Thrift Shopping for Back to School (Part One: All for $100)

Eva starts school again next week! We’re spending this week meeting her teachers and getting her used to her classroom, but next week she’ll be off to be a big girl and I’ll be back to being a mom of one for at least part of the week. I know that a lot of moms have a hard time when their little kids put those big backpacks on and trot off to school, but I’m really looking forward to the break. Really looking forward to it. Like I might spend her first day of school finding myself a weekday champagne brunch somewhere in Salt Lake City.

I do love back-to-school time. It’s more of a new year’s celebration to me than that snowy in January, since I’m permanently stuck on a K-12 calendar. When I was little, I always got a bunch of brand new school supplies, a new backpack, and bunch of new clothes to wake up my closet. Eva doesn’t need any school supplies and she never used last year’s backpack since the Montessori assigned school-branded cloth bags to everyone, but who doesn’t need new school clothes?

(OK, confession: Eva didn’t need school clothes. Kiddo has plenty. I just wanted to shop and dress her up like a Cabbage Patch Doll. Indulge me.)

I was originally just going to wander around the mall and pick up some new things for the Eve-ster, but I capped my shopping budget at $100 and that will buy you surprisingly little at retail prices. Kid clothes are priced almost as high as adult clothes for some reason, so a pair of shoes, a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and a light jacket would have easily put me over budget at the Gap. No fun at all. So, I decided to experiment and see how far I could stretch $100 if I exclusively shopped at secondhand stores. Here’s how I did:

* * * * *

Shop 1: I started at a local secondhand store that specializes in children’s clothing. The neighborhood for this store isn’t the greatest so I don’t shop here very often, but they have a pretty good selection. This is the kind of place that gives you store credit if you turn in your old kid clothes, so you see more name-brand items here. I scored this time with a wool coat from Janie and Jack for $25 and some Baby Gap items. I did wander out of my budget to pick up a few things for the boy, so I admit that I overspent by a bit.



Shop 2: I hit up a true thrift store for this one. Salt Lake has a bunch of stores that sell donated items and you never know what you might find. The downside is that the shopping company tends to be a bit vile. There are people who hang out all day to pounce on the carts as they come out so that they can resell the items and as a result the customers tend to be pushy and rude. Even so, the prices can’t be beat. I picked up all of these items for only a few dollars a piece (at most), including a plaid hooded cape imported from Dublin that makes Eva look like Red Riding Hood. I also picked up three adult-sized items that I’m going to refashion for Eva, so stay tuned for those DIY projects…



Shop 3: This was another secondhand store, this time located in a better neighborhood. I thought the change of surroundings would mean nicer items but I was surprised to find that it was actually the opposite. I did find a bunch of cute items, but nothing too fancy this time. Again, I picked up a couple of boy things but I also found some practical staples for Eva along with two pairs of shoes and a Minnie Mouse headband just for fun. I hit my budget almost on the nose at this store and ended up putting a few things back. Again, I’m lucky that Eva doesn’t really need clothes because it’s amazing how quickly they add up, even at secondhand prices.



Final thought: I’m very pleased with how much I got for $100, especially since I was able to pick up a winter coat and some nice boots before the snowy weather comes in (a strange thought in August). I did buy some extra things, including clothes for the boy, a couple of DVDs for the Morgan family, and a vintage Mickey Mouse lunchbox that was a steal at $10, so all told I probably spent about $130. I don’t feel like I sacrificed too much quality, but at the same time I didn’t find exactly everything that I was looking for and there were a few items that I couldn’t find in nice enough condition. For example, I really want to pick up a pair of black and white Converse for Eva and I found tons of pairs but they were all disgusting. That’s probably going to be a mall item, along with some fresh socks and hair clips.

Still, it’s fun that she’ll have one-of-a-kind stuff to start out the school year. I mean, seriously: what other preschooler is showing up to school with their lunch packed in this guy?



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  • Reply Hope

    Do you have designer shoe outlets near you? Like DSW or Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse? You may be able to find the converse at half the price of a mall shop there. Sometimes places like Ross or TJ Maxx/Marshalls has the same deal.

    August 26, 2013 at 5:42 pm
    • Reply Carly

      We do and I’ve been scouting them out. I’m hoping that I can find some soon – right now it seems like only summer shoes are going on sale and the Converse all have really brightly colored accents. As for TJ Maxx, ours don’t carry any kid shoes and eve if they did it probably wouldn’t be worth it. I can’t walk into a TJ Maxx without spending at least $50 it seems!

      August 27, 2013 at 11:48 am
  • Reply Christine

    My bff had a baby this year, so our outings usually include a stop at Baby Gap now lol I was pretty shocked at the prices for kid’s clothing and started thinking it might be a good investment to learn how to sew!

    August 26, 2013 at 8:12 pm
    • Reply Carly

      Oh, I know – Baby Gap is the worst. I really love their stuff…in fact, they have these lined baby boy jeans that I can’t get over…but I just can’t believe the kid jeans are only a few dollars less than the adult jeans!

      August 27, 2013 at 11:47 am
  • Reply Meagn

    I still die over the coat! I have been looking for one at all of our thrift stores for my almost one-year old since you put that picture on instagram! I do 85% of all of our shopping at thrift stores… glad to see there are people like me out there who love them too!

    August 29, 2013 at 7:40 pm
    • Reply Carly

      I’m surprised that more people don’t frequent thrift stores, especially with kids! I don’t know how everyone else is doing it…

      September 1, 2013 at 5:49 am
  • Reply Clare

    I love thrift-shopping for myself, and in my area you can find a lot of good quality items. Can’t wait to apply the same rules for my future kids!

    August 30, 2013 at 12:55 pm
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