Although there are certainly times when you’ll want your kids to buy items brand new (shoes and underwear are perhaps two of the best examples), there are plenty of circumstances where opting for second-hand goods is super savvy. Thrift stores are great places to find bargains. You’ll want to head to them with your children for these positive reasons:
1) They’ll come to understand that value isn’t exclusive to new stuff.
Thrift stores occasionally sell a handful of new items, but the majority of their business is based entirely on the concept of product recycling. Items still can be completely functional, even if they’re not right out of the packaging. In fact, an item being in a thrift store is often testimony to its quality—it has withstood one person’s use and is still serviceable! It’s this functionality that you want your kids to focus on, not where the item was purchased. If they can grasp that even used items still can do the job, they potentially can save big, which can support other money-related goals they have.
2) They’ll think outside of the box.
Much of the time, your kids will go to a thrift store for an item they’ll use exactly as it was intended, such as if they find a nice pair of jeans or a pan to make their favorite brownies in. Even so, thrift stores are also awesome places to shop to get creative and make something new. For example, an old entertainment center can be remade into a kids’ play cooking station, or a wooden shoe caddy could be turned on its back to serve as a divided planter. Challenge your kids to see these secondary uses for what’s available. They’ll save money, have fun, get good at innovating and do something kind for the environment!
3) They’ll do something good for the community.
Thrift stores are often run by charitable organizations, such as Housing Works. The proceeds this kind of thrift store takes in from your kids’ purchase support not only the store, but also the other community services the charity provides—these can range anywhere from job training to HIV testing. Have your children take a look at the different services connected with the thrift stores in your area so you can find one with causes they align with, and take the time to talk to them about why those causes resonate with them. You’ll learn about your kids all while getting them to see the needs of others.
4) They can express themselves.
Thrift store items are often cheap enough that kids can afford to experiment with different styles. This doesn’t just apply to clothes. That mounted plastic dinosaur head? Why not? A window lounge straight out of a Country Living magazine? Absolutely. If they tire of their purchase, they haven’t wasted a ton of cash and even can donate it back if they want. If they love it, they know what it feels like to just be who they are. Either way, it’s a win-win arrangement.
5) They can try their hand at selling and earn some extra cash.
Even if your kids don’t need something they see in the thrift store, they might know someone who could. They can buy the item and sell it to the person who needs it at a reasonable profit. Your kids can do this for specific individuals, but they also can buy items to sell garage-sale style or even over the Internet. Craigslist and eBay are well-established routes, but there are plenty of other options. If your kids are a little older, they also could take a slightly more sophisticated approach, taking requests from clients and then going out to the shops to buy them on the customer’s behalf for a fee. This is a great method to delve into concepts like supply and demand, market trends, in-depth price comparisons and determining market value. Don’t forget that your kids also can make sellable crafts from thrift store finds, too!
Thrift stores provide some valuable money lessons your kids can apply through their entire lives. Use these businesses not just to help your kids be money smart, but also to encourage their creativity, community awareness and self-expression.