My mom likes to remind me that I’m a little late to the game when it comes to thrift store shopping for kids. It’s true, she was thrifting way before I thought it was cool — in fact, from when I thought it was patently uncool, like “hide in the car and pray no one sees me” uncool. Then I had kids. And quit my full-time job. And sent the kids to Catholic school. And the budget shrank. And shrank. And shrank. Suddenly, my mom became a genius, and thrift store shopping for my kids became not only cool but a means of survival.
I don’t go as far as trolling the local neighborhoods for garage sale signs every Saturday and Sunday like my mom does. Quite frankly, I don’t have the patience to go to that much hit-and-miss effort. Instead, I’ve embraced a more streamlined method of thrift store shopping for my kids and my clothes that enables us buy designer duds for a relative pittance. The side bonus is that we utilize perfectly good (sometimes brand-new) clothes that others have decided to discard.
How to Thrift Store Shop for Kids Without Knowing What You’ll Find
Admittedly, thrift store shopping for kids does inject a little uncertainty into the shopping experience, making it more of a treasure hunt than a routine errand. The key is knowing where to go to find what you want. To do that, you have to familiarize yourself with the thrift store and consignment market in your area. Some thrift shops for kids are far more specialized and selective than others. Learning the offerings of various thrift shops will help narrow your search and make your shopping excursions much less stressful.
Used Uniforms on Sale
Take my kids for example. They wear uniforms to school, which can be pretty darn pricey when purchased new. But their school very conveniently holds a used uniform sale a couple of times each year. Uniform pieces don’t tend to take heavy duty wear and tear (particularly the expensive ones like skirts, jumpers, and shorts), so it just makes sense to spend a couple of dollars apiece on pristine used items rather than $30+ dollars apiece on new ones. The kids end up wearing the exact same pieces as their classmates either way. Then, when my kids grow out of their items, we take them to the sale to be reused by other families, giving those items a second (and sometimes a third) life.
Outside of school, things get a little trickier.
My daughter is 10, and as any American parent of a pre-teen girl will tell you, if it doesn’t come from a store where it looks like a unicorn threw up the inventory and boy bands blast in the background, it just isn’t cool. It doesn’t help that these places inflate their prices to roughly the size of the Goodyear blimp, even with “sales” and coupons (I can picture you moms nodding out there — you know what I’m talking about.) My six-year-old boy is massively easier to please, needless to say.
Quality Second-Hand Kids’ Thrift Stores Offer Designer Labels For Less
Fortunately, quality second-hand thrift stores for kids are becoming more common. I’ve found a couple of kids thrift stores locally where I can please both of my kids, and my budget. The one I frequent most often is quite selective, inspecting each article of clothing for wear, stains, style, etc., ensuring that their customers will have quality inventory to choose from. This takes a good bit of work out of the thrift store shopping process, as the items have already been pre-screened with a careful eye.
Thrift shops for kids like this might be more expensive than other second-hand options like Goodwill or the local flea market ($12 – $15 for a pair of designer-label jeans, for example), but the extra money is worth it if I know my daughter can get a good, clean pair of jeans from her favorite label at a fraction of retail. And without the neon glitter overdose and the boy-band headache. Win-win.
Eliminate Household Clutter and Turn Your Wardrobe into Cash
To add an additional win to this experience, this thrift shop for kids also buys used items for resale. So each time we visit, we take items with us that are in good enough condition to sell — items like special-event dresses that only get worn once or twice, toys that didn’t see much playtime, rain boots, jackets, and the like. One recent trip earned us $27.25 for items we were going to get rid of anyway. Take that off of the $95 of springtime clothes my kids picked out, and I ended up spending just $67.75 for everything. Not too bad, I think, especially considering a couple of the items still had their original tags!
Get Cash for Purging Your Wardrobe
An added benefit to thrift store shopping for kids and for all of us in general is that it makes purging our wardrobes so much less painful. When the seasons change and we’re ready for revamped closets, I have no qualms about yanking things out and donating them. After all, I didn’t spend much on them to begin with, and I know I won’t spend much to replace them. It allows everyone in the house to have an ever-morphing wardrobe on a budget. How much of a budget? Well, in 2013 we spent approximately $250 per person on clothes. All year. For quality, designer labels. That’s a sacrifice I can live with.
Helpful Hints for Thrift Store Shopping Newbies
If you’ve never tried thrift shopping for kids, consider giving it a try. Do some research to find the quality second-hand thrift stores or consignment outlets in your area and take some time to thoroughly peruse them. If possible, go without the kids the first time so that you can do some serious browsing without potty breaks, snack requests, or questions about how much longer you’ll be. Take your time and find the shops that are truly the right fit for you. Once you’ve found them, shop away! If it spares you just one boy-band headache, I know you’ll thank me.
Happy thrift store treasure hunting! Let me know what you find.