For many, shopping at thrift stores, consignment sales, and yard sales conjure images of the poor trying to get the basics of living, hoarders loading up their vans, or other people scoring hidden gems. Smart shoppers know that some great deals on fancy goods can be found at thrift stores. One of our friends frequently posts about her vintage finds at Goodwill stores, another scavenges broken jewelry for her jewelry design business, but you can save on everyday goods too. I used to hate the dank smell of a thrift store, but since they started Febreezing the clothes, I gotta say it gives me a little thrill. I used to be a little embarrassed, too, walking into a thrift store; we could buy retail; I felt like we were hedging in on other’s needs. But on getting pregnant, I realized spending $1000+ on a wardrobe for a few months was silly, so I put my squeamishness aside and braved the good bargain. Somehow it is more palatable to buy at thrift stores once you have two (or more) kids outgrowing a size every 6 weeks.
Google “thrift” or “consignment” and your ZIP code, and you’ll bring up several local hotspots. When I started, I researched thrift stores near wealthy neighborhoods; rich people’s giveaways include some very fine items. In Maryland, I like Value Village for their Monday 25% off sales; you can also get 25% off on Thursdays if you sign up for their VIP card. (VV claims to be a charity, but in reality they only donate 10% of profits to charity. I consider providing low-cost goods to the community another type of charity.) I’ve bought many items for the kids: Footed Pjs, onesies, jackets, shirts, pants ($1-$3 ea.), king pillowcases ($1.50 ea.) to use as covers for changing-table pads, and child-sized quilts ($5). I simply wash everything in hot water and Dreft before introducing it to the twins.
Once Upon a Child is a national chain of consignment stores which offer decent deals, but this store’s prices are at the top of post-retail shopping. I’ve seen some great deals, and I’ve seen prices so high I could buy a similar item new. They do however have a plethora of high-end goods year-round, and they tend to stock higher-end labels. I bought a pair of Polo boots (looked new) for $8 ($30 new), and Grandma bought two Redskins track suits for $7 each ($30 new).
Weekend consignment sales on baby and children’s goods are everywhere. In Maryland, www.totswap.net holds 8 or more weekend sales each year in various locations. Savings up to 90% off retail are not uncommon. Of course, it’s easy to go wild in these places, so I recommend going in with a plan, a topic I’ll discuss in a later post. I’ve bought large toys (plastic is easy to clean), books, entire kids wardrobes, a nearly-new changing table at half-price, shoes, baby bottles for cents on the dollar (steam sterilize and buy new nipples), a stroller for 75% off retail, and various items new with tags (NWT) for a few dollars each. On my first trip to Totswap, I spent over $200, but I got two exersaucers and two 13-gallon bags full of other goods for the price of the two exersaucers new.
There is a thriving Black Market in the U.S., which no one talks much about: yardsales are tax-free, rule-free and bargain-deep. I occasionally attend community-wide yardsales. It makes no sense to me to traipse all over the Metro area going to one-off sales, so I focus on area sales. But I’ve been burned more than once; a counterfeit $10 bill in change, a recalled item, a toy without all its parts, these are the dangers of hitting yardsales, but deals on books, plastic yard toys (like slides), and Pjs or pants for $1 apiece make it worthwhile.
Our next blog will break down an action plan for creating your list, strategizing, and getting the most out of your thrift shopping.