Rules for Thrifting: How I Clothed Our Entire Family for $200 - Joy Through Chaos

Rules for Thrifting: How I Clothed Our Entire Family for $200

Spend Less, Get More

Rules for thrifting. Holy cow! How she clothed her family of four on a budget!

If I told you that you could spend a bunch of time shopping AND save money doing it, you’d think I lost my marbles, right? But it’s true! I paid under $200 and clothed my entire family of 4 for the summer by going to thrift stores! Shoes, swimsuits, shorts… if it’s a summer essential, we needed it, and I got it. Clothes are so expensive to buy new. And kids always need a new wardrobe because let’s face it; they grow like weeds! Thrifting is a fun way to get everyone the things they need at a fraction of the price, but I’ve learned I must follow my rules for thrifting.

Thrifting often has a negative connotation, but when we went from two incomes to one, we couldn’t afford not to give thrifting a try. As I ventured out to more thrift stores, I started noticing that I was consistently getting fantastic deals on brand spanking new, or barely used items! It took more time and effort than what I had been used to, but it was also so much fun! When you walk into Target, you know you’re going to find cute kid’s clothes. But when you score at a thrift store and each item is $1 a piece (or less), you feel this overwhelming bliss. Like you want to shout to everyone on the street about the deal you got and how adorable the kids are going to look.

Here’s everything I snagged over the last few outings of thrifting. It’s everything my family of four needs for the summer!

Rules for thrifting. Holy cow! How she clothed her family of four on a budget!

Rules for Thrifting

Want to know what I’ve found to be the most effective and efficient way to shop at thrift stores? Here are my five simple rules:


This step is super important. You must to know precisely what you need; otherwise, you could end up leaving with three new purses instead of the five onesies the baby needs. And that’s not money (or time) well spent at all! Sit down with a notepad and think about what items your family needs- or will need- over the next few months. Will your kids need rain jackets this summer? Are the kids getting ready to start wearing a new size? Do you need a swimsuit? Could your husband use a few new polo shirts? Taking the time to figure out exactly what you need will help you have a more productive trip.

The very first time I went thrifting I left with three massive bags of stuff because it was a ‘good deal,’ but it wasn’t all stuff that we needed. So it ended up feeling like wasted money, and that’s not the feeling we want!

Rules for thrifting. Holy cow! How she clothed her family of four on a budget!Be Selective

The three bags of stuff I left with? Yeah, most of it wasn’t the greatest. If I had taken my time and looked through the racks, I could’ve ended up with five cute shirts for my oldest instead of 10 shirts that got a ‘meh’ reaction from her. Being selective is still the hardest rule for me to follow. I ask myself a series of three questions about each item, and if I answer no to even one of the three questions, the item stays.

Do I like this? I mean, really like it?

Are there any stains or signs of wear?

Will it be easy to match to other pieces already in (insert person’s name)’s wardrobe?

Shop on Discount Day

This is the best way to make sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. My favorite stores offer 50% off days twice a week! That means my money will go twice as far, or I’ll end up under budget which is even better. The last time I went in, I found five pairs of Gymboree shorts for my oldest and two pairs of new (with tags) jeans for my husband and the total came to $10! A discount day is the best time to get great deals.

Not sure if your store offers discount days? Call and ask! The worst that will happen is that they say no.


Haggle at a thrift store? Absolutely.

Maybe I watched my father haggle a little too much as a kid, but it stuck with me. Prices are almost always negotiable at thrift stores. It drives me batty to see two items from the same brand, in the same condition for two drastically different prices. Most of the time the cashier will adjust the price of the more expensive item down to match the less expensive one if you ask!

If haggling makes you uncomfortable, that’s ok! It made me super uncomfortable at first too. But then I realized, it’s my money. I need to make it work for me. I had to decide if I was willing to walk away from an item if it was $3 more than others like it. That $3 may not seem like much, but over time, it adds up!

Thrifting isn’t the easiest way to purchase what you need, but it can be the most cost-effective, especially if you follow the rules for thrifting. If you walk into the store with a plan on a discount day and take your time, I bet you’ll find several pieces that meet your needs! And, I bet you’ll be pretty excited about it too. When you walk into Kohls or Target, you know you’ll find cute clothes, but at the thrift store, finding something brand name or super cute becomes more of a thrill. Leave the kids at home, grab a latte, head to your favorite thrift store, and have some fun shopping!

Do you thrift? What are your strategies for getting the best deals?


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