I've written many advice type articles about how many aspects of being green can actually save you money. One of the things I always write about is second hand clothing. Especially for kids. Accepting hand me downs or shopping at thriftstores can save you a great deal of money.
But, I have a confession. Up until last Monday, I had never actually bought clothing at a thriftstore. I had bought clothing at consignment shops, but never a thriftstore. It's taken me a while to get past my middle class snobbery.
In a week and a half, we're flying out to AZ for my niece's wedding. We all need something to wear. I've lost quite a bit of weight recently and don't have a summer dress in my closet that fits. The boys - well they've just grown; they were going to need new clothes anyway. And my husband rarely shops and could use something new for casual occasions.
I hit the local consignment shops first for me, but came up empty handed in the dress department. I did find one fabulous skirt I bought, but it's not appropriate for the wedding. So I decided it was time to put my snobbery beside me, practice what I preach, and head for the local Good Will.
I went through an entire wall of dresses that were not divided by size or any other factor, and once again came up empty handed. I found only two dresses in my size that were summery, and neither suited my taste. So then I went over to the kids racks. Again, I had to route through racks of unorganized clothes, but I got some real bargains.
brand new Levi's with tags still on for $3.99
a short sleeved dress shirt for my older son to wear the the wedding for $.99!
two pairs of boys cargo type shorts - $.99/each
one boys t-shirt - again - $.99
$7.95 for all of that - it was all in good condition
When discussing my finds with some friends, I was told that I went to the wrong thriftstore. That if I had gone to one that is located in a certain other town, the options would be much better because it's in a ritzier area and better quality stuff is dropped off there. I will be checking out that one when I have the opportunity.
Based off of my one thriftstore experience (I know, not exactly scientific research) here are my thoughts:
- Go without the kids, if possible. I was there much longer than I would have been at a traditional store because the clothes aren't divided into sizes. It took me about 1 1/2 hours to search through everything.
- Go with cash. The store I was in doesn't accept debit or credit cards.
- Have a really good idea of what sizes you need. If you're shopping for someone who is not with you, have measurements written down. Purchases were not returnable, so if I bought something that didn't fit, I was stuck with it.
- Be prepared to have your sense of smell assaulted if you're fragrance sensitive. Walking through the racks of clothes all I could smell was a mixture of various detergents and fabric softener sheets. For me, it was almost migraine inducing (I am very sensitive to fragrances).
- Bring your reusable bags with you to cart home all your purchases (I had my Chicobag with me, find out how to win your own Chicobag, here).
I did end up finding a dress, but at a traditional store. It's really pretty. I love it. It would have been great if I could have found a "pre-owned" dress, but it just didn't happen. And I felt like wasting the time and the gas driving to every consignment/thriftstore within reasonable distance would have negated the fact that I was trying to buy used.