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Reader Tip: How buying used helped me become a stay-at-home mom

Cheryl emailed in the following tip:

When I told my husband I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, he was very skeptical about living on one income. I was very passionate about this however, so after a hesitant “yes” from my husband, I was determined to make it work.

One of the major ways I keep our costs down is by utilizing thrift stores and garage sales.

First of all, some of you may be thinking gunky, funky, and skunky. Usually, thrift stores don’t keep those kind of donations anyway.

Some things may be too worn, but I don’t buy that stuff. I’ve trained my eyes to look for the good condition, quality items. I’ve found plenty.

For example, I have name brand clothing in my closet that I normally would have never bought even if I was working, such as Banana Republic and Anne Taylor. But I found them at the thrift store.

A new article of clothing with the tags still on is, at the most, $4. Usually I find things for $2-3, and an even better day is when they have 50% off all items in the store.

I also find great books. I try not to buy books for myself anymore, however, I like my children to have good books on their shelf. I’ve found books such as: Corduroy, Black Beauty, Hardee Boys, Little House on the Prairie, I Spy, and Berenstain Bears all in excellent condition.

I also find good quality educational toys, board games, movies, office supplies… and even a Hunter ceiling fan with a baseball theme for my son. I just checked the price of the fan online. The lowest price was $90. I got it for $12. There is nothing cosmetically wrong with it. If I discover that it doesn’t work, the store has a 30-day return policy for store credit.

We live in Florida, so I love sandals. I would like a pair of leather Reef sandals, but they are so expensive. I figured I would ask for them as a birthday present, but I recently found my size at a local garage sale. They were worn, but not too much — and they were only $1!!! Sold. -Cheryl

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  • Kamila says:

    Almost 90% of what we own (military) is from a thrift store, yard sale or given to us by friends. We are also one income family and I don’t mind one bit. I actually like it better.

  • Mallory T says:

    I found out that I love Anne Taylor Loft clothing because I kept buying it at Goodwill. I would have never gone in that store if I hadn’t been buying used. And I’ve only bought two blouses from the store and they were on clearance. I still love to find it at Goodwill and other nicer consignment shops.

    • Joy says:

      Ditto! I have several Ann Taylor Loft pieces now that I bought NWT or in hardly worn condition thanks to our Salvation Army and Rescue Mission thrift stores. 🙂 And, like you I never bought those when I worked full-time in marketing and PR. I’m now a substitute teaching assistant so I had to update my wardrobe for very little money and this is how I do it. And, I always find new shoes or never worn shoes for under $5.

  • says:

    That is great! I almost never buy books for myself, anymore. I abuse the library and download a ton of free books from Amazon. I do buy one every now and then, but it is a special treat.

    • amber says:

      I was at the library yesterday and asked how many books can you check out at a time. She started to laugh and said ”more then you can carry, 99.”

      • says:

        I love, love, love the library. Most people don’t even know all of the cool stuff that their libraries offer. My system offers free downloadable ebooks and audiobooks, chilton database for working on your cars, and the language program Mango. They also have a coupon club exchange…swoon.

      • says:

        Wow, ours is only 20! And with very stiff fines if you are even a day late. Stinks 🙁

        • Diana says:

          Our library sucks, the one day late fees are outragious. A friend on mine turned 5 books in late 2 weeks the cost 100$ for 5 Kids books, because you see they charged her late fees each day then the week was another big late late fee then the following each day a late fee and then again a late late fee. She received one notification that’s when she Called and was told it was 100$ she told them what would of happened if I lost the boo, well late fees and then the book cost which was double the price for the library when she could get it half the price at a new book store. So she told then to stuff it and she wasn’t going to pay, who could afford that rediculous fees for 2 weeks late and then they neve ed her until weeks later causing the price to rise and she didnt even know about the fees, isn’t that why they have email amd your phone miner so they can quick remind u of late books or that u have a unpaid bill??? Nope its their way of raising that cost so noone pays a decent fine! I don’t use the library wither, the last tin I did they took 6 months to get me the bill I owed and I asked why it took so long and they said it’s not their department it went to collections right away once the book was turned in late… noone ever ed me via anything and when the bill came o called asking WTH is this and why is it 6 months kste, “were r just too busy and have only 2 girls doing billing and late fees!” Ha ha sure. I wish our town library was better but I won’t use them anymore. I don’t mind paying a fee for the 2 weeks late that’s my fault but to not me via emaik, phone or mail for months just to rack up the bill is rediculous amd the book is still on their shelf, I mean it it’s late pay fines up to the cost of the book but to charge people hundreds of dollars for 5 books that are 8.00$ at a book store is crazy.

  • says:

    Huge lover of second hand items. I know it sounds strange to some but when we were especially tight on money I use to pray over my needs before I left for the thrift store. I remember this one time my son who was 3 at the time desperately needed a new winter coat. Temperatures were dropping and I was running out of time to find one in the second hand market. I decided I would give it one more shot at the thrift stores bag sale the next day and if I did not find it there we would just have to do without something else that month and I would break down and buy a new one. I prayed that morning before our van left the driveway Lord you know what I need a warm coat for my 3 year old. I got there and what did my eyes see as I entered the door but a like new Gap down filled coat in my son’s size. A kind elderly lady even showed me how to roll it up and punch it down so I could fit more in the bag with it. The coat ended up costing me .25 cents if I remember right since a bag of items was $4 that day. Things are not as tight for us financially now but I still make up a list of our needs and shop second hand so as to be a wise steward.

  • says:

    Garage sales and thrift stores are a real blessing.

    Our thrift store prices are considerable higher than yours (most items are $4) but I have found some beautiful things there.

    In general I like garage sale prices better (clothing items for .25, .50, and $1, and books for .25 to $2 each), but it always depends on the sale.

    I have found new items at both places as well as used items that often look brand-new.

    I go with a list of needed items to both places, and I look at what we need, which helps me to stay focused on the proirities, and to make sure I purchase enough (but not too many) of needed items (such as the needed number of shorts or shirts).

    And as Kamila said above, hand-me-downs from others are always a blessing!

  • Lee L says:

    Don’t forget about Craigslist and Freecycle… Bikes, furniture, just about anything you can think of. Often it requires a bit of patience to get what you would like within your price range, but worth a try as well.

  • Rebecca Dula says:

    I have a garage full of craft supplies because of the thrift store. I buy all our holiday decorations at thrift stores. There is NO REASON to pay full price.

  • amber says:

    This is how we also save lots of money. We are a family of four and my husband is the only one who works. I stay home and homeschool the kids. My husband brings home $1,600 a month and $700 of that has to go to our mortgage. If there is anything we need we always look at the thrift shop first. We also use craigslist, yard sales (but those are getting out of hand now $6 for a casual girls dress), we have picked up somethings free off the side of the road (a metal daybed my favorite). Also we are lucky to get hand-me-downs for our two girls.

  • Marie says:

    I try to buy used whenever possible. I don’t know why there is such a stigma with it but generally the items are like new if not new.
    I generally garage sale too. Our community is having there big sales this week but I purposed to stay home today. I had a garage say 4 days in the last 2 weeks. I’ve been trying to purge. And I didn’t have a list of items I NEEDED. However, my neighbor was having a sale today and I noticed a little camp chair. My youngest doesn’t have one but the other two children do. I realized this was perfect for her so I walked over and it cost me a $1.
    I feel could not bringing a bunch of stuff back into the house by choosing not to go garage sales.

  • Shirley says:

    My husband is king of finding good deals. I always thought I was good, but he has found expensive, brand new with tags Jordan tennis shoes at a thrift store for $10. He regularly finds Under Armour for himself & our boys, which I refuse to buy new. He lives for garage sale season. It is kind of our Saturday family thing to do now and our boys love it. It has become a game to see who can find something the want or need for as little as possible. My 8-year-old even calls out sales that he sees when we are not looking. Love it! 🙂

    • says:

      We also go “treasure hunting” as a family. My step-daughter loves it. When she was little, we told her that she had to haggle if she wanted something and it was out of her budget. It improved her confidence and she learned a valuable life lesson.

  • Katie says:

    That’s the EXACT fan I have picked out for my sons room when we move into our new home!! Now I’m going to be scouring the thrift stores. LOL

  • says:

    I love scouting for deals at Goodwill and consignment stores! I recently found a whole series of children’s classic books for $1 each at Goodwill that were like new…I don’t think they had even been opened. My daughter’s summer wardrobe consists of almost all Gymboree clothes that I bought at a consignment sale for only $2-$3 per piece. My favorite is finding expensive brands like Ann Taylor for myself 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    I’ve enjoyed thrifting since I was a child and took advantage of “Military Discount Wednesday” every week while we were stationed in Georgia.

    Unfortunately, we transferred to western Washington where thrift stores have a strange misconception that they are actually retail stores – you are “lucky” to find anything decent marked below $4… if it’s a well-known brand, like Gap, you’re looking at $7 or more. They even scan books (all of ’em) at the local Goodwill so that higher value books aren’t put on the shelves. That means all the wonderful Usborne books are shipped over to Seattle so they can be posted online at Amazon. Disappointing.

    We are soon to transfer to the greater Omaha area and I’m hopeful we’ll find their pricing a bit better! Reading the comments from other areas of the country shows me that it’s not a nationwide trend to overprice at thrift stores!

    • says:

      I need to try this more! I always love a good deal but have given up on thrift stores. Ours are so nasty and it’s rare to find anything that I would ever wear. However, I have noticed a few new stores pop up so I am inspired to go and check them out soon. Nothing better than getting an outfit for a few bucks! Thanks for the tips!

    • Diana says:

      Our good will site is doing that now too, send everything to their online store and put high price Tags on them. Then add shipping you may well go but new for most things. 🙁

  • Kate says:

    My {soon-to-be} husband is currently the only one working. I do some contract baking for a few clients and that pulls in some extra money for us, but I quit my job a few months back. The commute was terrible, the boss was less than desirable, and the job itself was more dangerous than they led on..

    Originally, we had planned that I would find something else, but we are in a very tough spot right now (not financially). My fiance is currently working at one job, but is being put through the police academy by a department. Once he finishes, we may or may not have to move to a certain radius around the department. Because of this, we don’t know if I should be looking for a job here, or there, or where. So…we’ve decided to have me stay at home.

    I love it. I love being able to care for our home and for my fiance the way I wanted to when I worked 50+ hour weeks. It has been a blessing for our budget, really. I am able to make all of our meals, garden, coupon, bake, etc. We’re getting married Aug 3 and hope to conceive shortly after, if God allows. We do not plan for me to work outside the home when we have children, so we are being blessed by the time beforehand in learning to live on one income while still saving, and getting things in order.

    I think 90% of what we have has been second hand. I grew up frequenting thrift stores and garage sales, and I love it. I love the treasures you can find and the deals to be had. I have so many brand new things that were bought for pennies on the dollar. Fiance didn’t grow up ever setting foot at a garage sale or thrift store. He did not think he was above them, however, assumed there was nothing we needed there or true deals to be had. Thankfully, he now loves them as much, or more, than I do! His work wardrobe has been furnished completely from a thrift store right near us, and our house is full of decor and furniture and ‘tools’ from secondhand. I think it gives character, and it teaches us and others about all the waste as well as to be miserly.

    I love secondhand! And it is what enables me to stay home…we keep a very small budget, and are able to stay within it.

  • Bonnie says:

    My daughter love love loves to read and if I had to pay full price for her book collection. . . Well I couldn’t!!! But thrift stores and garage sales have enabled me to buy hundreds of her favorite collections for pennies on the dollar!

  • Josephine says:

    The hospice in our town has a wonderful thrift shop.
    Good prices and really nice things. It is a pleasure to
    shop there and it feels good that the money is going
    to hospice.

  • Kathy D says:

    Would love to be a one-income family and would happily sacrifice to achieve it. Unfortunately, husband would rather the higher income.

  • says:

    We have great luck with dress pants for my husband at the Goodwill. Plus, on the first Saturday of the month everything in the store is 50% off!

    I’ve also bought used candles that have been slightly burned too! (The only person that knows they’re used is you!)

  • says:

    You are doing a great job! We do the same and we calculate all our income on Excelle, so we can know how much we may buy !

  • jennifer says:

    All I ever knew was hand me downs when I was younger. We would get a few things new but they where mostly gifts. I find that as a mom I am more then happy to be given cloths for my girls. I will take girls cloths from anyone. I dont always keep everything we are given. Somethings we dont need and some have spots on them. The damaged cloths we try to reuse. While the others we regive. Plus we buy used if we can to fill in the blanks

  • Kathy says:

    Love the thrift stores , my best find was a selection of Vera Bradley handbags!

  • liz says:

    you must live next to nice thrift stores. The one closest to me does not have many sales. Their items are usually not very cheap either!
    $7 men shirts usually and dresses from Forever 21 are often $7 and up; those are usually on sale for $5 at F21 haha smh.

  • Cheryl says:

    *Update: The fan works and looks great in my son’s sport themed room. Frugal hubby was impressed, since we were planning on replacing my son’s fan anyway. 🙂

  • Mendy says:

    I use garage sales, thrift stores, FB sell sites , estate sales and junk shops as additional resources to get what I need both immediately and long term. I buy any clothing items my family will wear and any good quality clothing under a dollar to take to the consignment shop to resell for extra cash or credit for things we need. I buy any consumable products we can use, usually score at estate sales. I buy vintage, signed art, antiques, novelties to resell. I really do well when it comes to finding things for my classroom, then I can use any alloted money from school for things I can’t find and need. I have always bought used furniture and when I get tired of it I generally am able to resell it for more than I payed. I buy any cloth napkins I can find that are often like new, so we have not used paper towels for about 3 years now. I am not poor, we both work and have a nice home. I just choose to shop this way for our large family so that I can use my money to do more things. I have never understood why people have a hard time with buying used when they will sleep in a hotel or go out to eat, where hundreds of people have used the bed or silverware, etc. When at a garage sale only one person or family had used the item. I always clean and sanitize everything. Every time I check out at a thrift store they say “You really found some nice things!” You have to look at everything to spot the diamonds.

  • Heather Roche says:

    Thrift stores are truly the best! I currently go to a thrift shop daily. The one I go to lets you fill a red shopping basket up with clothes for just $2! Kids books are 5 for $1. I love love love shopping second hand. I have so many name brand items in my closet and so do my kids. I have found diamond rings that people have over looked and marked for $1. I currenly love buying my girls the jewelry jars from Goodwill.

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