This is a Guest Post brought to you by Traci from A Star In My Own Universe.
The days of summer are waning and to parents of school-age kids, that can mean only one thing — School Shopping! Two words that our psyches and bank accounts can dread. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I love, Love, LOVE clothes. I get a high from putting together an outfit that makes me feel cute. I also love dressing my kids well. I do not, however, enjoy high prices. I am a military wife and our clothing budget is Spartan, at best. So how does a Spartan mom dress her family these days? Terrifically, if you know where to go!
About five years ago, I started thrifting. As a grad student, I had hit a few “vintage” shops but had never really looked to outfit myself or children using resale clothing. I had wrongly assumed that the clothes would be worn-out, out-of-date, or otherwise not worth my time. But as my daughter grew, I noted how many nice things I was giving away. Surely, I wasn’t the only one dropping off new or nearly new items.
I worried, though. Would the store be yucky? Would it take an hour to find one thing? Only one way to find out… I walked in the door.
And I was pleasantly surprised. The store was not yucky. It took me about a minute to find something that I loved! And thus, I was hooked. My husband now teases me that I am the Indiana Jones of thrifting. Direct me to the right place and I will come back with a treasure!
Now, I won’t lie. Successful thrifting takes a little effort. You won’t walk in and find a mannequin dressed in the exact outfit you saw in Vogue yesterday. But like most things in life, if you are willing to put in that effort, you will reap a big reward.
Interested in seeking your own treasure but still feeling a little intimidated? Try these tips for a better thrifting experience.
:: Don’t go in a rush and leave the kids at home (if you can)
Try to shop when you have time to leisurely finger through each item and check them carefully. I have found my greatest buys when I wasn’t looking for something in particular. I find it hard to really look when someone is tapping his toe at me.
:: It’s not a deal, if you won’t use it
No matter how cheap it is, no matter the brand name inside; if you won’t wear it, it’s not a bargain. This goes for the kids, too. If your son lives in skate clothing and hates all things collared, getting the New-With-Tags Polo shirt for $4.00 will feel good at the store but at the end of the day will simply be $4.00 wasted. A good rule of thumb is “if you wouldn’t consider it at full price, don’t look at it twice for half price”.
Another way to stay on budget is to create a “Wish List”. I may look fabulous in the cobalt blue Betsy Johnson mini-dress but there is not much chance of me actually wearing it. Rather than being tempted by everything cute I see, I keep a list with me of things my kids and I actually need. I note when my son’s jeans are in need replacement. The next time I’m at a thrift store, then I know to focus my attention there. It doesn’t mean I never browse (how else would I have found the lime green velvet Juicy Couture bag?) but I prioritize the needs first.
:: Find “Your” store
Not all thrift stores are created equal. Some are clean and well-lit with great employees. Some are… well, not. If you have a bad experience at one, try again somewhere else. Ask around. Most good stores have reputations (as do many bad stores!).
Some charities pool their resources and send the best items to “Select” stores. Resale shops tend to reflect their local neighborhood. Personally, I look for stores known for high traffic. These stores tend to get newer and better inventory more often. And watch for a Thrifting Angel. Often a donor will bring their clothes to the same store time after time. I have found a store that consistently refills in my size and style. I love this woman whoever she is and this store is always my first stop.
Many thrift stores are actively competing now with other retail shops. Some have regular sale days, coupons for donations, and/or loyalty cards. Check out these opportunities to make your dollars go further. What’s better than getting a good deal? Getting a good deal plus a coupon!
:: Make sure it’s worth it
Cheap or not, no one wants to get home and find a stain on that seemingly perfect Tommy Hilfiger dress. When possible, I take my purchases to the window and review them under natural light. I also check for snags, pill-ing, and any other sign of wear. If there is no window, the light from a cell phone can still be better than the fluorescents most stores use. It is also useful to an instant stain remover wipes or sticks. Some stains come out in the wash. Some don’t. Again, neither a small price or a big label should sway the decision – if you won’t wear it, it’s not a deal.
So if you love bargains and labels like I do, take a chance on your local thrift store. Think of this way, you’re not just saving your budget. You’re shopping locally, supporting a charity, and recycling clothing. Those are all treasures worth discovering.
Traci describes herself as a slightly weird, very sentimental, out of work actress, in love with her husband and two kids who is trying to find herself in the life that happened while she was busy making plans. Check out her blog, A Star in My Own Universe.