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I’m gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pocket…(from the song, Thrift Shop by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis).

When my two step-kids were still living at home, they were pretty easy when it came to clothes shopping.  Sure, they had certain likes and dislikes like everyone else, but they never really made a big deal about sporting the latest and greatest name brands on their backs.

As a matter of fact, when they each entered high school (they are two years apart) I was the one bothering them.  “But this Hollister shirt is dope, yo!”  (No, I didn’t really say that).

It’s just that even when I was making a healthy living working outside the home, I was very frugal and sometimes worried that the kids felt like they were on the outside looking in.  I knew what that felt like, because there wasn’t any way my parents could have ever afforded the name brands for me when I was in high school.  Basically, I wore the same three outfits over and over.

They have now grown up and are living on their own, finding ways to carve out a life on a budget.  That leaves us with one “child” at home who will be heading to high school in the fall.  Let me tell you, he does not take after his brother and sister when it comes to fashion.

The little boy who only cared about wearing Power Rangers or Spiderman shirts (and occasionally his “Steve” polo shirt after the character in Blue’s Clues) is all grown up when it comes to this issue.  I can’t say he cares about tags such as Hollister or Abercrombie and Fitch.  However, he’ll ONLY buy jeans from American Eagle (the others just don’t fit right) and he’ll ONLY buy dress clothes that sport the Express label (the other stores just don’t “get” his style).  Shoes?  He prefers dress shoes from Macy’s and he has collected (with either his own money or from holiday gifts) a very impressive collection of Air Jordan sneakers.  And he’s not quite 14 yet.

I have told him repeatedly that a) he’ll never be able to afford a girlfriend at this rate; b) he might want to consider working at Foot Locker when he’s old enough to work so he can get the employee discount; and c) he might consider taking the holiday money and putting it away for a car because at this rate, he’ll be riding his bike to the Foot Locker.

But one thing I didn’t realize about my son, is that although he has definite ideas about what looks good, what fits, and what the label says, he also likes a bargain (having to save for your own car will do that to you I suppose).  I just assumed that he would balk at the idea of buying something that someone else had already worn, but actually my ideas about being frugal and green have rubbed off on him.  Ahh….balance!

You see, there are SO many more choices today when it comes to fashion on a budget.  It’s not just about clothes either; it’s also about books, movies, collectibles, and even household items.  And whether you love to shop or just enjoy a good bargain, thrift shops and consignment stores are awesome ways to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Reduce:  Every season, we go through our closets and drawers and pick out all the things we no longer love, that no longer fit well or that we haven’t worn in two years.  Face it – if you’re holding onto that cool shirt you bought but you haven’t worn it in two years, how much could you really love it?  And if you’re holding onto those bib overalls hoping they’ll come back in style, forget about it.  Unless you plan to have a career painting houses, toss them onto the “reduce” pile.

One of the ways I know it’s time to start that pile is when I hear my husband or son shout “I need more hangers”.  In my house, that means we have too many clothes.  But we don’t stop at clothes.  We also go through and see if there are books, knick knacks, movies, etc. that can be removed as well.  This keeps our house free from clutter.  Too much clutter is overwhelming and you can start to feel that rather than owning your stuff, your stuff owns you.

The other great thing about reducing is that it gives you the opportunity to help and give.  You are helping the planet by reducing the amount of new things that you buy and you are giving to others, who want what you have, but no longer need.  And that, my friends, creates good karma.  Because when you give, your hands are open to receive the blessings of knowing you’ve done something awesome!

Reuse:  Sometimes, you’ll find things in your closet or drawers that you can actually reuse for other purposes.  Have some cotton T-shirts that are stained and can’t be reworn?  Use them for dusting rags, for craft projects or to put underneath something you’re painting.  Other fabrics can be used to cover cardboard boxes to organize children’s toys or games.  Old books can be used to create cool shelves.  Have an old magazine rack but no longer read magazines?  Affix it to the inside of your cupboard to hold cutting boards or storage container lids.  For these ideas and more, you can visit

Recycle: When most people think about recycling, they think about how to deal with paper, plastic, aluminum and glass.  But you can also recycle the things around your house that you know longer use.  Four times per year, we donate everything from clothes, shoes, coats, books, housewares, etc. to different outlets.  Some are charity organizations that offer these items for free (or at drastically reduced prices) to those in need.  Others are consignment stores that will pay you to take the items off your hands and then turn around and resell them.  It’s a win-win situation.

This past Saturday was a very gloomy day in the Chicago area.  Although it was in the mid-40’s (a warm March day by Chicago standards), it rained on and off throughout the day.  But rather than stay in the house (which is what we did last weekend to clean out closets and drawers), my son suggested we go hit up some thrift shops and consignment stores.  So, we consulted Google, made a map and a plan, and headed out the door.

I have to tell you, it was the BEST day.  So many cool things we saw… brand clothes in excellent condition, shoes that looked like they had only been worn once, purses, wallets, jewelry, coats and hoodies.  We also found baby furniture, small appliances, patio furniture and décor, books, DVD’s, antiques and comic books.  The only reason we came home is that we were exhausted.  But it was a great day and we pulled in a HUGE haul for less than $100.  Had we bought those same items brand new at the mall, we easily would have spent in excess of $400, if not more.

If you have never done this type of shopping before, do a Google search for thrift stores or consignment shops in your area.  Our little town just opened a thrift store and the town next to us has a reputation for selling antiques.  They have about 10 to 15 different stores and a huge festival each summer that we always attend.  About 20 minutes from where I live is a Posh Style store that sells everything second hand, but these are upscale labels sold at drastically reduced prices.  They even do a “Girl’s Night Out” where a stylist will match you and your friends up with entire outfits, accessories included.

If you have teenagers or small children, there are stores that cater to them specifically.  We went into Plato’s Closet and found racks upon racks of jeans, shirts, hoodies, coats, dresses, purses, and shoes.  They even had an entire wall of prom dresses!  Teens bring in their gently worn clothes and get paid a fee.  If you’re a mom that lives by “just say no” to expensive name brands at the mall, you can find them here for pennies on the dollar.  And if you have younger kids, Once Upon a Child is a great place to go.

If getting out of the house to shop is difficult for you, a great place to shop for gently used clothes and toys is online at  This site was created by moms, for moms and features all types of deals and giveaways.  It’s definitely worth checking out (be sure to tell them that Green Moms and Kids sent you).

But if you do get out there to shop, some quick tips to make the experience easier for you and the kids:

* be sure your kids have eaten and are well rested

* be sure your kids are wearing comfortable clothes and shoes that can easily be removed

* be sure to bring healthy snacks, water and reusable bags for your purchases

Some things to look for when you’re out shopping at the thrift shops and consignment stores:

* make sure that the zippers all work properly and the buttons are easy to manage

* look for even small rips or issues with seams because if you don’t sew it won’t be worth the price

* check for odd smells because they might not wash out and can permeate the entire closet

* make sure the items already go with something in your child’s closet so you can enough use out of it

Going green is something you CAN do on a budget.  There are great treasures out there just waiting for you and you can save a lot of money in the process.  Your kids will be enjoy wearing their favorite brands and you won’t have to break the bank.

Tell me, do you shop at thrift shops or consignment stores?  What types of items do you buy?  What was your favorite bargain?  Leave a comment below – we LOVE comments!!


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