It can’t only be my kids who seem to grow out of clothes a month before the season ends but long after all of that season’s clothes are gone from the store shelves. (Sidenote – finding winter hats and gloves in January or February should not be a nearly impossible task, it’s winter for crying out loud. Same goes for bathing suits in August!) Alas, the retail cycle seems to be completely out of sync with my kids’ growth patterns and the times I do get the next size up, the kid in question doesn’t grow until after the season and has outgrown the size before the next time he or she can wear it.
When your kid outgrows their snowsuit in February and you know there’s still at least another month of winter left, a thrift or second-hand clothing store can be a mother’s best friend. There are two main types of thrift stores – the bigger chain ones such as Value Village, the Salvation Army, and Goodwill; and the smaller one off stores that many towns have that are run either by a church or the humane society or another charity. Both chain and independent stores make money for charities so you can feel good about where some of your money is going, and they almost always have a good selection of seasonal clothing for sale. Obviously, the bigger stores have bigger selections but it’s always worth checking out smaller stores too because you can find some hidden gems.
Any item I buy in a thrift store gets thrown into the wash immediately. Today’s thrift stores understand that people want good quality clothing so items that are stained or ripped are usually sold for salvage. That said, inspect all clothes carefully – check the pockets for holes, the seams (especially the inseam in pants and the underarm seam in shirts and sweaters) for rips or loose stitches, and the hem of dresses, skirts or pants to make sure they aren’t coming undone. For long sleeved shirts and sweatshirts, check the cuffs as these are a prime area of wear.
Here are my best tips for thrift store clothes shopping for kids:
- Make note of what sizes your kids wear – or better yet, measure the waist/length of pants with a small measuring tape that fits in your purse and record it on your phone so you can reference it in the store. Shirts are usually easier to eyeball for size but you can measure sleeve length if needed. Remember that kid’s clothing sizes are somewhat subjective so that a 6 in one brand may run closer to a 4 or an 8. Shoe sizes don’t tend to vary as much so knowing what size you need or will need soon is probably enough.
- If you’re feeling really brave, take your kids with you to the store dressed in tight-fitting clothes so you can try things on right in the aisle without having to drag them to a change room.
- Make a list – what do you need to get right now, what events are coming up (for example a family wedding or other special event) that you should start looking for clothes for.
- Look for trusted brands – Carters for younger kids; Gap, Old Navy, Levis, or Osh Kosh for older kids. The brands may cost an extra dollar or two at the thrift store – compared to $10-$20 more new so you’re getting more bang for your buck and the clothes are more likely to last longer.
- Don’t expect to hit the jackpot the first time – it can take several trips to the thrift store before you score what you need but if you stop in once a week for a few weeks, chances are there will be something that fits your needs in the right size.
By purchasing pre-loved clothing, you’re saving money and also saving the planet by helping keep clothes out of a landfill and decreasing the number of new clothing items produced. One of the biggest benefits to buying used clothing for any member of the family is one that’s often overlooked – if the clothes were going to shrink in the wash, they’ve already done it so they’re more likely than new clothes to keep their size.
Do you shop at thrift stores for kid’s clothing? What’s the best deal you’ve ever got?