I'm proud of my mom. She is sticking to her diet and has lost quite a bit of weight. While we're all happy to see her healthier, this means a lot of her wardrobe no longer fits. She's still on the road to her ideal weight, so while she needs clothes for now, there's a good chance in another year or so they won't fit too well either. After watching her spend $25 on a single pair of jeans, I decided it would be a good idea to drag her to Grand Opening of the new Goodwill with me.
My mom's not a thrift store shopper. Her tastes are not extravagent, but she's doesn't enjoy shopping and thrift stores can take a little extra effort. By the end of the trip she was getting a little burnt out, but we found her two pairs of pants for $4.25, so it was a fruitful trip. I had even more success in the kids section.
I decided to include a photo of what I found for my nephew at Goodwill this week. Everything in the photo (5 pairs of pants, a sweater, sports coat, and dess shirt with vest) cost $19.92 total. These were at normal Goodwill prices and took advantage of none of the other markdowns they offer on a regular basis. As to whether a 4 year old actually needs a sports coat...well, humor me...it's Christmas, and there's only so many dress up options for little boys. But the pants are definitely a necessity and the sweater is practical.
This being a singles blog, I'll give an example of how much kids clothes cost. The brown pants on the far right still have the Circo sticker on them, obviously never worn. Brand new at Target you would expect to pay $10 to $15 for the same pair. You can find servicable kids clothes for $5 per shirt or pants, but they tend to be sweat pants and Ts which don't fit his school dress code. Jeans for toddlers can easily run $20. But even if we low end and say these could have been gotten for $10 a piece, that's $80 vs. $19.92...over a $60 difference. ($15 is a more realistic average, which would bring the difference up to $120, making a $100 difference.) As he's likely to outgrow these in a few months and we'll have to go through this process again, that difference compounds significantly.
So I think it's pretty clear there a financial advantages to thrift store shopping. But let's address the other objections I've heard, which can be summed up to quality, wear, and convenience.
I admit thrift stores can be all over the map quality wise. I've seen name brands of every material and thread count lumped together on the same rack. You can find never worn brand new clothes, and you may also spot some that slipped through any quality checks and are threadbare and ratty. And yes it is a little frustrating not to be able to grab a size up or size down when a pair you like doesn't fit quite right.
Here's a few tips to reducing your stress and disappointment at thrift stores:
1. Just accept that items are sold as is.
2. If you don't like anything about the item move on to another.
3. Don't get too married to a size or number. Clothing sizes and styles have changed over the years, so an 8 on one pair of pants may fit like a 10 on another. Also things often make the clearance rack for being mislabeled, so don't be afraid to eye ball something to guess if it fits. A sense of realism helps, but so does a sense of adventure.
4. If you have time, skim other sections (like check the large and small sizes even if you're a medium). Thrift store shoppers have a bad habit of sticking clothes back in random places, and this allows some jems to get temporarily lost.
5. Examine all sides and seams before purchase. While I can't speak for all thrift stores, I believe clothes at Goodwill are cleaned before they're hung for sale, which means any stains are probably permanent.
6. Try stuff on. With my nephew I took a gamble on everything but the sports coat, but he's 4...and having him try on 5 pairs of pants in a row borders on cruel and unusual. (Besides, most of the kids pants are adjustable, and we can get credit for trading these in at the kids consignment shop if they still don't fit him.) But things that look fine on the rack often fall short when actually tried on. Thrift stores are far less return friendly, so better to try it before you buy.
7. Be realistic about the time/energy you have to fix imperfections. I have once or twice bought pants that were too long or items with minor imperfections with the thought that I could get them hemmed or fixed...and that can work out well if you actually do it. I also have clothes that sat so long on my mom's to do pile, that they no longer fit by the time she got around to doing the hemming. (My fault not hers.) This may not even cross your mind as an option, but creative/crafty types often take on more projects than they can actually handle.