Put down those name brand, full priced, adorable baby sneakers! Your child is going to wear them for a week before that next growth spurt. That $45 you just dropped is next month’s Goodwill donation. Instead of stressing your budget every time your child grows out of yet another necessity, learn the art of thrifting. I promise your wallet will thank you!
Buying clothing and shoes second-hand takes some practice. It’s easy to get overwhelmed or feel like you are not getting high quality items. I promise you, with a little practice and direction, you can walk away with some treasures and still clothe your children (your husband, and yourself) with pride.
Thrift shopping is not everyone’s cup of tea, I understand. If you are like me and need to stretch that budget as far as it will go, let me share some of my seasoned expertise.
Know Your Thrift Stores
Not all thrift stores are the same. If you’re looking for a real bargain, you have to be picky about the stores you frequent. The type of store will tell you a lot about how they price their goods. Consignment stores are usually items sold by outside individuals paying a percentage back to the store, or the store has purchased the items and is reselling them. Either way, while you may find higher-end items, expect to pay a premium. The same goes for children’s consignment chains — many times the clothes are in decent shape, but because they were bought and not donated, they will be priced higher. The exceptions to this rule are: (1) kids’ shoes (many kids’ consignment stores carry barely used shoes at low prices . . . because kids grow SO fast) and (2) promotional sales (watch for those half-price weekends at season’s end and around holidays).
Goodwill and other stores supporting a cause (think thrift stores connected to churches or charity organizations) will often have lower quality items but sell them at a mark up because people will pay to support the charity. Housewares are a different story, but as a general rule, clothing from this type of thrift store is not worth it.
If your goal is to dig for treasure and find a killer deal, stick with bulk, donation-only stores. The bigger and trashier looking, the better! It is easier to clean out a closet and dump off a bag full of clothes at a nearby thrift store than it is to try to sell them yourself somewhere else. So these big chain stores often have some of the best treasures for those willing to put in the time!
Do your research before you shop. Google “thrift outlets” in your area (yeah, it’s a thing). There are some big chain thrift stores that have outlet centers where all of the items that don’t sell quickly are sent. Often these centers will have deep discounts, including by-the-pound purchases! The one near me gets new shipments every Thursday, everything starts off at $2 each and drops $0.25 every day until the following Wednesday when everything is just a quarter!
My two favorite local stores — now I’m really letting you in on my secrets — are Family Thrift Outlet (1950 Ephriham Ave, Fort Worth 76164) and McCart Thrift Center (5203 McCart Ave, Fort Worth 76115).
That precious pair of footie jammies is so cute it hurts, and for a mere $5.76 you can’t beat it! Or can you? Check the tags before you buy. That gently used pair of jammies might seem like a great deal, until you realize that you could buy them brand new for $7 at Walmart. You don’t need branding knowledge to know that a cute Old Navy tee can probably be found new and marked down (maybe even clearance), and won’t be worth the $4 used.
Checking tags can also make you money! While glancing through a rack of clothing, I noticed a familiar little icon. I found eight perfect items worth $50-$100 each, and paid $40 for all of them! Even if something isn’t necessarily your size, if you know your brands, you can resell high-end items. Facebook buy-sell-trade pages, various buy-sell apps, and eBay make it simple to sell gently used items.
Be sure to check with your store and see if they have any special discounts. Most stores have a color of the week that is 50% off or more! Be sure to watch the price tags to see if your item qualifies.
Slow and Steady
In order to succeed at the thrifting game, you have to be willing to walk out of the store (even one you just spent two hours in) empty handed. Thrift shopping is more like a long-term treasure hunt than a run to the grocery store. You can’t go in with a detailed shopping list and expect to walk out with everything. Go in with a general idea of what you need (i.e. girls’ shorts sizes 8-10, dress shoes for the hubs, etc.). Thrift shopping is more like an adventure, but only if you are prepared for the journey.
For those of you who don’t want to dig, check out online buy-sell-trade pages, garage sales, and clearance sections. Also, don’t be shy about posting on your neighbor group page or church community page to see if anyone wants to do a clothing trade. Hand-me-downs make the world go ’round!