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Oregon Family Magazine

Thrift Shopping With Your Teen

03/04/2024 ● By Katy M. Clark
I never thought that I would be flipping through a rack of shirts, all size Small, with such fervor. After all, I wear a size Large. Plus, I didn’t need a shirt. 

But there I was, at my teenager’s request, hunting for small Lululemon tops in the athletic wear section of my local thrift store. Meanwhile my teenage daughter was a few aisles away in the casual wear section scouring those racks for the trendy athleisure brand.

We were thrifting, aka on a mission for designer duds at discounted prices. And we were not alone. Lots of like-minded people were seeking new-to-them treasures in the thrift store that day. That’s because thrifting is white hot, both as a way to be socially responsible and a way to save money on name brands.

I’m happy to report that my daughter was able to score a few Lululemon pieces--for a fraction of their original price! I give credit to my daughter for her thrifting success. Not only did she use me to divide and conquer the store, but she employed other strategies that increased her chances of finding amazing pre-owned pieces at fantastic prices. I share her strategies and other helpful tips below. May these empower your teen to be the boss of their next thrifting trip!

1. Make a list of all the thrift stores in your area. You’ve probably heard of national ones like the Salvation Army and Goodwill, but notice local ones, too. These are usually run by non-profit groups such as churches or charities. Don’t forget consignment stores either, which offer second-hand pieces in good condition that have been sold back to the store, rather than donated. The national chain Plato’s Closet comes to mind. 

2. Follow the stores on social media. The day my daughter and I were looking for Lululemon was not picked by chance--the store had saved up all its name-brand athletic wear for a special one-day sale. They advertised the event on social media in the weeks leading up to the sale and promised a huge selection. We never would have known about it if my teen hadn’t followed them on social media and noticed their posts. 

3. Another perk of following thrift stores on social media is that they post outfits or coordinated looks that may inspire what your teen wants to buy. Our local Plato’s Closet showcases trendy outfits on their Instagram feed. My daughter has hunted specifically for a cute shirt or pair of leggings that was featured online and was ecstatic when she found them in store. 

4. Your teen can also find inspiration for thrifted looks by utilizing Pinterest, YouTube or Tik Tok. Have them create vision boards on Pinterest or watch videos of outfits that people put together. Use the looks as guides while your teen shops. That way, your teen will be focused rather than overwhelmed by the selection and won’t be tempted to buy something they may already own. 

5. What’s even better than finding something terrific at the thrift store? Getting it for the lowest price, of course! Teens should check if they qualify for additional discounts. Is anyone in your family a member of the military or is your teen shopping with Grandma, a senior citizen? Our local thrift shop offers discounts for students and teachers. These additional discounts can make a thrift store trip even (wait for it) thriftier! 

6. Don’t forget that your teen can donate back clothing, shoes, and accessories like purses and scarves that they no longer need, want, or may have outgrown. Not only will your teen’s closet be more organized, but someone will love those pieces again! Or sell the items back--some stores offer consignment so your teen may get a bit of cash or even store credit towards their next haul of pre-loved awesomeness.

7. Visit stores often as what’s in stock changes constantly. Also, check out different sections of the store, just like my daughter and I did when we split up and looked for Lululemon in both the athletic and casual wear sections. The children’s section might work for some teens, too. For instance, a size Large or XL in the children’s section can be the equivalent of a Woman's Small. Finally, don’t overlook the Men’s section. Men's clothes can be great for baggy styles or unique pieces that your teen can make their own. 

8. Join your teen when they shop or encourage them to go with friends. Adults will be able to  remind teens about all the treasures they already own and prevent overindulging. Meanwhile, friends can offer their perspectives on pieces that a parent might pass over. My idea of what’s fashionable is usually a couple steps behind what my teen considers in style. When my daughter goes thrifting with her best friend, she comes home with adorable pieces and outfits that I never imagined would look so good.

9. Finally, take heart if your in-person shopping trip is a bust. There are a plethora of online thrift stores or consignment shops to consider. Take a look at websites like ThredUp, Poshmark, Mercari, and Or go old school and check out eBay. Hunting for trendy items online can be just as satisfying as scoring them in person, but from the comfort of home.