Skip to content

Vancouver on the Cheap: Thrifting

If you were to create a Venn diagram where one circle was labeled "cheap" and the other labeled "awesome", the middle point where they cross over could be labeled "Vancouver on the Cheap".

Got a cheap-living tip you'd like to share? Send it in!

If you were to create a Venn diagram where one circle was labeled "cheap" and the other labeled "awesome", the middle point where they cross over could be labeled "Vancouver on the Cheap". In other words, this is a weekly series on things to do and places to go in Vancouver that fall into that magical category of being both cheap and awesome.

We all know already that thrift stores are a great place to get stuff for cheap. Few things in life beat the thrill of finding that perfect something for only a few bucks, plus the whole ethics vs. price dilemma that us cheapskates often face is moot once you enter a thrift store! Not only are you removed from the production process, but most thrift stores support charities, so it's a double-whammy of awesome.

One of my all-time favourite places for Vancouver thrifting: MCC at Fraser and 43rd

It can be easy to get lost in the land of the thrift, however. Here are some basic tips on getting the most out of your thrift store experience:

Make Sure You're in a Thrift Store

Seems obvious, right? But second-hand and thrift are not the same thing and you might be surprised how many people get confused. HINT: if the average price is above $10, you're not in a thrift store. Also, if the sign has the words vintage, consignment, or some pun about giving clothes a second life in it, it's probably not true thrift, which means you'll be paying close to retail prices for used clothes.

Visit Often!

If there's a thrift store near your home or work, pop in regularly. Most stores put new stuff out a few times a week, if not daily. Don't go in for a full shop (unless you want to), just poke your head in and give a quick once-over to your favourite sections. That way you'll be that annoying person who snaps up the best finds before anyone else can get a look at them, instead of that sad person cursing that there's never anything good available. Bonus: in the smaller shops the staff might get to know you and help you find hidden gems!

Broaden Your Horizons

My Dad used to always tell me to do this, and while he was actually talking about my picky eating habits, I have carried the advice over to my shopping life. Most thrift stores carry much more than just clothes, and that is where the real deals are: books, kitchen wares, decor (if you like a retro vibe), DVDs, jewelry, office supplies, and furniture. Next time you are planning on buying anything stop for a second and ask yourself if it would be disgusting to get it used. If the answer is no, go thrift it up!

David vs. Goliath

I generally prefer the small neighbourhood thrift stores over the giants like Value Village. While you get more volume at the VV Boutique, and thus a theoretically greater chance at finding something awesome, it's always way busier and picked over, and I usually have less luck overall. I find the prices are cheaper and the quality is better at the smaller shops. Plus, they all support great charities.

Know Your Neighbourhoods

When you go to a thrift store in a ritzier neighbourhood, you'll generally find nicer stuff. In fact, the general style demographic of your neighbourhood will probably be well-represented at its thrift store (along with the requisite vaguely 80's-wear of course). Also, be sure to visit a suburban thrift store now and again. They are always better than those in bigger cities, no matter how awesome said cities might be.