How To Shop Second Hand

How thrift shopping can teach your kids the value of money spent and the skills of shopping on a budget.

Photo courtesy of jeffschuler via flickr.

Back in the day, you were a shopping maven. With nothing to do and not a care in sight, you would spend all day Saturday trolling the racks at your local second-hand shop, finding the most fabulous items and for prices that would equally get you a half-decent pop and burger for lunch. But with kids, those carefree Saturdays have come and gone, and now your post-baby closet (and your kids’) looks like an ad for Joe Fresh.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Thrift shopping can be a relaxing and inspiring experience. First of all, it gives you time to separate yourself from home and indulge in fashion; albeit superficial, if it is something you enjoy then it is worth taking the time to explore. Perhaps fashion is something your tween enjoys as well? It could be something you do together. Teaching your child the value of money spent and the skills of shopping on a budget is time well spent.

And, lucky for you, the days of designer-bag-toting teens is (for the most part) out, and buying a shirt that costs $3 is not sinfully embarrassing. These days the shabby chic, or retro rock, or indy hipster looks are all about using what you’ve got, and mixing with eclectic elements of past fashions trends—like, serious granny boots are back?—that can be found in abundance at your local value village or other second-hand stores.

But aside from the super cool finds and the fun of shopping, second hand can also be much more inexpensive (but stay tuned to find out where to shop second hand and what the difference is between thrift and consignment stores) and the quality is often better. If you find a good spot in your ‘hood that sells clothes for kids second hand, consider that a motherlode. Find out when they receive their weekly shipments, so you can scour the racks early and don’t be afraid to buy bigger sizes ahead of time, your kids will grow into them eventually.

With that, we will leave you with our top tips for shopping second hand:

• Stay away from hats and scarves. Head lice is a major pain, and if you can avoid it all costs, then we suggest you do. Also, don’t ever buy underwear or socks or used kids gear such as strollers or cribs (these items could have been subject to recall, or made before certain safety regulations were put into place).
• Be careful buying kids’ shoes. All shoes have a lifetime and kids are particularly hard on their shoes. If you are looking for an every day shoe buy new—you don’t know how the soles have been worn in and how long they had been worn previously. However, if you are looking for more of a fancy dress shoe that would only be worn on occasion, you might be able to get away with it.
• Have something in mind before you walk in. Second-hand shops can be huge and daunting, each with their own organization system. So know what you are looking for.
• Always, always, always try it on. Sure, you’ve been a size 8 for 12 years, but were you considered a size 8 when the 1950’s tailors were making that dress?
• If your kids aren’t interested, don’t bring them. It’s not worth it.

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