Thrift Stores and Garage Sales

Oct 6, 2009

For some reason, it has only been in the past few years that I have discovered the joy – and deals – you can find at thrift stores. I don’t know why it never occurred to me before to shop at them, but it didn’t. But, now that I know what a treasure chest they can be, I try to pop into my favorite ones whenever I’m in their neighborhoods.

So, what kind of great finds have I found? Well, I’ve learned that you can get GREAT deals on kids’ clothes and even shoes! Last year, right about this time of year, I realized that my then-2-year-old son, Bennett, needed long pants for the winter and he really had none. I went to old Navy and they had some pretty good sales going, so I got him about 3 pairs. I think the pants were $10 a piece. When I went to pick him up at his preschool, one of the teachers there (who has also become a good friend) told me that I should have checked out her favorite Thrift Store first. (For those of you in Austin, it’s the Family Thrift Center on Oltorf – at the corner of Congress.) Since it was on my way home, I decided to check it out right away. First of all, I could not believe how much STUFF they had! Racks and racks and racks of clothes of all sizes, toys, household items, shoes, books . . . and they kept bringing more stuff out as I shopped. I made my way to the boys’ section and found GREAT pants in Bennett’s size – for about three or four dollars! (Some of them were even $1.99 or less!) I got him about 5 pairs and paid a great deal less than I had at Old Navy – and some of them were even Old Navy brand (or even Gap).

Since that day, I have made it a point to search for the clothes I need for the kids there first – or at other Thrift stores in Austin – before I pay retail. It is, of course, always hit or miss – but I found my daughter’s Easter dress for next year – a beautiful, fancy dress with a sash – for $7. I got her a pair of never-worn Crocs for the same price. I’ve even picked up quite a few birthday or Christmas toys there for less than $5 (the kids don’t know they’re not new – they are just happy they don’t have to fight with the box when they open their gifts!) I bought a winter coat for my daughter for about $5. I got my son’s fireman Halloween costume (a real, well-made raincoat - not some cheap plastic thing - that is made to look like a Fireman’s coat) for $5. The other day, I realized I needed a button-down white shirt for the baby to wear underneath his red sweater vest I bought him for Christmas – and didn’t want to pay retail for it. I popped in there and found a perfect one for $1.99. While I was there, I stumbled upon an adorable, looks-brand-new Nemo pull-suitcase for $4. Since the Desitin exploded all over his other diaper bag and I can’t get it out, this was a perfect solution to my problem! (Though the boys now fight over who gets to pull the bag.) I have even stocked up on bathing suits for Bennett for the next few years.

For those in Austin, my other favorite Thrift Store is Savers (I go to the one on South Lamar.) The good thing about them is that if you bring any item in to donate, they give you a coupon for 20% off your next purchase of $10 or more. I try to keep something in my car to donate (an old sweater or pants or something.) That way, whenever I’m there, I can get the coupon and use it on what I purchase that day.

I have also discovered that thrift stores can be a great place to buy small appliances. Now, I have to say up front, that Good Will is my LEAST favorite thrift store. I think they price too high (isn’t that crazy? I actually think Good Will is too expensive!) but . . . when it comes to shoes and clothes, they are. The reason they are good for buying small appliances is that, unlike most thrift stores, you have about a week to return the appliance if it does not work. I bought my blender, my popcorn air popper and my small food processor at Good Will – each for $5 -$7. Each works perfectly and all have lasted us a few years already.

Now, the other great place to get kids clothes is garage sales! If you hit the right garage sale (and you can do this by checking your local paper or Craigslist for those who will be selling kids’ clothes in the sizes you need) you can get really, really great deals – much better than any thrift store. Usually, garage sales sell their clothes for about a buck. Sometimes even 50 cents. I bought Bennett (and ultimately Maclain, because he’ll get me the hand-me-downs) a ton of shorts for those prices this summer. I got Bennett a pair of perfectly-good Sketcher sneakers for $2 at one and a pair of Spiderman sandals for a dollar at another. At one garage sale this past March, I bought FIVE winter coats – in all sizes for all the kids – for a DOLLAR a piece! Now, you can’t beat that! (And you KNOW I’ll be able to resell all these clothes later, for at LEAST that much money!)

In addition, I find my kids sometimes get “nicer” brand clothing by me shopping at a thrift store or garage sale. The reason being is that I will rarely shop for them in Gap or Gymboree, because I find those stores to be some expensive. But, other people shop there for their kids, and then resell those clothes! If I can get used items from there, I end up paying less for those big names than I would if I went to the sale rack at Target or Walmart!

I have also gotten some GREAT deals on toys at garage sales. Bennett has a big, Little Tykes tool bench (with all the tools) in his room that I picked up for $10 one year. And, we have one of those big outdoor playhouses in our backyard (retail price? Over $500). I got it for $50 and ALL my kids love it – and will for many years to come.

I just want to say one more thing before I end this post. Since I never know what deals or in what sizes those deals will come when I shop, I keep big plastic tubs in my kids’ closets – each marked with different sizes they have not yet worn. As I buy them clothes – some they won’t wear for many years – I wash them and stick them in the appropriate bin. That way, when they finally reach that size, I can just pull out the tub and they already have a wardrobe ready to wear – and it’s one I haven’t paid very much for. I kind of keep a mental list of what I have in each one – bathing suits, pants, winter coat, etc – so that I don’t buy too much of the same item. But, Bennett already has winter coats purchased for the next few years and Jordan has the same, in addition to pants and shirts and bathing suits. You don’t want to pass up a good deal if you help it – even if it won’t be worn for three or four years. You may not be able to find such a good find when you need it years from now!

So, if you don’t shop at thrift stores – especially for your kids – I’d encourage you to see what you town or local area has to offer and check it out. And, check out what garage sales are happening on the weekends. I bet you won’t be disappointed.


The girl with the flour in her hair said...

I hit a garage sale down the street the other day and got a complete winter wardrobe for my daughter, 2 winter coats included, for $20.00! I was thrilled. And it's all really nice, name brand stuff that I can't afford new. I'm hitting the local thrift store tomorrow for Halloween costumes! I love a good deal! :)

Garage Sale said...

Since you love GARAGE SALES & THRIFT STORES than you would really love as they are porbably the best resource for finding both of those stores or sales in your area.

Kelly Seiler said...

What a great resource! I might have to do a post about that! Thanks!

Susan Fobes said...

Thrift store are great for kids clothing. They grow out of things so quickly...

btw: I mentioned your blog on my site today...

Angela said...

I haven't had much luck there but you've spurred me to give it another try.

Following from the MBC. :) You can see me at

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