Thrift Shopping Green - Our Daily Green

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thrift Shopping Green

With many schools either back or almost back to school, the inevitable back-to-school shopping advertisements are inundating our households. Other than school supplies, we try to avoid the back-to-school buying frenzy that is created by all the advertisements, for a few reasons:
  • Children grow and not necessarily at preordained by the mall times. Purchasing jeans, jackets and sweaters while the temperatures are still summer-like almost guarantees they will be too short or small when the time comes to wear such merchandise.
  • Summer vacations and activities already have inflated our monthly budget. I would rather not tack onto our household expenses with a late summer shopping spree.
  • Often, nothing new is needed, but maybe just a little refurbishing. One year we covered a princess thermos with a more neutral contact paper, rather than buying a new thermos/lunchbox set.
  • Once children reach a certain age, fashion is dictated by peers. It's easier to know what is "cool" after a few weeks in school.
(this post has been picked up and published over at Your Olive Branch.org)

At some point in time, shopping is inevitable with growing children. I personally fell in love with thrift shopping as a young college student. I was able to carve out a personal style on a low budget and simply cannot fathom spending full price on clothing. In fact, I went into early labor with my first child in the parking lot of a consignment shop where I had just bought a maternity dress.
$6.00 formal dress (ironically in green)
and $1.00 beaded handbag

I'd like to share a few tips and hints from my personal thrift shopping as well as almost 15 years of parenting. I take great pride in dressing myself and my family well on a very careful budget. I don't like the idea of spending hard earned money on something like a $20 tshirt or $50 jeans. I prefer to think of our shopping trips as "Treasure Hunts". It helps that my oldest is quite the seamstress and can repair or alter anything she finds to suit her taste.

Garage sales may be the best source of baby and toddler clothing. Once the children are larger and a little more mobile, the clothing tends to get more wear, but is adequate for play clothes. Garage sales are also a great way to build community and friendships. I encountered a parent with a child about 2 years older than mine and asked her if she would be interested in an ongoing clothing customer. She had fabulous taste and I had guaranteed source of kids' clothes whenever her children outgrew theirs.

For small children and tweens, I recommend buying bulk clothing wardrobes on Internet auction sites. Usually a seller will box an entire wardrobe of a single size of several outfits and sell in bulk. The clothes sometimes still have tags on them or are rarely worn. Invite your children to peruse the sales with you The only caveat is that shipping can be pricey. Find out before you bid.

For teenagers, thrift stores  can be really fun, with a sense of adventure. I usually stage a contest, giving my kids $20 and telling them to go to town, see how well they can do with their budget. We've gotten all the latest brands, and again, often with tags still on them.

There are also several franchised resale/consignment type of shops, such as Plato's Closet and Once Upon a Child. These type of stores have a very stringent acceptance policy so the merchandise is always high quality. It's funny, though, to me, after scoring a pair of brand name jeans for 50 cents, it's tough to think of $5.00 as a deal.

I endorse thrift shopping not just for saving money in the wallet, but also for environmental reasons. Much of the clothing in stores is made overseas under unsafe working conditions, using petroleum based fabrics or pesticide laden and water dependent natural fabrics. New clothing shipped miles across the globe, no matter how inexpensive, is not worth the price.

Why not learn to reuse something that already exists?
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