Teens on a budget will find shopping at thrift stores something like a game. They can try to purchase lots of clothes for a few dollars, they can look for pricey labels sold for a fraction of the original cost, and they can explore with styles of clothing they may not have risked with more expensive garments.
Thrift stores usually get their clothing donated by other people. Some clothing may have never been worn. In other cases, something was worn once (particularly formal wear), the owner’s body shape changed and her wardrobe stopped fitting, or she was just cleaning out the closet. What didn’t work for one person could work for someone else.
Tips for Thrift Store Shopping
Shopping at thrift stores is different than going to the mall, or even discount stores. Instead of racks of the same style shirt in a few colors and multiple sizes, every shirt will be a different style – and the style that captures the shopper’s eye might not be in the desired size.
Set a spending limit – It’s a challenge to go in with $10 or $20 and discover how many items can be purchased for that amount. Just like when shopping at the mall, don’t buy just for the sake of buying something. However, if a piece of clothing captures attention, grab it, particularly if the size is right.
Check labels – If an item catches the eye, the label will let a shopper know the designer, size, and fabric care. Skip dry clean only clothing – the process adds cost to a great deal.
Examine the condition of the items – Check for stains, holes and tears (particularly under the arm), broken zippers, and missing buttons. Yes, zippers and buttons can be replaced, but will they be? Or, will the item sit in a pile of things to do? Look for pilled and faded fabric.
Try things on – Not only do different manufacturers and designers have their own sizes, but a size 12 from the 1990s is likely going to be different than a size 12 from the 1970s. Wear a tank and leggings just in case the store doesn’t have a dressing room. (And even if they do, there’s no telling when a garment was last washed; which means, launder whatever is purchased.)
Check labels – If an item catches the eye, the label will let a shopper know the designer, size, and fabric care. A designer with a high price tag at the mall can be found for a fraction of the cost at a thrift store. Skip dry clean only clothing – the process adds cost to a great deal.
Develop a Personal Style
For teens interested in trying colors they wouldn’t normally wear or testing clothing combinations (feminine with sporty, dressy with casual) that give a personal style to an individual’s look, the low-cost of thrift store clothing allows for experimentation.
Since the vast quantity of clothing at some thrift stores can be overwhelming, go in with a plan – look for sweaters or a prom dress. Some stores organize by size, others by colors, and others will just group women’s tops together.
An advantage to this form of organization is that shoppers might find things that they would have never found in a department store – the sleepwear pants perfect for the gym or the nightgown that makes a cute dress.
Thrift store shopping can allow a teen to fill her closet for a fraction of the cost of shopping at the mall. Clothing at thrift shops change from week-to-week and are a great place to find “one-of-a-kind” items that can help a girl create a unique personal style.
How to Acquire New Clothes on a Budget
With the economy in crisis, money – or a lack thereof – appears to be on everyone’s mind. Even families that haven’t worried too much about money in the past are cutting back on luxuries and reexamining their budgets. Items that may have been a given in the past – a new winter party dress, numerous presents for birthdays – may not be feasible this year.
Part of being a tween or teen is wanting new stuff – junior highers and high schoolers are notorious for keeping up with trends, or starting new ones. But when money’s tight, what’s a young person to do?
The Family Budget
First of all, a talk with Mom or Dad is necessary. This not only shows that a tween or teen is responsible enough to look realistically at the family budget, but it will give valuable insight to what the family can or can’t afford.
Before the talk, map out a list of items or events that are important in the upcoming year – this can be anything from a new backpack for school, a dress for a dance or party or holiday, a vacation swimsuit or outfit, or birthday and holiday presents.
Try to think of all important upcoming events, from a winter formal to Grandma’s 80th birthday. Other examples: holidays, vacations, school celebrations or graduation, birthdays and anniversaries.
Shopping on a Budget
There are many ways to acquire new things without purchasing them full price at a department store or the mall.
Creative shopping methods include:
- Visit thrift stores.
- Shop out-of-season – purchase next year’s bathing suit during the winter or a coat in the summer.
- Borrow – ask Mom, Grandma, Aunt, Sister for their unwanted items.
- Clothing swap – gather friends and pool clothing, accessories, unused beauty products. Ask relatives for anything they are planning on donating to charity to add to the swap. After trading, give any leftover clothes or accessories to a charity or thrift store.
- Scour eBay and craiglist – these websites have specific categories for clothing, accessories and beauty items. It’s often easy to find unusual pieces or trendy items at a lower cost. Sites such as eBay often have the option of either bidding for an item or purchasing it at a set price.
Learn to Sew
It may be old-fashioned, but sewing has been around for ages for a reason. Consider signing up for an elementary sewing class (usually eight to ten lessons) or find someone in the area that can teach you or you and a group of friends how to sew. Pay them in money or with a favor (anything from mowing the lawn to helping them with their computer.)
Find someone with a sewing machine who is willing to share, or chip in with friends to buy an used sewing machine together.
A common contemporary complaint is that sometimes fabric at fabric stores ends up costing more than buying clothing at a shop. But sewing doesn’t always mean making a piece of clothing from absolute scratch. Sewing is an excellent way to alter clothing – from the too-big dress found at a thrift store to a bag that needs a new zipper.