I have saved our family a lot of money over the years by shopping at local thrift stores, but I have also learned a lot about thrift store shopping.
- Go into a thrift store with a set maximum amount of how much you may spend
- Make a list of what you are looking for, as it is easy to forget your goals, once you see all the goods.
- Do several inspections of the items (preferably under various lighting conditions) to make sure there are no errors, stains etc.
- Check that zippers work, that all buttons are there etc.
- Make sure to check for underarm marks, marks around the color and at the bottom of sleeves and pants.
- Know your thrift stores discount policy.
- If possible, do not buy at full price – not even at the thrift store. Only buy sale items.
- Set a high standard for clothing – do not buy anything that shows signs of wear
- Shop with consignment in mind. Know which brands that your local thrift store will accept, and which brands they pay more for.
Since I have three boys, I have found that buying their clothes from thrift stores make very little sense. By the time the clothing is ready for a second child, it usually looks too worn. The only exceptions to this seem to be jeans, school shorts and pants. School uniform polos quickly look worn, and I can find them for as low as $3 on clearance at Target, Old Navy, Kohl’s etc., and by buying new there is a greater chance that the uniform polos can go through all three boys.
However, when I found out that we were expecting a baby girl, I knew that buying used baby clothes would make a lot of sense. Now, I did not have to worry about the clothing being passed on, and usually baby clothes show very little wear. I went through all of our baby clothes to see what we had in neutral colors. I quickly realized that I needed a lot of pink and girly colors, but I did not want to pay a lot of money out of pocket for clothing that our little girl would only wear for a few weeks or months, so I turned to online consignment shopping and our local thrift store.
This is when I started visiting my favorite thrift store about once a month, and I only visit on Fridays. The thrift store has a system, where each product has color tags. On most days 1 or 2 color tags will be at 50 percent off, but on Fridays there are three color tags at 50 percent off.
I go through all of the baby clothing from size newborn – 4T, and then I grab everything that catch my eye with a discounted color tag. I may grab a pretty dress that is not discounted, but it really has to catch my eye and be a brand name item.
When I am done going through the aisles, I will sort through everything in yes, maybe and no piles. It is amazing how often I find mistakes, stains and missing buttoms during this second inspection. Everything that’s a yes go in the basket, then I go through all the maybe’s again. I reinspect for mistakes etc., re-evaluate the resale value, and then I start sorting by which item I like better.
I calculate how much I have to spend, and then I move to a different area of the store, where the lighting is better. I often find one or two items with stains that I did not notice before, a rip or I decide that a piece of clothing is showing too much wear.
The final inspection takes place in the check out line, because the lighting is different at the check out area, and because our local thrift store is very popular and usually has a 15 minute checkout line.
At my last thrift store trip, I was especially looking for a couple of cute summer dresses for the first couple of months. I know that our princess will be growing fast at this point, so I do not want to spend a lot of money on the dresses, as she would only wear them for a few months. My big splurge of the day was the cutest pink summer dress with embroidered flowers from Gymboree. It was not on sale, but at $1.99 I decided to pick it up, just for the cuteness. I know that I will have an easy time consigning it, since it is Gymboree.
My Thrift Store Bargains:
Gymboree pink dress size 3 – 6 months $1.99
Carter’s white dress with blue flowers and embroidery size 3 months $0.99
First Impressions white and pink dress with embroidery size 12 months $0.99
Bambini purple dress size 3 – 6 months $1.99 at 50 percent off $1
Cherokee Pink One-Piece Outfit size 24 months $1.99 at 50 percent off $1
Kidget white top with dots size 12 months $0.99 at 50 percent off $0.50
Jumping Beans jeans size 18 months $0.99 at 50 percent off $0.50
Circo striped shorts size 18 months $0.99 at 50 percent off $0.50
Circo pink shorts size 24 months $0.99 at 50 percent off $0.50
Carter purple onesie size 12 months $0.99 at 50 percent off $0.50
Adidas pink hoodie size 12 months $1.99 at 50 percent off $1
The Children’s Place Red Velour Leggings $0.99 at 50 percent off $0.50
Izod boy uniform shorts for boys size 14 reg $1.99 at 50 percent off $1
Circo boy uniform shorts for boys size 14/16 $0.99 at 50 percent off $0.50
Regular thrift store price $18.86
Total out of pocket after discounts $11.47
If I had bought all of the baby clothes new I would likely have paid around $250, and I am estimating that I will get around $5 for consigning the items, when my little girl is done wearing them.
Do you have a favorite thrift store? Does it have special discounts on certain days? Any Thrift Store tips you want to share?