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Basketball Sitting on A Basketball Court

Before I get to my tips, I want to thank Deacon for giving me the opportunity to do a bi-monthly post for Well Kept Wallet. The idea behind my articles is to offer some money-saving tips and related coupons, many of which are out-of-the-box, to help you make your monthly paycheck go as far as possible. I have been helping families save money since 2001 through my website Rather-Be-Shopping and hope to do the same on Deacon’s terrific blog.

Kids and teenagers across the country are currently scrambling to get ready for the first day of school and college. Parents are examining supply lists, and incoming college kids are figuring how they’re going to afford to furnish their living space. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are going to spend on average a jaw-dropping $635 to get ready for the upcoming school year. But if you shop smart, you can save serious money, especially if you can take advantage of your local thrift store. Here are six tips for buying back-to-school supplies at the thrift store.

1. Denim & Uniforms

Let’s face it, kids and teens grow like weeds on fertilizer. As they outgrow jeans, slacks, and polo shirts, parents often donate them to thrift stores and Goodwill for quick removal. It simply is the easiest way to clear out stuff that isn’t worn anymore. This creates a great thrift store buying opportunity for you. You can regularly find gently used jeans, slacks, and polo shirts, from name brands like Ralph Lauren, American Eagle, Gap and Old Navy. On a recent thrift store shopping trip, my wife found my son a pair of Gap jeans and only paid $3.99. They are in great shape and will easily last him one full school year. Also, if you are looking for distressed jeans with holes, paint stains, and various rips, look no further than your local thrift store. You’ll pay pennies on the dollar for “destroyed” denim that Abercrombie & Fitch sells for $84.99.

2. Furniture & Decor

Are you looking to stock your dorm room for the upcoming school year? Make sure to stop by the thrift store as you’ll find desks, coffee tables, bed frames, and couches at unbelievable prices. This tip is even better if you are handy enough to refinish a piece on you own. Also, most thrift stores are famous for quirky home decor and wall art. Pick up something really cool and unique, for pennies on the dollar, to spruce up your space. Use the money saved to buy new linens, sheets, and towels.

3. Cold Weather Gear

Also, be sure to stock up for those cold fall and winter mornings right now by shopping for kid’s coats and jackets at your local thrift store. Similar to jeans, many parents (myself included) will donate warm jackets that don’t fit any more to thrift stores. When it comes to children’s coats and jackets, they’re typically still in great condition as kids tend to outgrow them well before they wear them out.

4. Sporting Goods

If you’ve ever had kids outgrow sporting goods and gear, you know how quickly it can pile up in your garage. Thus, many parents will opt to donate unwanted sporting goods to thrift stores giving you a great buying opportunity for fall sports like soccer and cross-country. If your child is planning on participating, shop thrift stores for soccer cleats, balls, shorts, sweatshirts, and athletic t-shirts. Also, if you need athletic clothing for P.E. class, shop smart and stock up with bargains from the thrift store.

5. School Supplies

While new pencils, pens, and spiral notebooks are often loss leaders and can be found really cheap at stores like Wal-Mart and Target, more expensive supplies like backpacks, laptop bags, and desk organizers can be real budget busters if bought brand new. So be sure to check thrift stores for these items as many folks will donate unused items when de-cluttering their office space. Make their garbage your treasure and save some serious cash in the process.

6. Containers & Dishes

I just donated a pile of really nice dishware and Tupperware to Goodwill because our pantry was over-flowing. If you are a college student and need some food storage containers or dishware for your apartment or dorm, check out the thrift store before you head to the expensive department store. For less than $20 you can stock up on enough items to stock your kitchenette or small pantry.

If you strike out at the thrift store when doing your back-to-school shopping, by all means don’t pay full price.

About the Author: Kyle James is the owner and founder of which lists money saving coupons and frugal living tips to over 850 retailers.