Back-to-School Shopping on a Budget

Anyone who has more than one child, going back to school this year is already out shopping for back-to-school gear. It’s expensive to purchase new shoes, back packs, jeans, shirt, shorts and school supplies! (You all know the drill) I don’t claim to be an expert but my friends always want to go shopping with me because I tend to find all the deals. I’d rather think of it as being in the right place, at the right time.

My children I’m sure aren’t fab fashion kids walking around campus looking like they just finished a teen magazine photo shoot but I do end up finding name brand merchandise for cheap so …don’t hate me because I’m thrifty.

My number one place to shop, believe it or not are thrift stores! I could be a poster child for them because I buy so many things there. I just went last weekend, I spent a total of $17.83, I walked out with a new leather purse for me, 9 pairs of jeans for my kids (Osh Kosh, fubu, OTB, Arizona and Old Navy), two toys my kids wanted and a jacket for my husband that he just couldn’t pass up. All of that for less than $20!

I honestly can’t say enough good things about thrift stores. I frequent all of the thrift stores in Charleston and I have an aunt that lives in Indianapolis who also does a lot of shopping at thrift stores. No matter what it is that I’m looking for, I usually begin looking at the thrift store first. I have purchased VCR’s, furniture, suite cases, movies, books, household appliances, clothing and toys from thrift stores with pleasure. If you purchase any item from a thrift store ask about the return policy because most of them have a 7 day policy, if you aren’t pleased, return with reciept within 7 days to get your money back. If you want to purchase electronics, look for an electrical outlet, plug it up and try it out first.

Many thrift stores support charities, so a portion of the money you spend, helps someone less fortunate. Think about that for a minute. If you purchased a new range, nothing is really wrong with your old range but you just don’t need it. All of your friends have a range and they don’t want your old one, so wouldn’t you donate it to a worthy cause? Many people do and the thrift store has so much coming in day after day, they just sell it for a reasonable price. In most areas there are plenty of thrift stores to choose from.

If you have some items left over from a yard sale just taking up space in your closet, call a thrift store and ask if they work with a charity and donate the items. Not only will you have more space in your closet, but you will also feel good because you are helping someone and giving something back to your community. My family, every so often we go through clothes, toys and just fill up a couple of boxes of things we no longer need. Once the boxes are full, we go to the thrift store and make our donation. Some stores even give a 10% discount certificate for making a donation to use at their store on your next purchase.

I also love to go to the mall looking for big reductions cuts too. Belks, Target and Sears all have on thing in common that I look for…..it’s called “the clearance rack.” I drove a friend of mine to Charleston last week for an appointment, of course, I had to hit the mall full force and I did, about $70 worth. At one children’s store I bought two shirts for $5, at Belks I nabbed four shirts for $20 and then I went to Target where I spent $45 more dollars. At Target I was able to buy some shirts for $2 each, a lightweight jacket for $3, a couple of pairs of pants for $2.88 each and the rest were random shirts that were probably about $4 each.

I don’t think I have ever spoken with anyone who doesn’t shop from the Wal-mart clearance rack either. I have found some summer tops and shorts on clearance for, get this, 50 cents! Yesterday my family and I went to the local Wal-mart and found the kids some spiderman shoes, which they love, for only $3 a pair. Not only are the prices on the clearance rack great at Wal-mart but they also have some good prices all the time on blue jeans for kids. The only problem with the blue jeans at Wal-mart is that there’s not enough variety. I love variety and I hate wearing the same things over and over.

In the summer time, it’s not uncommon for me to get up at 5 in the morning and go in search of yard sales. Last year I bought a used golf cart at a yard sale for $150 and we use our golf cart a lot. The kids feel like Tiger Woods riding across the yard, if I could only get them to hit a golf ball! Yard sales are an excellent place to find new clothes! Some children are really lucky because they have a lot of family members who buy clothing for every occassion throughout the year and mom can’t possibly keep up with all the new clothing. Items end up shoved into the closet and forgotten about until yeard sale time. What would most people do when cleaning out closets and they encounter a new outfit that the child outgrew too quickly to wear? Yard sale! The child can’t wear it, it’s new and most people slap $1 on it just to get rid of it. Just a tip…….if I go to a yard sale and I see the families children are just a year or so older than my own children, plus I got some good clothes at a good price. Guess what….I’m writing down their address and the next time they have a yard sale I’ll know it’s one not to miss.

Okay, I have a yard sale book too and I keep it in my purse. I keep a small notebook in my purse and if I find something cheap that I may want in the future then I take notes. It’s not uncommon for me to write down a venders phone number I meet at a flea market or a road side market. I think that’s the best way to really keep track of what I’ve found. One example, let’s say I bought a pair of New Balance sneakers from a vender four months ago for $15 and I see someone selling some nice Nike’s I want but they are selling them for $27…..I’m going to look in my book. I’ll tell the vender that someonelse has a better price, usually the vender will ask who so I show them my book and they’ll sell me the Nike’s for $15 too.

Flea markets are a must go see, when in search of deals. Getting off the subject of bargains on children’s clothing for a moment. I collect antique kitchenware, plates, serving bowls and anything that catches my eye. Flea markets are “the” place to find these types of items as well. I’m not bragging but I’m a big fan of the “Antiques Road Show”, and it interests me to hear how people pay $1 and end up with a priceless treasure worth around $200,000! I went to a flea market three years ago, I found a beautiful serving bowl in the bottom of a cardboard box with no price marked on it and I went to ask the seller how much he wanted for it. I was happy when he said $5 and I whipped out $5 for my little treasure. To make a long story short, my $5 investment turned out to be worth $750 and even though that’s not much, I felt like a celebrity!

A lot of people buy clothing or foot wear close outs at low prices, rent a u-haul and off to the flea markets they go selling new clothing at a discounted rate. Sometimes they even set up on the road side and passing motorists stop to browse. A couple of months ago my husband bought a pair of Redwing boots, steel toed for $20 and if you know anything about brand name boots………..Redwing’s aren’t $20. I sometimes get around to factory outlets where I also buy socks anywhere from 10-35 cents a pair and underwear for $25 each. Most of them are factory irregulars so do be careful when buying them, give them a good look over before you buy them. I give everything a good look over before I buy it, I even pull at the seams to see if they are strong or weak. Sometimes it’s necessary to truly “dig” literally, I found some Scooby-Doo overall’s for my four year old at the bottom of a box and payed a whopping dollar for them. If you decide to save money and go shopping at some of the places above, don’t be discouraged if you don’t find a real bargain the first visit. Go a few times, train your eye and concentrate on your mission. After all, the point is to get a good deal and to me that is getting more than my money’s worth.

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