Saturday, March 26, 2016

Tips For Thrift Store Shopping

One of the ways I save my family money is buying our clothes at the thrift store. The picture at top was from my latest shopping spree at two different thrift stores. I know it doesn’t look like much, but every item found at the thrift store is one less thing to be made or bought later. This little haul cost me $16.  Over the years I’ve learned a few things and would love to share them with you.

Before I get into the helpful pointers, I’d like to share a story with you. In the beginning my daughter only wore new clothes. I can’t say how much money I spent on clothes that she barely wore, and don’t want to think about it. Eventually, I came around to the idea of buying from consignment and thrift stores, but this didn’t save us money either at first. I would see all these clothes I loved for “cheap” and think in my head about what a great deal I was getting. In the end, my kids had too many clothes and we still weren’t saving money. Overtime I came to accept that my kids don’t actually need that many clothes, besides I’m the one who has to wash and put it away. With this realization, I became more choosey. My kids’ probably still have more clothes than they need, but instead of panicking when there are a ton of empty hangers in the closet (and the laundry is done!), I take it as a good thing. Put thought into what you are buying and consider how much you need! Don’t just buy something because it is a good deal.

Here are my tips for thrift store shopping:

  • Keep everything in the bag it came in and put it immediately in the wash. Do not show off your new finds until they’re washed and dried using a heat setting. I had a friend end up bed bugs or lice (can’t remember which) from her thrift store finds, learn from her!
  • Usually thrift stores run sales. Our Salvation Army has a “Family Day” every Wednesday, all clothes and shoes are 50% off.
  • Those damn staples are a pain, especially when they are put into knit/delicate fabric. Make it a point to see how bad the hole where the staple is. It usually isn’t worth darning/repairing. Also don’t try and pull them out as is, use a seam ripper to bend the legs straight. This will save the garment from being damaged further.
  • Check the knees and other hard wearing spots. Is the fabric or stitching wearing thin, or stained? If you’re desperate and it’s the only pair available, reinforce the fabric for strength or patch the hole. I’ve done this before and the jeans ended up being my daughter’s favorite. They held up so well we were able to pass them down to another child, but it cost me time. You can read about it here.
  • Know beforehand what you will or will not fix. Don’t have grand plans of repairing something unless you want to practice or have fun! The list below are things I will fix because they are quick and simple.
    • Stitches that have fallen out, but the fabric is not ripped
    • Reattaching loose buttons. We have a tutorial on how to reattach a button on elastic waist pants that can be found here.
    • Hemming - We have a tutorial on how to do a removable hem.
    • If the bottom of a sleeve is stained lightly I will create a new hem
    • Minor hole repair work on the inside (but nothing that is visible) - ie pockets, buttonhole for elastic waist, etc
  • Have a list of what you need. It’s a gentle reminder that your child does not need 20 shirts!
  • I usually try to buy the current season only. My exceptions to this rule are listed below. These are generally harder to find items that I know we will need.
    • Jackets
    • Lined winter pants
    • Shoes - in excellent condition
    • White shirts - we always need some and they are always getting stained
    • Snow suits (I don’t think I’ve found one yet)
    • Extremely nice brand in great condition and really well priced. An example is about two years ago I found a Lilly Pulitzer jean skirt for my daughter. It still had the tags on it. Someone had paid just under $100, never wore it, then donated it. I paid $2 and saved it until she could wear it this year.
  • Thrift store shopping is hit or miss. There are times when I find everything we need and times when I find nothing. I used to stress about going to the store once a week, but now I go maybe once every two months. This does mean I find less of the awesome “lucky” finds, but I got my time back and that is a precious commodity.
  • If you don’t have a thrift store near you there are online stores such as thredUP.
  • Check Facebook or other venues to see if your area has a local swap group. However this has several negative aspects to it. I don’t use this method anymore due to the reasons below.
    • Safety - our town has a dedicated parking spot at the police station that is monitored for this specific thing - but always use caution
    • I almost always ended up paying more in swap groups than at the thrift store. People generally charge more because there is sentimental value to the item and they factor what they paid for it but don’t consider the condition it is currently in.
    • Not being able to check the condition of the item before committing to buy it. I’ve walked away several times due to someone stating something was in excellent or brand new condition and the clothes had stains, holes, and once moldy food in the box. But it can be hard to walk away, depending on your personality.

I hope this article is helpful in saving your family money. If you have any other tips to share please leave a comment!!

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