A How-To Guide For Thrifting For Kids


Toycycle thriftingShoppers looking to save cash on clothing have long turned to thrift stores and consignment shops. Known for fluorescent lighting, crammed racks and fill-a-bag deals, the thrift experience is all about the thrill of the search–and the score. It’s a practice in possibility. The reality, however, is that the thrift experience can sometimes turn up more duds than diamonds. It’s time to flip the script, deal-seeking mamas! With a little planning and a bit of practice, you’ll be scoring big (and saving bigger) in no time.

Plan Ahead: Kids grow fast. When sleeves get short and ankles start showing, it’s time to hit the racks. But first, take a moment to inventory dressers and closets before you leave the house. What items are needed? What do you foresee being needed down the line? Write it down! Your Thrift List is the key to successful shopping. If you’re the forgetful type (no judgement, Mom Brain is a thing!) make a note of current and future clothing and shoe sizes. Shopping with a list will ensure you don’t get sidetracked while browsing and forget the crucial pieces needed for your little one’s wardrobe. 

Shop off season: Swimsuits in December? Why not? If the price is great and it’s a piece they’ll need, snag it now and stash it away until the time is right. Remember to edit your Thrift List so you don’t make a double-purchase down the road. Store your off-season items in a “someday soon” box that’s both visible and easy to access. Consider using a whiteboard, photographs or sticky notes on the outside of the box to ensure the contents are stashed but not forgotten.

Shop often, but don’t overbuy: Thrift store merchandise moves quickly, so browse on the regular for fresh items. Leave room in your budget for a few hard-to-pass-up impulse purchases, but remember that overbuying quickly becomes overwhelming. This is where your Thrift List comes in handy! Stuffed drawers and closets are a source of frustration, so stick to your list to help curb excessive purchasing.

Explore New Stores: You’ll have more success finding pint-sized wetsuits by popping into thrift shops near the ocean, and you’ll typically find more name-brand clothing in and around high-income areas or online. Make it a habit to check out new stores during your travels–you’ll be surprised at how inventory can change with the zip code.

Check for quality: Thrift stores are notorious for selling clothing in less-than-perfect shape. Take time to thoroughly check your items for rips and stains before heading to checkout. When it comes to kiddo clothing, sleeve cuffs and necklines are a common spot for staining. Rips are typically found at the knees and tush area of pants and pajamas. Check leg and sleeve seams for unraveled stitching or tearing. If you’re not into quality-control, consider shopping at an online thrift store, like Toycycle, where a satisfaction guarantee is part of your purchase.

Don’t stop with clothes: The reuse market is expanding rapidly. Secondhand toys, baby gear and outdoor equipment like bikes and wagons are more available than ever before. The thrifting rules remain the same: plan ahead, buy what you need, and ensure quality. Items for infants and toddlers should be checked thoroughly for cleanliness and safety. Doing a quick online search for product recalls is a smart idea, especially for strollers, bassinets and other sleep-related items. Again, if you’re looking to offload this aspect of the thrifting experience, sites like Toycycle carry a curated offering of toys and gear, and boast fully-inspected items and a generous return policy

Thrifting is an adventure and sustainability is trending, especially when it comes to shopping for kids. Saving cash on items that are often quickly outgrown is not just a win for your wallet, but a win for the planet as well. So grab your list and get going… exciting finds are waiting for you on the racks.


Erin Addiego is a lifelong thrifter, writer and mom to three living in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here