Top Ten Items to Look for at Thrift Stores, Yard Sales and Consignment Shops

I save a lot of money by frequenting yard sales and thrift stores. There are many things I would not buy in thrift stores and yard sales, but here is a list of ten things I frequently buy in yard sales and why.

Number One – Children’s Books

New hardback children’s books can easily cost up to $16.95 in a retail store but in most of the thrift stores in our city (Columbus, Ohio) most children’s books are are 50 cents. At some yard sales, they can cost even less. I’ve seen them for 10 for a $1.00 or sometimes even free. Because I believe books are one of the most important things you can buy for a child, and they need to be exposed to a lot of them (In my opinion at least a thousand before Kindergarten), buying them new, in my opinion, is a waste of money. Also, as in toys, you never know which ones your child will like. Some of my child’s and students’ books are ones I bought for ten cents while the ones costing upwards of $15.00 sit on the shelf collecting dust.

Number Two – Baby and Children’s Clothes and Dressy Shoes

Clothes for babies and children can be purchased in for less than ten percent of the retail cost and frequently they are very lightly worn or sometimes even have the tags still on them. Children can grow out of clothing sizes every three months, babies even more rapidly. Shirts, shorts, jackets, jeans, dresses, and dressy shoes are easy to find and will save parents a lot of money if purchased used.

In addition, babies, toddlers and children frequently stain or rip clothing. I am much less likely to be upset about a permanent marker stain on a $3.00 shirt than on a $15.00 shirt.

I also like buying things in consignment shops because I can buy brand name clothing for less than discount store prices. If I had to buy new clothes for my toddler, I would not be able to afford brand names.

Some items I frequently look for are brand-name jeans, khaki pants, and shorts with adjustable waists. My favorites are Old Navy and Children’s Place. I also buy name-brand blanket sleepers, jackets and winter coats at consignment shops.

Other items that are rarely used but very much needed are:
Raincoats: I found an Eddie Bauer and London Fog raincoat at a consignment shop for less than $5.00 each.
Snow pants: I found a pair of snow pants for $1.00 at a yard sale. They were only used twice this winter so it was worth it.
Snow boots: I purchased a very good pair for $6.00. My toddler wore them about 10 times this winter. They were needed but would not have been worth $30.00 had I been forced to buy them new.

Number Three – Children’s Toys

Number Four – VCR Tapes

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but to me it makes perfect sense to pay anywhere from “free” to $1.00 and pop the movie in the VCR than to pay $5.00 to $15.00 for the same movie in DVD format. We also bought software that we are going to use to convert our favorite VCR tapes to DVD. Again, my toddler likes something one day and not the next, so there is no point in spending a lot of money just so I don’t have to rewind.

Number Five – Casual Jeans and Khaki pants

I love broken in jeans and khaki pants. Some of my favorites are from thrift stores and yard sales. I have purchased some really cool name-brand khaki pants used. If I get a stain on them either from working around the house, my toddler, or my PreK classroom I am only out $3.00 as opposed to $30.00 plus.

I do generally buy my dark jeans new, but occasionally I have found them already “broken in.”

One note about buying clothes at thrift stores and the like ‘” Try to shop somewhere that has a dressing room or a liberal return policy. Particularly with pants, sizes can vary tremendously.

Number Six – Casual Shorts and Capri’s

Almost every spring or every other Spring I go thrift store shopping for casual shorts and Capri’s. Since I’m not that much into fashion, I can usually find them in my favorite classic colors ‘” denim, white, dark khaki, light khaki, green khaki and sometimes brown. Instead of $30.00 a pair I can find them for less than $3.00 a pair. If I buy five pairs of shorts and five pairs of capri’s, I am saving 90% or $270.00.

Number Seven Item to look for at Thrift Stores, Yard Sales and Consignment Shops – Casual T-shirts

By casual t-shirts I am talking about ones that I wear to work-out or do work around the house. I can easily spend $20.00 on a t-shirt in a retail store but I have found some great ones in thrift stores for $2.00 or less. I have traveled a lot so I particularly enjoy finding t-shirts from places I’ve been, or in some cases from places I’ve never been. A lot of times they are very lightly worn. When they get stained or torn, I throw them away and buy new ones.

Number Eight Item to look for at Thrift Stores, Yard Sales and Consignment Shops – Colored Socks

This was a recent discovery. Good colored socks in department stores are expensive and often-times I get them home and they are not comfortable or they don’t fit right. Socks are not something I feel comfortable returning. About a year ago I discovered that thrift stores sell socks on the ends of the aisles. In my favorite thrift stores in Columbus, they are only 59 cents a pair. I go in to the store, buy about 10 pairs of my standard colors ‘” brown, tan, and black ‘” for $5.90. If I get them home and don’t like them, I either donate them or they become “white board” erasers in my classroom.

Number Nine – Drinking Glasses, especially wine glasses

In most thrift stores, especially big ones, there is usually a lot of glassware. If you are not the type of person who has to have a matching set of eight of everything, glasses are something very inexpensive that can be purchased at thrift stores. I don’t buy glasses or wine glasses very often, but I enjoy looking at them. I have seen very expensive stemware (and china) in thrift stores. I would imagine what happens is that either bride and groom get divorced and everything gets donated or one or two pieces get lost or broken and the rest of the set gets donated.

Number Ten – Classroom Read-aloud Books and Materials for Teachers, especially PreK and Early Elementary Teachers

As a Special Needs PreK teacher, I buy a lot of my classroom materials in thrift stores, yard sales and consignment shops. I find all of my books, manipulatives, toys, puzzles and games this way. If I didn’t I would have a very empty and boring classroom. I don’t believe in worksheets. Children need to touch, feel and manipulate really objects. Therefore, yard sales in particular are very valuable to me. Frequently when I am looking through items at people’s yard sales, they will ask me what I am looking for and if I bring up the fact that I am a teacher, they will give me big discounts or even give me things free.

One caution: Make sure that anything you buy, especially toys and pajamas, have not been recalled. I will sometimes look up this information on my smart phone before buying it, particularly if an item is more than a couple of years old.