have to be popular with the masses; they could be niche brands you know your target audience loves.
6. LOOK OUT FOR UNIQUE PIECES
Whilst brand names sell, you must also remember that you are looking for hidden gems on the shelves and racks.
Always look for unique pieces you love that you think might sell well. This could be based on your knowledge of current trends or simply a gut feeling.
7. RARE FINDS AND COLLECTIBLES ARE REAL TREASURE
Always be on the lookout for rare items and collectables, items of which there are few in circulation. For example, a limited edition collaboration between a brand and a celebrity or top designer. Or a rare vintage item, like a baseball jacket from the 90s.
Look for the kinds of things you know are currently held in high regard by your target audience but might be hard to actually find to buy.
Do a quick search online to see if there is anything like it being sold. If it is hard to find or there aren’t any, there is a good chance you have found something special, and you can sell it for a good profit.
There may even be a market where enthusiast collectors are willing to pay large prices for something special.
The more you sell, the more confident you will become at discerning what will sell for a good price and what won’t.
Use my list of items that sell well to make extra money for ideas on what to look out for.
8. ONLY BUY THINGS IN SALEABLE CONDITION
No matter how desirable a brand name is, you aren’t going to achieve the best-selling price for an item if it isn’t in perfect or almost perfect condition.
Check the item for wear and tear. If it’s an item of clothing, it is also worth checking the sizing. Some size labels on vintage clothes are far removed from today’s sizing.
Of course, there may be some items where wear and tear are acceptable, such as jeans and vintage furniture. Again, it comes down to knowing your target audience.
A QUICK NOTE ON UPCYCLING
There is one instance where you don’t need to worry about buying stuff in perfect condition. That is if you plan on upcycling, i.e. finding stuff you can restore or fix and then sell.
If you want to go down this route, you must consider your time as part of the equation when deciding if something is worth buying. There is no point in buying something that takes you several days to upcycle only to make pennies in profit.
9. WORK ON YOUR PRICING STRATEGY
Your pricing strategy is something that is going to evolve over time. You must test the water with a few items and learn as you go.
A good rule of thumb is to look for exact or similar items that have recently sold and price accordingly.
You will also need to trial setting up bidding versus asking a set price for items on sites like eBay.
Your pricing strategy also needs to take into account how you are going to ensure a good profit margin. Things to consider when working on your profit margin are whether you include shipping or ask for shipping to be paid on top.
10. FIND THE MOST PROFITABLE PLACES TO SELL
Hopefully, your initial research will have highlighted the best places to sell the stuff you thrift. But, likely, it will still take some time to find the best marketing and sales strategy.
The easiest place to start trying to sell your thrift is online, the overheads are low to non-existent depending on which site you use, and you can get going straight away.
The best thing to do to find your perfect sales strategy is to record everything you learn from every sale – or non-sale – you make.
You may well find that certain items sell better on one platform and other items sell better on another.
You don’t need to stick to just one selling platform. This is where the importance of creating a strong brand comes in. You can open accounts or stores across several platforms under the same brand name.
11. THE BEST ONLINE MARKETPLACES
Here are some of the best online marketplaces to start selling thrift for a profit:
eBay: You can start off selling as an individual. You could choose to progress to opening an eBay store once you are more established. Here’s the guide to starting selling on eBay, and Here’s the guide to setting up an eBay store.
Etsy: It’s free to open an Etsy store, though, as with eBay, there are listing fees, transaction fees and payment processing fees. Here’s the guide to opening a store on Etsy.
Depop: The Gen Z favourite. There are no listing fees, but a 10% commission is charged on all sales. Here’s the guide to starting selling on Depop.
Vinted: A great place for selling high-street brands. Listings are free on Vinted. You only get paid once your buyer receives the item and confirms they are happy. Here’s the guide to starting selling on Vinted.
Poshmark (US): Great for selling high-street brands. Like Vinted, you only receive payment once the buyer has received and accepted the item. Here’s the guide to starting selling on Poshmark.
MusicMagpie (UK)/Decluttr (US): Great for selling tech, DVDs, CDs and Games. Here’s the guide to starting selling on MusicMagpie. Here’s the guide for starting selling on Decluttr.
Go to my post on selling clutter to make money for a more in-depth overview of the main places to sell stuff online.
One thing I would recommend steering clear of is setting up your own website to start selling thrift online. While making good money via your website is possible, it takes incredibly hard work to establish a website and bring traffic to it.
Using online auction and sales platforms means that, to varying degrees, they do a lot of the hard marketing work for you.
That said, if you know your way around social media, you can always use your social media channels to promote your products and drive buyers to buy wherever you are selling.
Keep scrolling down for more information on using social media to market your business.
12. FIND YOUR NICHE
Once you have made a number of sales, you can start to define your niche. This will ideally be a marriage of selling things you have a passion for with selling things that bring in a good level of profit.
Don’t worry if your niche is a super popular one. All this proves is that there is a healthy market for what you are selling. The main thing is that you don’t things your way to make your mark within the niche.
This brings me to something important if you want to turn your side hustle into a business. Brand.
13. BUILD YOUR BRAND
If you want to start turning your thrifting into a business, you need to create a brand. Don’t get ‘brand’ muddled up with ‘brand name’.
Whilst coming up with a brand name is important (though it can be as simple as using your own name), building a brand is about creating a proposition that your target audience comes to know and trust.
Here are some great quotes on the importance of building a brand from some of the absolute gurus of marketing:
“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.” – Seth Godin
“People buy from people that they know, like and trust.” – Bob Burg
“If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.” – Zig Ziglar
Essentially, your brand is everything you say and do for your business. Just think of the big-name brands you know and love, and you’ll realise there is much more to them than just a logo.
One huge element of building a really strong brand is how you interact with your customers. So let’s take a look at that next.
14. CUSTOMER SERVICE IS EVERYTHING
Customer service is everything. Everything. Especially in our communication-centric world awash with reviews and feedback.
Be really clear about your pricing. Be really clear about your shipping charges. Be really clear about your returns policy. Be really clear about your terms and conditions.
Above all, be courteous and reply to customers as promptly as possible.
If you come unstuck and make a mistake, for example, you sell something that isn’t quite as described or send something to the wrong address, take responsibility for that mistake. Deal with it immediately and fix the problem.
15. SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
Use social media to help build your brand and market it to a wider audience. Many of the most successful thrifters have TikTok and Instagram accounts.
Take a look at @Beckysbazaar. Becky Chorlton runs a really successful thrifting business in the UK and has grown her TikTok account to over 100,000 followers and has over 50,000 followers on Instagram. Becky has stores on eBay, Depop and Vinted.
Some sales platforms like Depop and Vinted have built-in social media, so be sure to use all the social media tools to build a community around your brand.
16. INSPIRATIONAL THRIFTING SUCCESS STORIES
If you need inspiration, look at these wonderful success stories of people who have started selling their stuff, thrifting, and growing a successful business from their endeavours.
- Huston-based Mona Mejia has gone from selling clothes she no longer wanted to scouring yard sales for stuff to sell to running a business with revenue of $735,000 in 2022.
- Probably the most well-known person to turn thrifting into a successful business is Sophia Amoruso, who started selling vintage clothing on eBay in 2012 and, by 2017, had a Netflix series based on her best-selling book, #GirlBoss. It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Sophia, but her life story is inspirational.
- Tiktok Splash (@Splashton) regularly makes £100s daily selling his charity shop finds.
- Dexter Burgess-Hunt and Sophy Grattidge have built a successful business hunting for inventory in charity shops and selling it in Sylk, their Depop store. They currently bring in revenue of around £4,000 per month.
23 THINGS YOU CAN MAKE A PROFIT FROM THRIFT FLIPPING
Keen to get started flipping thrift? Here is a quick list of some of the most popular items you could buy at thrift stores and flip for profit.
- Designer clothes, handbags, shoes
- Highend branded clothes, handbags, shoes
- Mid-market branded clothes, handbags, shoes
- Vintage denim
- Vintage trainers/sneakers
- Maternity clothes
- Toys – particularly collectables (LEGO is huge!)
- Vintage board games
- Sports memorabilia
- Sports equipment
- Hobby equipment – photography, fishing, bird watching
- Camera equipment – GenZ love retro cameras
- Books – first editions are a great rare find
- Vinyl records
- CDs and DVDs
- Video games
- Old technology
- Vintage ornaments
- Vintage tableware and glassware
- Home decor
- Baby gear
IS THRIFT FLIPPING FOR YOU?
I hope these tips have given you insight into what it takes to make money thrifting. Make no mistake, just as with any other successful business, there is no magic wand that can be waved to make it a success. It takes hard work and dedication to grow a business.
One of the advantages of thrifting is that you don’t need to make a big investment to get started. you can literally start by buying a few thrift shop finds and experimenting with selling them.
Another advantage is that you don’t need an MBA, degree or any other qualification. You need to be a savvy shopper and seller.
Thrift flipping makes a great side hustle for students, full-time parents and anyone hoping to make extra money. But it doesn’t have to remain a side hustle.
As the popularity of recycling, upcycling, circular fashion and reducing waste continues to soar, thrifting is an eco-friendly business fit for purpose in the 21st century.
I wish you lots of luck if you are going to give thrift flipping ago.
Luci is the founder of Mums Make Lists (Est. 2011). Over the last decade or so, she has used her experience as a mum to create useful guides to organising family life. During that time, she has found the most joy in creating lists of ideas and inspiration to make it easier for busy parents to plan and host kids’ parties and find great gifts. Read more.