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.
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.
2) 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.