Skip to main content

Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Thrifting with Kids

May 28, 2019 02:04PM ● By Donna Production
By Christina Katz

Being a parent has definitely made me thrifty. I am less motivated to buy new since we have an abundance of older, quality items within a short driving distance. Besides, every time we choose resale over newly minted, we set a great example. We keep garbage out of landfills; we emphasize the importance of selecting quality things; and we demonstrate that cheap is not better than durable.

By teaching kids to hunt for happy bargains, they stop making corporate brands richer and keep more of their own money. If they still crave name brands, they can find plenty at local resale shops for a fraction of the usual prices. While a trip to the mall once in a while isn’t going to kill anybody, a balanced attitude about shopping choices is wise counsel. Here are a few ways to instill enlightened shopping habits in your kids.

Frequent estate and garage sales. Let’s say your child has outgrown his bike. Your first instinct might be to head to your local sporting goods chain store to replace it. But hang on a minute. Is your son going to keep growing? Do you want to spend a couple hundred dollars on a bike that is only going to last one or two years? Spend a Saturday morning swinging by estate and garage sales instead, and you will likely find a replacement bike in perfectly good condition for $10–$40. While you are there, I bet you can also find that extra measuring cup you’ve been wanting for the kitchen, some inexpensive décor items, and a few pieces of barely worn clothing. For a fraction of what you might spend on new things, you can fulfill a plethora of family needs. At check-out time, if purchasing multiple items, don’t forget to ask for a discount. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to demonstrate laid-back negotiating skills for your kids.

Encourage collecting. Interesting objects from by-gone days can spark curiosity, turning shopping into a history lesson. Not far from where we live, there is a community of antique shops within walking distance of one another. When we take our daughter shopping there, she often has questions about the eras and uses of items. She has found fascinating old books that have fired up her imagination and inspired her hobbies. So, if you want to pique your children’s interest in the past, take them to antique shops. Once they are old enough to shop calmly and methodically, lure them into antiquing with you by allowing them to start a collection of inexpensive items like tiny bottles, costume jewelry, or vintage toys. Teach them to only collect items that truly move them. They can slowly add to their collections over the years, while practicing patience and selectivity.

Support personal taste and individual style. Department stores feature trendy looks that all the other kids are wearing. There are many styles in a variety of colors. In thrift stores, there is usually only one of each unique item. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach kids to develop an eye for personal tastes that are as unique as they are. Parents can help by ruling out inappropriate or impractical choices and reminding kids to focus on filling needs rather than exploring too many possibilities at once. Initially you may spend more time in the thrift store dressing room dividing items into piles of Yes or No. But this is time well spent since kids are learning about the power of personal choice. Shop on days when your child is in a lighthearted mood and will be better able to hunt and gather efficiently. Days when kids are feeling emotional or self-conscious are not good days to go thrift-store shopping. 

Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina Katz has been cultivating thrifty shopping skills for decades. She feels especially proud when her daughter experiences the satisfaction of finding a good bargain and the thrill of zeroing in on the perfect find.