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How Thrift Shopping Taught me to Budget as a Child

Updated on August 17, 2017
Rachel Dawidowicz profile image

Growing up in a single mother home, money was budgeted. I want to help others get the best of their wallet.

The reason behind this article

So, it is August and Back to School sales are plastered on every store attracting parents to buy new clothes for their children's new year back to school. As a college student I am dragged right in like I was back in High School. However, while I love creating my own styles, clothes are expensive.

Back in middle school, like many pre teen girls I wanted to fit in (as confidence grew I branched out). However, I was living with my single mother, and then my sister was 7 years old. Being a bullying victim, I especially yearned having the clothes all of the other girls had. Living in a single parent home makes money tight. My mom is a music teacher, so that didn't help much, and despite my dad also financially supporting us, my mom still kept a tight budget.

Because of this, my mom didn't take me to mall stores, and we just went to the classic Children's Place Target and other bargain stores. I would soon discover second hand shopping, and asked my mom to take me to a Goodwill one year. I fell in love. I was able to get the clothes I wanted for a fraction of the cost I would've gotten at the mall. Yes, they were used, but hey a bargain for what I wanted, what is there not to want?

Thrift shopping has since given me a chance to look great for a fraction of the price and help me stretch my wallet. Here is how thrift shopping might just teach your child financial responsibility.

Thrift Stores and Charity

There is nothing like looking your best, and being able to help out others. Many thrift stores like Goodwill are non profits who work with low income families. From the stores profits they are able to offer jobs to those communities. While you are enjoying the bargains, donations help poorer people also look great.Other thrift stores like Out of The Closet use their profits to help fund AIDS/HIV research.

Thrift shopping for sure teaches the importance of reaching out and helping those in your community. Even if the only thing you do is donate clothing, books, or furniture you no longer have use for.

"Mall" Thrift Shops

I put mall in quotations for a reason. While many are familiar with huge thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army, there are thrift stores that specialize exclusively in mall brand clothing, and high end clothing.

While many thrift stores have a reputation for selling used clothing, which apparently labels it as poor quality. In reality, you can find a lot of high end clothing if you dig slowly. I found my prom dress at a high end thrift store for $20 and over two years later it still hangs in my closet.

This being said it is not hard following the trend for less.

One of my favorite high end thrift stores has to be Buffalo exchange.
One of my favorite high end thrift stores has to be Buffalo exchange. | Source

Environmental awareness

Yes, even clothes can be recycled and reused. A little unknown fact that is often unspoken of around the table of environmental conservation. While not recycling plastic or paper does have detrimental effects on our environment, people often forget to include another culprit. Cloth actually takes a while to break down too and is currently filling up landfills fast.

By buying used clothing you are literally reusing clothing that was worn. Upcycling is great for the environment. While it doesn't teach children the importance of budgeting it does teach them the importance of environmental conservation, and energy conservation (Yes believe it or not, a lot of energy is put into making the shirt you are currently wearing).

Here is just a few fibers, and the years it takes to completely decompose. Please note this is one item. Put together all the clothes people throw out a year, and this will show you why thrift shopping is great for our environment.


  • Cotton Glove: 3 years
  • Wool 1-5 years
  • Leather Shoes 25-40 years
  • Nylon 30-40 years

You can see a few clothing items in this list
You can see a few clothing items in this list

Experimental Fashion

I remember growing up, I used to mismatch a lot. I admit, playing dressup is a lot of fun. If you have a child (or yourself) love to experiment with new styles thrift shops are great for that reason. You can buy clothes cheap, and easily alter them in anyway you wish to.

One time, I wanted to splatter paint a pair of jeans, to give it that used look. Instead of buying a new pair for $15 or maybe more, I just went to the thrift store and got a used pair for half. Just threw it into the washer, got some paint and Jackson Pollocked the entire thing.

Buying used lets you alter anything you wish guilt free. I mean, it is like going to art class for a messy project, and wearing an old shirt you are not afraid to get dirty. Buying a used item, to toy with, is like that old shirt. Growing up is all about messes and experimenting. Let them have fun with it.

One last thing

While thrift shops is a store full of bargains with no need for coupons for a great deal, be mindful of what you get. Just stay away from pillows, and couches that don't have removable seatings. Stay away from shoes, underwear, socks... really the obvious here.

Just throw it into the washer, let it dry and go show off your style, and brag about the great deals you scored by going second hand.

Introducing children to thrift stores when they are just starting to understand money is a great way to show them financial responsibility. Clothes is a necessity, and looking good shouldn't be expensive. You aren't only showing them how to save a buck or two, but also show them the importance of energy and environmental conservation. Recycling clothing is a great way to give back to the environment. Also donating clothes you don't need, you are recycling your clothes and helping your community by giving others the gift of great trends for less.

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