second hand shopping
Mom Life,  Uncategorized

Lessons to be Learned from Second Hand Shopping

I’m going to pop some tags

I was never into second hand shopping. I became quickly frustrated when I couldn’t find things easily in my size or matching items for household goods. However, as I packed up my daughter’s barely worn baby clothes every three months, I started to change my mind.

There is something about getting a complement for an outfit I paid a fraction for that makes me feel like a rock star. My daughter got a cute but short sleeved Baby Gap dress for her birthday about a week before it turned cold for the season. We had a warm week when she got to wear it once, but otherwise it was taking up room in her drawer. For Thanksgiving, I paired a it with a second hand Ralph Lauren sweater and second hand Stride Rite shoes. The $10 I spend on new knit leggings for her cost more than the sweater and shoes put together.

second hand shopping
My daughter styling in layers and print mixing at Thanksgiving.

One of America’s biggest exports is actually used clothing: discarded clothing that’s shipped overseas. Goodwill and thrift stores are often saturated with discarded clothing. Buying used children clothing that only gets worn a few times is one way I can help cut consumption in the economy. Most people focus recycling but forget about reducing and reusing. By recycling children clothing, it reduces the sheer amount of clothing produced in our society and means less landfill down the line.

Only Got Twenty Dollars in My Pocket

Second hand shopping has taught me to rethink my understanding of value. I recently bought my daughter a nearly nearly new pair of black patent leather Stride Rite Mary Jane’s for $5.50, whereas they sell for $47 new. I can only think of a few different occasions that she will wear formal shoes for before outgrowing them. I used to think nothing of grabbing a new pair of shoes off the shelf. If I needed the shoes, I would have to pay the prescribed price. I thought I had gotten a great deal last spring when a sales lady offered me $10 off a pair of $55 crib shoes: my daughter wore them about 4 times.

Second hand shopping makes me question, is this really a good deal? What is really the value of something when I break it down by how many times I’ll use the item? How much usability has been lost by being worn by another child? I have no problem spending $50 on a pair of shoes that she’ll wear every day until they’re falling apart or she outgrows them. She’s worn her current sneakers nearly every day since Sept. 1st: that breaks down to less than a dollar a day. But if I paid that for dress shoes, that would be like paying $10 each time she wears them. When I break it down like that, it seems foolish to pay so much money. 

second hand shopping
My daughter cheesing it up in a North Face fleece I found for around $12!

Buying gently used also helps to teach my daughter that we have choices to make in how we spend our money. The $40 dollars I saved on her dress up shoes could be put towards a new winter snowsuit (which I also got at the second hand store, just sayin’), more pressing bills, or savings. Interviews of millennials and Gen-X’ers have shown that most of them wish they knew more about how to manage their money and that discussing finances causes shame, guilt, and stress. Data also show that millennials do not know how their parents budgeted money. Taking your kids with you and explaining why you’re choosing a cheaper (or more expensive) option and the merits behind that decision is a simple way to start teaching money and fiances in a calm manner. For older kids, give them a small budget for clothes shopping. Do they want to buy one or two items at a retail store, 10 or more at a consignment store, or maybe mix the two? Second hand shopping is a great way to model and discuss basic budgeting in a way that won’t break the bank.

I’m hunting, looking for a come up

Urban Dictionary defines a “come up” as finding an overlooked item – a $20 bill on the ground, for example. I would say this is my wheel house at the second hand store. I’ve found Lacoste tops and sweaters, Janie and Jack dresses, and Baby Gap everything for literally a few dollars. The best is when they still have tags on them. I’ve also discovered a few new brands that I hadn’t heard of before. If I have 30 minutes to kill, I love to run by the local second-hand children’s clothing store. The inventory can change quickly, so sometimes I just like to poke my head in to see what’s new.  Jump in and start clicking those hangers across the bar to find your own come up. 

My daughter posing in a Ralph Lauren top I found with tags still on for about $8.

This year, I got all of my daughter’s holiday pjs and shirts at the second hand store. For Thanksgiving, I just decided to skip the festive togs. Last year, she only wore some of them once before the holiday passed. When I was at my local consignment store a few weekends ago, however, they had an entire Christmas section, so I spent a fraction of the money I spent last year on new holiday clothes. This year, my daughter won’t have to wear “Gobble till you Wobble” onsies into April just to “get our money’s worth”.

This is F-ing Awesome

Buying children’s clothes from thrift, goodwill, or second hand stores sends a deeper message to children. Bullying is an ever present discourse in today’s society. Of course I never want my child to be bullied, but in some respects I’m more concerned about making sure my daughter is not the bully. The former I have no control over and would deal with it if it happened. The later, I do control. I control the messages I send my daughter. I control the values I teacher her. And for the time being, I control the clothes I put on her.

The divide between the “haves” and “have-nots” in our area is pronounced. Within a small radius of our home, I can find neighborhoods of mansions, rural poverty, or urban poverty. What would my daughter say to a fellow student who comes to school with “out of fashion” or threadbare clothes? How does that discourse change when she herself has previously loved clothes? I don’t think second hand clothes is the answer to bullying, however, it is a conversation changer. Dressing my daughter in second hand clothes is one way to teacher her that clothing is not a measure of self worth: it’s f-ing awesome.