Most schools across the country will be starting the school year in just a few weeks — and you can tell, since the back-to-school promotions have begun in earnest at the chain stores. But if you really want to save money, you don’t have to buy everything brand-new at a Target, Walmart or Gap. Back-to-school time is one time of year when it pays to shop at the local thrift store.
If you have young children headed back to school, chances are good that they have grown out of the clothes they were wearing last fall. Good news! Thrift stores are full of lightly used clothing and school uniforms that either fit someone’s kid until recently or didn’t get worn much at all. A lot of it is desirable, big-label stuff, points out The Well-Kept Wallet, that’s getting sold at a fraction of its original price.
If you live in a northern climate, you can get the jump on winter shopping, too. When people donate used or disused clothing to charities such as ClothingDonations.org, they often eliminate items such as sweaters and winter coats from their closets in the season they need them least — and that means you can score great deals well ahead of the onset of winter weather — and long before the selection gets picked-over.
One parent writing in The Penny Hoarder reports that she was able to outfit her two daughters, both in elementary school, for less than $40 by visiting thrift stores and rummage sales strategically. The children helped her shop on most trips, she says, and likely learned to appreciate a great value at the same time.
If the kids are headed off to college, a thrift store can be an even greater resource. There, you can find items such as desks, bookshelves, coffee tables, lamps and small appliances at bargain prices, as well as the bed linens, dishes and other household goods every college student will need for the first time when moving into a dorm or residence. The thrift can also be a great source for office supplies and backpacks.
Buying at a thrift store supplied by donations to ClothingDonations.org has the added benefit of saving you money while helping fund programs for veterans. And remember, you can contact ClothingDonations.org at any time to schedule a pickup of the clothing and other items your own kids have grown out of or just don’t use anymore. Somebody will be able to use that stuff, but to you, it’s just clutter.
Including clothing, electronics, shoes and school supplies, families will spend an average of $688 on each child during the back-to-school season, according to an annual survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF), and $970 on every college student. But you can keep those costs down — way down — with a trip to the thrift store!