Dressing your child on a budget – Part Two: Buying second-hand


Kiddley reader Jen from Semantically Driven submitted her tips for dressing your kids a tight budget. We decided to turn her ideas into topics for a series which will run over a number of weeks.

Last week we looked at Hand-me-downs and next week’s article will be on looking for clothing on sale in regular stores, followed by buying and selling kids clothing on Ebay and finally making clothes for your kids… If you are interested in submitting your own tips on these future topics please do so. If you have any tips for this week or last week’s topics please leave them in the comments.
This week we are exploring the intoxicating world of buying kids’ clothes second-hand.

Jen says:

Op-shops (thrift shops): Keep an eye out for children’s clothing in op shops. It’s possible to pick up some great stuff in almost perfect condition… if you’re fashion conscious for your child, is that fashions are cyclic so something that was fashionable 20 years ago is probably fashionable again now if you’re lucky enough to find something from that long ago… there are more babies and toddlers clothes available in op shops because they haven’t had the chance to be worn out as easily as older kids clothes.

Specialty secondhand clothing shops: The other option in second-hand clothing shops is the specialty clothing shops for kids. Usually you can take in your pre-loved items of clothing and get some money for them and you can buy pre-loved clothing there as well. This clothing is a bit more expensive but still cheaper than buying brand new.

Kiddley Says:

It really does make complete sense to buy second hand clothing for your kids. Nothing last more than a few months in those early years so it’s hard to justify spending huge amounts on designer clothing when it will get such limited wear. Likewise, the second hand stuff you can find in thrift stores, flea-markets, consignment stores and garage sales often has only had a little use and can be still quite new and up-to-date (or as Jen mentions, excitingly vintage!). You really need to do a little exploration of your local op-shops and find out which ones are discerning and stock the better stuff. I have seen baskets of faded, greying, stained kids clothing many-a-time which makes my skin kind of crawl even imagining dressing a child in them, but in other places I have found heart-stoppingly cute things which I can’t believe anyone would toss.

Our local flea-market seems to be a goldmine for baby and children’s clothing. Quite often there will be whole stalls of goods manned by parents whose littlies are obviously not so little anymore. As with all flea-market (and garage sale) excursions, it’s important to go early to get the best stuff.

Stephanie at Little Birds has a great list of things to keep in mind when going out thrifting. She has useful tips such as “Keep a thrift store wish-list. Sometimes you need a little reminder.” and her golden “Is this worth twice the price to me?” rule which is something I really need to keep in mind. She also mentions how she manages to thrift shop with kids… “If my kids aren’t happy being there, we leave. I try to make it work, but I much prefer going thrifting on my own or with an adult companion!”

HGTV has a page of tips for shopping at garage sales, including “Take clothing measurements of family members ahead of time. Carry a list of sleeve lengths, inseams, neck, chest and waist sizes, and pack along a cloth measuring tape to see if items are likely to fit” (useful!)

Here are some more pages of tips for garage sale shopping:
Shopping Tips for National Garage Sale Day &
14 Tips to Help You Find Great Deals at Garage Sales

Gurl.com has a guide to thrifting for teens — and while most of the stuff is very much about finding groovy vintage looks and taking the time to swot up on your vintage labels so you can spot a good bargain, it also has some invaluable advice such as “Go to the bathroom and eat before you go. There’s nothing worse than having to pee while you’re trying to thrift.” (!) and “Get to know the sorters: They can tip you off when good stuff comes in, or even set it aside.”

A wonderful book on the subject of Thrifting is the now classic:

Thrift Score by Al Hoff.


It now seems to be sadly out of print, but you can still find it second hand it seems.

Reader suggestions:

Adrianne points us to her friend’s new venture – Baby & Kid’s Market with Australian dates and locations.

“I have bought so many fab clothes for my children here from 50 cents to $20. If you go early you get the best choices but if you leave it to late in the day the bargains are unbelievable! A great way to declutter your cupboards and take a stand against mass consumerism whist dressing your kids in stylish clothes”

Heather writes:

“I frequent thrift stores in a wealthy area, where kids tend to wear uniforms for private schools, moms and grandmas like to shop at children’s boutiques, and families are small so clothes are rarely handed down to siblings. Most of these parents are not interested in holding tag sales or dealing with consignment stores, so they donate carloads of practically new clothes and toys to the charity thrift stores. In fact, a lot of what I buy from the thrift IS new and unworn.”

Asha from Parent Hacks has some tips for selling your kids’ used clothes and one of her readers sent in a tip for making sure you match clothes (sizes and styles) in the store so that you come away with a few useful complete outfits rather that lots of odds and ends.

Iona says:

” I’ve only recently started thrifting and overcoming my congenital blindness to op shops and garage sale signs, so what I’m about to mention is probably appallingly obvious but here goes anyway. Op shops are great for kid sized pieces of fabric going very cheaply. But I’ve found the greatest saving is in sewing patterns – these often sell for 50c or $1 which is a whole lot better than $15 or $18. Many are unused; there are lots of kid’s patterns; and sometimes there are great vintage finds.
The best finds have been sewing manuals such as a 1979 Simplicity sewing manual ($2!) which covered fitting, pattern alterations and sewing technique and other manuals for stretch knit fabrics. This has given me the confidence to go through the patterns and make the most of what I find – if the pattern’s a size 3 but my child is size 4 I know that I’ll be able to adjust the pattern to fit.”

Thank you for your ideas this week. If you have any more around the topic of buying second-hand kids’ clothes please leave them in the comments below. If you have any useful tips for next week’s topic which is finding bargains in regular stores, please be sure to email them to us.

5 Responses to “Dressing your child on a budget – Part Two: Buying second-hand”

  1. Lauri

    At my childs school uniforms are required, so when my children out grow them i pass them to a neighbor that has younger children that will be attending the school and my friend has a daughter the same age as mine but her child wears a different size so what she grows out of i get for the next year , or i go to thrift shops and find uniforms and sometimes they have specials of the day such as buy 2 get one free, which helps out alot

  2. Aoife


    Which flea market is your good local? Camberwell?

    I have heard of (but never gone) of the St Vinnes at Kew which gets new woollen stuff for babies and kids made by community minded grandmas in Tasmania and sent there to sell at ridiculously cheap prices.

  3. andi

    I live in the street that the St. Vinnies in Kew (East) is on the corner of and they don’t have new woollen stuff for babies and kids – in fact they hardly ever have good stuff. The op shop (epilepsy) in the main group of shops up the road has the hand knits. My tip for thrifty kids clothes shopping… There’s a kidswear store (not around here) that gives 75% off their designer wear when you buy 8 pieces or more at the end of the season. I grab what fits my boys (or will fit my boys) and make up the eight with stuff I can sell on ebay. Free designer wear. 🙂

  4. Baby Cheapskate

    Great article! You’ve really covered all the bases! The only thing I can think to add is not to wait until the weekend to hit the thrift stores. The stores restock early in the week–that’s when all the new stuff gets put out.

  5. radmama

    Get to know your brand names, so you can watch out for quality and/or resale value.

    Some brand names are irregular in quality, but others are very consistent in quality and sizing.

    Land’s End and Hanna Anderssen are very good and there are smaller labels that are fantastic to watch out for.

    Cloth diapers, baby onesies and baby slings are also good to watch for. They are practically dirt cheap second hand and if you have kids you almost always know someone with a baby!

    As my oldest kidlet is almost 10 and has very few clothing items that were bought new, I have a few more ideas… I’ll mull, edit and pass them along.

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