Whenever I tell people I get most of my things from thrift stores, I usually get this response: "I don't know how you do it. I never find anything."
Here are some tricks for those of you who are serious about becoming a savvy thrift shopper:
Turn it into a hobby. This way you're making frequent, yet brief visits to the local shops. You begin to notice trends this way.
Find out when they get major shipments and when those things make it to the floor. This may sound obsessive, but you just might have to be obsessive to get the good stuff.
Think outside of the box. If you find something that is 90% perfect, try to figure out a way to make it work. Sometimes a little paint can make it awesome.
Know your brands. If you're shopping for clothes, know how the fabrics of your favorite brands feel. I can usually make it through a 30ft aisle in 3-6 minutes. Swear. I just touch and go. Sometimes a piece trips me up and I have to check the tag, but I'm generally spot on. So if you know what color, texture and style you're looking for, you cut your searching time significatly.
Have a plan. I never go into a thrift store without my list. We're always looking for something, right? You'd hate to forget exactly what that something is and just pass it by. This'll help you avoid any repressed hoarder tendencies too ;-)
Last week, I visited one of several thrift stores I frequent looking for jeans. Of course I brought my 'need/want' list with me. Good thing too. I didn't find any jeans, but I did find some brown boots. I had to think a little bit outside of the box, but hot damn these are cute now.