Back in October I shared my commitment to buy all our family’s clothing at a thrift store for one year. I haven’t updated on that in a while, partly because I thought I had us set for the winter for clothes. However, my kids are growing like weeds this year, so we have shopping to do!
I named quite a few reasons for our thrift shopping challenge in an earlier post, but this is another great reason to make it a part of your life. Kids don’t tell you ahead of time when they are going to grow! Last spring C got new shoes. Then when it was time to send her to camp and she was required to have a spare pair in case of rain, she had grown two sizes… in the space of two months!
I feel so much pressure when I’m buying our clothes for a season and I’m spending full price. There have been seasons when I got everything a size up, and then it looked big on them all season. Then other years I got everything just a little big, but they still outgrew things before the season was over.
The girls all needed at least one more warm top for winter. It’s much colder where we live than I’m used to from growing up in central Texas, so I wasn’t sure how many to buy at the beginning of the season.
Here are the tops I got for H (age 5), a sweatshirt and a sweater that can be layered with t shirts. I also found a skinny brown belt for myself that I had been looking for for a while. It matches tons that I have, but I was specifically hoping it would go with a denim dress I got at the thrift store on a previous trip. Also shown is the wide headband I got for L, C and H already had one.
Here are the tops I found for the twins and myself. They have never loved matching their clothes, but when we saw these coordinating sweaters we were all excited. Its fun to match once in a while, and finding matching or coordinating tops at the thrift store in the right size is definitely unusual. I found an oversized hoodie for myself that I can layer around the house for extra cold mornings.
I didn’t get a picture of it, but we also got a hunter green dress shirt for Ken to wear to work. He wore it the next day so it was already out before I took pictures.
Why Thrift Shop?
1. It saves us hundreds.
There’s really no way to calculate exactly how much we save in a year by shopping at the thrift store. I always tried to shop sales and be frugal, but many times I ended up with cheap clothes that didn’t last as a result. Thrift shopping usually lets me get higher quality clothing at a lower price since I can find brands that normally don’t go on clearance at low enough prices.
2. It’s better for the environment.
There are dozens of articles on why today’s fashion harms the environment, so I won’t go into lots of detail here. but fashion is out of control right now. On any given thrift trip I find clothing that still has the tag on it. Some looks like it has never been worn or washed. The waste is unbelievable. Many people buy so many clothes so quickly that the thrift store is barely behind in terms of what is trendy. I’d rather use clothes that are still beautiful, but would otherwise end up in a landfill than buy new clothes from a traditional store.
How I Make it Work
It does take more work to get our clothes at the thrift store. I have to dig through clothes that are not sorted by neat rows and colors. The dressing rooms usually have an item limit. It can be overwhelming to walk into a thrift store if you have never shopped thrift, so here is my process:
1. Be ready to look at everything.
I always get a cart, start in one spot, and move every item. Hangers are probably going to be packed together, so I shove everything together and then move each hanger past. Thrift stores don’t always sort by size, so you may have to even look at each size. If I think it might work, I put it in my cart. Most likely I will have tons more to try on than at a regular store since all brands run differently in size and fit. After I have been to all the sections where I need to look, I head to the dressing room.
2. Try everything on.
It will be tempting to skip this, even if you normally try things on. There may be a line, and most dressing rooms have a five item limit or so. Your are standing there not wanting to take a million things back and you are looking at prices of a dollar or two. This step is so necessary. Some items may have flaws that you notice when you put them on. Some may be tagged the wrong size or stretched. It doesn’t save you money in the long run if you spend fifty cents on a top that you just donate again in six months after not wearing it. Push your cart up to a room, grab five items and then switch them out with the next five in your cart until you try everything on.
3. Learn your store.
Most thrift stores have a rotation of sales. each day a different section of the store or a different tag color will be on sale. Ask what the schedule is so that you can go on the correct day. My thrift store recently stopped providing bags (so annoying). It was a big surprise when I had a giant pile of clothes that I had to bear hug out to my car or pay ten cents a bag to bag it up.
4. Know what you need.
This might be the most important step if you want to keep your clothing budget at rock bottom. Anytime I’m going to shop I want to know exactly what I have and what I need. When one of my kids has outgrown or ruined a few pieces of clothing, I go through what they have and tally everything. This way I know they need pants or tops etc. It saves me from getting sidetracked by something cute and ending up with 20 tops and two pairs of jeans.
Also, I have a plan for my wardrobe. I try to keep a mental list for myself of the next few things I’d like to have. I keep my eye open for layering pieces like solid t shirts and cardigans. If I know I’m set on leggings, I will look out for tunics that can match several pairs so I can mix and match.
It takes more work, but if you see thrift shopping as a fun challenge, you can save your family hundreds of dollars on clothing and help the environment. What are your favorite thrift store tips? Let me know in the comments.