How to Thrift Like a Rockstar: Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead and Focus on Depreciation
I’m a known thrifter. Unlike known grifters, this is a good thing. Since becoming Mrs. Frugalwoods, I’ve tried to buy everything second-hand. This doesn’t always work out and sometimes I choose to buy things new (such as my mattress), but on the whole, my household is awash in used goods.
Today, I want to talk about three aspects of my buying used strategy (oh yes, it’s a strategy):
- Focus on things that make the most sense to buy used (using depreciation to your advantage)
- Why I plan ahead and buy ahead (even though I might not end up using the stuff)
- The non-monetary benefits of buying used (I started buying second-hand because it saves tons of money; I’ve continued for that reason and all the non-monetary benefits I’ve discovered)
If you’d like a primer on where and how to find used stuff (which I won’t be covering today), check out: How To Find Anything and Everything Used: A Compendium Of Frugal Treasure Hunting. If buying used stuff grosses you out, you might enjoy: The Myth Of The Gross Used Things.
Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead and Reap the Rewards
The reason I’ve been able to cobble together a mostly second-hand household–including clothes, shoes, toys, books, furniture, holiday decorations, sleds, kitchen utensils… you name it, I’ve probably bought it at a yard sale–is that I plan ahead and buy ahead. Previously, I thought this approach was counter to frugality because it involves buying stuff I don’t need right now.
However, I’ve learned it actually facilitates greater frugality because the cost of making a mistake–buying something used that we don’t end up needing–is nominal compared to the cost of buying new. Of course this does not hold true for expensive purchases, such as used cars. We buy used cars, but only when we absolutely need them.
If I added up all of my “mistaken” used purchases over the years (a $1 fondue pot we’ve never touched comes to mind… ), the total wouldn’t come anywhere near the amount I would’ve spent had I needed to buy fill-in-the-blank (a bread machine, a pack-n-play, a coat) new. Heck, the bread machine ALONE would’ve cost me several hundred dollars (versus the $5 I paid for it at a yard sale this summer).
My children provide me with the greatest opportunity to enact my Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead methodology because parenting is essentially an 18-year course in planning ahead. I know my kids will be in a larger size next year, I know my daughters will want to read more advanced books in the future, I know they’re going to need snowshoes in a bigger size, I know they’re going to love this puzzle/board game in a few years… and so, if I sees it, I buys it. And if the kids don’t end up using it/reading it/wearing it? No sweat! I probably spent all of $1 on it and so I’ll just pass it along to someone else who can use it. Our goal to not-buy-new is helped by the fact that we happened to have two girls who are far apart enough in age (27 months) that they aren’t ever wearing the same size, but close enough in age that the clothes don’t wear out/fall apart before they make it to kid #2.
There’s an element of counter-minimalism in the Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead approach and it’s only tenable because I have a basement in which to store stuff. If we lived in a one-bedroom apartment, the calculation would be drastically different. I thought a lot about this tension in: How I Try To Balance Minimalism With Frugality.
Thanks to my Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead mentality, I don’t go to garage sales or thrift stores with a set list of what I need to buy–that’s a surefire route to disappointment. Instead, I go with an open mind and a nose for deals. I often have a loose list–either mental or paper–of what would be nice to find, but I mostly look for things that are inexpensive, in good condition, known for depreciation, and that I’m pretty sure we’ll use in the near future. More about Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead here: How Planning Ahead Saves Us Serious Money.
When To Buy Used: Focus On Depreciation
When using the Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead methodology, I focus on stuff that depreciates at a high rate, but retains its functionality. I want to buy things that are super expensive brand new, experience steep depreciation, and are still in good condition. Here’s a real life example from my thrifting adventures:
I found a Zojirushi bread machine for $5 at a garage sale this summer. At this same garage sale, I found a nice glass salad bowl for $5. These are both things I’d use, but I only bought the bread machine. Why? The rate of depreciation is much higher with the bread machine than with the salad bowl:
- A new Zojirushi bread machine runs $269
- A new glass salad bowl (such as this one) is around $15
The depreciation experienced by the bread machine is thus much greater than the depreciation of the salad bowl. Put another way, I got the bread machine for 98% off the new price whereas the salad bowl would’ve been 65% off. Now, $5 is a fine price for a salad bowl and if I really needed it, I would’ve gotten it. But the salad bowl fell more into the Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead category, so I decided to wait until I find a salad bowl for more like $0.50.
Another genre of items that depreciates at a near-catastrophic rate, making it a prime suspect for my yard sale efforts, are kids’ winter boots, winter coats, and snow pants.
- Children (at least my children) change size often. Sometimes yearly. Sometimes monthly. This means they’re in near-constant need of new clothes and shoes.
- Children must wear clothing… at least some of the time. My children contest this and try not to wear any during the summer.
- We live in a climate that mandates warm winter gear. It’s not unheard of to hit -25 degrees (Fahrenheit) during our Vermont winters. Given that, proper attire is necessary. We play outside almost every day of the year–and Kidwoods’ preschool takes the kids out daily–so warm, waterproof clothes and boots are a must.
- Children’s snow boots, winter coats, and snow pants can be super expensive.
Due to this, I follow Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead for used kids’ snow pants, boots, and coats. If I see a pair of baby snow pants for $2? I’m buying them. If a pair of kids’ boots pops up for $4 at a yard sale? I lunge for them. Let’s discuss why with some exciting depreciation math (try not to get too excited).
94.7% Off: That’s Depreciation I Can Get Behind
Let me illustrate–with real live numbers–why Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead is so profitable when applied to heavily depreciated items. Below are the new prices and the used prices for one pair of kids’ snow bibs, one winter coat, and one pair of boots (these are affiliate links):
- NEW Lands’ End Little Kids Waterproof Snow Bibs (size 4T): $79.95
- NEW Lands’ End Little Kids Squall Waterproof Winter Parka (size small/4T): $109.95
- NEW Kamik Kids’ Snow Boots (size toddler 11): $59.99
Yep, $249.89 for one set of toddler-sized winter gear, likely to be worn for one winter, by one kid (amortize over the number of kids you have, but still!). And that’s just a single pair of snow bibs, one set of boots, and a solitary coat! Never mind a second set for the inevitable drenching of the first set, or the requisite hat, mittens and wool socks that must accompany.
I reference those specific brands and sizes because I happen to have purchased those specific brands and sizes used. Here’s what I paid:
- USED Land’s End Little Kids Waterproof Snow Bibs (size 4T): $5
- USED Land’s End Little Kids Squall Waterproof Winter Parka (size small/4T): $3
- USED Kamik Kids’ Snow Boots (size toddler 11): $5
Total saved: $236.89
That’s a dramatic amount of money to save–94.7% to be exact–especially when you consider this is an annual expense for many families with little kids in cold climates. I’m not sure it’s possible to save such a staggering percentage (again, 94.7%) in any other category of purchases. This right here is a goldmine of depreciation for used shoppers.
Ignoring inflation, taxes, shipping, and the increase in price correlated with the increase in size, let’s say I need to buy a full set of winter gear (boots, coat, snow bibs) for my kids every winter for 15 years. We’ll assume they’ve stopped growing at age 15 and can then continue wearing the same size. We’ll also assume my older daughter passes everything down to my younger daughter, necessitating I only buy one set in each size. I’d be on track to spend $3,748.35 on new winter gear ($249.89 x 15 years = $3,748.35).
If I instead continue getting lucky with my used finds (ignoring inflation and the increase in price correlated with the increase in size), I’ll be on track to spend $195 on used winter gear ($13 x 15 years = $195). I fully realize that at some point, one of my kids will need something in a size I haven’t been able to find used, or one kid will misplace a boot before the annual snowshoe-a-thon, or a snow bib catastrophe will strike right before the high school biathlon challenge, and I’ll race to the internet to provide. Plus, I know my daughters will eventually age out of allowing me to buy all of their clothing at yard sales. But until that day comes? I’m thrifting it up.
Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead is well applied in the scenario of kids’ winter outerwear because the used alternatives are so cheap that even when I buy a coat or pair of boots we never use, the cost of accidentally overbuying costs me far, far less than new ever would. And, I can happily pass along those unneeded boots and coats to friends who do need them!
What About Accidentally Buying Stuff You Already Have? Enter: The Size Spreadsheet
In an effort to cut down on these unnecessary purchases, I created a spreadsheet detailing the kids’ winter gear we have and still need. Yep. You knew I was going to do it. What frugal weirdo doesn’t have a spreadsheet of the sizes of kids’ coats, boots, and snow pants she has and the sizes she still needs? Hah!
After making the discovery that I’d bought not one, not two, not three, but FOUR winter coats in size 2T, I decided a spreadsheet was warranted. It’s a humble, yet useful, spreadsheet and I print it out before a garage sale outing and update it when I return with fresh finds.
I don’t go to these lengths for any other category of used stuff because it’s time-consuming and borders on obsessive. The reason I do it for kids’ winter outerwear is that the return on my investment is tremendous. The return on my investment is ridiculous, actually.
We’re not talking about $5 or $20 or even $50 saved here and there–we’re talking about hundreds of dollars saved every single year–totaling thousands of dollars over the course of my children’s childhoods. When you find an item that is readily available at yard sales, a candidate for Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead, and scores high on depreciation, a spreadsheet just might be your friend too.
More Than Money Saved: Other Benefits Of Buying Used
Beyond the astronomical amounts of money I save by accepting hand-me-downs and thrifting it up, I’ve discovered a slew of non-monetary benefits of the used market:
- Buying used = fewer decisions, which makes us humans happier.
- More choices actually decrease our happiness and too many choices can push us into a paralysis by analysis spiral of doom:
Infinite choice is paralyzing… and exhausting to the human psyche. It leads us to set unreasonably high expectations, question our choices before we even make them and blame our failures entirely on ourselves… Too much choice undermines happiness (source: NPR).
Used stuff is more environmentally friendly.
- Used stuff avoids the embodied environmental costs of new: packaging, shipping, manufacturing, etc. Plus, it keeps stuff out of the landfill!
- Buying used allows for the experience of kismet.
- Oh yes, there’s kismet in finding great used deals. I love my garage sale scores and I delight in the sheer kismet of finding, for example, a $1 baby doll stroller that my girls ADORE.
- They adore it so much, in fact, that I was thrilled to find another ($2) used baby doll stroller so that they can both push a stroller around the house at the same time.
- Buying used reduces the endowment effect.
- Since so much of our stuff was purchased used at a deep discount, I’m not super attached to any of it. This allows me the freedom to let it go so that it doesn’t clutter up my life. This is also why I’m in favor of the Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead approach.
- That cycle plays out over and over in our home: we gratefully accept hand-me-downs or buy inexpensive used stuff, then pass it along. All of my hand-me-down maternity clothes are now being worn by a friend who is pregnant with her first. My infant bathtub is being used by a family who just had their first baby. I love that these things can continue their useful lives.
- Since I paid nothing, or very little, for our stuff, I don’t feel compelled to hoard it or sell it in an effort to squeeze out a return on my investment (which is unlikely to happen, based on the depreciation noted above). It relieves me from being held hostage by the endowment effect, which occurs when, “…an individual places a higher value on an object that they already own than the value they would place on that same object if they did not own it” (source).
Buying used is fun! So fun.
- Similar to kismet, I find second-hand shopping to be so much fun. It’s not stressful because if a yard sale doesn’t have anything I need? I just move on. Conversely, if I do happen to find a great deal, it’s a cause for frugal celebration!
- Another reason I find garage sale shopping so delightful is that I have a BGSGP (best garage sale gal pal). With our forces combined, she and I are garage sale mavens. We plan which Saturdays we want to garage sale, we get up early those mornings, leave our husbands and dog/kids at home, and quest forth for finds. Garage saleing–like most things–is better with friends.
- Buying used creates community.
- When I shop at a garage sale, I’m giving money to my neighbors, which I love. Their stuff gets a new life, I get a great deal, they make a few bucks, and everyone is happy.
- My cycle of receiving and giving hand-me-downs further enforces a community mentality of sharing, lending, borrowing, and just generally taking care of each other.
- Buying used takes less time than buying new.
- It takes drastically less time than shopping new. There’s a misconception that it’s more time consuming, but that’s a fallacy if you do it the right way.
- My BGSGP and I don’t go to garage sales every weekend–that would be far too time consuming! Garage sale season in Vermont is confined to the summer months, so she and I scout out the most likely goldmine sales in advance and do strategic strikes. We go early for the best selection and are usually home by late morning.
I Wish I Were Organized Enough
…to include my garage sale finds in my monthly spending reports. That would be helpful, wouldn’t it? The problem is that I buy stuff from garage sales in cash and our cash withdrawals are lumped into the “household supplies” category, which is totally unhelpful. Someday, perhaps I will actually write down each item and its corresponding dollar amount. Someone should do that!
Buying used is awesome when done correctly. To best leverage the power of the second-hand market:
- Look for items that score high on depreciation and longterm functionality
- Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead for things you predict you’ll need in the near future
- Discover the tertiary benefits of shopping used to enjoy rewards beyond the money saved
What do you buy used? What items have the greatest depreciation? How do you enact Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead?
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I am with you on this! I always keep a few things in the next size up in stock because one evening my stepson’s legs hurt, the next day his pants are an inch too short. I thrift once a month and it works well for our family. I’m doing this in preparation for the baby girl we are expecting in March, too. And not just thrifting. Our city has a public free-stuff-for-kids event twice a year so I volunteer at the sorts, which means I can take home anything from the sorts I want! Clothes, gear, feeding, toys, carriers, linens, health & safety, maternity items, you name it. Plus I get to bond with other parents in the community. Second hand is amazing, just be sure to do a quality check before leaving the store. Nothing like discovering on a cold winter day that a coat zipper doesn’t work. Eep!
I used to totally hate garage sales as I lack the patience to sort through the horrific knick-nacks and chipped glasses that seem to be in every sale. But then I downsized nearly completely by selling/giving away almost everything so I could travel for a few years. Now I’m looking for a house and need to come up with pretty much everything, from furniture to housewares. Being the thrifty sort, I’m doing this on the cheap. I’ve been hitting the garage sales as well as free-piles and have gotten some terrific things. I’m having to be a bit picky as I only have a tiny storage unit right now so I can’t take advantage of most furniture deals til I have a house. But given that, I have scored in recent weeks either free or really really cheap a whole bunch of items including: 4 dining room chairs, a rolling office desk chair, new yogurt maker, lots of books(mostly gardening and cookbooks), 2 pairs of BOGS boots, Sorel winter boots, garden clogs, garden tools, puzzles(new), a bookcase, fishing poles, backpacks, laundry hamper, nearly new tires, a Makita power-saw, new outlet and switch covers, extension cords, hat, gloves, emergency/wind-up radio, large metal pot with lid, garden seeds, ukulele, portable raised garden beds etc. The most I paid for any of this was $15 for 4 nice wood dining room chairs. Most other stuff was free or really cheap($5 for the power-saw, $1 each for fishing rods, etc). I’m limited right now only by space constraints to store the stuff but once I have a house I’ll be out looking for all the rest of the stuff I need(furniture, housewares, linens, tools etc).
I’m finding that I’m enjoying it more and able to ignore the stuff I don’t like and just look for things that I can use. Sadly, due to the approach of winter, the yard sale season here is fast coming to a close but I will be back at it next spring and hopefully have a house by then too!
I’m really appreciating both saving tons of money plus the environmental benefits of reusing things. There’s very little that I plan on buying new at this point except when there’s something specific I’m looking for and I see a great deal I can’t pass up. And as you mentioned, going to these sales with an open mind and not looking for something in particular helps.
Nice finds!! Way to thrift!
You sound like me! We have just downsized almost every thing in our house so we can list it for sale. (listing should be going up this week) We will be taking off in our RV to travel AND look for a new house on a lake. Because I got rid of soooo much I found I had to buy a few things to stage the house with and I thrifted it all. I will be doing that again in our new place. People get rid of the darnedest things!
When I learned I was pregnant with twins, I immediately joined a local multiples club that hosted a resale event twice a year. It was an excellent opportunity to purchase clothing and accessories for the now and the later, plus sell what the boys were done with or had outgrown. Seven years later, we continue to shop second hand for just about everything and not just for the boys but for ourselves. I just nabbed some size 8 pants even though they aren’t wearing the size yet because they’ll be tall enough eventually. We’re lucky to have some excellent thrift and consignment stores in our area and active FB resale and buy nothing groups too. I can’t tell you the last thing I bought new besides groceries and beer/wine!
I love hand-me-down stuff, and where I live, the whole model is completely, completely different. Garage sales and car boot sales happen of course, at our local library and other such places, but because this country has such insane levels of poverty, the notion of throwing stuff away is very limited. You’d never need to leave anything that wasn’t actually completely broken on a pavement for example. I often set aside stuff to donate to various NGO’s and very rarely do I get there because there are people in my life and community who are visibly thrilled to take it.
Clearly it’s a dreadful state of affairs, but leaving that to one side, it means that second hand clothing stores are very thin on the ground. Clothes simply do not make it there.
In our local neighbourhood there’s a locals FB group and it’s amazing what people are able to borrow or pass on from and to each other. We’ve lent out air mattresses, parking space (I know!), given away sealed high-end chocolate that I have no liking for, received used baby stuff, lemons from the various trees in the area… and on it goes. It’s great and I love it!
So much money can be saved buying used. For years I have stopped at a goodwill, Salvation Army and hope chest, etc. I also got a bread machine for 3.00, new carpet strips for 5 that we place in the garage to walk around our cars and to the extra fridge out there. A case XX knife for 99 cent. A case XX meat fork for 99 cent. Sets of these cost well over 100. Both were new condition. Mikasa Dutch garden dishes nearly a whole set for 17 in new condition. I could go on an on. Now there is nothing that I need but I still occasionally stop at those places and sometimes find a useful item. You have to be careful though. It is tempting to pick up stuff that you do not need but looks pretty. I don’t do that. I am very disciplined to not waste my money on stuff that I do not need. I have found numerous furniture pieces also that were very cheap and real wood on Craigslist I encourage anyone to buy used when possible. Always love reading your posts and comments that follow. Thankyou
We don’t have much of a yard sale culture where we live, but we have a fantastic culture of hand-me-downs in our preschool and town, a cleat/shin guard exchange, a ton of free stuff on the street, and a huge thrift store nearby.
And a thank you: Based on your recommendation, I’m now an active member in our local But Nothing group and it’s almost completely replaced my Amazon spending! When I discuss something I’m going to acquire, my kids ask which “friend” we are picking it up from (assuming it’s from Buy Nothing!)
YAY! So happy to hear that!
If we can’t find something used, we try to at least find sales. My kids have used clothes, toys, furniture, everything. My husband is a mechanic so our cars are extremely used ( I might never again drive a car less than 10 years old). When there’s something we need we start scouting it out long before we need it and then as much as possible wait for what we need to come along. Once we are done with things I give them away. If I know a friend with a smaller child I just pass the stuff along. I used to have friend that made a big deal about buying fancy expensive new things with the intention of selling them once their kids were done with then and recouping the cost that way. But when you get things cheap and used you don’t have to worry about selling, so if those clothes get stained because your children and busy being children, you don’t care about depreciating your investment. I don’t like feeling like my stuff is an investment for someone else to enjoy. I appreciate what we have and I feel better knowing that when I’m done with it i can bless someone else with it by giving it away.
My husband is a mechanic too! We always drive older cars because of it! He’s learned over the last 15 years of working which vehicles are the best bet, and we greatly benefit from the savings.
Would he care to share his knowledge? 🙂
Have you ever thought about transferring your spreadsheets to Google Sheets and then downloading the mobile app so you don’t have to worry about printing out every time? I do this with everything (monthly budget, grocery list, meal plan, to do list around the house, vacation itineraries…). It’s great because I can view and edit them any time, anywhere. It’s all shared with my husband so we both have access to all our stuff all the time. Just a thought to save you time and paper!
Love it! I’m a huge Google sheets fan and that’s where I have my spreadsheets (and all my docs and photos… ). I love your idea, the challenge is that–out here–we often don’t have cell reception or Wifi so I fear my paper approach is usually safest!
You can make specific Google sheets available offline – in the app, click the three dots in the lower right-hand corner, and choose “available offline”. Then you can read and update while you’re thrifting in a no-service zone, and it will sync once you get back to connectivity!
Good point Rebecca. I have to use it offline quite a bit because I get horrible reception in my grocery store. It just syncs whenever I leave the store 🙂
Cool! Thank you!
I’ve always been a huge proponent of shopping at garage sales and thrift stores, thanks to my parents instilling that value in me. It makes so much sense, especially when your kids are little because they only wear things for a minute before they’ve outgrown them.
One of my proudest moments as a mom happened just last Saturday when my 16-year-old son texted me that he’d scored a $4 pair of barely worn Cole Haan shoes at the thrift shop in our town! They would have been $100 if purchased new.
Most of my kids’ clothes are hand-me-downs or bought second-hand. It’s getting a bit harder now that they’re older because hand-me-downs are less common (kids wear clothes longer since they don’t grow as quickly) and they are a bit pickier. Which is their prerogative 🙂 But I stock up on what I can when I find it! I keep a list on my phone of what we have for each kid in the next season. If I can’t find it at the cheaper thrift stores, I head to Once Upon a Child. They’re pricier but it’s still better for the environment than buying new.
I have a boy and girl so I try to buy snow gear in neutral colors so I can pass it down. My son has rocked my daughter’s hand-me-down pink and purple snowboots though. 🙂
Nice article…. I’ve lived this way my whole life….. and I consider thrifting a fun challenge for items that are more interesting than everyday new store items!
I hear you on the Zojirushi find….once I bought a Zoji rice cooker 2nd hand for $9…… I LOVE the brand and wish I could find more like it!
My kids are grown now, but I did exactly what you did,and I have a bunch of nieces and nephews whose parents do the same right now! When we moved into our first home, my neighbors assumed we had a little 2 y.o. daughter (lol) b/c my toddler son was wearing his aunts hand me down pink snowpants….. (lol) Kids toys and clothes wear like iron,and just get passed along from kid to kid. I like to search for clothing and shoe items in off season, like expensive winter boots in the middle of summer(for adults too!) b/c most people aren’t thinking of snow at that point. Same with most other clothing and household items. Now that I’m older,my kids are grown,I’m having fun with shopping for vintage and antique treasures for my home,to decorate. 2nd hand shopping,tag sales,all appeal to me. I buy mattresses and my couches brand new,and underwear etc. Everything else is fair game. And you’re right,it’s really easy to clean house seasonally and just give unwanted items away, since it cost so little to invest in them in the first place. Plus I firmly believe that buying 2ndhand is better for the environment! (and I love vintage items too!)
It’s so true that when you buy something used you’re more willing to let it go to another home when it’s season of usefulness to you has passed.
I live in Beijing, China and among the expat community, buying used is HUGE. People are coming and going all the time so there are deals to be had at rock bottom prices because people are on a deadline. I moved from a furnished 3 bedroom apartment to an unfurnished apartment of comparable size and almost half the price with no furniture. I knew to make it economically worthwhile I worked with a strict budget to completely furnish it for under $2000. I did it and get compliments about how nice it looks. When I’m ready to move on, it will be easy to sell stuff and recoup my money because I got such good deals, I can pass them along to others.
Clothing exchanges are also very popular as a social event here too. I also have too many winter coats for my daughter. Super excited she’ll finally fit into one I’ve been holding on to for about 4 years!! $88 Gap coat for $11 at Goodwill with tags still attached. Don’t forget to include the savings on tax.
This is how I feel about a lot of our baby purchases. Unfortunately, we are at the front of our friends and families having children so we have no one to inherit hand-me-downs from. We have bought 95% of our baby gear used at a steep discount. More likely than not we’ll be able to resell it for a similar or slightly-reduced price when we’re done with it since the depreciation has already occurred. It makes me more willing to spend on items that are questionable (Will the baby like the swing? What kind of swaddles can keep her contained?), knowing we’ll be able to recoup the cost.
I’ve been reading your blog since before you became pregnant. Your approach to purchases is definitely from an engineer’s mindset. Maximization & efficiencies are my roadmap to FI as well. When we were stationed in HI, I bought from the Aloha flea market hand sewn jams (cotton long shorts) for our son. I had about 10 pairs of new when we moved back to the mainland. I miss that venue!
Cheers to you & yours!
Hello Mrs. Frugalwoods– Another great post; thank you. I also loved your book! I’m throwing in a slightly new topic for ya…though of course all based on frugality and planning ahead: college! It’s NEVER too early to think about it. 😉 So I’d like to mention a book that I just re-read called Debt Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off my Parents by Zac Bissonette. It’s a book I read five years ago when I was thinking about/planning for/trying to make sense of college for my two children–who are both in college now. And… I wish I had read it when they were toddlers! It’s a very sensible, informative, and inspiring book that all American parents should read. Never fear, it’s not a book about what kind of savings vehicle you should choose, what loans to get, how much to save, or how to find “great scholarships”–it’s a book that helps you sensibly navigate–and open your eyes to– the outrageous, grasping, very-little-to-do-with education higher education INDUSTRY. You can see where I am coming from! LOL. Ahhh…so much to plan for and think about with children, from snow boots to college! Thanks again for all of your fun posts. –Alantha
@Alantha Thanks for the book tip!
I’m not from the US and my oldest is only 12 but I’m already thinking about how to put 3 kids through college and still aim for financial independence. Feel like I’m the only one around me even considering this stuff so I’m really glad you mentioned it.
Hi Kiki! Thanks for your thoughts! Are you from another country but living in the US? If so, the whole US college thing can be quite a stressful journey; and, no, it is NEVER too early to be thinking about it if you are aiming for financial independence. 😉 I have more helpful thoughts if you are interested–I’m a rather wordy person, lol. Send me an email if you would like to chat more! alantha.carteratgmail.com
I know you don’t buy many clothes these days, but another great benefit of buying (clothes) used, is they are typically already shrunk or shape-shifted however they are going to be from a washing machine. I can’t tell you how many times I bought something new and after one run through a wash cycle it fit all awkward!
I love doing this- especially with kid stuff since they grow and change so fast. We have several friends and family members with small kids so anything we don’t use or wear out has another good home waiting. All three of my kids live in Keens when it’s warm out and they are expensive but wear well. I usually find them for $2-$5. I go to those giant kid consignment sales a few times a year to stock up.
I also like to buy old furniture because old, real wood tables and dressers were so well made!
I needed a suit for my son for a wedding and a cruise with the grandparents. Was able to get a perfect navy suit for $20 on eBay. I also bought him a LL Bean jacket from a yard sale. I will admit that I don’t have much luck buying him used clothes for regular day to day use. However outdoor gear or special use items work well.
As the former director of our church’s charity thrift shop, may I offer another benefit? Many thrift stores are charitable institutions so the money you spend there helps others. Ours donates money to carefully vetted organizations in our county so the money stays local. Our small shop, which has very little room for large furniture and items of that sort, regularly donates upwards of $60,000 per year to local organizations. That’s a lot of $2 and $3 shirts! Better yet, our church owns the building and all of the staff are volunteers so all of the profits (minus maintenance, taxes and utilities) goes right to our mission. A win/win for all!
Great news, you don’t need to print out your spreadsheet before going to sales! Get the google “sheets” app on your phone (assuming you have a smartphone otherwise how are you taking all the gorgeous photos? 🙂 and you can access it anywhere. I couldn’t live without my many spreadsheets on the go! And it’s more environmentally friendly than printing! Win-win.
My kids are older now, so it’s harder to buy second hand, but I still do wherever I can. My tip- when they get older, don’t tell them it’s used. They will never know! I bought my son’s outfit for homecoming at a second hand store. He doesn’t know that and if he did, he probably wouldn’t wear it. But it’s all high quality, expensive brands, probably only worn once for a special occasion clothes. I paid $20 for the whole outfit. Which he’ll wear once and I’ll save for his younger brother who may or may not wear at least part of it.
I am envious of your $5 ZojiRushi. Where I live, used machines (of that brand) are in short supply and, in general, used items seem to sell for more than in other parts of the country (I live on an island). Still and all, I got mine several months ago for half what I would pay new, and I’ve calculated it will “pay for itself” with another 3 months of twice-weekly use. We never buy bread anymore. And it’s so delicious.
This is very helpful to me! Baby is due Mid-December. We opted to go for a surprise gender reveal on birthday rather than find out in advance and I have learned one of the downsides to this is you can only buy so many clothes in advance before they become VERY gender specific! I live in an area with a climate similar to Vermont’s. We are doing pretty good on baby clothes for the first six months but after that I’ve been waiting to see if our baby is a boy or girl. I think we have enough stuff at least…
I have a few questions:
-How do you know how many clothes child needs at each age? I understand you track on a spreadsheet by size, but for example, having never parented a 2 year old, How many shirts and pants and socks etc. will my child need at that age? So you don’t over or under buy in a certain clothing type for a certain size.
-Regarding your bread maker: Does it leave weird paddle holes in the bottom of the bread? I had an old, cheap bread maker at one point (Not nearly as nice as the one you have) and it left these weird holes in the bread where the paddle was which really bugged me.
I will certainly have to put a spreadsheet together for childrens clothes! We have a ton of garage sales, free giveaways, thrift stores in my area. Thanks for this helpful post.
Hey KN, just take the paddles out of the bucket before the final rise so you don’t get those weird holes in your bread machine bread. Check out Tip #3 from this great blog post: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2015/02/17/successful-loaves-from-your-bread-machine
Oh cool! OK that’s good to know! Thanks for sharing this post.
Rosie–I can’t believe you didn’t out yourself as my BGSGP ;). And KN–seriously take this woman’s advice on all things related to baking!!! 😉 xoxo
Well I didn’t want to brag on here that I get to go thrift shopping with the one and only Mrs. Frugalwoods 🙂 We should be better about taking pictures of our hauls next year for you to share since it’s pretty impressive how much we filled up the truck considering how little money we spent!
Hahah, we do need to do better on the photos! I did take a pic (I think) of your car after that one sale, but I think I forgot to capture the truck in all its glory after the Hanover sale!!!
Congrats on your pregnancy :)!!! I still don’t know how many clothes my kids need at any given age… it’s always kind of a shot in the dark, but we always seem to manage to cobble together enough stuff. For newborns (and really under age 1), I just put Littlewoods in zip-up footed PJ’s–warm, easy to get on and off, and cheap at garage sales. I never liked trying to wrest pants/socks/shirts onto babies. I’d say she went through 1-3 pairs of PJs per day in the early months and now my kids usually go through about 2 outfits each per day. Yeah, my bread machine leaves those weird holes too–but they’re on the bottom, so I forget they’re even there.
That was what my gut was telling me for the early months! Seeing as it’s a December baby, in a climate with heavy winters, it’s not like this baby is leaving the house much the first few months of its life other than for checkups (dad is staying home to care for baby after my return to work). I have a bunch of onesie type outfits. Thank you!
Regarding number of clothes, a big part of the equation is how often you do laundry. I do laundry every day (while others do it once a week, etc.) I also do not tend to separate clothes and towels and all the other things, except for my and my husband’s nicer work clothes. As such, my kids need less clothes, as the vast majority of their clothes are clean most of the time. So, for my school aged chidren, honestly, I don’t think I need more than about five outfits per season, plus one nicer outfit. They have more than this. They each have about 8-9 pairs of pants (1-2 pairs of jeans, one pair of “nice” pants, and sweat pants), the same amount of t-shirts (long and short), and 2-3 hoodies each. They have 2-3 pairs of jammies, and a bunch of socks/undies.
Is this too much? Maybe. We definitely could do fine with less. Other factors you might wish to think about are where you live (do you need play/outside clothes for playing on a farm, for example), whether your child can wear an outfit more than once (mine cannot, they get dirty quickly), whether your child might need a uniform for school, etc.
You’ll figure it out!! 🙂 And if you find you have too much, you can always pass things along. Also, my kids tend to ruin their clothes (and I am too lazy to spend a lot of time figuring out how to get the stains out), so sometimes if I have too manyc clothes for kid 1, I’ll put some aside for kid 2 or even 3 (I have three boys).
Also very informative–thanks!
According to your question about how many items a child needs at any specific age: I guess that’s entirely up to you! Are you fine with wearing the same clothes two days in a row or do you change outfits throughout the day? Do you do laundry every day or once a week?
I have 3 kids and only do laundry on weekends, we all wear our clothes multiple times (when not stained or smelly) and the maximun number of outfits in my kids’ drawers is about 7. So 7 shirts/sweaters/dresses and 7 pairs of pants/leggings works for us.
As for infants/toddlers you might add some extra clothing cause they get real dirty real quick. There’s a nice video on YT from the minimal mom called ‘simplify your child’s wardrobe in 10 min’ that really inspired me.
I am absolutely gobsmacked that you found a Zojirushi for $5 at a yard sale. I was pleased with my Panasonic YD-250 that my husband got on Craigslist for $15. If used, a bread machine is such a win, if not used it is a win for someone else who buys it for cheap. I am incredulous at the illegible list of ingredients on supermarket bread, plus the cost! Controlling your ingredients, creating a better product and saving money is so satisfying. Have you guys ever made pizza dough in it? It is done and ready to go in 45 minutes, but if you leave it in an oiled container for 3-6 days in your fridge it slow-ferments and tastes even better! I have spent many years perfecting my pizza game and it has been very satisfying!
Do you happen to have a recipe for that slow fermented pizza dough? We’d love to be better about making our own but often struggle to do it the day of. Making ahead would be great!
Just take regular pizza dough and leave it in an oiled container for a few days! Make sure to use dry active yeast, not quick rising or bread machine. You can also check out the book “My Bread” by Jim Lahey or James Kenji Lopez Alt does a deep dive on slow fermented pizza dough on Serious Eats.
I love shopping used — I get a kick out of the treasure hunting. I live in Florida so the yard sales are year round, but that actually is a problem, since I can’t go to sales every weekend, and the sales are often small because people don’t tend to save up much stuff for each sale, since they can have sales multiple times a year if they want. If we had to condense our sales into one season (and summer would not be the season of choice!), I think the quality of the sales would improve. I shop thrift stores fairly regularly, much more than yard sales. Having said that, I’ve found some nice stuff at yard sales as well as thrift stores.
For kids’ clothes, I shopped some used but I also was given a lot of hand-me-downs. Some came from their cousins — all boys, and I have girls — but girls can wear primary colors, too, and I was sick of the pink and purple that seemed to be the only colors for girls in the stores. I always looked to next season or next year for kids’ clothes. They grow so fast! Once in a while, though, hand-me-downs don’t work out so well among siblings — two of my young granddaughters, who are sisters, are two years apart, but the older is small for her age and the younger is tall for her age. They wear the exact same size in shoes, clothes and underwear!
I agree about the treasure hunt part of thrift shopping–the excitement of finding a one-of-a-kind piece. I feel like a detective. That’s why department store shopping bores me. The same shirt in 10 different colors? Yawn. Where’s the thrill? 🙂
Ha! I hate to shop so when I find something I like it that’s passable I’ll buy it in every color I like to minimize how much time I need to keep shopping. I love finding something I like in multiple colors. For me the thrill is in how quickly I can be done with a chore to go do something fun. To reach their own.
We were blessed to be on the tail end of the baby years for quite a few friends and family, so we have gotten oodles of hand me downs over the years. My oldest is turning 11 this weekend, and he is still wearing mostly hand me downs. And when my kids outgrow stuff, if their is any life left after surviving multiple little boys, we pass them along.
I also bought my Zojirushi bread maker for $5. At a thrift store. New and with the manual. I almost felt guilty. I think I skipped out of the store that day. I buy 90% of my stuff used. I been thrifting since high school. So much fun!!!
My best garage sale and thrift buys or upcycles are kitchen equipment. Off the top of my head, I can think of a KitchenAid toaster oven, a Cuisinart chopper, nesting mixing bowls, a crock for dish brushes, an array of glasses and mugs, a Cuisinart rice cooker and a cast iron griddle. I’m a lifelong garage sale and thrift shopper and it gives me special joy to see and use things I picked up many years ago. I also have no shame whatsoever in buying new, high quality items when necessary. And like Mrs. Frugalwoods, I can easily let go of things that are no longer serving me. I choose to give items to Goodwill or Salvation Army to resell, as I have insight to their business model and support what they do philosophically. Finally, all my thrifting was part of my plan to retire early (at 58) and to live debt free. The little things really do add up.
Has anyone ever told you how much your lifestyle resembles Amy Dacyzyn from the Tightwad Gazette? It’s uncanny!
My neighborhood has a list serve for parents where people can post free and for sale items. I’ve even used it when I’m looking for something specific (winter coat, kids bed, etc.) and have gotten responses from people willing to sell or give away the item. I live in a major city, but I could still see something like this working in a suburb or even rural area. People also post items they are looking to borrow (ex. travel car seats), so that can be very useful too.
My mom started me early on growing a love for thrifting. Every weekend in warm weather we’d be out garage sale shopping! Our neighborhood had a huge once a year sale when the whole neighborhood had a garage sale on the same day. It was madness and fun at the same time.
Now, I’m loving my Buy Nothing group. I’ve gotten so many nice clothes from the ladies in the group and passed on more stuff I don’t use (like clothes in colors my stylist told me I shouldn’t wear anymore).
Your concern that your children may protest having used clothes and toys in the future might not be an issue. My son was raised with almost all second-hand stuff with no complaints, although I suspect it is easier with boys on this one. His wife complains to me that he is impossible to buy gifts for because he never wants anything new!
I did this for years when my kids were little (They are grown now). I kept a spreadsheet of their clothes/shoes/etc. and would buy for years in advance if the price was right. The spreadsheet helped me to look for items needed for the next school year and to avoid buying too much of one size. We also bought most of their Christmas and birthday presents using the same method. It worked well until they were teenagers and developed strong clothing preferences. Of course, by then, they could earn their own clothing money.
I’m so glad you addressed not including your thrift shopping finds in your monthly spending reports, since I’ve always wondered if/how/where you included these items.
I don’t have kids, but I often check local stoop sales (city living version of garage sales) for kids clothes for friends and sometimes household items for myself. I’ve found that DVDs are an awful purchase in these instances because they often don’t work. Since discovering the Buy Nothing Project through your blog, I very rarely use thrift shopping these days to find what I want or need.
“Infinite choice is paralyzing… and exhausting to the human psyche. It leads us to set unreasonably high expectations, question our choices before we even make them and blame our failures entirely on ourselves… Too much choice undermines happiness “(source: NPR). No truer words have ever been spoken to me. I have never been able to shop large stores. Prefer small independent grocers. Less choice – better my psyche!
I buy nearly everything for my child used, with the exception of mattresses, for reasons of hygiene, and the carseat for reasons of safety. I also appear to have a BGSGP, didn’t know it was a thing :D. Where I live (overseas reader here), there are garage sales dedicated solely to children’s clothing/toys every spring and autumn, organised by preschools, churches etc. Some are vendor sales, where everyone has their own booth, some are commission sales, where the church or preschool organizes all the stuff into categories and sizes – I really love those, it’s so efficient to shop at those commission sales even though you can’t negotiate prices as you would normally do, but it leaves more time to have a (dirt cheap and hey, proceeds are going towards the church/preschool) coffee afterwards with the BGSGP. You need to make the best use of time spent away from husband and kid ;-). I’m really sad I don’t have a large basement or I would buy more ahead and use your idea of the spreadsheet :(.
Another important reason why I buy children’s clothing used, which I haven’t found on your list, is that all chemicals left from the production process have been washed out by the previous owners. It sounds kind of mean because by definition, not everyone can buy used, someone has to break new clothes in, but since so many people seem to prefer buying new, I’m happy to benefit… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Just out of curiosity, Land’s End is a rather expensive brand and there are also cheaper alternatives for buying winter clothes, store brands etc. in the US, aren’t there? (Although I totally understand the thrill of finding high end stuff for a franction of the price :D). Here, many people buy supermarket brands, which are significantly less expensive (perhaps a third of the high end clothes brands’ price), but even those still add up compared to buying used. If you compound the money saved just by buying used clothes at a conservative rate, you would have a nice sum saved up for college…
Do you find that yard sales are the way to go for the best deals? I don’t tend to go to yard sales, since they are generally on weekends, which means kids are home from school and it’s just hard to get out on my own (very bad idea to bring kids to yard sales, they want to buy everything!) I need a grown up yard sale buddy like you have 🙂 So I hit thrift stores or Facebook buy/ sell groups or Craigslist or ebay or swap.com. I have gotten some great deals, but I often find that the depreciation effect isn’t there and the second hand stuff is selling for only slightly less than the same item new. Especially kids clothes – our local goodwill sells kids clothes for $6 a piece, regardless of brand or category. I’ll pay $6 for a nice winter coat, but not an Old Navy t shirt that probably sold for $7 new. I’ve made some bad decisions (e.g. bought a balance bike for $15, fount out the tires were bad, so replaced those for another $15 and realized that particular bike was only $25 new…) Anyway, I get frustrated because I do feel like I spend way more time trying to find used items and then evaluating if they are worth the price than if I just went on amazon and bought something with a couple clicks. But I soldier on because of frugality and also the environment, sometimes I will pay too much for a used item just to avoid buying new with all the manufacturing/ packaging waste…
Just this week, I purchased a package of paper napkins brand-new in sealed packaging, a brand new still in original packaging skein of yarn, a new in sealed package shredded paper for packing material and a note card all for less than $1.25 at the thrift store. The yarn alone would have been $4 at a retail store.
I am using the yarn along with some left-over yarn to make my dog a blanket for the winter. These are all things we use regularly.
It may not sound like much but I am sure I saved at least 90% off retail prices.
I also went to a discount grocer and purchased large containers of oatmeal for .99 each. I live in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. so here I have seen special Sea Hawk packages of M&Ms. in the team colors. The price for this item is huge- like $9 for one package! I found a package for $3 which is still expensive but it will be part of my grandson’s Christmas gift and he will love them so when you spend $3 for a Christmas gift it doesn’t sound quite so bad.
Little savings like this over a life time add up- living this lifestyle allowed me to send both of my children to a private university debt free!!
Great post! I purchased all clothing for my son from age 0 to about 8 from a thrift store now long gone for dirt cheap prices. Not only was I not attached to the outfits, he benefitted from softer clothing from multiple washings and missing itchy tags. Once when I picked him up from daycare, his provider had him in spare pants and handed me a tightly-sealed plastic bag with the original pair and a warning of what I would find if I opened it. Toddler’s leaky diaper + diarrhea + sand pile = vile concrete. The pants had cost me $2; the entire thing went straight to the trash and I don’t regret a thing. 😀
One of my favorite things to do in the city that I live in is to set up Craigslist Saved Searches! You will get alerted for keyboards + areas/neighborhoods you’re looking for. I’ve gotten a lot of my kitchen appliances second-hand this way, especially if I want a specific model/type. You do have to wait, but it saves the manual search every time you remember to do it. I also do this for Beauty services in my city. That’s how I got my hair colored, cut for free or with a product fee since there are salons looking for models for new stylist interviews.
Thrifting is one of my very favorite things to do! I have passed this down to my DIL and granddaughter who has never minded second hand clothes. When my grandchildren were little I visited a thrift store close to my office several times a week to,look for new bargains. All children’s clothes were $1! If they didn’t like it or it didn’t fit, it was not a huge loss, we just passed it on to someone else. I love to know I’m wearing an outfit, right down to shoes and coat, that was all thrifted and I look good!
I love garage sales too! There’s no better way to spend a Saturday morning as a family. My patience with the thrift store, however, has gone steeply south after having my second kid (currently 3 months old). I just don’t have the energy to wrestle two small children into the car and hunt through a thrift store, while at least one of the three of us is crying, and then wrestle them back in the car after not finding what I needed. Amazon is a friend at this season of life, and I’m ok with that.
Most of the yard sales here seem to be full of junk so tend to buy off fb Marketplace and am just about to collect an amazing Retro cabinet for free. We are building a new home and eventually got rid of our lounge suite which was neatly 30 yrs old so decided to go with a Retro theme. Pickled up an iconic 3 piece lounge suite at the Charity shop for$75 . It needs new cushions and recovering but should still come in to under $500 compared to a renovated one from the retro shop at about$3500!
One of my favorite topics! I almost always buy used/pre-owned for my family and myself. It is very, very rare that I don’t. It’s the frugal path I began following about 25 years ago. I was about to get married, I wanted kids, and I had just been converted to frugality by reading “The Tightwad Gazette” newsletters and books. Before, during, and after my two pregnancies and during my two kids’ childhoods, they wore mostly pre-owned clothes, played with pre-owned toys and looked at pre-owned books, and enjoyed pre-owned bouncy seats, strollers, and other kid equipment. I got all at garage sales, thrift stores, consignment stores, and hand-me-downs. The rare new items were gifts from grandparents. My kids were happy, healthy, active, and have grown up knowing how to scout out bargains because I have educated them. In my area, garage sale season runs from roughly Easter to Halloween. I have always gone garage sailing alone by choice. I cover more territory and am not held up by a friend looking at items I have no interest in. Because of the money I saved by this method and other frugal tactics (i.e.: smart grocery shopping, cooking from scratch, etc.) our house mortgage is paid off and three cars paid off. My kids are now 19 and 17. My husband got laid off this last January from a profession he put 40 years in, and he has taken early retirement. I work at my job for basically the family health care. Because of my frugality, our savings account, and our retirement funds, we’re OK. But we wouldn’t be if I hadn’t embraced frugality and the pre-owned mindset as much as I did for years, and still do. For me it is the only way to live.
I adore thrifting – it’s fun, I’ve saved my family thousands of dollars by buying used, and the environmental and social benefits are big drivers for me.
Like you, I buy ahead for my kids (usually just a year ahead as our storage is limited, although occasionally I find something fabulous in a bigger size and nab it). I don’t have a spreadsheet, but after realising I’d inadvertently bought my son 12+ long sleeved t shirts, a couple of times a year I spread out all the next year’s clothes I’ve gathered on my bed (really helps me to see it laid out) and write a list of the items left to get like a swimsuit or 3 pr shorts etc. That list goes everywhere with me.
We just passed along our 4 year old son’s crib, which we bought nearly new from a friend. We gave it to a couple that will need 2 cribs. I purchased all of my son’s clothes used, from garage sales first, Goodwill $1 sales second & consignment sales on half off day as a last resort. He’s older now, so I have needed to buy him new shoes just this year (luckily they were on clearance so I bought the current size & the next 2 sizes up). His full size bed is a hand me down from his grandparents. I have the next 3 sizes up in clothes & I am happy to save his outgrown clothes for his younger boy cousins.
In addition to clothes for my son, I have purchased designer jeans for me from the Goodwill $1 sale. We’ve also purchased our bedroom set used, most of our furniture used & most of our dishes used.
Mr. FW also looks very engrossed in the “The Penny” book he’s reading to the girls in your first photo. A deep mystery perhaps? I feel I must look for this book at our local library to see how the plot turns out.
It’s a great book!
I did a lot of yard sale/ resale shop shopping over the years, and, yes, my daughter did refuse to wear anything “used” after she “hit that age”! LOL! She is now a junior in college, and frequently asks me to go resale shopping with her! She also buys items from online resale apps. She is such a great bargain shopper, and gets excited when she finds good quality clothing items for a fraction of the original price!
We have 3 little boys and have paid almost nothing for baby equipment, toys, and clothing due to the fact that I have a younger brother who is about a year and a half older than my oldest. We love his hand me downs and they’re always really nice quality stuff!
I love this post (as I do about all of your writing)! It perfectly sums up how good I feel about second hand kids clothing.
I have 3 girls, my oldest just turned 12 and is still happily wearing hand-me-downs. As I’m a small woman I have short for their ages kids and we get so much really nice clothes passed down from friends.
My attic is like your basement but it never occurred to me a list would be handy. Clothing I keep by size+season in 1 banana box. If it overflows I take a moment to purge and pass some stuff on. But for shoes I’m now going to make a list and keep it on my phone. I love ‘shopping’ in my own attic when a child suddenly complaines about sore toes.
100%! I got so much glee from running down to the basement to grab bigger sneakers last week when Kidwoods suddenly outgrew hers.
Part of my problem is that I hate shopping. Hate it. Unless it’s for books, that is. Still. Going to thrift stores 9 times and finding nothing in my size to wear to work induces serious rage or crying. Driving from place to place to do something I hate knowing I probably won’t find what I need? I just want to lay down and cry just thinking about it. So then I buy new, cheap clothing that I don’t even like just to have it over and done.
I shop when it’s absolutely necessary to avoid feeling angry or depressed. Which means I either buy something I don’t like to be done or pay more. If I never need to leave the house, even better. Even the possibility of saving money doesn’t balance out the frustration of looking for months for what I need. I hate shopping. If I need to pay more for my sanity, I will.
A good middle ground is poshmark. My sister alerted me that a lot of the internet secondhand marketplace had moved from eBay and Craigslist to Facebook Marketplace and Poshmark. And having many children makes in person browsing anywhere hard for me.
Poshmark is searchable and you can “bundle” items from a seller and make a further discounted offer. Sometimes you can really luck into someone who is clearing stuff out in your exact size/age/brand/style. I have three close in age sons who manage to never wear the same size in the same season. So the middle one just went into 2T and needs winter clothes and his brother wore that size in the summer. I bought him a pile of wintery things for $2-4 a piece including shipping. I’ve bought adult clothing too. After you pay the seller generates a prepaid shipping label and mails everything to you. Super easy and I think I spent fifteen minutes getting that kid a new wardrobe.
I hear you! For work clothes that aren’t revealing on me, it’s like a needle in a haystack! Always too low cut, pulling buttons, just the worst! I already do my best to minimize what’s showing, but it’s not easy. Now that my last pregnancy is over and my body is becoming my own again, I’m investing in just a few custom-made pieces for work. The initial outlay will save me so much money on the long term! My local seamstress is making a few basic shirts for me in different styles and dress pants based on a pattern from my mom’s 1970s wardrobe. She has done a beautiful job, and I’m so excited that the only thing I’ll have to purchase for a long time will be shoes! And for those, i find them on Etsy in resale shops because i have weirdly shaped feet. In this case, I’m taking the advice from Mrs FWs post to just spend the money on a few things that you need once your body has dramatically changed, and spending some cash at a local seamstress, though pricey, isn’t at all the same to me as going to a big box store.
For my kids, though, I’m swimming in hand me downs and used bargains, but all my friends who swap clothes are all size XS, so we swap handbags, but that’s about it!
There was a toy I thought my son would like (Fisher Price Code-a-pillar for anyone interested) but it costs $50 new and I’m not a fan of buying new plastic toys when possible. I was out at a thrift store and spotted one for $5 behind some other stuff! And the batteries even worked.
Love all of this and wholeheartedly agree that it is so easy to pass things on when you’ve gotten them free or cheap. I know people who are certain they won’t have more kids but have all of the outgrown clothing packed away in the basement I think because they spent so much and are saving it for … something? I love being able to send things along to someone else who will use them again.
My sons loved the strollers too, they would launch them off the landing to see how far they would fly until they hit the stairs.
When we get home from thrifting, the kids and I look up everything to find what it would cost new. That part is as fun as the find itself
3 years ago my daughter stopped growing. I was so relieved! Short lived, as her “little” brother has grown 4-1/2″ and 4 shoe sizes so far in 2019 and he’s only 14. It seems to take boys longer to get to a point where you’re building a wardrobe rather than just trying desperately to keep them clothed. Thrifted men’s clothes here are hard to find, when they can be found they’re usually worn out and should have been banished to a rag bag.
LOVE me some secondhand kid clothing. I pretty much outfitted my twins in all used clothing for the first few years of their lives except for gifts that they received. They are now 10 and I find it harder to do. I shop at children’s consignment shops but they size out at 14/16 and the older kid sizes have much less to choose from. Older kid clothes also leave a lot to be desired in the modesty arena so I am grateful for Targets $6 skorts and leggings. This year was the first year we went “school shopping” as a day trip on vacation and it was MUCH more expensive even buying clothing on sale at outlets. I’m going to check out our local Plato’s closet soon. I had zero time to do garage sales over the summer . Thankfully one twin is smaller than the other and she can wear her sisters clothes when they are outgrown which is really helpful. I miss the loads of almost free clothes I could find when they were little!!
I started thrifting out of necessity when I was in my early 20’s and first on my own, I STILL thrift 30 years later because it’s FUN, it saves SO much money, and is better for the environment to buy used! If I am in need of anything for my house/wardrobe – I always try to find it used first.
When a good friend, who is considerably younger than I, had her babies (my “adopted” grandkids) – we got her entire maternity wardrobe at the thrift, and SO.MANY.BABY.THINGS she needed! (To be clear, I also threw her a shower so she had new things also) Now, with a toddler and an infant, she just texts me when they need something in a new size because she knows I thrift a lot and stop at garage sales!
Nice!! I know your friend appreciates that help so much! My mom thrifts for my girls too and it’s AWESOME
Size spreadsheet! Now that’s brilliant! We live in smaller townhouse with limited storage so I typically thrift 1-2 sizes in advance for my son as I find things. I focus on snow gear (coats, jackets, and boots) because I’m not sure I will ever get over the sticker shock of retail prices for these things, and also tend to grab any hard-to-find items such as rash guard swim shirts and sneakers in good condition. With a second son on the way, a spreadsheet might be just the thing to help me keep up with what we have and what we need though… Of course I’m aiming for $2 snow jacket from a yard sale, but I’ll pay $20 on Facebook Marketplace if we’re approaching need- anything to avoid that retail markup and depreciation.
Also I love that it’s not just me saying “$5?! That’s only worth $12 new…” as I’m walking around the thrift store. Haha! Happy thrifting and I LOVE posts like this! Keep them coming!
Also important to me is the resale value. I never get such a rush as when I buy something used, use it myself, then resell it for the same price! Then I’ve essentially rented it for free!
One of my favorite things I bought used was two kayaks for $250 each. A chunk of change, but still a deep discount. That was over ten years ago now, and I’m sure I could sell them for the same amount today. I also buy most of my electronics used. For a long time, I’d buy an iPod Touch for $80 or something, keep it for a few years, then sell it for $30 or $40, and put that towards the next one.
I have 5 kids (ranging from 12 years old to 25 years old), and when they were younger I actually did the spreadsheet with sizes and what winter gear (coats, boots, snow pants, etc.) we had and what we needed. I also had one with what shoes for the future as well.
I found like new, ski pants at a garage sale, in July, for about $5 & nabbed them for my young grandson. My son looked at them in disbelief & asked what he was going to do w/ them…fast forward to winter in Ohio; the 1st winter he rolled the pant legs up twice; 2nd winter he rolled them up once; 3rd & 4th winter they fit just fine; then, they were passed down to my 2nd grandson…I love finding deals like these! Thanks so much for your website/frugal tips!
I love this post so much. Thank you. I buy nearly everything second hand and get great enjoyment from it. I also really like de-cluttering regularly and never feel bad about putting out stuff for free/ giving to local op-shops/thrift stores. I have bought the majority of clothes for our boys second hand. I also bought my second son’s bed second hand. This weekend I got a bike for $40 and my son’s bike for $5. I never stress about having to keep them nice either, which is handy with small children. It doesn’t matter if the things get trashed/spat up on/scribbled on as we haven’t paid much for them. I love that it’s better for the environment. I like the idea of a list. I think I probably need to do that, and to think of future things for the kids. People say that they cannot imagine sleeping on second hand sheets etc but then what about when you stay in a hotel…Love this post so much.
Yay! So happy to hear you’re loving the thrifting life too! Everything you said resonates with me!
Oh my gosh, so I just got TreeHugger Weekly in my inbox and discovered a reference to your well written article about thrift shopping and depreciation. This is awesome because I read your book earlier this year and get your emails about homestead happenings and I think you rock! And I love that frugality saves money and the planet and Tree Hugger.com recognized you as a key influencer in the effort to reduce waste of both money and resources. Write on, Frugal Fam
I tried buying used clothing, but sometimes it would retain a strong scent of the previous owner’s laundry detergent, and we have bad allergies in our household. Subsequent washes (with our unscented detergent) did not seem to diminish it. Any tips? I’d love to be able to buy used clothing and have it not bother my and my kids’ allergies.
Try adding white vinegar to the wash in the “softener” spot. Vinegar removes smell completely and does not leave any “vinegar” smell. It is truly magic.
finally someone speaking about depreciation. i thought this word was lost in my college accounting books !
thanks you for the great article
It’s so good for my heart to see young families doing what I did 28 yrs ago to clothe my kids. I discovered garage saleing and went cuckoo! I found Amy D. while I was in my hospital bed after having my oldest. She was on Phil Donahue. I signed up for her newsletter and learned so many frugal things. My kids used to go nuts over a new bag of hand me downs. If we went on vacation their souvenier was a t-shirt from the place. The older child’s cloths got passed down to the younger one.
I recently visited a family member who lives alone and benefits from an occasional helping visit. In addition to the cleaning and repairs needed in the household, I realized there was a critical shortage of furniture, but time was a factor and so charity thrift shops stepped in for garage sales and kismet definitely was involved in the results.
I love the thrill of the treasure hunt. Rather than searching for the best, most beautiful item, this is searching for the cheapest available item that will solve the problem. The big wins were a slightly damaged but good enough (and somewhat repairable) coffee table for $10, a really pretty hardwood nightstand in excellent condition for $30 that is a close match to the existing headboard, a small table lamp for the nightstand for $8, a desk chair for $8, and a storage ottoman for $20. A few more items are needed in the future and I plan to shop the same way. Another advantage is that stuff is already assembled. Often new furniture comes in a box, with a lot of little pieces and illustrated instructions, and I didn’t have time for that, either.
My teen daughter was with me and I used this as a financial learning lesson as she was blown away by the great, cheap stuff at the second hand stores. Often these shops have closeouts and markdowns on slow moving merchandise, like retail stores, and prices can gradually drop to rock-bottom. I like all the things noted in the article – lower environmental impact than buying new, supporting good causes, and of course, saving money. The town we were visiting has two shops next door to each other, both of which fund charities serving local children. Shopping this way saved us time and provided excellent solutions to our needs.
I but just about everything secondhand. Usually only gifts for others and items I can’t find used are bought retail.
Also, obviously things like screws and fasteners and items for home design are bought new. Sometimes, I’ll get supper lucky and find a fixture or something I can use, but usually not. We also do heard reclaimed screws and stuff, but we’re don’t always have the sizes we need
Came back to reread this oldie but goodie. This is probably my favorite of your articles on the site. My philosophy exactly. I raised two kids on this, and they are now college students. Even down to the spreadsheets of needed sizes (I went old-school with a chart of pen and paper!) as a garage saled. And I was a garage sale fiend! This and all my other frugal used-buying strategies allowed me to sock money into savings, pay down our mortgage early and pay off our house, enabled husband to retire early, and all the good things that comes with living a frugal life. I have never regretted one bit of it all.
Thank you, Mary! I’m so glad you enjoyed this post :)! It’s one of my faves too
This post came up recently and I’m so glad I found it! I have a girl and a boy so I am determined to find gender neutral, USED snow gear for both of them, so we can get double use out of it! I’ve also had good luck selling on marketplace – the key being, holding onto items until they’re in season! For example, I kept a newborn snow suit even though my baby had absolutely outgrown it. But I just sold it this month, when people are looking!