From my experience, there are two ways to get great deals at thrift stores:
1. Get lucky.
2. Go often.
I think that my blog can be a little misleading at times... I pop in every once in a while to show off my super cheap finds and after reading for a while, it might seem like I have some magic touch for getting 50-90% off of everything I buy. By now, you've probably caught on to the fact that I'm getting most of those deals from non-retail spots to start off with (Craigslist, Marshalls, outlets, thrift stores, garage sales, etc), but I can't emphasize this enough- I'm not super lucky, I'm always shopping!
Thrift stores can be really tricky places to shop for deals. I know most people don't really enjoy the atmosphere, but even more people are turned off by the selection. For these reasons, you need to try and get in the habit of getting in and out of there as often as you can (because it's more fun when you're not shopping for an hour and walking away without anything!).
My tips for quick-shopping thrift stores:
1. Remember, Goodwill is not the only thrift store out there! I like to pick stores that offer specials and individually price each item- this gives me a better opportunity to find a great deal. Other than some local favorites, I like Savers because there's always a big selection and they rotate through 50% off tags on weekdays.
2. Shop early or on weekday evenings. Most stores are going to be replenishing stock throughout the day, but you want to avoid wasting your time on a picked-over selection on the weekends. As a bonus, you'll avoid any annoying lines if you do find something to take home.
3. Shop with your eyes. Housewares, clothing accessories, and furniture are the easiest to shop for when you're in a rush. I always try to remember to bend down to check the backs of each shelf and hone in on the material/ shape/ quality of the items.
Thrifty Little Tip: Used book stores are the places to go for books- they're always better organized and prescreened so that there is less junk to sort through.
4. Get strategic about the clothes. If you're looking to spend hours searching for treasures, it will be easy to do, but I save a TON of time by only targeting women's jeans and dresses (and that's only if I need them). Sure, there are cute tops to be found and shoes that have barely been worn, but they'll be more the exception than the rule. Think about it: which items hold up really well, but become the first that don't fit when you gain or lose weight (this is not true for men's jeans)?
5. Don't forget the "fancy stuff" cases. In a lot of cases (but definitely not all), the thrift store employees are able to find the most valuable donations for you! These cases are always worth a quick glance.
6. Never feel bad for walking out empty-handed! Buying junk or paying too much for a used item is not thrifty.