LIVE + SAVE: 4 tips for op shopping like a pro

I'VE had a bit of a love-hate relationship with op shopping over the years.

Not that there's anything wrong with op shops, they're a great way to save money and it all goes to a good, worthy cause.

I once frequented op shops with my mother every weekend, sometimes we would also go after school, and I think it was the tired feet and the musty smell of old clothes that put me off, I would beg and tug at my mother to take me home.

Although, when I grew up (to be a big 21-year-old baby- hardly grown up at all) I realised that  you can have a great time finding brilliant designer clothes at op shops, but my disputes from a young age still rang true.

Hunting for a great op-shop finds can be laboursome and very often you'll visit an old goodie of an op shop to come out empty handed and dismayed (or with a few garments that aren't actually that great but the price with too inviting).

So here's a few tips to help you guide you through the op-shop rummage.

1.Know the lay of the land.

Knowing your bets local op-shops is crucial as these stores vary hugely in size, price point, stock, store arrangement and many other factors.

The further you are from a major urban centre, the cheaper the items and the larger the variety.

Regional op shops, and those in outer suburbs, are often enormous treasure troves of clothing, books and homewares priced significantly lower than those in trendier postcodes.

Most op shops take delivery of new stock on specific days of the week, so it's often worth it to phone ahead to your op shop of choice and ask them when they'll get a new shipment in.

Visit Op Shop Listing to find your local gems.

2.Be prepared.

Ideally, you want to set aside at least a whole morning or afternoon to go on an op shopping adventure.

There are some basic preparations you'll want to make to ensure you get the best out of the experience:

Bring reusable shopping bags for carrying your finds so that you don't have to use disposable plastic bags.

Make sure you've got a reasonable wad of cash, because some op shops don't have EFTPOS.

Go through your wardrobe or your kitchen cupboard and make a rough list of what you're looking for so that you don't end up wandering around aimlessly (can be a real problem in op shops.)

Bring a bottle of water. Op shopping is thirsty work.

3.When you're inside

Because op shops are organised so differently to normal retail spaces, the techniques you need to navigate them are different too.

Stock is often displayed in a way that would be considered cramped in other shops, and this means there are a lot more items per square inch than your shopping eyes are probably used to.

This is a recipe for glazed-over wandering - don't let the Op Shop Dawdle happen to you. Only check each area once, and be strict.

When going through clothing, be picky. Is your item made of nice fabric? Is it a colour that will go with other things in your wardrobe? Does it fit properly? Are there any defects? Only take the plunge if it's something you'll actually wear!

4.Pro tips

Know what clothing in style this season. Fashion goes through cycles, and often by the time something ends up in an op shop it can be on the verge of a comeback.

If you're shopping for furniture, bring a tape measure, and the dimensions of the space you need to fill.

There's nothing worse than lashing a bargain vintage bed frame to the roof of your car and dragging it home, only to find it doesn't fit in your bedroom.

Be very picky about accessories. Op shops are full of scarves, belts, hats, sunglasses and costume jewellery, and you can afford to put something back if you're not completely in love with it.

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