This past Memorial Day, Mary and I went on a thrifting binge, and at it seemed like at every (crowded) store we stopped at, we encountered children of all ages in various stages of meltdown-dom: Some were crying, others were screaming, a few were in full-out tantrum mode.
After my headache subsided, I started thinking…how on earth can you keep your sanity as a thrifting-loving mama?
So, I called on some experts: Mom pals of mine who love to thrift, rummage and flea. As a non-mom, I loved hearing what works for them, and have definitely filed away some ideas for (way far away) future use. For the lovely mamas out there reading, I hope you find their tips helpful!
Thrifty Mama #1: Andrea
In addition to being a treasured friend, my girl Andrea is as close to a domestic Wonder Woman as you can get. Besides being an amazing cook, her beautiful home is full of sweet vintage finds; spoils from her many jaunts to the flea market with her man, Jason, and their five-year-old Hank. Here are some of her tips…
Start ’em young: We bring (and when he was younger, brought) Hank everywhere; thrifting, antiquing and in the summer, to flea markets almost every weekend. “Don’t touch!” was something he learned at a very, very young age!
Bribery works: Find something your kids enjoy getting and use that as a reward. We can get Hank to do almost anything for a toy car, and flea markets and thrift stores are loaded with them. If he behaves, he knows he can pick out a few and that works like a charm for us. Thrift stores also have a lot of kid’s books, so he looks through those while he’s in the cart, giving us time to look around. Now that he’s older, and starting collections of his own, it’s really fun watch his vintage collection grow, and seeing what oddities he picks out.
Keep ’em comfy: We like to go to flea markets pretty early in the morning on the weekends and sometimes Hank doesn’t want to go just because he’s tired. We found if we bring along his wagon, so he doesn’t have to walk, he’s much more apt to want to come along…willingly!
Know your child: When they’re young it’s easier to lug them around everywhere in their carrier, but as they get older, you have to work around their nap schedule and moodiness. You can sometimes coax them into going, but there are days they just want to be at home. The more fun you make it and the more often you go, the more they’ll enjoy it.
Mom #2: Kara, Golden Age Design
My mom took us garage sale-ing every Thursday growing up—I remember peering out the hot backseat of the car, looking for…who knows what! From a young age, she instilled in me the wisdom that things don’t have to be new to be special. Now I have my own munchkin and he not only has one parent who has a passion for vintage, but two! (Poor guy.) The most important thing I’ve learned is if my little man isn’t happy, no one is happy, so I’ve come up with some ways to make the thrifting experience enjoyable for all.
Snacks! A hungry kid usually isn’t a gas to be around, so I make sure I have plenty of yummy goodies stashed in my purse. Some favorites? GoGo Squeeze Applesauce (best invention EVER), Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks, Cliff Fruit Twists, organic baby carrots and a good ole standby, raisins. If we need to each lunch on the road, Subway is a good place to stop. Whole wheat bread, veggies, milk and apples make a thrifting mom rest a little easier.
Entertainment! The iPhone has been life-changing. There are so many great educational apps sure to impress your little one. I have a 2.5 yo and here are his favorite games: Tozzle, LunchBox, BabyFirst. Another way I keep him content is bee-lining for the toy section at the thrift store. I let him pick out a toy he gets to play with while we’re there and he’s usually thrilled. (I always keep Wet Wipes in my purse to give his selection a little bath before he gets his paws on it.) Also, before I go out for the day, I make sure the car is plum full of toys and books. We listen to the Current and do lots of car dancing. Keeping the car ride light and fun, especially if you’re garage sale-ing and making lots of in and out stops, is key.
Essential Gear! (1) Sunglasses. For some reason L thinks it’s really cool to wear his while mom and dad are wearing theirs. (2) Layers. The day can easily turn from 65° to 85° without much warning. Keeping kids cool + comfortable is always a plus. (3) Our BOB jogging stroller has been a life saver when we’ve hit the flea markets. It’s easy to maneuver, L is comfy in it and you can hang bags on it. Win, win, win.
One of my favorite activities, pre and post-parenthood, has been thrifting! I could go on and on with reasons why I love thrifting, but I’d rather give you some tips I’ve learned about shopping with my 15-month-old son, David.
My #1 Rule: Don’t set your kids up to fail! Work around your child’s schedule and take them out when they have a full tummy and are well rested. If nap time is at 1:30, thrifting anytime after 12:30 seems like a rotten way to spend a wind down.
Include your kids in your thrifting experience: Point out all the different items, colors, price tags! Let them understand why it makes you happy and why it is exciting. Help your kids learn from their time out of the house and interact with them so they can not only just be your shopping buddy, but a fun experience you can have together.
Timing is everything: I prefer shopping in the morning because that’s when I have the largest chunk of time, but that can vary day-to-day. (Going in the morning also allows me to take advantage of the slow times at the thrifts.) By the time David gets up from his afternoon nap around 4 p.m., we have a smaller window before it is dinner time. After David’s afternoon nap is a perfect time for a walk—possibly to a garage sale? (When we garage sale I often go on Thursday mornings to avoid the rush of the weekend.)
Are you a thrifty mama? If so, what are some of your secrets to success?