Frugal Friday: .25 Day at the Thrift Store

This post is actually about what I did *last* Friday, but I’m just now getting around to publishing this. My digital camera has decided to officially freak out and DIE, and I really wanted to post pictures of all the goodies I got, but alas, it’s not meant to be right now. Maybe later I’ll be able to update this post. :-) frugal friday thrift store shopping tips

What do you get when you cross $36 with $0.25 Day at the Thrift Store?

5 HUGE, kitchen trash bag size bags FULL of kid’s and mama clothes, books, a child’s desk and a gorgeous loveseat, and One very happy Frugal Mama. ;)

Note: If you are new to thrift store shopping, read more of my tips below after I describe my finds. If you’re a seasoned thrift store shopper, beware. Uncontrollable jealousy may ensue after reading this post!

Let me start by telling you why I love thrift stores. Firstly, I am cheap and I love the savings they offer (repeat after me: stick it to da man).

Secondly, I like buying secondhand stuff that somebody decided to go to the trouble of donating instead of chucking it into a landfill.

And third, (and this is a little known truth about buying kid’s clothes secondhand) I actually get better quality stuff at the thrift store. Before I lose some of you let me explain what I mean.

Have you ever bought a clothing item for your kids at a discount or department store, only to have it tear up in the wash the first time your kid wore it? I have too. The thing is, if the item in question has made it through one kid and many washes and still looks good when you pick it up at the T-store, it’s a quality garment that isn’t going to fall apart on you.

So there are my reasons. Here’s a brief summary of my thrift store history.

My Mom has always been a big thrift store shopper. When I was a kid, thrift stores were NOT the “in” thing to do. Mom was always ahead of her time, and she tried to sell her friends on the concept, but they just weren’t hip to it. When people would complement my mother on something she had on, she would say “Oh, I got it at a little boutique.” LOL!

When I was a kid she would drag me to the thrift store but I wasn’t that keen on the experience. I always had to pee the moment I walked in the door, no matter how recently I had just gone to the bathroom. Now I know that was due to a cat allergy, but at the time, it drove my mom a bit nuts. I did LOVE books however, and would immediately head to the book section, only to be dragged out an hour later by my mother.

When I was a teenager, thrift stores had become Cool. All the punk/mod/skater kids shopped at thrift stores in East Atlanta so they could find Ben Shermans, Fred Perry tennis shirts, old Doc Marten boots, trench coats, etc. All the rich suburbanite North Atlanta kids shopped at thrift stores so noone knew they were rich suburbanite kids. LOL! By that time I was old hat at thrift store shopping thanks to my mother, so my girlfriend and I would head to the thrift stores intown to seek out old vintage Nikes, those cute girly cut 70′s style t-shirts, and vintage dresses and coats. Back when I was a size 2/4 and didn’t have mom boobs and could actually fit into vintage dresses and coats. LOL!

Then when I became a mom, I shopped at thrift stores so I could find those snazzy cloth diapers that cost $10 or more a pop on eBay. Now with 4 kids, thrift store shopping is a bit of a necessity. I simply cannot imagine why anyone would NOT shop at thrift stores occasionally.

So. Here’s what I got last week when a nearby thrift store had $.25 day. Ready?

For 2 year old Sadie:

  • 2 summer dresses
  • 1 summer skirt
  • 6 short sleeved casual shirts

For 4 year old Ilana:

  • 2 summer dresses
  • 9 skorts
  • 11 short sleeved casual shirts
  • 4 pairs of shorts
  • 1 pair of pants
  • 1 cardigan sweater
  • 1 dressy wool overcoat for next winter with dry cleaning tags still in it

For 6 year old Julien:

  • 4 short sleeved shirts (Polo style, ringer tees)
  • 1 long sleeved t shirt
  • 4 pairs of pants

For 9 year old Caleb:

  • 4 short sleeved shirts (Polo, ringer tees)
  • 1 long sleeved dress shirt
  • 1 pair of jeans

For 32 year old Mama:

  • 1 black leather Liz Claiborne bag in like new condition
  • 1 black leather handbag also looks like new
  • 8 short sleeved shirts, some casual, some dressy for Summer
  • 1 long sleeved dressy sweater
  • 1 pair of blue corduroy jeans that fit like a glove

I also got 18 books (some of them for homeschooling: Science, planets, weather, a few fiction works like Sounder, a couple rare Dr. Seuss books, a nice DK book about Space Travel, a book about the Amish, etc.), an Art set with paint that hardens so you can make sculptures with it which J and I immediately dug into, a kid size white antique writing desk for Ilana for her to sit and do art at, an the piece de resistance, a gorgeous loveseat that complements the other one I have that sits opposite in the living room. It was $10 and in perfect condition, not a spot anywhere on it.

Can you believe I got all this stuff for $36? If you haven’t figured it out already, every item of clothing was .25 each. (The desk and loveseat were half off regular price.) Almost everything I bought for the kids was Gap, Old Navy and The Children’s Place. Some of the items I got looked like they had been worn once, washed and tossed aside. It just amazes me that people will spend top dollar for new kid’s clothing then discard it before it has a chance to get a stain on it! Everything I got was spotless with no missing zippers, buttons, or flaws.

Ok, so now that I’ve regaled you with my finds, here are my tips for navigating the thrift store shopping scene.

Thrift Store Shopping Tips

1) Get to know your local T stores

If you don’t know what thrift stores are in your area, just look in the phone book or Google it. A lot of T stores have websites these days, and those are great to visit because they often have coupons you can print out.

For example, here in Atlanta we have Last Chance and America’s Thrift. We also have several Goodwill and Salvation Army and other smaller, independent stores. There are advantages to both. The larger stores are cleaner and more organized, but the smaller stores often have lower prices and better deals. The scenario I described above happened at a small Thrift store a few miles away from me that gives its profits to a local children’s home. I like supporting it because it’s for a good cause too. Keep in mind that some of the thrift stores may be donating to causes that don’t jive with your personal beliefs, so it’s good to check them out first.

Goodwill stores are among the cleanest and most organized. The clothing in the store is laid out by color which is nice if you’re looking for something in particular, but their prices are higher so you pay for that convenience.

thrift store shopping tips2) Finding Great Deals

As I mentioned, you can search for websites where you can print coupons to use inside the store. Also, most thrift stores have discount days. Call them up and ask what the schedule is like. Last Chance has Half Price Mondays where… you guessed it, everything in the store is half price. They open at 8:30 am here and if I get there at 8:15, a line has started at the door, rain or shine, even in the dead of winter. They even print up T shirts that say “I Survived Half Price Day at Last Chance”!

Some of them have loyalty cards, where you get a hole punch when you spend a certain amount, then when the card is full you get a few bucks off. Other stores have a color coded system where the color of the tag indicates the price reduction. So some days you’ll walk in and all pink and yellow tags, for instance, are half off.

Keep in mind that just because you’re at a thrift store doesn’t mean you’re getting the best price! Especially a few years ago when a lot of people got hip to thrift, they started raising prices like crazy. It wasn’t unusual to go in and see a pair of Gap jeans marked over $10. Get real! I can get jeans brand new at Old Navy right now for $8, why would I spend more for used? But $0.25? Oh, yeah. That’s definitely my style. :)

3) Be Organized

Thrift stores can be a little overwhelming. Or maybe it’s the dust that goes to your head, I don’t know. ;) But if I walk in with no idea of what my kids need I get totally lost. I find it helpful to write down what I’m looking for before I go in. So I’ll have a list that says:

Sz 6 Boy – Pants
Sz 4 Girl – Shirts
Sz 2 Boy – Dressy shoes
Me – Black skirt

… or something like that so I can be focused. Oh, and leave the kids at home! I don’t like mine pawing all over dirty toys.

Another thing to keep in mind that unlike a regular retail store, you’re not going to walk in and find clothing in the season you need, always. Often you will, but those items get picked up first. So I find that I do best when I try to think ahead and buy what the kids need for the next season. That makes that little list I mentioned even more important.

Just give it a shot! You can find some incredible deals. My kid’s homeschool curriculum has been almost entirely designed from stuff I’ve gotten at thrift stores. For example, two weeks ago I bought 4 BRAND NEW, untouched Abeka books. One on cursive handwriting, one math and two vocabulary/language arts. I have gotten clothing with the store tags still hanging on the item, and dress clothes with dry cleaning tags still inside. I’ve found brand new shoes and other really nice stuff. You never know what you’re going to find, you just have to be willing to do a little digging.

So there you have it!

Got any awesome thrift store deals or tips to share? Post them in the comments below.

This entry was posted in Frugality, Homemaking, Homeschool, Misc, Planet Earth and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Frugal Friday: .25 Day at the Thrift Store

  1. I just love the consignment shops here! I get everything from clothes to household items. There is also a Salvation Army store that I visit occasionally. I can’t believe how well you did on your trip – kudos!

  2. Kelly says:

    Carrie, I adore thrift stores! I find the best deals again and again at Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. It was my sister who taught me the fine art of cruising the racks for goodies – though I don’t have her patience ;)

  3. I am so jealous! Maybe I shouldn’t have read it!! You see I am stuck in a town with one thrift store that is only open 2 afternoons a week.

    Needless to say that it is crowded and you can expect to spend at least an hour in line if you do find anything. Not to say I don’t go…just that it’s not that wonderful an experience no matter what deals I happen to pick up.

  4. carrie says:

    Ooh yuck Patrysha! Maybe it would be worth it to travel to another town once a month when they’re having a sale or something?

    Cara and Kelly you guys rock!

  5. LaTara says:


    Great day at the thrift store. We have two here in Chicago that I like to use. One is right down the street and has 1/2 item in the store on Mondays. They open at 5:00am and we love getting there first thing to save!

  6. Tiffany says:

    Go girl! That is awesome. I really like thrift stores too. :) I love picking up wool and alpaca sweaters for cheap and the ones that don’t fit anyone I use the arms to sew up some wool longies for my baby boy.

  7. Pam says:

    Here via Money Saving Mom. Thanks for your tips on thrift stores! It is so much fun to be able to find good deals, and I love reading about what other people find!

  8. Vera Raposo says:

    Absolutely I love thrift stores, I love getting a good deal. Mostly what I love is browing the books and finding some gems to read.

  9. Linda Bender says:

    I never tell people that I shop at the thrift stores. I only have a few friends who know…..Almost like I am a druggie or someone with a secret to keep. Lots of people still have a thing in their head about thrift store (or yard sale shopping) that makes them look down on you. I work in a nursing home where the nurses and aids make more than me (housekeeping). But I smile when I think of some of the stuff I have purchased and they have admired. Nice secret. Makes me feel that I am part of a secret club……..Best buy on bag day…..a set of Minolo Blahnik shoes for a wedding shoved in the bag for $2.00. By the way I am in NJ. Lots of good things in my local thrift store.

  10. Ana says:

    You don’t talk about what to do with the kids while shopping, I know my daughter would be driving me nuts b/c you can’t just go in/out in a thrift store.

  11. carrie says:

    Hi Ana, thanks for commenting… I did mention that here: “Oh, and leave the kids at home! I don’t like mine pawing all over dirty toys.”

    You must have missed that in the long post! When I’m making a *serious* thrift store run, as in the above scenario when I know I’ll be taking a long time, I leave them with their Grandma. When I have to take them, I try to keep it brief and take turns letting them look at toys and books, then shopping for awhile, and vice versa. That, or I take a friend along and we trade responsibilities. :)

  12. carrie says:

    Linda that attitude is so silly isn’t it? But it’s worth it for that secret smile. ;) Thanks for your comment!

  13. Lisa O says:

    I am so glad you posted this! When I lived in N GA i would go to America THrift Store in MArietta. Once I guess it has been like 7 years now I had to get my oldest girl a First Comunnion dress. I was so Blessed, I found a beautiful while dress with sheer capped sleeves. For i think 19.00.

    Since I have moved to florida the things i find at thrift stores is awesome. There is a place clsoe by called Betty Griffin House Thrift store, all the money they make goes to the local woman abuse shelter.

    I one day jsut happen to find a perfect pink pair of Crocs for my toddler for 50 cents (poor thing has since lsot one, was kicked out of the van we fear)

    I got a Hooker brand beautiful entertaiment center for 130.00 A cuisinart coffee grinder for 50 cents I always buy use wine glasses……my children love to drink out of them and I grew tired of buying them new to have them dropped and broken.

    I could go on and on. You do have to look around and know deals etc.. and even which days to shop.

    Anyway sorry to ramble…

    Lisa O

  14. Jolene says:

    I am also a mother of four and get the majority of our clothes at thrift stores or really low clearance prices at Target and others. My favorite purchase at the local Salvation Army is a Donny Brook full length hooded wool coat for $5.00, and it fits perfect!!! I found one on ebay later that day for $530.00 with two days left.

  15. We used to do all our shopping at thrift stores when I was younger. My Mother buys a lot of my kids clothes at the nice second hand stores and you really wouldn’t know with some of the clothes.

  16. One of my favorite things to pick up at my downtown / local-civic-club thrift shop is a big stack of magazines. I also buy black dress pants at that store.

    Then Goodwill is where I go for jeans. When my daughter needed a bunch of denim fabric for a service project, we bought a stack of jeans at Goodwill.

  17. Kristine says:

    Wow, I can’t believe how good you did on your shopping trip. I used to visit thrift stores a lot, but I never came out that good! I’ve gotten out of the habit of shopping there, but I remember getting some great clothes when I did.

  18. I am floored at how well you did! That’s awesome. I love shopping at thrift stores but often have to take my kids with me so it’s tough to really search.

  19. tanyetta says:

    great job!!!!!!! i love thrift shops.

    the one here has $1 days.

    i go nuts in there. ;)

  20. Tanya says:

    Wow, you did great! That even makes me want to make the trip to Atl! I’m over in Walton Co, and go to FISH and can find some great deals but I very rarely go beyond the Gwinnett side of Loganville…maybe I should broaden my horizons! Great job. I love getting a good deal like that!

  21. Rock on frugal shopping Mama!!!! More power to the quarter….LOL.

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  23. Melissa says:

    I can count the times I’ve been in a thrift store on one hand! But after reading this (and now that I have a son of my own) I’m going to look up the thrift stores in the new neighborhood I moved to and give it a serious chance. I’m already a super sales shopper. I never buy anything full price, so the idea of a $10 loveseat really appeals to me :) Thanks for the great info.

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  26. Julie says:

    Isn’t that the best! I love thrift shopping! Great post.

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