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Finding great deals in thrift stores is by far and away one of my most favorite pastimes! That’s why I’m so excited to share with six tips to smarter thrift store shopping.

For 4 years, I worked as a thrift store clerk. I got to see all the best things come in, get priced, and land on the shop floor. Odd things. Crazy things. Things I didn’t even know were real things.  So many deals. So many opportunities to save money.  And spend money, too.

Through the years, though, I learned some valuable lessons on frugality and thriftiness,  that I found apply to life outside of the thrift store doors.

How to Be Smarter When Thrift Store Shopping

When I first started working at the thrift store, we had a little honor system. If I wanted something that came in, I’d write it down on a list as an I.O.U. On payday, I would get my check from the boss, and then pay off my debt. The first few weeks, all of my pay went to paying off the bill for all the cool stuff I felt I needed. (Who doesn’t NEED a brown Avon bottle from the 70’s, shaped like a pipe, with a sailors head on the end?) I had neat stuff on my shelves, but no money to pay the bills.

Putting things on credit is far too easy, and carrying a balance will do you no favors.

If You Want It, It Will Come

Anything I decided I really did need to own, I would put it on a ‘wish list.’ Sometimes this wish list stayed in my purse, sometimes on my bedroom closet door. Somewhere I could see it and review it. I would stop myself from running out in the moment I felt the need to purchase a new kitchen gadget or a certain colored curtain set, and just put it on that list. Inevitably, it would come in to the store, and the shop owners would tag it at a deep discount from retail stores.

Got something you want? Put it on your list, be patient, and watch the sale flyers or the ads and swap sites on Facebook. Patience will save you money every time.

You Don’t Need to Own All The Things

At some point during my “If You Want It, It Will Come” moment, I would have to decide if I really needed this thing on my list or not. If I lived without it for that long, did I really need to own it? Sometimes yes, I did buy it. Like the popcorn maker for $2 so we could have cheap treats, or the canning pot for $5 that’ll work hard when it’s time to jar up food. But, did I really need a whole new bed set? No, I really didn’t.

Yes, it’s feels good to have nice things, but nice things aren’t going to help you reach your financial goals.

Hard Work Won’t Kill You

I’m 5-foot-nothing. I would regularly lift heavy furniture, hustle big donation boxes into the store, stand on my feet for my entire shift, all the while joking and smiling. At the end of the day, I felt like She-Ra. Tired, but also proud, accomplished, and tough. I regularly completed tasks that people didn’t think I was capable of.

Don’t be afraid to put the extra effort in, with all the financial tasks you face. You got this. You are a Warrior Princess.  And don’t be afraid to ask for help informing a plan. It takes 2 to move a second-hand couch safely.

Find the Joy in Every Task

I had made a conscious decision when starting the thrift store job, that I wouldn’t be just another “Shop Girl.” I decided that I would enjoy and connect with every customer that came through the door. I decided that I would sing my days away in the aisles while I straightened clothing for the hundredth time, put away countless wine glasses, and repeated the same phrases over and over again. (“Will that be cash or debit? Would you like a bag to carry this home?”) And it worked. Every day was a good day, no matter what I was facing. And the money turned into a happy bonus.

Finding the joy in every frugal task you are mastering will help you have an ‘abundance mindset’ about how you are saving your money.  And your joy will leak out all over the rest of your life. You’ll hardly miss all the things you used to spend money looking for happiness in, when you are busy being so darn joyful.

Lori Grace Petroff is a writer, a web site designer specializing in SEO and Local Lead Generation, and has been a thrifty mom since before it was cool.