How To Thrift For Kids (and You!)

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It’s Columbus Day again. This day usually marks viewing a parade or two, and having the day off from school. For this family, Columbus Day marks one of Mom’s favorite days to thrift. Most thrift stores will have one-day sales, either creating a few “dollar” racks or giving 50% or more off of items. It’s a frugalista’s dream! I do make a point of shopping not only for myself, but for the kids. This is when I fill in the gaps in their fall and winter wardrobe for a drastically low price. Here are 6 of my favorite tips for making your thrifting haul a success:

1. Have a Game Plan

You need to write down the items you want to search for. There may be lots of people in the stores, so if you know that you only want to focus on the kids, or find yourself some new sweaters, stay in that area only. Otherwise, two hours later you’ll be flustered, and may only have 3 items that you were able to find. Sit down, write what items everyone needs, and plan to spend time in the section of the items that are needed most. You can always come back another day for items on the list you may get to during your trip.

2. Cheat with String

Do you always find a cute pair of pants for you or the kiddos, but can’t figure out if they’ll fit? Before you leave home, take some string and measure the in-seam of your (or your kids’ ) favorite pair of pants. Start at the crotch, go down to the cuff, and clip. Now you have the perfect measuring device for your thrifting. This will cut your shopping time in half!

3. Follow on Social Media

Social media is the way to savings, even when it comes to the thrift store. Stores are now smart enough to offer coupons on their Facebook pages, or even announce flash sales to get you shopping on specific days. Don’t be surprised if they pop in a quick sale on top of their original Columbus Day sale. And yes, they might only announce it on Twitter for Facebook.

4. Grab It If You Like It

The turnaround in a thrift store is high, so inventory can be vast and full of jewels. If you see a cute sweater for the kids, or a pair of shoes you may want to buy for them, grab it. 80s and 90s babies may remember a little show called “Supermarket Sweeps.” This is how I thrift. I’ll see something, grab it, and put it in my cart. Once I’m done with a row, I’ll go through my cart to see what I want to keep. If I decide to pass on an item, I’ll put it back on the shelf. BUT, I know that I had my first choice and didn’t have to fight with another shopper for those Children’s Place corduroy pants.

5. Shopping with Kids? Grab a Toy.

If I have to take the toddler shopping with me, I make sure to let her pick out a cheap toy to play with during our stay. The reasoning is simple: the toy is right from the store, so there is no big attachment to it. If you bring a toy from home, you’ll have to keep eyes on it and make sure they don’t drop it. Also, they’ll have a positive view of thrifting with you. “Mama lets me pick a new toy when we go to that store!” Bonus? The toy will cost pennies, if you end up having to buy it.

6. Embrace the Cross Gender Rule

If you’ve read my post about letting my daughter wear boys clothing, or watched my September favorites video where I professed my love for men’s shirts (skip to 4:32 in the video), you know where i’m going with this. The prices are cheaper, and if you love to sew, you can have lots of fun transforming these items and giving them a more feminine flair. I tend to cinch a men’s shirt with a belt, or wear an oversized men’s sweater with leggings or skinny jeans, and boots. Girls can wear boys sweaters too! Add a cute little brooch or a bright pink or purple necklace and she’ll look like a chic diva. If you have a lanky boy like I do, check out the girls coats section. They tend to make the arms longer and a bit skinnier on girls coats, so this may be a great solution. Obviously, you’ll want to pick a coat with a neutral color. Use tip number 2 above, substitute arms for legs, and you’ll be in business!

Have you ever been thrifting on a big sale day? What’s one of your favorite tips for thrift shopping?

About Amiyrah

My name is Amiyrah and I'm an an African American fashion & lifestyle blogger based in Ohio.

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  1. 10.18.12
    JennysMom said:

    Amiyrah, Want to know if pants fit around the waist and don’t want to try them on? A lady working at Costco told me this trick. (It’s crazy, but it works; I’m living proof!)

    Take the pair of pants and take the waist and pull it around your neck! (Yeah, I told you it’s crazy). She learned it at some store she worked at. I thought she was crazy, but I was at Costco and took her advice. I looked silly doing it but when I got home and tried on the size 8 pants, they fit perfectly.

  2. 10.18.12


    yup, I use that trick as well. Its going to be my next “top hat tip” on my You Tube Channel :).

  3. 8.7.14

    Amiyrah, I just came across your blog on Pinterest and I love love love every article I have read so far! Keep at it cause you are bringing new ideas to the frugal loving world! I love that you are teaching your kids early on that thrifting is smart. Your children are going to grow up with a great start because they have a mom who knows how to teach the how to handle money and live within their means.

    • 8.7.14
      Amiyrah said:

      Oh Kim, you have no idea how much this just made my week! Thank you so much for the kind words. You have to start them young! I just spend an obscene amount of time on your site as well, and I love it. Looking forward to reading more from you.