Thrifting with friends is one of my absolute favorite activities. I try to go as often as possible, which with my busy schedule is only once every few weekends. Still, if I could, I’d go just about every day. Seriously.

So, why do I love to thrift shopping so much? I’ll admit it: I’m a clothes addict. I love getting new clothes. I particularly enjoy acquiring said clothes through the practice known as “shopping”.

But I don’t just like any kind of clothes. The kind I’m after aren’t present in every store. When it comes to clothing, I am what’s known as a “vintage hound”.

Having worked in a vintage boutique, I’m pretty good at identifying what decade an item of clothing is from, or at the very least determining if it’s “vintage” or not (a.k.a. older than twenty years). But the biggest perk of thrifting is the dough: it’s often super cheap to buy secondhand clothing!

Plus, it’s fun to go with friends and see what sorts of fun and interesting things you can find. Thrifting can be more than a way to acquire clothing; it can be an adventure, and a cause for lots of memory-making.

With that in mind, I’ll start out by giving you some tips about how to master your inner shopper, and how to be the best thrifter possible.

General tips about thrift stores:

Wash the clothes before you wear them. Self-explanatory.Pickiness has its place, but it is not in a thrift store. If you’re only willing to wear absolutely pristine and flawless clothing, thrifting is probably not for you.

You’ll still be able to find stuff, but if you’re willing to accept minor damage and wear, you’ll have a much better time.

Bring cash. Most thrift stores have a minimum amount needed to charge your card; if your total is any less than, say, $5.00, you might not be able to use a card.

Don’t be obnoxious. If you’re just going to be a loud college kid jeering at ugly clothes, don’t go. It can be fun to find wacky looking stuff, but unless you’re actually interested in finding things, you’ll just be mocking the other shoppers. And that’s no fun for anyone.

Search for deals. It seems silly, but thrift stores often have discount days where certain items are put on sale.

Don’t expect everything to be dirt cheap. Seriously.  “Thrift store” and “bargain bin” are rarely synonymous, especially in this day and age. In fact, more and more thrift stores are evaluating the donations they receive and pricing accordingly. So you might find designer items, but typically these will be priced higher (still cheap, but not to the same extent).

Remember, you won’t find anything if you aren’t looking hard enough. There are a lot of clothes to sift through at a thrift store, so be patient. If you’re seriously interested in finding something, you will!

Now, it’s thrift shopping time. This is hardly an exhaustive list, but it covers some of my favorite stores. Maybe, with luck, they’ll become your favorites, too.

Boysville Auxiliary Thrift Store, 307 West Olmos Drive

A favorite of Trinity students, this convenient location near Trinity has a huge variety of items (like any thrift store). They have a separate room for furniture that’s generally crammed with old sofas and chairs, and I always like checking out their glassware and odd objects in the back of the store.

This is one of the few thrift stores I’ve found that has a changing room, too, so you can make sure you fit into an item before you buy it!

Youth Alternatives, 3103 West Avenue

This store is kind of a jungle.

It’s not as well organized as most of the others on this list, so you might find yourself confusedly searching for the women’s shoes and instead getting stuck in the VHS section. I’ve managed to get some great coffee mugs here (even one that said “West Germany” on the bottom) as well as one of my favorite T-shirts.

Assistance League of San Antonio, 2611 West Avenue

Fondly nicknamed the “old lady thrift store” by my friends and me, this place is completely staffed by elderly women who are just the cutest things. The only caveat is that they have pretty wonky hours, so you’ll have to plan your visit carefully. If you show up spontaneously, you may very well be greeted by closed doors.

That caveat aside, they get some really good stuff in here; one of my friends found a really nice winter coat, and I nabbed a University of St. Andrews wool sweater!

Family Thrift, 2011 Vance Jackson

This is my absolute favorite place. Each day, everything in the store is one price. They put all their new clothes out on Thursdays, when everything is $2.00. Then Fridays, it’s all $1.75, Saturdays are $1.50, and so on until 25 cent Wednesdays (when the store, coincidentally, is totally packed). I’ve found a huge percentage of my wardrobe here!

While discussing thrift stores, I can’t pass up an opportunity to share some awesome finds of my own…

Some of my favorite finds:

A beautiful 1970s navy dress with flawless beading and embroidery.

A hilarious (& hella comfy) sweatshirt with a buffalo on it that says, “Seniors ‘89”

A red cardigan whose tag reads, “American Airlines.”

A huge (huge!) supply of Leslie Fay day dresses from the 1980s

An amazing short-sleeve button-up shirt with a cherry print

Along A-line navy skirt with belt loops

Mixing pieces like these together with other, more expensive clothes can result in a pretty killer wardrobe that’s entirely unique and your own.

Fianl tip: one of the  great secrets of thrifting is that unless you walk around with the price tag still attached, people can totally assume your clothes came from places like American Apparel or Urban Outfitters–places that are desperately trying to make clothes that look “thrifty chic” but actually charge $50 for, say, a t-shirt. This is a great way to eat your stylistic cake and have it, too.

That being said, don’t lie about the source of your clothing. You should be proud of the deal you got!