We do back-to-school clothes shopping a little different than most people. Instead of hitting up Target or our favorite department store, we go to the thrift store. And we don’t even pay full price at the thrift store!
I want to show you what we get (and don’t get) at the thrift store to maximize our back-to-school budget.
This year we spent $25 on each of our kids who are in school. That money stretched big time at the thrift store and I’m going to tell you how we did it!
Here are my top 5 tips for saving money on back-to-school shopping at the thrift store!
I also have a new YouTube video where I’m sharing these tips and showing you the clothing hauls for each of our kids (minus the baby who wasn’t in need of anything). It’s a fun one! So grab a basket of laundry and fold while you watch or just listen. Or keep reading to just get the thrift store shopping tips.
Tip #1: Know Before You Go
Before you head out to do any school shopping, taking inventory of what you already have. Make sure the laundry is clean, then get the clothes out of your kids drawers. Grab any storage bins where you keep clothes for the next season or the next size up.
Have your kids try everything on and keep track of how many pairs of jeans they have, how many pairs of school shorts they have, how many short sleeve shirts, how many long sleeve shirts, and any other clothing item that you might be tempted to buy.
You might be surprised with what they actually already have that still fits and is in great condition for school. If your kids are like mine, they’ve spent half the summer in their swim suit, so it’s easy for them, and you, to forget what real clothes they actually have.
Once you have an inventory, decide what your kids actually need.
It sounds simple, but how many times do we just guess and end up buying the wrong things and forgetting the things we actually need!
Tip #2: Know Where to Go
Thrift stores vary greatly in what they carry. Our local thrift stores are all run by the local hospice. They are great thrift stores and we love them, but they have a serious lack of quality and quantity when it comes to kids clothes.
We found a really amazing thrift store chain about an hour away that has an excellent selection of kids clothes though. We only go a couple of times a year, so I don’t mind making the drive.
Be adventurous and try out new thrift stores if the ones around you or the ones you’re familiar with aren’t cutting the mustard.
Learn about the sale/discount days so you can get the most for your money!
Tip #3: Know What NOT to Buy
I typically don’t buy underwear, socks, or swimsuits at the thrift store. Those are items I prefer to buy new.
Even so, these are items I don’t usually buy at back-to-school time. I’m sure sock and underwear companies love the tradition of socks and underwear being at the top of the back-to-school lists, but do your kids need new socks and underwear right now just because it’s August? Or are you buying it out of tradition?
Right now our kids are doing just fine in the socks and underwear department, so those aren’t on our list. I keep a bin specifically for new socks and underwear that I buy throughout the year when I find good deals. When the kids are in need of new socks or underwear, I go straight to the bin, not the store.
Shoes are another item that I buy on an as-needed basis. We don’t just buy shoes because it’s a new school year.
Being selective about the things that you buy new (or the things that you buy at all), will really save you money on your school shopping
Tip #4: Know the Pricing Scheme
Some thrift stores use “blanket pricing” where all items in the same category are the same price. For example, all kids jeans are the same price no matter what the brand or condition. The benefit of this pricing system is that you can find good quality or name brand clothes for the same price you’d pay for something less nice. Just look carefully to find the best deals
Other thrift stores, like the one we go to, have items priced individually. Items that are hot name brands are priced more. They make up for this with their sale system. Usually items that are ridiculously priced don’t sell until the price is heavily discounted.
At our favorite thrift store, this is how it works. Each week they put out a new color tag and the color tags from the weeks that are older are discounted. There is a color that is 25% off, a color that is 50% off, and a color that is 75% off. The items that are 75% off are the ones that have been on the rack the longest. They didn’t sell at full price, at 25% off or at 50% off. Because this store has tons of inventory, lots of great things make it to 50% or 75% off. And those are the things I like to focus on.
Tip #5: Have a Target Price
I aim for $2 per item at my thrift store, but this will vary depending on where you live, what store you’re at, and what your budget is. I first look for the clothes my kids need based on size and style. When I find something that fits, I look at the price tag. If it’s at or below my target price, then I usually get it. If it’s a little more, then I base my decision on how high the item is on our need list and what other options are available.
Since I buy lots of items at or below my target price, it usually averages out to my target price.
General Thrift Store Tip
Look everything over really well. Always check everything for stains, holes, and excessive wear. Make sure zippers and buttons work. Try things on if at all possible.
All sales are final at most thrift stores, so you want to be sure you’re sure before you buy it!
Pro Thrifting Tip
Whenever I’m not sure if I should buy something or not, like when it’s something for someone who isn’t with me to try on or furniture that I’m not sure will work in our house, I ask myself if I could easily resell the item and make my money back (or make a profit). If the answer is “yes” and I’m willing to do the work to resell it if I need to, then I go ahead and get it.
Thrift Store Back-to-School Clothes Haul
If you want to see the complete kids’ hauls (and what I got) at the thrift store, check out my latest video! I go through all of the items and prices.
Otherwise here are a few pictures so you can get a general idea of what we got:
For our 4-year-old daughter, I spent $15.50.
For our 7-year-old son, I spent $25.25.
For our 10-year-old son, I spent $25.50
For our 11-year-old daughter, I spent $25.50.
I bought a few other things for my husband and myself, which I talk about in the video.
Back-to-school shopping can be an expensive tradition, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re smart about it, you can get the things you need without breaking the bank.
- What are your best thrift shopping tips?
- Have you ever done your back-to-school shopping at the thrift store?
- Would you go thrifting for back-to-school or do you think it’s weird?