Bargain clothes shopping

A couple of days I took a day trip with my oldest kids to do some shopping for apparel. Specifically the oldest three wanted to get shoes and the girls and I needed summer tops.  I had the great idea to take them to an outlet mall, where supposedly prices are much better than at the non-outlet stores for the same brands.  Before we got to the outlet mall, we passed a Goodwill in the neighborhood we were doing our food shopping, and decided to pop in to see if we could find anything suitable.

Turns out all womens’ cotton knit tops were on sale that week at 2/$5, and the more expensive ones were 2/$10.  You had to have a discount card to get this price, but I figured it was worth $4.25 to buy discount card that I could use for a year – especially since we saved $24 on our first purchase as a result (after the cost of the discount card we saved $19.75).  That was a nice bit of fun shopping, since in addition to saving money on nice shirts (mostly name brand and all good quality – we got 16 tops and a few other items for $55) it saved us the time of having to go in and out of lots of other stores looking for clothes.

Then we spent a long time in the outlet stores, and all of them were getting more tired and disappointed with the prices and selection as time went on.  I was so glad when my ds16 found a pair of nice shoes at Bass – they were $30 and had been marked down 75% (down from $119).  He was looking for something very specific and was pleased with his purchase; I was pleased that after all of our time in the stores, that someone finally found something they wanted!

As we drove away, my dd13 said the prices were ‘kind of disappointing’.  I never thought about the situation I’ve created until then – my kids are used to having nice quality clothes, but they’re also used to my very low purchase prices (thanks to careful thrift store shopping, hitting seasonal sales at retail stores, and clothing exchanges with friends).  They aren’t used to spending top dollar for the kind of clothes they’re used to wearing, and they kept saying nothing they were looking at was worth the money.  One of them said, “Now I know why people think having kids is expensive – they must be dressing their kids from head to toe in stores like that!”

Then as we were driving by just a few minutes later, I noticed another Goodwill and spontaneously asked the kids if they wanted to stop in there.  This Goodwill had something I’ve never seen around here (the Salvation Army in Seattle had something similar, though), a bargain room.  The bargain room (or whatever it was called) was a separate Goodwill store next to the regular Goodwill, where all clothes were put after they hadn’t sold for a given amount of time.  All the prices were low, low, low.  But it wasn’t nicely organized or arranged on racks – you had to hunt through things to find what you wanted. There was nothing wrong with the items themselves, though – I saw some clothing that still had the original retail tags on them.

Within a minute of walking in, I found galoshes for ds16 – he had literally said five minutes before we walked in that he needs to get galoshes for his new shoes to protect them in rainy weather (since he walks back and forth to shul/synagogue daily, regardless of weather), and these were the perfect fit and style for the dress shoes he bought.  $1.50.  Then he found a really nice pair of shoes of leather shoes in great condition – another $1.50.  :)  He wore them all day yesterday and said he can’t believe it, but he likes them as much or maybe even more than the new shoes he got at Bass, that he was VERY happy with.  (Ds has a very nice sense of style and somewhat expensive taste in clothing – which is why he wanted new shoes even though he had two excellent pairs of shoes that I bought him – the style wasn’t ‘just so’.)  Then he found a white dress shirt for .75 and a raincoat for $2.  You might expect that kids would rather shop for new clothes in retail stores because it’s supposedly ‘cooler’; it’s funny but after doing all the shopping we did at the outlets, all of them appreciated a thrift store like this much more!

I’m not allowed to tell you what I bought for anyone else because I can’t embarrass my kids by telling you the amazing bargains we found.  😆  Actually, pretend I didn’t mention the above finds at the first Goodwill.  They don’t want their friends scrutinizing their clothes after hearing from their mothers who read this blog and wondering what we got at a thrift store and what we paid retail prices for.  You mothers who tell your kids what you read here should know that you’re seriously limiting my ability to write anything!! 😆 I told them that I highly doubted their friends would be put off that they got so many nice clothes at a fraction of what most of their peers would pay for the same thing, but whatever.

I guess you can say my kids have officially recognized the value of thrift store shopping for themselves!  It was a fun day and nice to come home laden with our purchases.  Even shopping with fashion-conscious teens doesn’t have to break the bank!


14 thoughts on “Bargain clothes shopping

  1. I only wish I discovered great thrift stores earlier. We also have landed some great deals on wonderful items. I really don’t enjoy shopping (today we stepped foot in the mall for the first time in a long time), but I do enjoy thrift store shopping. There is a nice sense of adventure to it and I also enjoy getting the chance to say YES to fun things that we don’t really need.

    Where I grew up, there simply weren’t wonderful thrift shops like in metro areas. I’ve discovered some nice shops on driving trips too. I will have to email you about the location of the Goodwill with the side store. We were in NY once and went to a Goodwill that sold clothes by the pound. There wasn’t much that appealed to us, but we did pick out a number of sunhats, 2 pretty pairs of pajamas, and the missing shirt for the dress I’d picked up in another location all for less than two bucks.

    You nailed the biggest problem of thrift shopping: price shock when you have to return to the mall. I joke that we spend more on socks and underwear (the stuff we buy new) than we do on shoes and clothes.

  2. I’m impressed! Clothing is so expensive in Israel, and the quality is often so poor. We buy our clothing every 2 years or so when we visit the US. Every time I need to buy something here – even the smallest item – I cringe! I wish we had decent second-hand shops. The only ones I’ve seen are trendy thrift shops that are expensive!

  3. It definitely depends on location. In London/Dublin I haven’t found the charity shops quite so cheap as you describe (still, £5/£10 for a great skirt is far better than £25-£50!), and I haven’t found any in Israel yet at all. Hopefully I’ll be able to manage with the clothes I have for awhile yet, however. (Not that we have space for more, either.)

  4. What a valuable lesson your kids are learning – that the numbers on the “price tag” don’t always indicate the value of your purchase. I think their future spouses will bless you for teaching them this! I LOVE thrift stores…and used book stores….and bargain bins……and yard sales…..oh, the thrill of the find (and the money saved)!

  5. Avivah – my Mother was like this when we were growing up, too. I don’t ever remember her taking us to the “mall”. Wherever we lived, she found the right stores to shop in – not thrft stores per se, but tores like department close-outs. There was one store that used to have a “tent sale” a few times a year – that was basically them setting up tents in the parking lot and hauling boxes and boxes of stuff out there in a very disorganized way :) but everything was only 99 cents!! we used to ALL go and the hunt was on. It was a lot of fun to find neat stuff…today all of us have the ‘problem’ of not being able to spend a lot of clothes because of how she/ we shopped! I remember when I was first married, for my first b-day after we got married my huband took me to Macy’s for my b-day and told me to pick out whatever I wanted. I couldn’t!!! I could not believe the prices and I had no idea how to go about buying something full price! He ended up picking out some sweater for me. That was the last time he took me shopping :) He knows when I go now (usually for the kids), he doesn’t have to worry about me spending too much!! Chag Sameach!

  6. Goodwill is where it’s at! Sometimes even their prices seem high to me though – we always look for the half off sales and I have the discount card too. For us the only reason to go to the mall is once in a lifetime to get your ears pierced (or twice if you’re too little the first time and freak out when Mom cleans them so they closed up)!

    A few weeks ago our nanny threw one of my wool sweaters in the dryer by accident and it shrunk. I was upset at first but then remembered I’d only paid about $2 for it a few years ago. Her feelings (and her help) were much more important than that $2.

  7. Ortho – I feel the same way, and make the same comments about spending more on socks and underwear than the major articles of clothing!

    Debbie and Kaet – you’re right that it’s not equally easy in every country! Even here in the US, the urban areas tend to be much better than those closer to rural areas (because they draw on more donations in urban/suburban areas). When I lived overseas, I bought carefully and took very good care of what I got! (Also there were clothing exchanges/gemachim where clothes could be purchased for a very small sum – but not organized like thrift stores here.)

    Brandy – hi, and welcome! My kids were planning to buy their shoes online and that’s when I suggested the outlet malls. Online stores can offer some great prices – I like for good deals – I’ve bought three mens’ suits there so far, and never paid more than $90 each time. (I’m waiting for the most recently purchased suit to arrive. :))

    Trish – I think that we pass on important messages to our children with how we spend money. And yes, the thrill of the hunt is so much fun – the kids said part of what they liked so much about the bargain room was that feeling of unearthing a treasure. :)

    R – your mother seems to have done a lot of really good things with you growing up! My dh once asked me if I’d still shop in thrift stores if I was wealthy, and I told him ‘yes’. I just can’t bring myself to spend a lot of money for a piece of clothing that I know I can buy for a fraction of the price at a thrift store.

    Cori – I only learned about the discount card at Goodwill last week, after years of shopping at Goodwill! I’ve often thought that paying as little as I do is good for helping me keep perspective on nice clothing that becomes torn, stained, or damaged in some way due to carelessness or errors – like you said, it just doesn’t matter so much. I once had a visitor whose 2 year old child was wearing a $39 name brand shirt, and the mother was so on top of him the entire time out of concern he’d get it dirty. That would be way too much effort and negative energy for me!

  8. When we go to family, the kids don’t eat in their clothing. I don’t like stains either, but their is a big difference between a $1-$5 article of clothing hitting the scaps pile than a $100-$150 dress. Knowing that the end of the world isn’t coming, keeps meals more pleasant.

    Glad I’m not the only one thinking, how can I be spending so much on underwear?

    Chag kasher v’sameach. I need the laundry to finish up.

  9. Which Goodwill store has decent stuff? I didn’t find too much at the one on Reisterstown Rd (in Owings Mills?)?

    1. Since it seems you’re in my area, I’d love if you introduced yourself to me via email! The stores I referred to were out of state, but every area has it’s fun finds so keep exploring and then you can share with me some ideas! :)

  10. We adore Thrifting as my 10 year calls it. We don’t go just to shop though, but to look for something specific. For example, my twelve year old had the opportunity to go to the Opera with me, and she needed an appropriate outfit. So off to the thrift stores we went. Now, when we go we do keep our eyes open for possibilities. We like to see what is out there to fill in any holes, so to speak in our wardrobes. We are also lucky enough to have a 1/2 of 1/2 price store here. This particular store buys closeouts from department stores and will charge, you guessed it 1/2 of 1/2 price. Soo the $100 dress ends up $25 dollars. But it gets even better. The tags are date coded so prices get marked down regularly. to $9,$6 $3 and eventually $1. I have found wonderful designer clothing at both our thrift stores and the 1/2 of 1/2 store. We find these stores to be the thrifty family’s friend. Blessings

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