4 Tips for Getting the Best Clothing Deals at Second-Hand Stores

How to Score the Best Clothing Deals at Second Hand Stores

Spring is finally here! Delighted to weed out the turtlenecks and sweaters, I’ve been combing thru my kids’ wardrobes to pull out their short-sleeves — only to realize that they have outgrown almost all of last year’s clothing.

Growth is a good thing, of course. But to buy an entirely new wardrobe can be costly — especially when you are buying for more than one child.

When I “inventoried” my daughter’s closet a few weeks ago, for example, I realized that she basically needs everything new for summer – from PJs to play clothes to Shabbat dresses.

Rather than head online, though, which frankly is my first inclination, I decided to grab my keys and head over to Savers, one of my favorite second-hand stores in town. It tends to have “higher end” items – and time and again, I find pieces that are in brand-new condition.

I picked up everything pictured above for just under $18.

While there were some great bargains to be found that day, there were many more that I passed over – since I didn’t think the savings were “worth it”.

If you’re interested in saving money by shopping for your children’s clothing (or your own) at second-hand shops, I wanted to share a few tips.

#1. Shop against season.

Second-hand and consignment stores are dependent on donations, which means most of their inventory runs on the opposite season.

When do we clear out our out-grown winter clothes? In the spring.

Which means, in the spring, you can expect to find an abundance of deals on next winter’s clothing. But if you’re looking for spring clothing, you may not find as much.

#2. Shop one size up for children.

Even if you are shopping for the current season, I suggest shopping one size above your child’s current size.

We all know that kids’ clothing shrinks the moment you put it in the dryer. The items at the second-hand store have been in the dryer dozens of times.

The size 4 that would normally fit my daughter looked like it was a smidge too small at Savers. I shopped the size 5s – especially since many of these items will hopefully still work for her in the fall.

And in fact, I picked up one dress in a size 6, which won’t fit her for at least a year. It was a pristine condition Lands’ End play dress, which are my absolute favorite. The dress was priced at $3.99 and I had a 20% off coupon (see #4). At $3.20, I’m happy to store the dress.

#3. Shop the “value” brands.

One thing I have noticed about second-hand stores, especially in the clothing section, is that they tend to price by item “type” rather than brand name.

This means that all t-shirts were $1.99. All dresses $5.99.

It didn’t matter if the dress was Lands’ End or Circo-brand (which by the way, apropos to #2, runs small anyway – so shop up two sizes).

I was able to score Gymboree dresses for $5.99 each — and the Lands’ End dress was mysteriously marked down to $3.99.

$5.99 for a Circo-brand dress, on the other hand, is a “pass”since I could do at least that well when they hit 50% or 70% off at Target.

Get the best bargains by shopping the value brands.

#4. Shop on Bonus Savings days.

Most second-hand stores run sales or offer coupons on their already low-priced inventory. If you can save an additional 25% by shopping on Tuesday, shop on Tuesday.

Find out if your favorite store has a loyalty program. Mine gives you a stamp for every $5 you spend — spend $50 and get a coupon good for 30% off your next purchase.

And they give you a 20% off coupon when you make donations to their collection center — which I did before shopping. I love saving money for something I was going to do anyway.

Do you like to shop for clothing at second-hand stores? How do you get the best deals for your kids — or yourself?


  1. I outfit all my yeshiva boys with thrift store clothes and just tell them that a friend gave it to me. 🙂 White shirts and black pants never go out of style. I even get the bedding there and wash it and say the same thing. When I doesn’t come home again I don’t care at thrift store prices. ( I even sent a pillow, blanket, sheets and pillowcase to Israel for $16).

  2. If you are in the St. Louis area The Resale Shop (NCJW’s thrift) gives 25% off every Tuesday if you are over 50. Plus, they have a frequent buyers card–for every $20 spent (in one visit) you get a punch. When you’ve spend $200 you can turn in the card for 50% off a total purchase on one of your next visits.

  3. Our stores do discriminate by brand and are season sensitive,but the consignment stores have incredible market down to clear out inventory sometimes. Good tips. I think successful shoppers put these stores on a lineup and visit regularly enough to have good fortune.

    • Mara Strom says

      That’s definitely also true. Unlike Target, you can’t guarantee you’ll find everything you need in one go. (Although we have done pretty well with the general “need new kids’ clothes” trips.)

  4. Not to mention goodwill. I got 11 top brand shorts and swim trunks for my four year old for under $20. They are hit or miss but when you hit it is well worth it. I wash it all first and pass up many but if you look for the good brands with minimal wear you can score big. Thanks!

  5. MJ Kanner says

    I love thrift shops. For most basics – t-shirts, fleece jackets, school pants, white shirts – you can’t beat it. I throw everything in the wash right away. I even find boys suit jackets and suits. If I happen to find a great item (ie Brooks Brothers boys blazer for $5) I buy it, not matter what the size. I can always give it to a friend :). I find great layering t-shirts for myself.

  6. I know I should buy the brand name at the resale store because it’s the bigger bargain, but I think I do it because it’s the only way I can afford the fancy brand name stuff. My girls love the dresses I find for them there. And when I buy such items for my kids, they sometimes last longer and get more compliments then the new stuff I buy at the discount stores.

  7. If you are looking for in-season clothing, try to shop at a biannual kid’s consignment sale. There are a number of them in my area. These sales typically run for 3 days and on the last day many items will be marked down 50% off.

  8. I joined the “Savers Club” and I get email alerts of new sales and specials. If my mom visits me, I take her with me to Savers or Goodwill on their “Senior Discount Days” and right now Savers is giving me 30% off a purchase if I donate 3 bags of used clothing, easy peasey. Although I like the super extra discounts, I do like shopping on a non-sale day when the stores are more clean and the dressing rooms are available. Otherwise I wear a bathing suit under my clothes and try things on right there! LOL

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