With a bunch of kids who seem to out grow clothes before they even get worn more than once- thrift stores and clearance racks are my best friends. Thrift stores can be overwhelming because they often are not set up like regular stores with all the same items together. Most stores are separated into general sizes (baby, toddler, teen, adult) and there are all sorts of things together. Here are my top tips for making thrift store shopping successful.
Before you enter the store
- Leave the kids at home. It takes more time to shop the thrift stores and kids get bored easily. I find it is much easier to leave them at home (or school) in order to find the best deals.
- Bring the sizes and measurements with you. I write down my kids’ sizes and what size I expect them to be in in the next season. This way if my daughter is a size 7 right now, I know that winter clothes I need to look at the size 8-10. With multiple kids- having it written down makes it easier.
- Set a budget and bring it in cash. It’s easy to get swept up when you find 25¢ tops and that pile can quickly add up. So set a budget and bring it in cash. Leave the debit card in the car to avoid being tempted to buy items that would put you over budget.
- Make a list. Know what items you need. A pair of shorts at a great price isn’t a deal if you already have40 pairs of shorts you rarely wear. Know what items you actually need.
- Bring your smart phone. I am not a brand name snob- in fact 99% of my clothes are not brand name. The ones I do have? Thrift store finds. So I wouldn’t recognize a “fancy” purse or shoes brand if it was right in front of me. I mostly look for the quality of the product itself. But if you have a smart phone with you – you can quickly look up a brand online to see if it’s high quality.
- Shop in the right area. The ritzier neighborhood the store is in, the nicer pieces you are likely to find. Consignment stores are going to be pricier but check out the Goodwill store closer to the fancy side of town. You are more likely to find upscale clothing in good condition there because that will be the store where the people living in those big, fancy houses donate to.
In the store
- Look for tagged items. Many times people buy an item that their kids don’t like or don’t fit into. They donate those to the thrift shops and they hang on the rack with the brand new tags still attached!
- Know the “new price”. One thing I’ve noticed at some thrift stores lately is that their prices are a bit inflated. I saw the store clearance sticker still on the tag- and it was lower than the price the thrift store was asking! Have a good idea of what clothes and other items go for on clearance at your local stores.
- Inspect them closely. Many clothes may have a hidden flaw- a stain, a tear, missing buttons. No point in wasting money on clothes that are not in good condition. Before placing it in the buggy- check it closely. When you are done shopping check them all again before heading to checkout.
- If you really love it- grab it now. There is no layaway or holding items at most thrift shops- first come, first serve. If you see an item you absolutely love don’t put it back on the rack. It may not be there when you return.
- Look for well made. Clothes that are well made will last longer. Buying a well made article used will last much longer than a cheaper version new.
- Sniff. I know this sounds odd but sometimes clothes have an “off” smell. Maybe it sat in a musty basement for months and that smell just isn’t going away. Make sure it doesn’t have a bad odor.
- Ask if they accept returns. Some stores will accept returns if their store tag is still attached within a certain time limit. Know the policy before buying if there are “iffy” pieces in your cart.
Once at home
- Wash it. Then wash it again. I wash everything twice just to be sure that it’s super clean!
- Clean out. Check your closet now for items that don’t fit or aren’t worn. Take those out to make room for new buys!