Back-to-School Shopping at the Thrift Store

It's that time of year.  The time of year when bloggers everywhere write back-to-school posts.  My kids aren't yet school-age, so I don't have a ton to say on this topic, but I do know a little something about thrift shopping.  And one of the best things to shop for at thrift stores is children's clothing.  If you have never shopped at a thrift store before, this is a great way to give it a try.

Eco-novice's Tips for Thrift Shopping for Children's Clothing

The beauty of shopping for children's clothing (rather than, say, women's clothing) is that you don't have to try it on!  However, you should keep in mind that there is some variation in children's clothing's sizes too.  Cheaper brands (Circo, Old Navy) tend to be slightly smaller than more expensive brands (Gymboree, Janie and Jack).  It is not a bad idea to bring a pair of pants or shirt that your child currently wears with you to the store to hold up for comparison.  Do not buy anything that you suspect may be too small for your child.

Thrift shopping without children is much more enjoyable.  But if you have to shop with your kids, pass by the toy section first, and give your kids something to play with while they are sitting in the cart.  Put the toy back before you leave unless it's a gem.  (I use this trick in Target too.)  As a side note, thrift stores are also great places to buy used gifts for children, such as games, puzzles, or books.

Ask around or shop around to find out which stores are the most organized and have a large selection.  I love the Savers near me because they organize by size and color and have tons of children's clothes.  Some folks love hunting for treasures, but I have a limited tolerance for this now that I have kids and a very limited amount of time for shopping.  In a well-stocked, well-organized store, you can literally walk in looking for a 2T white shirt and find it.

Check for special deals.  Many stores have colored tags and each day a different color will be half-off.  Some stores also have coupons or frequent shopper cards.  My favorite thrift shop gives you a coupon off your purchase if you bring in a bag of items to donate.  So I always bring a bag of donations with me.  You have a bag of items in your garage waiting to be donated, don't you?

Shop in the nicer neighborhoods near you.  The stores in nicer neighborhoods tend to have more higher-end clothing and clothing that is often like new or new.  For the frugal soul, there is a special joy in finding a like-new Janie and Jack shirt for your 18-month-old for $3 when you know how much it cost new.

Take a list.  I try to keep a list of what my children actually need in my purse with me, and update it regularly. That way you don't end up with 20 short-sleeve shirts, and only one elastic-waste pants for your 3-year-old.

Wash the clothes before your kids wear them.  I like using RLR Laundry Treatment or Sensi-clean (which cloth diaper users use for removing detergent build-up from their diapers) to get the previous owners' laundry detergent out of the clothes.  If the clothes smell really strongly of laundry detergent fragrance (hello, phthalates), I just don't buy it.

Additional Resources
Green Moms Carnival 2010 Back-to-School Guide
EWG's Green Back-to-School Guide for K-12
From Healthy Child Healthy World:

Photo credit: Benimoto

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  1. I just went thrifting today and purchased a cute pair of overalls for my bubba... well, he chose them as soon as I held them up - they went straight into his hands!

  2. Well done, Rie. Love your crafty blog! I'm trying to learn to sew and love your online fabric store round-up.

  3. Thanks for writing this post. People who'd like to help the less fortunate can also go to Goodwill for some back-to-school shopping.


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