According to, 97% of all clothes and 98% of all shoes purchased in the United States are imported. Not only is this hurting our economy, but it's imparing the environment. Because those billions of dollars worth of merchandise need to get into the country somehow and that usually means by air or by sea. And once the goods are here, they travel to their retail destination via a very long journey on train or truck. Needless to say, the carbon footprint created through imports is enormous.

Luckily, you can make a difference right in your own home (and closet) starting now. One of the easiest and most effective ways to be kinder to environment -- and your wallet -- is to buy second-hand. Not only can you score some sweet bargains, but shopping at thrift shops, flea markets, and yard sales is essentially recycling unwanted goods and keeping them out of a landfill. You also avoid buying new items imported into the US. Additionally, most thrift stores -- like Goodwill and Salvation Army -- also function as charities, so every purchase you make helps disadvantaged people.

The fun part of thrifting is that it's the modern equivalent of treasure hunting. The practice can also help you develop your own unique personal style -- thrift shops offer a wide selection of interesting, one-off items and you may quickly grow bored of the mass-produced monotony at fast fashion and home goods stores.

But if the thought of sifting through dusty old crates and used clothing racks sounds overwhelming, read on, Grasshopper. We've got some tips for thrifting newbies (as well as seasoned pros) that will turn second-hand shopping into your favorite new pastime.

1/ Fuel up and wear comfortable shoes. Chances are you'll be walking around for hours, so you won't want hunger pangs or sore feet to make you grumpy.

2/ Inspect items closely. Whether it's a 1960s dress or a ceramic teapot, discovering an item is damaged beyond repair after you've bought it is just a waste of money.

3/ Take a pack of to-go laundry wipes with you. With these, you can quickly check to see whether the stain on that cute bow-neck blouse is likely to come out.

4/ Wear leggings. If you're shopping for clothes, you might want to try on something before buying and many thrift stores (and most flea markets) won't have a place for you to change. It's easy to just slip on that dress or jeans if you're wearing something tight and breathable.

5/ Bring a tape measure -- it'll come in handy if you can't try on clothes at all. You can just measure the questionable item before deciding whether to buy or not. It's best to know your personal body measurements first, though.

6/ Carry a stash of hand-wipes since digging through old bins can leave your mitts feeling grimy.

7/ Learn the sales. Many thrift stores have special days where there are discounts on top of the low ticket prices. For example, Salvation Army has "Family Day" on Wednesdays where nearly all the clothes are an extra 50% off.  

8/ Visit often. Most thrift stores restock their racks daily so even if you found nothing of interest on one trip, you may strike gold the following week.  

All items in the top image were bought at thrift stores and flea markets for less than $5 each.