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7 Shopping Tips For Ukay-Ukay Newbies

What to do when your budget takes you to the thrift shop.
PHOTO: Girlboss/Netflix

The ukay-ukay is a treasure trove of unknown wonders—you never know what you're going to find. One day, it might all be everyday things and the next, show pieces for an event. The best part is you're always leaving with a bargain! Here are things to know if you want to hunt for bargains at the many ukays around the country:

(Editor's Note: Have you read our ultimate guide to shopping at the Taytay Tiangge?)

1. Know what you want

To the uninitiated, ukay-ukays and thrift shops offer an overwhelming array of possibilities. Everything, from the indescribable ukay-ukay smell to the neon green plastic hangers, will hit your senses hard, so it's easy to get lost unless you come prepared. Make a list and decide what you want. You might not find the exact thing you're looking for, but having an idea helps.

2. Set a budget

A top can cost anywhere from P30 to P200 depending on the shop, brand, design, and season. Like the Philippines, ukay-ukays have two seasons: new arrival and sale. Know how much you're willing to spend for a certain piece and always ask nicely if there's a special discount just before paying, especially if you're buying a lot. Better yet, merge your selection with your friends' so you can get a bulk discount. If your gut is telling you you're being ripped off, change your approach and ask a different staff member the prices. Chances are, your instinct is right.


3. Make the first move

Consult your list and head to the appropriate rack. There's no shortcut to finding the prized piece, so go through each quickly and methodically, checking if it meets your criteria. Don't always trust the labels, too. I've snagged a button-down that says small but was actually XL. 

4. Try it on

Your ~sensitive~ side might be screaming "Allergies!!!" as soon as you enter, so you likely won't want the items touching your bare skin. Wear thin, comfortable body-hugging clothing that will allow you to try the pieces over whatever you're already wearing. That way, you won't have to change in and out of your outfit, because everything you're fitting is just nakapatong.

5. Inspect it

If you've seen Girlboss, then you probably know these pieces don't always come in pristine condition. Sometimes, they're missing a button, split a seam, or have discoloration. If it's something you can live with or fix at home, proceed with your purchase. Otherwise, put it back down.

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6. Just don't

For reasons of personal hygiene, may we suggest that you skip the lingerie section (yes, most thrift stores have an area dedicated to underwear!)? Or anything you can't wash, for that matter.

7. Wash it first!

Disinfecting the clothes and getting rid of the smell are always top priorities. Steam, vinegar, and baking soda are known for their deodorizing properties—separately, not all at once. You can also try boiling the merch. For shoes, a long spray of Lysol can do the trick.

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