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Frugal Back-to-School Shopping at Goodwill

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kids modeling Goodwill clothes for back-to-schoolMy family wanted to see just how frugal and green we could be with back-to-school clothing basics. So, we headed to one of the nation’s largest Goodwill stores, in Cookeville, Tennessee.  The nonprofit resale outlet rivals a typical mega-discount store in square footage.  We found a brightly lit store with spacious, long aisles of neatly hung clothing organized by size and color.

Our goal was to pull together a week’s worth of early fall school outfits with a pair of rugged shoes for a Kindergarten boy as well as a girl, for as little money possible.  We looked for the most well-constructed, often name-brand items.
Boy’s School Wardrobe from Goodwill
For our fictitious boy, we rounded up classic Levi’s and Old Navy jeans, Old Navy cargo pants, Children’s Place pants and one pair of discount store-brand shorts. We spotted a button-front shirt that still had an original retail tag on it, plus Polo and Gap Kids shirts.  The everyday price for each shirt or pant was $2.49.  We spotted a pair of Skechers sneakers for $4.99.  Our back-to-school boy’s wardrobe containing five mix and match outfits with one pair of shoes came to $29.89 before tax.
Girls’s School Wardrobe from Goodwill
We found similar selection in the girl’s clothes.  We paired a Land’s End red polo shirt with Ralph Lauren khacki pants, creating an outfit for less than $5.00.  We purred over the cute boutique Kelly’s Kids t-shirt with the cat applique, wearing it with Children’s Place jeans.  Other labels found in girl’s clothes were Gymboree and Eddie Bauer.  We added one extra piece to our girl’s wardrobe, because we needed leggings to layer under a mint condition Ralph Lauren skirt.  Five outfits plus Nubalance running shoes added up to $32.38.

Because Goodwill stores often have discount days when certain colors of pricetags are 50% off or even .99-cents per item, we could have theoretically cut our wardrobe cost from around $30 to $15. Pretty amazing, considering you can easily spend more than that on just one pair of children’s jeans at retail.

Some precautions when buying children’s clothing at thrift stores:
 
Check the condition of clothing before buying, looking for stains, broken zippers and missing buttons.
 
Sizes may run small because of shrinkage; be sure to try things on.
 
Note the return policy, as you may be able to return for store credit; some sales are as-is and final.
 
Launder everything before wearing.
Back-To-School with Goodwill
Take stock of your child’s current wardrobe to make the most efficient use of your next thrift store shopping trip.
If you need another reason besides savings to shop at Goodwill, you should know that the store offers you the chance to help save the planet.  The organization’s website notes that it diverts more than two billion pounds of clothing and household goods from landfills every year.  Attendants are careful to even save every hanger for reuse at the stores.  And of course, proceeds from Goodwill stores go to provide employment and build job skills for thousands of people who need it.
My helpful assistants chose their favorites from the clothes they modeled, and we purchased those for their school wardrobes. We love mixing and matching thrift store finds with the occasional new item and what they already have at home.

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