After lunch we also scoped out a second-hand store (FOUND--totally worth the stop if you're in the area), which has inspired me to throw together some of my best thrifting tips. A while ago I compiled some Craigslist tips, so be sure to check those out too.
1. Get acquainted with the second-hand and thrift stores in your area. I've typically found that each store "specializes" in specific things. For example, one store may always have a great selection of furniture, whereas another one has a huge selection of belts and scarves, and a third might have a killer collection of kitchenware and lamps. By knowing what each one has to offer up front, you can cut down on your search time.
2. Don't discount antique stores. Antique stores are also a great source for finds, especially if you're looking for something specific. Their prices are going to be higher than thrift stores, but most of them are willing to work with you. Which brings me to #3...
3. Ask if they are flexible with the price. This is especially true of antique stores and dealers. I think that a lot of them build in a flex-factor into their prices specifically for this purpose--so just ask! Jessica picked up a sweet vintage camera the other day and got $10 off the price just because she asked what they could do for her. Soooo worth it!
4. Check out garage and estate sales. By far, the absolute best deals that I've ever found have been at garage and estate sales. People post garage sales on Craigslist (and I'm sure that there are other sites too). If there is one in your area--stop by! All it takes is 2 minutes to check it out. Estate sales are better than garage sales because they are selling off the entire contents of a house, rather than trying to get rid of select stuff that they don't want anymore. Older people have better stuff than younger people because they are usually trying to downsize...young people usually don't want to get rid of their "best" stuff (I know that I don't!). Old neighborhoods are better than housing developments because younger families tend to living in the housing developments. On the flip-side, if you're looking for kiddie stuff, you should definitely go to the younger neighborhoods!
5. Browse browse browse! By shopping around (both in store and online) you will get a good idea of what's a deal and what's not. I got two brand new round cake pans for $1 each last month--they go for at least $8+ each in stores. I also scored three of these lovely old light fixtures for $10 total, and all they needed was a quick paint with some of Krylon's "brushed nickel". Even the cheapest dome lights go for $20-30 in stores these days, and aren't nearly attractive as these guys!
6. Keep a mental list of what you're looking for. This will help you cut down on random purchases. Things that I'm always looking for are: mid century modern furniture, vintage linens, unique picture frames, cool glassware (like Pyrex), and any fun costume jewelry. Anything truly unique and functional is also fair game.