1. Lists - that's right, have a list. Keep a running list of items that you really would like to acquire. That way when you are on a time budget you can easily pop into the thrift store and survey the necessary areas. I've lost many hours wandering aimlessly through musty aisles and dusty shelves looking for nothing in particular. And that's fine if you have a free afternoon, but otherwise, have your list and be on a mission. This will also help to curb those wanton purchases.
2. Know your Stuff - in order to be an expert second hand shopper you need to know your stuff. You need to know brands, styles, makes, models, designs, etc. And that's why having a list is helpful. By doing a little research before hand on what items you are really jones-ing for you can find out the best prices, models, designs etc. That way you know if something is actually a good deal or just looks like one. Nothing worse than thinking you've scored the deal of the century only to come home and find that you overpaid for your bounty.
3. Value - this is really a difficult idea for many people to grasp, myself included. Many folks look to the thrift stores to find a hidden treasure that they can sell for millions. Does this really happen? Maybe once in a while, but the odds are slim. So building on your list and knowing your stuff, you need to know what it's worth. And by worth, I don't mean what eBay.com has it listed for. I mean how much is someone willing to pay for your item. Just because the interweb says your funky find is 'worth' $50, it's only actually worth it if someone is willing to buy it. So make sure you have a good sense of your item's value and sale-ability. It's all fine and dandy to get a great deal on something in hopes of re-selling it, but if you can't find a seller then you just end up with a basement full of chachkis.
4. Buy What You Like - this last tip is really just one for your spirit. Finding great deals and making money on a secondhand item is always a good time. Some people are great at this and some are not. Regardless, my biggest piece of advice is buy what you like. Who cares if it's the most amazing deal ever? If you don't like it, what's the point . What's the big deal if it might be worth something someday? If you don't like it, how can you keep it till someday? What I'm trying to get at is if you're looking to purchase something, new, old, or anything else, just make it something that you like. Some of my favourite things aren't worth anything, but I just really like them.
So happy bargain hunting and treasure seeking and remember...enjoy the ride!
Sittin' at my second-hand desk,