Six Questions I Ask Myself Before I Thrift Clothes for Kids

There are so many reasons why I love shopping secondhand for children’s clothes and toys. First, kids are EXPENSIVE! They grow out of their clothes faster than I can buy them, their clothes shrink far too easily, and their interests change in a blink of an eye. Also, keeping kids clothes in rotation as long as possible keeps them out of landfills. Plus, it’s so much fun!

If you’re a parent or caregiver, you’re probably like me, constantly cleaning out kids closets and toys, passing them down, or donating them to a local charity. Because of this, thrift stores are packed with kids items. In fact, when we asked Goodwill which items they receive the most from donors, kids items were at the top of the list. That explains why I almost always find exactly what I put on my thrift wish list – from puzzles to toddler cowboy boots.

When I’m browsing secondhand kids clothes, I always run through this quick and easy checklist to make the most out of my purchases. Give it a try next time you’re thrifting!

Did it shrink?

Kids clothes get washed A LOT so unless it’s new with the original tags attached, I don’t always trust the size in the label. I use my best judgement to gauge the size. If your child isn’t old enough to try stuff on, bring something they already own with you to measure it against your thrift finds. 

Is the thrift store price at least 50% less than the retail price?

The average amount I usually spend for a secondhand children’s item is about $2 at Goodwill and I rarely spend over $4. Plus I always use a coupon! 

Can it be washed?

No explanation needed here. As much as I love fun and unique pieces, if I can’t easily wash the item, I’m not thrifting it.

For play clothes: can I get at least 10 wears out of it?

Special occasion or one-of-a-kind pieces are almost always in mint condition at secondhand stores because kids usually wear them a handful of times. Play clothes like pants, shorts, and t-shirts get worn and washed a lot so I keep an eye out for new or like-new items because I know my daughter is going to wear them everyday.

Does it pass the “hand-me-down” test?

I try to stick to styles and fabrics that I hope will last long enough for us to pass down to cousins, friends, and siblings. Winter coats, costumes, special occasion dresses, and snowsuits are examples of things I know can be shared with others for years to come.

Is it one-of-a-kind?

This is a tricky one. Many thrift stores mix all toddler sizes together on the same rack (or if they don’t intentionally mix them, it almost always ends up that way). Because of that, I always spot the most adorable pieces that are too big for my daughter. As tempting as it is, I usually pass on these items unless a) it’s something truly unique or high-quality; b) it’s something she can wear in the near future (ex. she’s in 18 month clothes now, so the biggest I’ll go is 3T); and c) it’s something we’ve owned, loved, and outgrew. For example, she outgrew an Adidas track suit that she wore quite a bit. I spotted another one at Goodwill in a bigger size and didn’t mind buying it now because I know we’ll love it all over again. 

Thrifting clothes for kids is a lot of fun so setting these stipulations helps me control my urge to thrift everything and focus on what we actually need now. Plus, we get hand-me-downs from cousins and friends frequently, so I try no to overload. Lastly, when you make thrifting a lifestyle and you go often, you’ll start to see that there is truly no shortage of cute kids clothes. I always know when I spot a keeper as soon as I feel those thrifty butterflies in my stomach.
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