This Post: How to Thrift Shop with Your Teen: 12 Tips to Find Cheap Trendy Clothes
By Katy M. Clark
I never thought I would be flipping through a massive rack of shirts, all size small, with such fervor. After all, I wear a size large. Plus, I wasn’t even interested in buying a new shirt…
But there I was, at my teenager’s request, hunting for size small Lululemon tops in the athletic wear section of a local thrift store. Meanwhile, my daughter who’s 14, was a few aisles over in the casual wear section excitedly scouring the racks for all the latest and greatest athleisure brands.
We were thrifting, aka on a mission for designer duds at discounted prices.
And, we weren’t alone. Lots of like-minded people were on the hunt for previously loved treasures in the thrift store that day. That’s because thrifting is white-hot right now, both as a way to be socially responsible and, likely far more of a reason in my daughter’s eyes, a way to save big bucks on name brands. In fact, according to my daughter, thrifting is “in!”
I have to give my daughter credit for her thrifting success. Not only did she use me to divide and conquer the store, she also tapped into a few other clever strategies that not only helped her navigate the store but also helped increase her chances of finding amazing pre-owned pieces at fantastic prices. And, I’m happy to report that when we left the store that day she was able to score a few gently used (in some cases, like new) Lululemon pieces for a fraction of the original price!
If you’re looking for a few “insider” tips on how to thrift shop with your teen, here are a few of my daughter’s tips and strategies. I hope these tips help empower you and your teen to be the boss of your next thrifting trip!
How to Thrift Shop with Your Teen: 12 Tips to Find Cheap Trendy Clothes
#1 Know the Difference: Thrift vs. Resale vs. Consignment
Although these terms are often used interchangeably, there is actually a distinct difference between them.
A Thrift Store is a “non-profit” store that sells donated items, i.e. The Salvation Army and Goodwill. Many thrift stores are associated with a church or a specific charity.
A Resale Store will buy your items upfront and pay either cash or offer you a store credit. (Plato’s Closet is one national resale store that comes to mind.) Typically, because the store is taking a risk when purchasing your items, they don’t offer a lot for items being sold.
A Consignment Store sells your items for you. When your items sell, the store will offer you a percentage of the sale price either in cash or store credit.
#2 Make a List of Thrift, Resale & Consignment Stores in Your Area
You’ve probably heard of the national chains like The Salvation Army, Goodwill and Plato’s Closet, but don’t overlook smaller, less-known thrift and resale shops. Many of the smaller shops have amazing deals and hidden treasures just waiting to be found. It also helps to know when to shop. Rather than hitting the store on a busy Saturday, it might be better to shop on a Wednesday afternoon or Thursday evening to fight the crowd. Check out this link to find thrift stores in your area!
#2 Follow Them on Social Media
Of all the “how to thrift shop with your teen” tips I’m sharing, having your son or daughter follow their favorite stores on social media just might offer one of the biggest advantages. The day my daughter and I ventured out looking for Lululemon deals, we knew the store had plenty of Lululemon items on hand.
The store advertised their big “name-brand athletic wear event “on social media weeks in advance and had saved up all its name-brand athletic wear for the special one-day event. Although we had to get there early (the line was long), my daughter considered it a win to find such amazing deals on such a huge selection. Bottom line, to get the inside scoop on events, sales, and upcoming deals, follow your favorite shops and stores on social media.
#3 Look for Inspiration
Another perk of following thrift stores on social media is that they post outfits or coordinated looks that may inspire your teen. Our local Plato’s Closet, for instance, showcases trendy outfits on their Instagram feed. My daughter has hunted specifically for a cute shirt or pair of name-brand leggings that were featured online and was ecstatic when she found it in the store.
Another tip is to utilize Pinterest, YouTube or TikTok for inspiration. Have your teen create a vision board on Pinterest or watch videos of outfits that people put together. That way they can use them as guides (and inspiration) when they shop.
#4 See If You Qualify for Additional Discounts
What’s better than finding a killer deal at a thrift store? Getting it for an even lower price, of course! Teens should always check to see if they qualify for additional discounts. Is anyone in your family a member of the military or is your teen shopping with Grandma, a senior citizen? Our local thrift shop offers discounts for students and teachers. These additional discounts can make a thrift store trip even (wait for it) thriftier!
#5 Max Out Spending Cash By Selling Items You No Longer Need or Want
Another great option to max out your teen’s spending cash is to have them sell clothing and accessories they no longer need or want to resale or consignment stores for cash or store credit. They may not make a ton of money but hey, having a few extra bucks in their pocket when they hit the resale and thrift shops makes it even more fun when they find that mega-deal they just can’t live without.
#6 Check Back Regularly
Thrift, resale and consignment store inventory is always changing – almost daily. So, it goes without saying that the more you pop in to take a quick glance at the newest additions, the better chance you’ll have at snagging newly added killer deals. Also, check out different sections of the store like my daughter and I did when we split up and looked for Lululemon in both the athletic and casual wear sections.
The children’s section might work for some teens, too. For instance, size Large or XL in the children’s section can be the equivalent of a woman’s Small. Finally, don’t overlook the men’s section. Men’s clothes (think sweatshirts and t-shirts) can be great for baggy styles or unique pieces that your teen can make their own.
#7. Go with Friends for Extra Inspiration
Join your teen when they shop or encourage them to go with a couple of friends. A level-headed parent can remind them about all the treasures they already own and (hopefully) prevent overindulging.
Meanwhile, friends are great for offering honest feedback or even picking out a few fun pieces your teen may not otherwise have considered.
#8 Shop for Off-Season Clothes
You teen may be on the hunt for a new pair of jeans to wear on Friday night or a cute top to wear to an upcoming party, but make sure they don’t overlook off-season deals. Sometimes, in the heat of summer, for instance, you can find amazing deep discounts on coats, sweaters, or boots. Thrift shopping is all about keeping an open mind – you never know what you might find!
#9 Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for a Deeper Discount
If you happen to notice a few missing buttons, a small stain or anything else on an item you’re considering buying, don’t be afraid to ask the manager on staff if they can offer a slightly deeper discount. Although resale and thrift stores typically do a good job of inspecting items carefully before putting them on the rack, they do sometimes miss things. Even if it’s a relatively “small fix” that you can take care of when you get home, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
#10 Dress for the Occasion
Before you buy, it’s always a good idea to try items on. And, considering thrift, resale and consignment stores typically have very few fitting rooms, it’s important to know that you could be waiting in line for a while to try something on. To avoid long dressing room lines, consider dressing for the occasion. Chances are you won’t be able to try on a pair of jeans or leggings in the middle of the store, but if you wear a tank top or lightweight shirt you can easily try on shirts, sweaters and coats without venturing into the dressing room. Also, it can be exhausting standing on your feet sifting through racks and racks of clothing, so be sure to wear comfy clothes and shoes.
#11 Make Friends with the Employees for Insider Tips
The employees have the inside track on all the upcoming deals and events, so it’s always a great idea to get to know them. Spark up a conversation. Ask when they put out new inventory, if there’s a specific day each month that they take markdowns or if they can share with you any upcoming planned events. The more “insider tips” you have, the better chance you’ll have of jumping on those deals when they first hit the floor.
#12 If Your Spree is a Bust, That’s Okay!
Finally, take heart if your in-person shopping spree is a total bust. There is a plethora of online thrift stores, resale shops and consignment shops to explore. Take a look at websites like ThredUp, Poshmark, Mercari, and Swap.com. Or go old school and check out eBay. Hunting for trendy items online can be just as satisfying as scoring them in person, but from the comforts of home.
Learning how to thrift shop with your teen can be a blast providing you know where and when to shop and you have a few cool tips to find the best deals in town!
About Katy M. Clark:
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