Monday, February 05, 2007

thrift store shopping

While we were stationed in Italy I ended up being one of the managers of the base thrift shop. It was actually exciting to bicker with the Italians who usually came in to shop for items they then resold at local markets. It was also fun to chat with the ladies as we went through mounds of donated items.
Upon moving into an on-base apartment or a house in town, each family was loaned one pressed particleboard wardrobe per person. Most new arrivals apparently could not fit everything in so we got the discards. (Italian homes have no closets, no cabinets, and sometimes no sinks). I wasn't the exception to the norm- my pink prom dress ended up in the donation bin as well (where was I going to wear it?).
At the end of a tour, when families were preparing to PCS back to the states it was common that they had bought so much local wrought iron and ceramic pieces that the weight limit was exceeded. Again, we were the recipients of the overflow.
I quickly saw the benefits of shopping used and brought home a bag every week for the kids to grow into as well as clothes for myself and Tim. The wives club actually put together a fashion show from thrift shop finds one fall, it was dazzling and fun to see the brigadier general's wife and the CO's wife stroll down the "runway" in their designer duds.

I still shop our local thrift stores for clothes for all of our family, only drawing the line on undergarments, socks, and shoes (those come from the exchange).
Tips for shopping:
Go through each child's wardrobe and note needs. Every 4-5 months pull out what can be worn for the next season and make a list of what you should look for. I have large bins for each age and gender so I can do this quickly. When something is outgrown put it away, but be ruthless- toss or donate anything that has stains or other defects. There are plenty more cheap clothes available.
Look for solid colors and basic styles- coats, jeans, khaki pants, t shirts, turtlenecks, jumper dresses, and dress shirts that can be worn interchangeably. Finding clothes for myself is easy, since I go for the classic look (no fashion craze chic here!)
Check all the zippers, hems, and knees for stains, rips, or holes.
Bring a list of sizes of each child (and spouse) since most stores do not have dressing rooms and remembering sizes for everyone is likely impossible.
Go alone if possible. Most thrift stores are not very child-friendly (though I have found a few) and the kids will bug you to no end to buy them every toy available. I take mine freely to the grocery, but do my best clothing shopping with just the baby.
Look for books. I have amassed (the movers will be agast) well over 2000 children's books from the used book store and the thrift shop.
Shopping at thrift stores is akin to panning for gold, once you strike it rich a few times you become hooked for life!


Karen E. said...

It sounds like you and I (and our kids) dress very much alike. :-)

S said...

I just discovered your blog through Why Homeschool? Great tips on how to make the most of thrift store shopping!