Digging for Tightwad Treasures at Outlet Thrift Stores

If you think I sound frugal, I haven’t introduced you to my sister.  As a stay-at-home mother of five children, Jen has nearly a decade of experience hunting for used bargains at rock bottom prices.   In high school, she planned on becoming a fashion merchandiser and envisioned herself as a buyer for a major department store. Little did she know that two decades later she would be using her savvy style to outfit her family in quality clothing at huge discounts. For less than $500 per year, Jen keeps her whole family of seven clothed in stylish, comfortable duds at a fraction of what most parents pay.   Besides the financial savings, Jen’s family makes a much smaller environmental impact than other similarly sized households because they have bought nearly all of their clothing used.  (They also buy furniture, cars, and everything else used too, but that’s another story.)

While used clothing costs far less than it would new, it can still be expensive to outfit your family at a standard thrift store when you’re on a tight budget.  Jen goes for the ultimate adventure by taking her troop of children to the ultra-discount thrift store outlets.  These bargain super stores are usually only found in large cities, but they may be worth a short drive or bus ride.  Jen shops at the Goodwill Outlet in Hillsboro, Oregon, which stocks items that don’t sell within a certain number of days at regular Goodwill stores. Click here to get a list of Goodwill stores and outlet centers in Oregon.   goodwill-picture.jpg

The first time Jen took me on one of her ultra-thrift expeditions, she prepared me for the “ick factor.”  Clothing is dumped onto large bins and isn’t sorted in any way.  Although it should all be laundered, she says that she has sometimes encountered some funky smells and textures.  There is no dressing room and you are surrounded by endless bins mounded with loads of clothes.

It is an expedition for someone who has more time than money, because it can sometimes take awhile just to find any baby clothes, let alone ones that are in good shape, of the right size, and in the right season.  Jen finds that she has much more luck searching for quality girls’ clothing for her four daughters than items for her son and husband. She endeavors to buy good quality girls clothing that she can sell for a profit on Ebay or at a consignment shop after her little ones outgrow it.


After just an hour of treasure hunting, we had heaped our cart with maternity clothes for me, a sweet little jean jacket for our soon-to-arrive son, Hannah Anderson striped pants in perfect condition, and loads of clothes for all of my nieces and nephews.  Can you guess the total cost for these many dozen good quality garments? $9.65.  That’s right!  Clothing costs just $1.39 per pound if you’re buying less than twenty pounds, but prices drop when you buy higher poundage. 

If you’re smart like my sister, you only buy fifty pounds or more at a time.  The price then?  Fifty-nine cents per pound!  Jen warns that even with a friend, it usually takes her three to four hours to hunt for enough items to provide the fifty pounds needed for the best prices. 

And the deals don’t end with clothing.  Glassware and dishes are also just fifty-nine cents per pound. You can pick up hardback books for one dollar and also find children’s toys for far less than thrift store prices. 

If you’re up for the adventure, outlet thrift stores are a great way to go.  You can save the planet, stock up for baby, and pay a pittance for some amazing steals. Instead of buying organic cotton onesies, you’ll be reusing pre-existent clothing––a much greener action than purchasing new planet-friendly products.  Your infant won’t mind the hand-me-downs and you’ll have a shopping adventure to remember!


  1. Once I have a job (heh heh) and need work clothes, I’m heading to Merlins – a local 2nd hand clothing store.
    I once found a beautiful hand-smocked romper at one of the large 2nd hand places. I was stoked!

  2. THE BINS! Nothing more satisfying than buying your clothes by the pound.=) And seriously, my kids would be just as excited to go there as anywhere. And at those prices, when they find something that they HAVE to have, you don’t really have to say no. I do highly recommend that you thoroughly disinfect every item when you get home and I think this is one time when the hot water cycle may be used on the washing machine. But hey, if you take your kids to the park, they are running where dogs pooped, right? Sorry Joy, I’m getting a little punchy tonight.

  3. Thank you for sharing.

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