Green Your Back-to-School Shopping

Our post on Vintage and Thrift Store Gift Giving received so much feedback, we thought we’d try our hand — our secondhand that is — at some Back to School thrift shopping.

We’re happy to welcome Elise Adams to share the tips she uses to shop for her family.  Elise is the expert behind Adams Organizing.  More than just alphabetizing your spice rack, Elise and her husband Andre focus on helping you clean out the spiritual closets of your life.  They walk their talk and live the minimalist lifestyle.  I hope you enjoy her advice as much we do.

Back-to-School Thrift and Second-Hand Shopping

By Guest Author: Elise Adams

A hidden silver-lining to financial troubles is the green and recycling activities that are even easier to participate in when we don’t have the cash to just run out and grab the latest, newest stuff off the shelf.  This is never more true than when considering back-to-school shopping for our kids!

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Elise's girls

This year is my very first year preparing two little girls for school.  I’ve revamped my usual frugal habits and even added a few new tricks to be prepared and peaceful before the end of August.  In fact, I’m all stocked for the coming year already.

Just in case you aren’t already all set for the coming year take a look at these back-to-school strategies.

1.  Start EARLY! 

Thinking ahead can save you lots of money and help you recycle friends and family members outgrown, yet still great uniforms or school outfits. If this is the first time you are considering compiling resources it’s not too late to start now. Make a few phone calls to playdate mom’s or families from church–see if anyone has left over items that they are just now discovering their own children have grown out of. Whatever you do, don’t wait till the day before school starts.  The later you wait the more you’ll be tempted to just grab whatever you see  in the stores out of desperation!

2.  Make a list.

A basic list of items needed along with the items you already have on hand will help you refrain from stocking up TOO much.  One of the values that goes along with ‘green living’ is simplicity.  Over-stuffing the closet doesn’t help you or the kids in the long run.

3.  Visit your local second hand stores often!

I am not buying even ONE new clothing item for my kids this year.  (The only items I do purchase new are socks, tights and underwear.) Even shoes and coats I find for better prices at my local Goodwill or consignment shops.

A huge key to shopping successfully at these shops is having your list in hand and visiting the shops often. Second hand or resale store inventory turns over nearly weekly.  Make a habit of scanning through the racks for items still missing from you list on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

4.  Accept hand-me-downs gracefully.

Because we’ve been consciously poor ever since my kids were babies they are always excited by these generous gifts from friends or strangers alike.  But you don’t have to focus on the price points or financial picture aspect of this strategy. If you aren’t practiced at being up front and awake with your neighbors or friends about the gaps in your list start today!  You’ll be surprised at how many folks from EVERY level of financial security are happy to trade, barter or just plain give away great stuff.  (It’s cool these days to personally recycle.)

5.  Organize your back-to-school clothing in a specific area.

This will help you see your progress over the next few weeks.  Don’t panic if you don’t have a full school-year of clothes bought/purchased by the time the school-year begins.  All our kids need is a few outfits to get going that first week of school and you can continue to add to this over the first few weeks/months of this next school year.

The greatest idea I ever came across for organizing school clothes is from Heather, the Mogul Mom.  She uses hanging shelves to lay out a weeks worth of outfits for her girls.  This way a full weeks outfits are laid out in one place…no more hunting for the right top to go with the right pants or skit while on the way out the door in the morning!

Bonus Guilt-Free Tip

Lastly, whether a simple lifestyle is old hat to your family or brand new, try to remember that the purpose of clothing is to keep ourselves warm or cool–and NOT in the popular sense.  Sometimes I wish for the simplicity of my Grandma’s day when one good pair of shoes was all one hoped for every year when school started.  Let’s remember that teaching our children to focus on the rich experiences open to them is so much more important than the brands or styles they’ll be wearing!
Author Bio:

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Elise and Andre Adams

Elise Adams is a motivational speaker, author and coach dedicated to giving struggling people a ‘hand up not a handout’.  She inspires and motivates regularly on as well as in a weekly podcast titled ‘Living in Recovery’. This December Elise’s story of triumph from tragedy will be featured in the All You magazine.  Elise offers a free course entitled 7 Survival Strategies for Tough Times that is getting great reviews like these ‘Elise Adams knows what she’s talking about – from both personal experience and hard work.” Stop by Adams Organizing and start your one week adventure with Elise today!

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  • Lori Alper

    Great suggestions for thrift and second-hand shopping! I have ALWAYS accepted hand-me-downs. I also make an effort to pass our  used clothing on to families in need. I have three boys very close in age and they grow incredibly fast. It has always made perfect sense to me to share clothing with others. There’s nothing like getting a box of clothing from a friend-it’s like shopping in your own home! This year I’m a little behind the eight ball-school starts in a week and we still need to shop for some clothing. I’m impressed that you aren’t buying anything new this year.

  • Free Range Mama

    A great article.  We live in a society with disposable income, and therefore disposable clothing, furniture, toys, and just about everything else!  Talk about an abuse to the world we live in.  Thrift store shopping is not only budget friendly, but it is eco-friendly (after all, you are reusing and reducing) and now I am also starting to wonder if it is safer, health-wise since the clothing has been prewashed. 

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