Thrift store shopping tips and tricks for back-to-school

KARE 11’s Jennifer Austin, a self-proclaimed “Clearance Shopping Queen,” gives advice on how to thrift your way through your back-to-school shopping list.

MINNEAPOLIS — My mother gave me many pieces of advice as she was raising me, but maybe none so engrained into my being as this: Never pay retail.

After years of practice scouring clearance racks, thrift store aisles, and discount shops, here are some of my tips for scoring a back-to-school deal:

Thrifting can be a lot of work. It can take many stops, and hours spent, before you find what you want at a price you’re willing to pay.

Buying preowned items online is a lot easier. I’ve gotten many deals on eBay and Postmark. I find that these two places work best when you have a very specific item you’re looking for. Example: A blue Nike windbreaker size 5T.

The search results can get a tad overwhelming if you’re looking for something vague. Example: A pink sweater.

Heads up: For both these sites, keep an eye on shipping costs. Sometimes, even if you get a deal, shipping can be so high that the item is just as – or more – expensive than just buying something new.

If you’re going to brick-and-mortar thrift and discount stores, timing is everything. Sometimes, you might just get lucky and find a steal. But you’ll improve your odds if you ask a store employee when they restock and when they do markdowns.

I’ve never met a discount store I didn’t like. That said, here are two of my favorites:

Once Upon a Child. I’ve scored awesome deals at most of the locations in the Twin Cities (there are several). For the most part, I buy preowned children’s clothing. But I’ve also purchased toys, and even a pencil holder filled with new number two pencils.

This is also a great place to resell the clothing and toys your children have grown out of.

Open Box Buys. I’ve been to the Anoka location, but there’s one in St. Francis, too.

It’s not actually a thrift store. They sell new items, items with open or damaged packaging, and sometimes minor flaws.

4. The one item to buy new

Children’s shoes. You should buy them new, according to The American Podiatric Medical Association.

Because shoes form to the first user’s foot, meaning they won’t fit quite the same for the second kid who wears them. That can hurt… and can spread fungus.

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