Ah, school clothes shopping!
You either read that sentence as a horrible threat or as an exciting & intriguing possibility.
If you're in the first camp, return to your Target/Amazon/oldnavy.com shopping.
This post is not for you.
There is no judgement.
As Amy Poehler says 'Good for her, not for me'.
Be well & enjoy brand spanking new clothing!
As for the rest of you:
Have I got a field trip planned for you!
My daughter loves to shop & I love to shop. I also love to save money & there is no place better to do this than getting thrifty. I know you have your own tips & tricks & I would love to hear them in the comments!
I make this a trip that's just the two of us. I'm sure it is possible to do with multiple kids (& I give you a giant standing ovation if that's what you do) but this is our little 'thing' so we make it a date.
Here's our back to school thrifty tradition, step by step:
Assess the closet situation.
You could do a big giant clean out or just take note of what your kiddo needs more of & what they need no more of.
This doesn't mean you will everything but at least you'll have it in mind.
If you are one of those Organized people (& sometimes I am) you could even make a list.
I know, so fancy!
Choose a thrift store. Preferably a big one with a large clothing selection. We pretty much always go to the Delta Goodwill (they don't call it Superstore for nothing). But we have also hit the St.Vincent de Paul on 13th, too. & Junction City just got a big giant St. Vinnies so add that to the list!
Grab a cart & Load it up, No Holds Barred!
I always let my daughter (a certified fashionista) put whatever she wants to in the cart as long as it's her size. This results in lots of stuff.
But it's really fun for her & all part of the deal :)
I add stuff, too, for sure.
Otherwise she would end up with 15 different jean jackets & no pants. Not the fashion statement we're going for in 4th grade.
Step Three & Four
Try It On! & Sort It Out
(they happen at the same time but I'll describe them separately so no one's head explodes)
She tries on, I sort.
Here she is trying on:
If you are lucky enough to get a big dressing room, you can sort in there.
Since we usually do it at Delta Goodwill I just take over the half wall that they have outside the dressing rooms.
(& yes, people look at me funny & think I work there (& sometimes I even know the answers to their questions) but it's all worth it when we get to the register.)
How I sort:
As she is getting settled in the dressing room I take every item off of its hanger (a huge time saver)
& then I make piles.
1 pile each for
Sports stuff (shorts, dry-fit shirts)
She tries on an outfit
Do you like it?
Does it fit?
How does it feel?
Are there any stains or tears?
As she changes out of the outfit she hands it to me
& I hand her a new outfit.
Then I start a KEEP pile.
If it's a No, I hang it on the Return rack.
As the Keep pile gets bigger I try to notice if there are too many of any one thing.
The thing with thrift stores is that you get what you get on the day you're there.
So if you already went through the racks & there were only 2 skirts that worked, that's how it is today.
If you're at a big place there's generally a good variety.
You just have to decide if it's a Must or an I-think-we'll-wait.
Sometimes even if something fits & she likes it I am just not that excited about her having it (Belly shirt with Hottie written in sequins for an 8-year-old anyone?) I discretely put (hide) it on the Return rack. I only recommend this to those who are okay with lying when they get home with their finds & their kid says 'Hey! Where's that skirt that stopped right below my bottom?'. My typical response? 'Must be the thrift store fairy! She always demands a fee when we get so many good deals!'.
This is the downside to letting her put anything she wants in the cart but if I'm on the ball I sort as we go & there are always so many great options that she often forgets about the crazy/not age appropriate stuff.
Every year I let her get something that I wouldn't typically be excited about (This all happens during the Sorting process). One year it was a crazy chicken printed dress (wish I could find a picture of it!), another a really really old fashioned blue velvet dress with lace collar. VERY Special Finds. It's just a funny little thing I like to do. She doesn't really even know about it (sheesh, I really have my pants on fire) & truth be told, often it ends up being really cute & she totally makes it work. Take that, mom! :)
Ring Up & Rejoice!
We usually budget $50 per kid for school clothes.
For $50 my son (who would never in a million years agree to an afternoon of the above. Unless I offered him the Lego Death Star. & even then he would groan & complain at every turn.) gets 2 pairs of jeans, 1 sarcastically ironic t-shirt from Target. This is usually around $50. (Once I have a good read on what size he's in, I am on the lookout for stuff for him at thrift stores but I have to be very sure. I have done the buy, take home, try on, take back & try again dance too many times & it's no Macarana.) He also isn't that interested in variety so he wouldn't even want a bunch of options. I also watch the clearance rack & sales at Target all year long so he rarely needs a giant shopping trip for school.
For $35 my daughter typically ends up with about 10 items, sometimes more if I'm eagle eyed (like Megan) on the half price tags. (The remaining $15 we spend on shoes which I am usually not up for looking at on this particular shopping day) Averaging $3.50 per item? Pretty great, right?
Can you spot her Special find last year?
It's a strawberry printed brown vest.
& it's actually pretty cute :)
Oh, yeah & we came home with a cute pram, too.
It's the chance you take when heading to the thrifties!
Have fun, friends!
Find those deals!
How do you school shop?
Give us the details!
Emily Gulka is the owner & founder of GoMomGo. She has two kiddos (a Lego obsessed boy & a fashion plate girl) who are on the Go with her lots of the time (mostly to their soccer/dance/jiu jitsu practices & then they all collapse at home & watch Netflix). She also has a business called old school eugene that offers drop in play, parties & classes for kids & adults. & every once in a while she writes a blog post :)
Okay folks. We're going to get straight to the point today. None of the usual rambling soliloquies about why thrifting is the best (already discussed that) or what you should look for (it's right here). Today we're going to talk about the nitty-gritty of HOW one finds spectacular deals at second hand stores. Guys! This is the exciting part! We're putting the pedal to the metal and all that!
How to find EXACTLY what you're looking for in the giant sea of randomness that is a thrift store:
1. Be realistic. Come to terms with the knowledge that finding exactly what you're looking for is probably NOT going to happen.
---Thrift store shopping is not very useful for finding a very specific thing. At least not right away. It might take a looooong time before you find something if you have a very particular item in mind. For example, we eat a lot of honey. So much honey that I buy it in really giant containers. I have been wanting a small honey pot for-to-the-ever. It would be so easy to hop on Amazon and order one. But! That would cost a lot more money. And who knows - if I wait long enough, maybe I'll decide I don't need one after all. Or find something else that works in it's place. Plus I love the history behind items that have already had homes. I feel like it gives them a warmth, you know? Like they probably should have a name. Is that just me? Hmm.
---Here's what thrifting IS useful for: finding things that will work even if they're not 100% what you had in mind, and finding things that you didn't know you needed in the first place. :)
2. Be selective. Just because it is used doesn't automatically make it a good deal. I don't know if you've noticed, but thrift stores have wised up to the fact that more and more people are shopping second hand. Since there's a bigger market, the prices have gone up. Also, do you want to know what one thing has single handedly ruined thrifting? A little new fangled fad I like to call the interlines. (Get it? Internet+online? I made that gem of a word up accidentally one day after honestly not being able to think of the right word. Parenting makes me tired.) Anywho, the internet has given thrift stores the ability to look up what gets donated and price it accordingly. So that charming little sweater with the European brand? Yeah, they Googled it. They know it retails for $185. So they've priced it at $40. BLAST. This leads me to...
3. Know your stuff. Whatever you're shopping for, know what it costs new. Even better, know what your stuff goes for on Craigslist and those Facebook buy/sell/trade pages. That way you know if you've got a good price.
4. Be selective. I know I already said that. But this is different. Look at items you're considering carefully. Are all the parts there? Count those puzzle pieces! Check that clothing over so very carefully for stains and wear. Test those zippers! Button those buttons! Someone got rid of whatever you're holding for a reason - hopefully it's in perfect condition and they just didn't like it or use it. But maybe there's a small hole, or a part doesn't work, or it smells slightly moldy. Whatever. Just do me a favor and check it out. Really well.
---Two things I've noticed and look for on clothing: cuffs and necklines. Stains hide there.
---Be 100% sure that whatever you're buying is actually what you want. I can't tell you how many times I've found fabulous shoes that are just half a size too small, and I think to
myself, "I don't mind that they're a bit tight! I can make them work! Because they are perfect!" But I actually WILL mind, and realize that they're actually NOT perfect, when they're rubbing my tootsies raw and I'm changing my bandaids every 30 min and my brand-new-to-me shoes have a brand new blood stain on them. Be realistic.
5. Practice makes perfect. Thrift store shopping may take a bit longer than buying new, but it is possible to zip through a little more quickly if you know how. Here's how I do it:
---While looking at clothes, I skim the rack searching for three things: pattern, material, and color. This really helps narrow down the playing field. For instance, since I am super boring, I skip over pretty much anything that's not plain or striped. Apparently I would be really good at being Amish. The material is also super important: No need to wear anything scratchy or pilled or threadbare - pay attention to condition. At most stores, the clothing (except for infants) is arranged by color, so go straight to the shades that appeal to you.
---When looking at toys, check for stuff that is in it's original box or at least in a Ziploc bag. If they're contained, you've got a way better chance of all the pieces being there.
---When looking at shoes, always check the sole for wear, especially the toes and heels. If they are velco, check to be sure that they still fasten. Also, if the shoes are a brand that you don't recognize, try to find a pair of Nikes or another well known brand to compare them to in order to determine if they run true to size.
---Look for brands that you don't recognize. Pay attention to the font that they're written in. Did that sound as weird as I think it did? Hmm. Well, at any rate, I've noticed that I am drawn to clothes and shoes that have a certain type of label font. It probably corresponds to what sort of clothes they are - fussy labels = fussy clothes, simple labels = simple clothes, etc. I sound full blown crazy pants here don't I?
---Typically, you get what you pay for, so clothes that are more expensive brand new generally are in much better condition used, because they started out as high quality items. Also, people who can afford to buy expensive things brand new generally...how might I phrase this...have plenty of things. So if they buy a Columbia windbreaker, but don't really love it, they shrug it off, donate it, and buy a new one. I don't even bother looking at certain brands at thrift stores, because I know that I can buy them brand new for not much more than second hand prices.
6. Know what you're looking for. I keep a list in my phone of what my boys have clothing-wise so that I know not to buy another pair of pajamas because we already have a quadrillion pairs of pajamas for pete's sake but we don't have any shorts so unless he's going to rock fleece feeties in the middle of July I better keep my eyes peeled for the shorts! Or whatever. The most helpful list I have is definitely the shoe list.
All hail the shoe list! The way I figure it, living in Oregon means we only really need two pairs of shoes for our littles. A pair of boots for six months of the year, and a pair of Keens for the other six months. So whenever I see an awesome pair of either of those, I check my handy list to see if I have them already or not, and then buy accordingly.
7. Know your store. This is important folks. By making friends with the employees, you can find out a lot of important little secrets that they don't tell the general public. Okay, maybe they're not secrets - more like handy hints. For example:
---If you qualify for any discounts (senior, military, etc) be sure to ask about those.
---If you donate at St. Vinnie's, they give you a coupon for 20% off one regularly priced item. This is awesome because you can save money as well as be motivated to follow the all important "one thing in the house, one thing out" rule.
---You're likely to find the best selection when the seasons change and after the first of the year. Those are times that people feel like cleaning house, and thrift stores get tons of great donations. So check your calendar. Hey guess what? It's January right this second! Let the shopping commence!
---Different stores may specialize in different things. Some have great selections of appliances, others have really great book sections. Check it out.
---Many stores have big clearances several times a year. For example, I know that SVDP does a 50% all books and clothing (which HELLO that is such a steal) right around most holidays. This sale is always on Sunday and Monday only, and they never announce it until the Saturday before. I've asked if they can tell me when the sales are and they always say no. Way to play it coy, Vinnie's.
---If you are there often, and are friendly with the workers, some of them are kind enough to keep an eye out for stuff that you are looking for. Isn't that the coolest?
---To move inventory through the store, most second hand shops use a colored tag system.
The longer an item has been there, the cheaper it is. SVDP runs on a three week rotation. The first week, the item is full price, then the next week it's 25% off, then 50% off. Find out when the store turns over the tags. SVDP turns on Tuesdays, so we go every Tuesday morning. Which leads me to...
8. Shop often! It's really the best way to find the best stuff. We've turned it into a lovely part of our weekly routine. Also, thrifting is a great thing to do on a rainy afternoon when you just need to get out of the house. It's causal, drop in and out, and potentially free - what could be better if you have to be inside?
9. Be prepared to leave empty handed. Some days the second hand deal fairy smiles down on you, and some days she does not. :)
Wowie! That was so good, right?
Thanks, Megan for showing us your ways!
If you enjoyed these thrifting posts, keep an eye out for more through the year. We love to help you!
First Class Second Hand, Part 1
First Class Second Hand, Part 2
Megan Defferding is the mom to two super fun boys who love to find great stuff to do all around Lane County! Check out her blog series, Happy Adventuring, weekly on GoMomGo.