Secondhand Shopping: I Love It and So Should You

I have a gorgeous skirt. It skims just below the knee and it has a delicately printed pattern of the cobblestoned streets of Paris around the hem. Every time I wear it, someone stops me around the library to ask, “Where did you get that skirt?” I smile demurely and reply, “Oh, this? A little vintage shop I know about” and float away into the book stacks. Occasionally, I crash back to earth and tell the truth: that “vintage clothing shop” is a Goodwill store and I paid $5 for that skirt! The point of the story is, nobody has to know where you bought your clothes, or how much you paid for them.

Buying your clothes at thrift shops and consignment stores is definitely the best way to save money on your family’s wardrobe and look great doing it. As long as you follow the guidelines laid down below, you’ll be sitting pretty – and your vintage pockets will be full of cash!

  • Only buy quality pieces. High-quality brands are mixed in with junk brands – and they’re often the same price. Check the tags for names you recognize and associate with quality: they’ll last longer and the fabric will drape nicely.
  • Check an item’s stress points. These are the places in a garment that wear out fastest. Check the hems and knees of pants, underarms of shirts and back seams of jackets. Also check for staining around the collar, sleeves and underarms. Some stains are impossible to remove.
  • Zip the zipper! Also, button the buttons and snap the snaps. Is a fastener missing? Is it worth the purchase price if you have to replace a button or zipper? If you’re not too shy, ask for a discount on the less-than-perfect piece.
  • Don’t neglect to try it on. You may be tempted to toss that top right into your bag – it’s only $1.99, how can you go wrong, right? Wrong! Most thrift stores have a no-return policy so if you buy something and it doesn’t fit, you can kiss that $1.99 goodbye.
  • Dig deep! Bargains are often buried in bins at the ends of aisles. Not everyone bothers to dig through the bins, but you aren’t just anyone, are you? Plunge in up to your elbows and you’ll be amazed at the deals you’ll surface with – especially for children’s clothes.
  • And speaking of children… Thrift stores are loaded with kids’ items. Why buy new clothes for play or school when your family will outgrow them in just a few months? If you see adorable kids’ clothing in the wrong size, pick it up anyway. Your child will definitely grow into it.

Don’t forget to have fun! Thrift store shopping is not as quick as going to the mall so take a friend who loves shopping and set aside some time for you to enjoy the hunt – and one another. Stop by next week for tips on cooking leftovers you actually enjoy eating!